One fine evening (or, perhaps, morning or afternoon), Kevin Drum, a prolific dr… oups! nearly misspoke, no, not drummer, but blogger (Mother Jones), was sitting on the sofa somewhere in the world. By his own admission, he was having trouble coming up with anything to write about, browsing through the Entertainment section of the LA Times. And, lo and behold, the topic jumped at Kevin soon enough, and just stonkered him. He was stumped.
As far as I can tell, after having read a fair number of his posts and articles, Kevin Drum is not easily stonkered or stumped by anything. When he is, however, Kevin Drum can easily whip up a few riotous lines on the offending subject. Here is Kevin quoted verbatim:
In the LA Times today, classical music critic Mark Swed reviewed Yuja Wang’s performance of Scriabin’s Sixth Sonata. He says Wang played it for “beauty and thrills”:
But she also raced through the sonata, treating it as something to be so fully mastered that it might lose its power to corrupt the spirit with its huge portions of musical decadence.
I love this. Not just because I don’t understand a word of it. That’s to be expected since I know essentially nothing about music. I love it because I can’t even conceive of how someone might come up with that particular string of words to describe a musical experience. Where did they come from? What was going through Swed’s mind when he put them down on paper? Did this thought occur to him naturally, or did he have to work hard on that sentence to make it express the way he felt? And did he really feel that the tempo of Wang’s performance was somehow motivated by a desire to cut through the sonata’s “power to corrupt the spirit”?
I have no idea. It’s like reading Ulysses. Or perhaps a description of a cricket test. The words are demonstrably in English, and the syntax makes sense, but nothing else does.
Anyway, you can probably tell by now that I’m having trouble coming up with anything to write about today, so at this point I’m just blathering. But I sat down on the sofa with the newspaper a few minutes ago and then Domino jumped onto my lap. I didn’t want to toss her off right away, so I gave her a few minutes of snoozing by reading the whole entertainment section, including Swed’s review. And it just stonkered me, especially the sentence above. But let’s give this post a veneer of seriousness anyway by turning it into a teachable moment. For those of you who know music better than me (a lot better, hopefully), read the review and discuss in comments. What should I have taken away from it? (Read original post here I Am Stumped by This Music Review)
What can I say about Mr. Swed’s article that Kevin hadn’t?
See for yourself what the young and the mini-skirted Yuja Wang does to Alexander Scriabin — truly spirit corrupting stuff. Innocent spirits everywhere! Keep away from anathema!
This YouTube clip is not of Ms. Wang’s recent performance reviewed by Mark Swed. And the reference to Ms. Wang’s skirts isn’t the harping of my corrupt spirit — rather, it’s in the spirit of the Mr. Swed’s article:
“…a Bond girl who was also Houdini and Horowitz rolled into one, in her demonstration of startling dexterity despite physical restraints. Towering high heels didn’t hamper her deft pedaling, no matter what Newtonian mechanics might otherwise suggest.”
I read a fair number of various reviews in my lifetime, musical and whatnot, and some — god help me! — did some damage to my fragile spirit. Similarly hilarious, smartly stringed up and grammatically impeccable verbiage can be found in reviews of, say, poetry.
“Admittedly, the tolerance of brutal postmodernism didn’t lower metaphorical existentialism of the conceptual perversions of her reflexive nerve. None of the author’s poetic evocation provides enough buoyancy to get one past the structural coral reef that her verses erect: between the reader and any reason to care…”
How’s this for enlightenment and poetry appreciation? Never mind the poet or the poem. Bask in tidal waves of many well turned-out words — they are demonstrably in English… What if I told you that I’ve come up with this gibberish all on my own –?
My long-neglected Smile page is updated with two new cartoons. Smile! Corrupted spirits thrive on crooked smirks.