Plight of the Homeless

According to Wikipedia, there were “643,000 sheltered and unsheltered homeless persons” in the United States in January 2009. I tried to do a similar search for Boston, but didn’t find the statistic. I did find a page telling me how “the Commonwealth experienced an increase in homelessness from 2.6 percent of the population in 2011 to 2.8 percent in 2012″, which would mean that there are currently at least 850,000 homeless people. I’m guessing the real number is not far from a million…

On the same website on Boston, however, they tell you that “96.8 percent of homeless people are reported as sheltered” (according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development 2012 Annual Homelessness Assessment Report). It feels ironic to discover this statistic online, given that there’s no information available on the actual number of the homeless in Boston (or if there is, it’s too hard to find)! Finding a shelter, moreover, amounts to nothing like overcoming homelessness (and inversely, if the shelters were permanent, the whole statistic would be misleading).

My Fulbright Fellowship at Harvard University came to a happy close at the start of July, 2013. I departed for Finland from New York, so I took a bus from Boston to New York one day before my flight. I was hoping to book a cheap hotel not far from where the bus took me, in the relative vicinity of the Times Square…

… As I was walking back and forth from the hotel, I gradually discovered that the homeless folks were setting up their dwellings on a dark street only a couple of blocks from my hotel. Falling asleep in the vicinity of the Church of St. Francis of Assisi… I spoke to a black man scracthing himself at the steps of the church, with him wondering whether my photos were part of journalistic project.

During my stay in Boston, one of the voluntary projects I took part in was the so-called Open Door, organized by the local Orthodox Church in Allston. Every Monday evening, the church prepared a free meal for the Boston homeless, served within the premises of the church. Every week, the church had volunters from the parish – often but not always young – come and do the voluntary work of cooking, setting the table, serving, doing the dishes and cleaning up.

I joined the group three times, and will not forget the sentiment I felt when the folks came in the first time. They came from a different reality, and at the same time, we spent a moment together in a shared world. Moreover, I was glad to notice that many young men showed up for the voluntary work as well. In my home country, such voluntary activities usually attract the attention of women, and not so much of men.

Publications (incl. some PDFs)

For convenience, the articles are listed in reverse order,
and many of the texts were written originally in Finnish –
Please quote only with adequate references!

Peer-reviewed scientific articles

Journal article (refereed), original research

  1. “Sokkeloinen silkkitehdas, ihmisetön luonto: Todellisuusvetoisen dokumenttielokuvan kaksi tietä” [Silk Factory Mazes, Natures Devoid of Men: The Two Paths of Reality-Grounded Documentary Films], niin & näin, 2, 2013, pp. 43–48. PDF
  2. “Kävelevän filosofian ensiaskelia: H. D. Thoreau ja vaeltelemisen ylistys” [First Steps in Philosophy of Walking: H. D. Thoreau in Praise of Sauntering], niin & näin, 2, 2011, pp. 47–53. PDF
  3. “Emersonian Moral Perfectionism: An Alternative Ethics – But in What Sense?, European Journal of Pragmatism and American Philosophy, 2(2), 2010, pp. 54–71. PDF
  4. (co-authored with Sami Pihlström, 50 % by myself): ”Emerson, James ja elävä usko” [Emerson, James, and Living Faith], in Usko [Faith], Filosofisia tutkimuksia Helsingin yliopistosta, The Philosophical Society of Finland, 2009, pp. 297–307. PDF
  5. ”Outo ihmisyys – Stanley Cavellin haastattelu” [A Strange Humanity – An Interview with Stanley Cavell], niin & näin, 4, 2008, pp. 8–15. PDF
  6. ”Emersonin filosofinen voima” [Emerson’s Philosophical Potential], niin & näin, 2, 2008, pp. 26–31. PDF
  7. ”Ralph Waldo Emerson, filosofi” [Ralph Waldo Emerson, the Philosopher], niin & näin, 3, 2007, pp. 81–87.
  8. ”Emerson, Ralph Waldo”, Logos-ensyklopedia. Eds. Syrjämäki, Sami, Kannisto, Toni & Järvilehto, Lauri. Eurooppalaisen filosofian seura ry.  <http://filosofia.fi/node/2895> (31.10.2007) PDF
  9. ”Emerson ja kulttuurin merkitykset” [Emerson and the Senses of Culture], Ajatus, Vol. 64, The Philosophical Society of Finland, Helsinki, 2007, pp. 89–112. PDF

