Monday, July 27, 2015

Bad History

Pico della Mirandola

(Continued from Cannibals & Capitalists)

- Let's go back to Pico della Mirandola. How many people invented their own myth like he did? And what a myth! After god had made all the things in the world living and not living, he wanted to make a living thing that could see him as he saw the world and its things, but the  problem was, all the types of things had been used up. Being a god meant for him not only being immortal but creative, so he figured out a solution: make man able to change his character and adapt to any place. That has to be the best story ever told.

- And it’s not finished.
- That’s what I thought. Finish it.
- We’re not only made to change ourselves. We’re made such that the first way we change ourselves makes us worse.
- Why? Is there some special way in which we have the ability to change that makes us first bad?
- That’s right.
- And what is it?
- In each other’s company.
- So if we kept away from each other except to reproduce we wouldn’t go bad? Is that possible? What about mothers and their children?
- It's not possible.
- We teach each other to be bad. How?
- Being pained and frightened into repeating the same actions in the same situations created by each other’s company.
- We reverse god’s making: we make the world we live in the same and our character unchanging it in.
- Yes.
- How does that make us bad?
- Because we the unchanging are destructive of those of us who remain able to change.
- How did they avoid it?
- By teaching each other how to learn.
- If we’re teaching we already know how to learn.
- We remind each other to learn.
- When we stop reminding each other, that first fatal change we human beings make in our place and nature is to destroy ourselves, destroy our ability to change our place and nature.
- Yes.
- Sorry, I like the way Pico began his story much better. Something tells me going on doesn’t get much happier.
- Would that something be human history? When people stop reminding themselves of good they immediately start destroying what good they’ve achieved and then some, move towards absolute destruction of themselves and the world around them.  Sometimes even in our personal history we can see it happening. We live through a period in which we are reminded to learn into a period where that stops and we immediately set out on destruction.
- And we’re living in a destructive period now.
- We are.
- How do you know? You once told me that in your youth you wrote a couple of autobiographical novels. Is this one of their subjects? What happened to them?
- Family and friends I left them with destroyed them.
- Some family and friends. Why did they destroy them? The period of history failed to remind them to be good so they went bad? And bad destroys the good in contact with it because it interferes with the practice of the bad?
- The books weren’t so good. But more or less, you could say that’s what happened. Among the destroyed manuscripts was the beginning of an essay on rhythm and melody in music. Can I tell you about it?
- If it relates to how you know we’re in bad history.
- A song is sometimes called a number. As we count, we move from one number to the next. There is a rhythm. The numbers are different, but they are all alike in being numbers and not something else. Uniformity and change. That is what we mean by rhythm. Ok?
- Ok.
- In the rhythm of a dance, our steps are like counting numbers. They are all alike in being steps, but they move us into a different place. Uniformity and change. Melody is made up of different notes. The steps of a dance always return us to the same place, but the notes of a melody tell a story about what happens when we do something new.
- Songs repeat their melody.
- They do. They make a rhythm of repeating the melody, as dance makes a rhythm of the basic story of each step out into the world. Melody sits on top of rhythm in a song, comes and goes. Do you see the application to what we were talking about?
- The application is that “the default state”, as we put it in the mechanistic language of our bad times, of the human species is to do bad first. But we can dance that default state bad into good by overlaying it with the story of melody. And the story you’re going to tell me now is how that is to be done.
- There is such a thing as bad music? Music that is not only badly made, but is anti-music, is destructive of what music is capable of encouraging and inspiring?
- Music that positively makes you bad. Some music definitely makes me feel bad. So Yes. Go on.
- Music that is anti-music is music constructed to make you forget stories. Stories remind you of failure. Destroy the stories and you destroy the reminder. You can start over fresh.
- How does the music do that?
- By the song being the story of melody being repeatedly undermined by rhythm. There are many ways of accomplishing this, for example, an overly sweet melody is followed by a brutal, often syncopated rhythm.
- I think I know what you mean. And bad history?
- Rhythm without melody.
- Rhythm destroying melody.
- Yes.
- Do you know what?
- What?
- We need a new myth. Pico della Mirandola’s story starts out encouraging and inspiring, but the way it’s turned out…
- Well, after god had made all the things in the world and all the creatures, and made human beings capable of changing themselves and their place in the world, he took a rest and looked over what he had done. He wanted to say, It is good. But it wasn’t good. Human beings took a few steps in the right direction. They had invented dance and music which they used to remind them not to do bad. But they needed something more. Something to remind them to sing the right kind of songs. He racked his brains, for this god had brains, along with everything else necessary to being a god. He racked his brains, asking himself what could remind people to sing the right kind of song. Wouldn’t that have to be another kind of song? And then the poor creatures would need a song to remind them to sing that. What was to be done?
- Can I finish the story?
- If you can help god out of his difficulties.
- God, having given us the gift of music, gave us…
- What?

Further Reading:
The Atrophy Of Good
P.S. "Without music, life would be a mistake. I would only believe in a God who knew how to dance." - Friedrich Nietzsche