The Blog Bog

...Table of Contents                     ...Home                     ...Magazine Rack                                           ...Fiction                      ...Book Review

The Blog Bog
By Matthew Paris

         De gustibus omnia disputandum. Whoops, did I really say that?

        Yeah, I misquoted the Roman adage; yet it's a fair look at what criticism is mostly. When I was a kid all those New Critics tried to make criticism a science. Bonne chance, mes enfants.

        Blogs like all inventions or social instruments are produced in the middle of human history as a remedy for some short term dilemma. Centralization in vast empires or even any local organization lamentably does inspire many of its residents except for five people to feel supremely helpless and unimportant.

       This feeing of solarity and triviality that cannot ene invoke the classical desperation that comes with lack of money, in turn leads to a posh commerce selling fantasies to this sequestered lot, games or web sites in which one is a hero shooting a zillion aliens, empires and Nazis, an explorer of a strange world, a valued member of a family or community on Facebook posting pictures of one's snoozing pets, a guild member on Linked-in taking up quiet and excellently paid sacred labors among an equally earnest peer group, and of course a valued and waggish curmudgeon barking out on one's own Blog a plethora of salty and clever comments about a crass and insane world.

       It is all an electronic charade one step further from one's life than being a the unarmed but premiere stand up comic nervously munching pepperoni near the pasta table at a Mafia birthday party.

       Literary Blogs by the improbable geniuses which crop up everywhere, from the fetid stews of Tiajuana to the stucco palazzos of West Palm Beach, are one of the last frontiers of idiosyncratic human thought and activity on Earth.

       Literary Of course some people think that isn't valuable.

The Blog by Jeremy Denk:

       The Blog by Jeremy Denk I want to look at here breaks every presumptive idea I have about who writes brilliant Blogs. Well, maybe not all of them.

        Denk is a polymath, he has got a rich run of opinions, he isn't at all like anybody else, he even looks weird as if he recently were struck by listening; he can and does offer the world interpetaitions of digital classical music from Bach to Ligeti that even to the hater of this museum haute import to the geriatric provincials and perhaps a few Koreans are revelatory to the point of inspiring a large audience to the acute and almost painful feeling of being exquisitely alive.

        He also writes beautifully, is often published as a magazine journalist. One of the few objective signs that a Blog is worth one's attention is that its author can write a graceful sentence. Conversely, one can auger that a style filled with banalities, clichés and varpoorus yet leaden propositions like "viz a viz, "in terms of" or "in respect to" is likely to be the hapless labor of somebody who sadly has never learned how to write English. Luckily such phases are confined among us to the effusions of Academics and assorted pretentious politicians.

        Jeremy Denk is one guy who is ready to work as industriously as he can to do something uncanny in a concert or a Blog. It's a level of work considerably higher than most of us eery bring to a job.

       His apparent aim in everything he does is to evoke a sense of ecstasy in the particular. It is the hermetic and private ambiance that I believe is the reason any of us repairs to the Arts even if we take a haj to Florida to talk over life, love, and the meaning of evil with Mickey Mouse.

       Why does this corollary achievement by Jeremy Denk break with most of my axiomatic notions about where I might find interesting Blogs? Well, mainly, Denk has been supported by the Academic system. His articles have been published by the New Yorker. Usually this is a courtier world in which to protect oneself one culls one's prose and conversation of anything that might disturb anybody.

       How did this new skein of orthodoxy and cut throat politics in assorted arcadian hermitages resurrect itself to plague us? Some of it is the effect of the history of humanism and republican thinking over the past 250 years. In 1700 or so it was very easy to observe, value or dismiss whoever was humanist and not because the anti-humanists were very straightforward about their deep unto metaphysical distaste for the poor, tolerable materialism, and cherishing existence in a clear and broad way.

       In 2014 it isn't hard to find racism, colonialism or slavery but very difficult to find anybody who articulately argues for them. If as Bob Dylan says, even the butler has something to prove, even the bankers and a few pharmacists let on they might be the messiah.

       It's not that the resident polarities of being for or against humanity are not fighting such battles in front of us as they did in 1700; it's that they wear ski masks, have no uniforms and claim to be the secret champions of their enemies malgre lui.