Review article, Literature review, Systematic review

  1. ”Suomalaisen elämänfilosofian uusia haasteita” [Novel Challenges for Finnish Philosophy of Life, a book review of Pihlström, Sami: Elämän ongelma – filosofian eettinen ydin (The Problem of Life: The Ethical Core of Philosophy), 2010], Tiede & Edistys, pp. 156–160. PDF
  2. “The New Morning: Emerson in the Twenty-First Century” (a book review), Transactions of the Charles PP. Peirce Society, Fall 2010 46(4), pp. 650–655. PDF
  3. “Emerson and Self-Culture” (a book review of John T. Lysaker’s Emerson and Self-Culture), Transactions of the Charles PP. Peirce Society, 44(3), Summer 2008, pp. 534–540. PDF
  4. ”Miten elämä on ja ei ole ongelma” [How Life is and is not a Problem, a book review of Pihlström, Sami: Pragmatic Moral Realism: A Transcendental Defense, 2005], niin & näin, 2, 2007, pp. 125–127.
  5. ”Totuuden riippuvuus kävelemisestä järven ympäri” [Dependence of the Truth on a Walk around the Lake, a book review of Emerson, Ralph Waldo: Luonto (Nature), transl. Antti Immonen, 2002], niin & näin, 4, 2003, pp. 124–127.

Book section, chapters in research books

  1. “Perfectionism Rudimentary and Religious: Traces of Karelia, Ideas of America”, Stanley Cavell and the Thought of Other Cultures, eds. Naoko Saito and Paul Standish, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, forthcoming.
  2. “Emersonian Self-Culture and Individual Growth: The American Appropriation of Bildung”, in Theories of Bildung and Growth, eds. Pauli Siljander, Ari Kivelä, & Ari Sutinen, Sense Publishers, Rotterdam, 2012, pp. 183–197. PDF
  3. (co-authored with Douglas R. Anderson, 80 % by myself): “Majesty of Truth and the Moral Sentiment: Emerson’s and Peirce’s Ethico-Ontological Realism”, in Realism – Mere homonymy or common commitment(s)?, eds. Westphal, Kennth & Pihlström, Sami, forthcoming.
  4. ”Stanley Cavellin tavallisen kielen filosofian ylitys” [Stanley Cavell’s Overcoming of Ordinary Language Philosophy], in Tavallisen kielen filosofia [Ordinary Language Philosophy], Gaudeamus Helsinki University Press, Helsinki, 2013, pp. 148–162. PDF
  5. ”Esseistisen romaanin moraalifilosofia: Musil, Emerson ja Nietzsche toisenlaisina eetikkoina” [Moral Philosophy in Novel Form: Musil, Emerson, and Nietzsche and the Other Ethics], in Kirjallisuus ja filosofia [Literature and Philosophy], eds. Antti Salminen, Jukka Mikkonen, & Joose Järvenkylä, Suomalaisen kirjallisuuden seura, Helsinki, 2012, pp. 135–149. PDF
  6. ”Filosofia ja elämä” [Philosophy and Life], in Mitä on filosofia? [What is Philosophy?], 2010, pp. 189–200. PDF
  7. ”Maailman tunteminen ja minuuden etsintä” [Knowledge of the World and the Search for the Self], in Maailma [World], eds. Jussi Kotkavirta, Olli-Pekka Moisio, Sami Pihlström & Henna Seinälä, SoPhi, Jyväskylä, 2011, pp. 110–118.

Non-refereed scientific articles

  1. ”Miksi elämänfilosofia(lla) ei elä” [Why Philosophy of Life Brings no Living], Paatos, 2, 2007, pp. 3–9.

Scientific books (monographs)

Book

  1. Self as World – The New Emerson. Acta Universitatis Tamperensis 1568. Tampere University Press, Tampere, 2010.
  2. Emerson ja filosofia – Ralph Waldo Emersonin filosofian ääriviivoja [Emerson and Philosophy – Sketches on the Philosophy of Emerson]. Gaudeamus Helsinki University Press, Helsinki, 2007.

Edited book, conference proceedings or special issue of a journal

  1.  (co-edited with Henrik Rydenfelt): Mitä on filosofia? [What is Philosophy?] Gaudeamus Helsinki University Press, Helsinki, 2010.
  2. Emerson-teemapaketti [A Thematic Issue on R. W. Emerson], niin & näin, 2, 2008.

