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Polyphonic chant (and a little polyphonic trivia for the digital age)

gregorian chant

K Leb – Old book of Gregorian Chant; some place in Aragón via Flickr

Polyphonic chant is a type of Christian devotional singing developed in the 10th century where two or more melodies or parts are sung together in a composition.

As with anything new, not everyone approved of polyphony.

Some believed that melodic complexity was the work of the devil, who tried to seduce believers through the sin of pride. Pope John XX II was dead against polyphony and in 1324 CE warned his flock not to fall into the satanic lure of musical innovation.

However, such narrow-mindedness couldn’t stop the flow of musical evolution.

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Umm.. nice try but author needs to know pop culture better

Catherine Nichols argues that pop culture has polarized good and evil whereas the characters of old folk tales were a more complex mix. I’m not sure I agree. Characters like Deadpool and the moral mix-ups in Star Trek: Discovery and the sleeper hit Vikings make me wonder if things are changing to the more complex.

Nichols mentions Wonder Woman. True, in an idealistic moment Wonder Woman feels for humanity. But she also kicks ass and is no saint. Another reviewer on the web saw Wonder Woman as a paradox. Gal Gadot herself says she loves the fact that Wonder Woman is not perfect.

I think that because she’s not perfect, she’s more interesting.¹

Gal Gadot – Image via Wikipedia

As for Darth Vader, whom quite a bit of ink is devoted to, Nichols misses the whole point. When push comes to shove, Vader sacrificially saves Luke and does not let him die. By doing so he is redeemed in the afterlife.²

So who’s polarizing here? Pop culture creators or Nichols herself?

I’d reproduce her article in its entirety but unlike that last post from AEON, this one is not Creative Commons. Funny how the one that’s paid for is not as intellectually flexible as the free one.

Image via “Star Wars: A Modern Day Morality Play ” http://www.theolatte.com/2016/12/star-wars-a-modern-day-morality-play/

[A little later…]

Another point that came to mind after a nap, of all things, was the medieval morality play. These made a pretty clear line between good and evil. Often one religious formation demonizing another.

So if Nichols wants to cherry pick a few old folk tales but ignore the greater ‘pop culture’ of that era, that’s one thing. But her comparison to today’s pop culture is a faulty one due to her selectivity.

¹ https://youtu.be/PeCOeqjVAXg

² https://youtu.be/VAuodoEOTto


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Why some mamas and papas don’t like pop music

Last night I was listening to Stingray Music, a Montreal based company which is one of the highlights of Canadian industry. Listeners can switch among several good streams in any given genre, without ads or talk. And the programmers dig deep to find not just the hits but a whole bunch of stuff you’ve almost forgotten or never heard before.

Tuning in to the 70s, I came to appreciate how it’s all variations on a few themes. The hit songs put everything together in the most effective, original way. But there are oodles of copycat, cover and “not quite” tunes. So are things really simpler today? I don’t think so.

As I say in the above tweet, we just have to learn the new medium and its message.

Krewella via Wikipedia


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Poststructuralism – Another label to be avoided?

Saint Foucault

Saint Foucault by Sándor Iskender via Flickr

Poststructuralism could be defined as an approach to knowledge that appeared in the social sciences during the 1960s to 70s as a reaction to or outgrowth of structuralism.

The term poststructuralism was chic within academic circles during the mid-1980s to early-90s, after which time ‘postmodernism’ became the trendy term, aided perhaps by figures like Jean Baudrillard who made headline-grabbing comments about America’s involvement in the Gulf War.

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Postmodernism – Not necessarily absurd or without wings

Inside My Secret Cloning Chamber

Inside My Secret Cloning Chamber: Stuck in Customs / Trey Ratcliff

The term postmodernism became popular in the 1970s and 80s but has roots reaching back through the centuries.

Social theorists usually try to define concepts through a key set of ideas and parameters. Postmodernism challenges conventional perceptions of “the definition” and few seem to clearly agree on its meaning. This is partly because postmoderns questions the very act of defining, labeling and signifying.

