Saturday, February 04, 2006

The three words 'the concept "horse"' do designate an object, but on that very account they do not designate a concept

I haven’t written in a while, so here is an update.

Frege is my philosopher of the week. In the cramped upper gallery of the Portsmouth Public Library--read there while you can, for the library is moving to a new building in November--I reread "Function and Concept" and "What is a Function?", which, if you ever need to blast away the empirical accretions and get to the core of things, I highly recommend. I was overjoyed when later in the week a student working on algebra homework called me over to his desk and asked, "What’s a function?", but I concealed my excitement and said that all he needed to do was check the first list of numbers for repeats and write "not a function" if he found one.

Bleak House, which I've read mostly at work, is getting good, videlicet:
Now, the woods settle into great masses as if they were each one profound tree. And now the moon rises, to separate them, and to glimmer here and there in horizontal lines behind their stems, and to make the avenue a pavement of light among high cathedral arches fantastically broken.
Cathedral arches: all week I worked on a stained-glass window mask, based on an ogive in the Decorated English style (c1300-c1390), for what I was told would be a costume party, though it turned out I was the only one who wore a costume, unless you count one pirate eyepatch briefly worn. I had intended to listen to Erik Satie's "Ogives" while making my mask, but the CD was missing. I listened to Bach instead and found its geometries crude and thrilling, a reduction of beauty to a succession of interlocking forms of night-tracery, and a reduction of those forms to something frighteningly abstract and violent and medieval, like the first glimmers of mind. I crowd-surfed at the party.

A week ago Friday was, as I'm sure you heard, Mozart's 250th birthday, and for this occasion I dug out a cassette of the "Duo for Violin and Viola in B Flat" (1783) that an Austrian friend had made me during my year in Salzburg. I didn't listen to it at the time, but now, seven years later, I am very grateful for the gift. A lesson about gift-giving: the scope of a gift, the stretch of time captured in its frame, can extend way beyond the initial exchange.

My friend Chris and I listened to the tape on Mozart's birthday, the night before our first performance as Time Tent, a duo of electric guitars. We played at a house in Portsmouth. The band that was playing when we got there made sounds with charming, foreign-seeming instruments that looked good: little bells, finger cymbals, bird calls, recorders--things you might imagine hearing in a meadow at dawn. A magic lantern--a paper cone with designs cut in it, set over a lamp and rotating on a turntable--projected 33 1/3 RPM shapes onto the walls; incense was burned. The next act, a half-dozen girls who run around Portsmouth with flutes and mandolins, performed in the basement. Candlelight, a dead bird, drums, body paint, bare breasts, and screaming were some of the things they used to make people feel weird and cool. While I doubt the performers believed in, say, supernatural causal powers or personified nature-spirits, I think they understood the essential form of ritual happening, which might be stated like this: whatever you imagined the experience of this event would be like, you did not imagine this, and you are now not where you thought you were at all. In this respect, the girls' performance was probably as authentic as any witches' coven ever staged in New England. Chris and I thought this might be a tough act to follow, but people packed into the room to listen to Time Tent, and they shouted shouts of joy when things lined up right. Don't underestimate electric guitar; it speaks your language.

2 Comments:

Anonymous tom said...

Anytime you and/or your guitar have more to say about Frege, I'll be listening.

2/07/2006 7:47 PM  
Anonymous perezosp said...

Frege's a bit scary. The object is not the meaning, but the meaning has some relation to the object. Or, to take a more Quinean approach: words refer, they don't really "mean": the meaning hinges on the reference. I'm not exactly sure on Frege, but he seems to hold that there are realms--- not our individual brains---and meanings as well as mathematical entities "reside" there. I do not think that is tenable. Learning words and sentences does depend on association and observations at first; there is never some intuitive process where meanings are somehow given; we may have the capability to learn, but there is no given knowledge without some experience and observation; thus it seems strange to hold that meanings would somehow be transcedent or not empirical....

3/02/2006 6:10 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home