Publications intended for the general public, linked to the applicant’s research

  1. ”Reunahuomautuksia kamarimusiikista” [Reflections on Chamber Music], Nuori Voima, 2–3, 2013, pp 91–93. PDF
  2. ”Jumala musiikissa” [God in Music], Iltasoitto/Serenade (the festival journal of the Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival), pp. 18–19.
  3. ”Kamarimusiikin eturintamassa” [On the Vanguard of Chamber Music], niin & näin, 4, 2011, pp. 112–113. PDF
  4. ”Idän ja lännen risteyskohdassa: Weimarin ortodoksinen kirkko ja Maria Pavlovna” [Crossroads of East and West: The Orthodox Church in Weimar and Maria Pavlovna], Aamun koitto, August 2011, pp. 6–7.
  5. ”Amerikan oma luontoääni” [The American Voice of Nature], Helsingin sanomat, 31.5.2003.

Theses

Doctoral dissertation (monograph)

  1. Self as World – The New Emerson. [The Doctoral Dissertation.] Acta Universitatis Tamperensis 1568. Tampere University Press, Tampere, 2010.

Master’s thesis

  1. Kovalainen, Heikki A. (2004): Siteettömyys. Emersonilaisesta perfektionismista ja pragmatismista kohti Ralph Waldo Emersonin filosofian ymmärrystä. [Disengagement: From Emersonian Perfectionism and Pragmatism Towards an Understanding of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Philosophy]. Master’s Thesis in Theoretical Philosophy. University of Helsinki.

Manuscripts to be submitted for publicatio

  • “Love for Emerson – Surprising Discovery and Platonic Ascent.”
  • “Emerson’s Gay Science: Reflective Comparisons between the American Essayist and Friedrich Nietzsche.”

Bonding pt 2: The case of sports

My forays into a sport I love and play quite a bit back home – badminton, which, by the way, ain’t a picnic! – turned out to be a small-scale lesson on how to conduct myself in international affairs. In the American schools, including the universities, the athletics play a remarkably bigger role than in many European countries; the different sports are always integrated into school activities, and the universities have their representative teams in various sports. In the U.S., badminton isn’t one of these, which means that getting to play it takes some extra effort.

Badminton is a popular sport in Northern Europe, but in the U.S., it is hardly considered a serious game, and played only somewhat sporadically. In Boston, a city size of Helsinki, there is no commercial arena for playing badminton: should you ask about available courts, people usually tell you that Harvard has two courts and MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) has something like eight. In both of these world-class universities, the Badminton Clubs are virtually run by Asians, in particular, Chinese students, who play at an admirably high level.

This was the case with Harvard, too, though the practices every now and then saw a few Europeans as well, and there was one regularly attending American member. At first, I was stunned by the overwhelming number of players contrasted with the strikingly low number of courts available at Harvard. Harvard Badminton Club met every Sunday for about five hours, and the average turnout of players was something like 25. Virtually, there was no chance to play singles, but all the time was spent playing doubles, including mixed pairs…

I spent a few months trying to learn the secrets of playing doubles, with varying success. I was hoping to catch some of the rudimentary tricks from the more advanced players, and hopefully I learned by imitation what we didn’t discuss verbally. Thus the semester went and I felt like I could improve much faster. When the summer came, the official practices winded down, and I was left wondering whether there would be a way to play in the summer…

I volunteered to organize the practices, and in about a week, I took the initial responsibility for confirming that the courts would be available for us every Wednesday night, and I sent out emails each week encouraging newcomers to come and play. I decided not to change anything in the system (or lack thereof) that most of the folks playing the Club seemed to prefer. And little by little, I found that more and more people were showing up in the practice, and all of a sudden, I was one of them.

*   *

And here’s the lesson learned as far as international exchange: Whenever you find around you a slow start in inter-cultural interaction  whenever you feel like things should be done differently – don’t hesitate but give yourself time to find a natural way of fostering exchange. Whenever tensions arise, it is the case that they can be better alleviated through doing things together rather than trying to affect a change on a theoretical plain. Nothing need not necessarily be changed, but you will be changed…

 

Matka paketissa!

A m e r i k k a   o l i   m i n u l l e . . .


… öisiä pyörämatkoja Cambridgesta Bostoniin …


… suuri spektaakkeli valasjahteineen ja kv-rientoineen …


… havaintoja rikkinäisistä kadunkulmista …


… ajanviettoa parhaiden kavereiden kanssa …


… viilettämistä ilmavirrassa rakkaimpani kanssa …


… New Yorkin matkoja kiireessä ja kiireettömästi …


… modernin arkkitehtuurin ihailua …


… kävelymatkoja Bostonissa …


… iltoja kuunvalossa, iloa siitä, että sai olla täällä!