        Instead of acknowledging they are slavers with a flashy swagger and black mustachios they maintain they are elevator operators and educators. They are hardly corralling the polloi to take up a grunt life that doesn't represent them; they are levitating the rabble like psychics to an existence that were the mob more perfect than they are should be how they act in Heaven.

       How does Denk manage to say in such circles whatever he thinks? I would guess since he really almost on demand can produce a sacred feeling if the music is by Beethoven or Schumann he is left alone because he can invoke the authentic experience that Art is about.

       If both Beethoven and Schumann are certifiably dead they in a ghostly competition out of real time speak for the variety of human experience as some of the living today do not. I particularly liked his description of working with Leon Kirschner on a piece. The 85 year old Kirschner seemed to him too concentrated on certain small moments in his music that to Denk seemed obsessive.

       The implication was not only that Kirschner was a little too punctilious out of old age but that Kirschner's creative process irritated Denk because it was slightly out of Denk's ken. This is all offered in the Blog with Denk's characteristic pithy civility.

       As long as one is involved in momentarily resurrecting the long expired in nacral circles and the corpses have been interred for a century or more the chances that might offend one's peers with one's distressing en passant praise of a marginal taste is minimal. That's why one can say more intrepid things about Geoffrey Chaucer than Pablo Neruda. This might also be the key to the stratagems of Jeremy Denk.

The Blog by Jeremy Denk

       Denk's Blog is written with a care to shape the very sound of a sentence; it might remind one of his parallel mastery of his musical phrasing. If the description of his sylvan days stays resolutely and politely on the surface given his magic talent for language the ordinary in his prose becomes oddly exquisite.

       Such fierce Horatian attention to the ordinary is punctuated by his intriguing en passant reflections about the inner life of a goose, or the perilous way Schubert dived into his compositions with a terrifying intrepidity. One feels Denk's complex wariness about an artist who honored his calling in an intense way right to the end.

       Denk in his Blog, perhaps a selective view of his ontology, lives in a genteel world of apparently saintly peers, a look at the New York Times, a refined existence never disturbing a sense of fragile ceremony orbiting aloud teacup miracles even in small things like oatmeal around an unstated aesthetic ideal.

       Yet this is the same priestly conjuror who can astonish an audience with his incendiary playing that calls up the dead. Of course, one may wonder, whose voice are we hearing, Schumann or Denk?

       Furthermore is the function of the possibly oxymoronic American intellectual Denk aims to be qhintessentially, to animate the dead to outdo the fragile genius of the living? If it is, could it be because the lining dolt function animately enough to compete with the dead for leadership in a world where the even minor zombies can generate more life than those monks as yet untouched by the icy hand of dark angels?

       To be more concrete, when Voltaire, Sartre, Bertrand Russell, were alive they seemed not to question their role as leaders of the human community, One had felt the same calling once in America about the vaunted Brain Trust lurking in the New Deal, in the stews of literature, the opinions wafted by Edmund Wilson, Kenneth Rexroth, Edward Dahlberg, Norman Mailer, William Buckley, Gore Vidal, Noam Chomsky and Malcolm Cowley. I think around 1960 the American populace had decided they didn't want to be led by any of these post-clerical people.

       This popular disinclination has led the generation of Jeremy Denk and his peers to retreat politely to areas where they are not leading anybody. They might be turned to for advice on a cheap California wine.

       This zircon demurral has slandered honest American intellectuals. They were sometimes braver than their enemies let on. We may think they are lightweights; we would rather move into a neighborhood of them than sojourn among the Taliban.

       Garcia-Lorca talking about hondo, says that a duende, a wind demon, brings that kind of experience to a chamber filled with people. The wind demon can make everyone feel as if something sacred has happened; yet none of the grateful receivers of the ambiance can explain it. The duende is indifferent to humanity; yet he can be called up when human begins despair of ever having such an uncanny experience.

       This is an explanation outside of our materialist science; it can serve us well pragmatically as a handle on the way Denk chooses his materials both in his concerts, his Blog, and to survive in his world.

       Certainly his Blog is the most personal, idiosyncratic, delicately literary, a stellar run of lapidary commentary among many much more boring music Blogs offered on the Internet.

       We may glean from his Blog for that matter Denk's very mortal existence that whenever we do not generate Art in the present nor among the living we will employ explorers and body snatchers to go on safari to find Jurassic oracles in the past, to dig up saurian vessels of sublimity from the mausoleums of the dead.


Created on ... September 27, 2007