If postmodernism has a core idea, it might be that it paradoxically has no core idea upon which to stand. Some say that makes postmodernism absurd. But that stance seems intellectually childish.  Questioning something doesn’t render the process meaningless, as amorphous as outcomes may be. Truth isn’t always black and white and only conceptual control freaks reject uncertainty.

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Pablo Picasso and the art of living

Pablo Picasso – Les Demoiselles d’Avignon via Flickr

Pablo (Ruiz y) Picasso (1881-1973) was a Spanish artist, born at Málaga.

In 1901 Picasso painted in Montmartre, Paris, during his so-called blue period (1901-4). This produced a series of satirical, tragic pictures focusing on the poor, the anguished and the lonely.

Next was the pink period (1904-6). A celebration of life, this period depicted young nudes and that great 20th century spectacle, the circus.

Picasso’s innovative bent lead him toward Cubism (rendering three-dimensions without perspective). The most critical step in creating this new school was probably taken with the completion of Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907).

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 11 Hidden Secrets in Famous Works of Art (livescience.com)

 Rayo Withanage – An apology (telegraph.co.uk)


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Are outspoken critics of Wikipedia pompous windbags?

Let’s face it. Wikipedia is amazing. Not only in the humanities but in just about every discipline one can think of. I think it’s great that its founder is being recognized in his lifetime. All too often great figures go by unnoticed because those upholding old patterns just can’t see what’s right before their eyes.

So what about academia. Is it really that great?

Well, I had a good experience, especially in undergrad studies. But looking back, Wikipedia entries are probably more balanced and informative than most of what my undergrad professors put out. Don’t be fooled. Some profs just follow a textbook or two. They might have read a few more books in the area. But generally, the sheer amount of info one can get from Wikipedia is better than what you’d get in an undergraduate humanities course.

Image by Abhi Sharma via Flickr

And the fee?

University fees have been steadily rising. And not only that. It’s been harder and harder for less privileged youths to get funding. Let’s not beat around the bush. University is a type of finishing school for many kids who can afford it. For those who can’t, it has been a symbol of oppression.

Oppression?

Yes oppression.

Just go to a small university town and compare the university students to the “townies” as some used to call them. The gap is painfully obvious.

But here’s the biggest joke of all. Universities can be corrupt. Not too many people realize it but corruption isn’t just about the most visible stories that hit the news. We tend to turn a blind eye to those things that benefit us, while scapegoating those that do not.

So I ask: Are some outspoken academic critics of Wikipedia not only pompous but corrupt windbags?

Of course, not all academics are snobs or directly involved in corrupt activities. But quite possibly the snooty narrow-mindedness of some is at least partly or indirectly supported by some form of institutional corruption.

So my message to anyone who has not been to university: Don’t feel any less than someone who has. What matters is to be able to think freely. And Wikipedia can be a fantastic launch pad for critical thinking. Sure, it only gives outlines. But they are excellent, densely interlinked outlines. And if you want to go further in a particular topic, Wikipedia articles do have a bibliography and external links. So the next step would be the public library, bookstore or just more web surfing.

Forget the pompous windbags. They’re probably carping because they fear that their status – and associated perks – are threatened. Their days are numbered. Knowledge, like anything else, should be available to anyone who wants and needs it.

 One-third of Ph.D.s lose interest in academic careers, but not for lack of jobs (scienceblog.com)

 Iowa regents asking for $12 million solely for resident, undergrad aid (thegazette.com)

 At Reed College, the left clashes with itself over free speech (hotair.com)

 Letter: Academic enrichment (bostonherald.com)

 Cambridge academic cleared of assault after saying ex-fiancee tried to ‘ruin’ his life for calling off wedding (telegraph.co.uk)

 See Western Michigan’s enrollment, demographics over decade (mlive.com)

 The 10 colleges where students get the best education for their money (businessinsider.com)