Distribution Automatique

Sunday, July 17


1. Writing that is devoid of ideas.

2. Deluged with fact and description, we are left with a craving for writing that is rich in ideas. Ninety- nine percent of writing consists either of some frequently encountered discourse or refers to it.

3. Writing that evolves out of ideas has its own flavor.

4. A lot of poetry points to an idea about poetry and that is all it does. Even if it is lacking its own idea it can refer to an idea about poetry that we support- an innovative idea, for example. This is poetry as fast food.

5. Ideas invariably lead to other ideas- but fast food poetry doesn't completely satisfy the craving for a fresh idea; instead, endows the poems with energy derived from the ideas than engendered the spark of the poems.

6. I enjoy fast food sometimes- and certainly the fast food of poetry. But I know that in the long run it will not sufficiently nourish or meet my craving for writing that is more substantial.

7. An idea may be likened to a perception as compared with raw data or input. An idea frequently combines an interesting observation with a thought about an observation.

8. Since the genesis of perceptions and the ideas constructed out of them involves halting the rush of observations there is an accompanying sense of a slowing down of the rapidity of thought, the stream of consciousness. At such moments you are mounting the beach near the river or the ocean of consciousness.

9. A memory of the ocean may be refreshing and sufficient but is not enough- in itself- to be considered an idea.

10. Two young women friends of similar stature in bathing suits standing side by side on the beach each with a small camera identically placed at their eyes, taking a photo at exactly the same time is itself a theme for an imaginary photo. Ideas, in themselves, have no abode. A photo, in and of itself, projects an idea but of itself does not necessarily encompass an idea. Something that incorporates an idea may not
of itself generate a fresh idea.

11. Like everything else ideas have a life span. Ideas are patient and will wait- this is the secret of
their longevity. Ideas inspire devotion. This places them in realms that offer sustenance. There is no doubt that there are destructive as well as constructive ideas.

12. Tracking the contours of an idea can stimulate a fresh idea. Take measure of feelings that accompany the emergence of ideas, a process with a beat, a rhythm. The beat anticipates the emergence of subsequent ideas echoing and building upon the pattern of the given ones.

Complexity and the Failure to Further Understand: Benjamin, Blankness, Bernstein and *Shadowtime*

Today's article in the New York Times Arts Section about Charles Bernstein and Brian Ferneyhough's
Shadowtime (click here), in true Benjaminian spirit, concludes with Charles B. posing a powerful political critique stated in the form of a an aesthetic paradox. [From an interviewconducted with Charles B. by the New YorkTimes.]

The opera will be performed at Lincoln Center on July 21st and 22cd.

From the New York Times arts section, Sunday July 17.

"'Shadowtime' had its premiere last year at the Munich Biennale, and critical reaction ranged widely. The Süddeutsche Zeitung hailed it as "an apex of modern operatic artistry," but The Sunday Times of London described it as overly cerebral, "an abstract idea of an opera rather than the thing itself." The truth may well depend on one's definition of modern opera.

Mr. Bernstein, for his part, readily concedes the many difficulties of "Shadowtime," and argues that they arise not only by design but by necessity. "Clarity is valuable in many situations, but not necessarily in art," he said in a recent interview at his Manhattan apartment. "Many will no doubt be befuddled, just as a work that seeks to be clear risks boring people. These are the risks you have to take."

Yet more seems to be at stake than simply keeping an audience challenged. When pressed, Mr. Bernstein echoes Benjamin's friend and colleague Theodor Adorno, who defended difficult music as having its own social value precisely because it teaches us how to withhold understanding and therefore helps us resist the allure of false clarity in the world beyond the concert hall. Complexity, in other words, is a worthy ideal in art because reality is even more complex and dissonant than the thorniest work of modernism, even if politicians and the commercial culture reassure us that everything is simple, clear and harmonious.

Listeners will be able to judge for themselves the effectiveness of the difficulty of "Shadowtime." Mr. Bernstein insists that its ambiguity and often impenetrable surfaces are all the more crucial because of its subject matter. At the opera's center is what he describes as "the blank space of what happened to Europe between 1940 and 1945." Attempting clarity would be futile, or simply false.

'There have been a lot of very clear books written on the subject of this catastrophe," he said. 'But can anyone say that they truly understand what happened?'"