Bonding pt 1: The case of music

Among all the means of social interaction, I find that music provides a unique and most fertile way of coming in touch with people across continents. Listening to music together, to begin with, can be highly valuable, but getting together to play music provides a yet better example of international bonding. We don’t have to know each other in order to play together, and we don’t even have to have practiced the music too much, for there are always the notes (or our working knowledge of the music to be played)… And even without extensive experience together, playing music together can show a high degree of spontaneous, gesture-by-gesture communication.

In June 2013  during a weekend of when the Finns were celebrating their Summer solstice back home – I had a chance to sit down with old friends from Michigan to do something new together. A rather spontaneous gig was put together at the initiative of my friend Ben who had been asked to play live music in a French Market organized by connoisseurs of French culture in the small town of Albion, Michigan. I happened to have planned a trip to see old friends at the same time, so by way of American spontaneity, Ben threw in the option for me to join him and our shared friend Dan to play together.

Since my primary instrument are the drums, I suggested we could carry a drum set to the scene, if only we find one lurking around somewhere… And we did: in the living room of Ben’s house (owned by his son Aiden), cozily covered in Angry Birds stickers and to brought into better tune with a few tricks here and there and a drum key purchased at the local music store.

I didn’t know the songs to be played, but I asked for a list in advance from Ben and took a quick listen to the songs through Spotify. We had a chance to practice but one time – the previous night, of course, in their living room – but that was no obstacle to getting on stage and trusting our instinct. During the gig, about half of our songs were based on improvisation, where I the drummer would characterize the rhythm and the tempo (and perhaps something like a scale to be used or a tone to be adopted), and then we would jam freely and yet in a structured enough vein to keep up the attention of the audience…

And luckily enough, we heard back from family members to have heard the rehearsals the day before that playing live we played much better! We had a whole lot of fun and were named the Ash Street Band following the name of the street where the impromptu collaboration came about.

Another chance for musical breaking of barriers during my Fulbright period arose in Cambridge, MA in May 2013 with the Harvard Jazz Band. A handful of the band members get together every Thursday at Harvard main campus to put out a Jazz Jam featuring jazz and funk classics at a college pub titled Queen’s Head. I’m not a specialist in jazz, so it took me a few weeks of some careful listening before I found my way into the band with a couple of percussion instruments purchased from a local music store in Allston. Playing the percussions, to begin with, warmed me up and I was ready to play a full song with the band sitting in at the drums! Again, we jammed freely, and I surmise I brought more of my rock experience onto the stage than virtually all of the other drummers would. But this only shows that spontaneous communications between musicians coming from different backgrounds can emerge even when they don’t share a long tradition together…

 

Boston Symphony!

In the spring 2013, my longtime dream of hearing the world-famous Boston Symphony Orchestra live in a concert setting came finally true. In 2008 and 2010, my research fellowships at Harvard fell on such unfortunate dates that the orchestra had already begun (around the start of May, as they always do) their summer season without regular concerts at the Symphony Hall. This year, however, I was happy enough to attend three of them!

Friday March 1

Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, conductor
Lang Lang, piano

HINDEMITH Konzertmusik for Strings and Brass
RACHMANINOFF Piano Concerto No. 2
BARTÓK Concerto for Orchestra

The very second day after arriving in Cambridge, I figured the best way to get settled into Boston would be to see if the BSO had something like a concert to offer. And they did the young (infamous no less than famous) Chinese virtuoso pianist Lang Lang playing Sergey Rachmaninoff’s beloved 2nd Piano Concerto. I didn’t know much about the pianist except for the fact that he was outrageously popular, and not just within classical music circles.

The young man’s playing was extraordinary: he rendered impeccably not only the quick cadenzas of the Concerto but also its slower, more lyrical textures which make up much of the Rachmaninoff piece’s charm. In particular, I was moved (and even more so than on the recordings of the same Concerto by the same artist) by his free treatmenf ot rhythm which lended the performance a distinctive poetry of its own. To be sure, Lang Lang’s reception was just as ecstatic than that of a rockstar, with fanatic screaming and incessant smartphone snapshots from the relatively young audience.

As regards the musical personality of Lang Lang, I have to note I find one phenomenon – by no means his own fault – particularly disturbing. Adorned by certain circles, he is shunned by others in ways that would be virtually unimaginable in the case of a pop/rock artist. Just google “Lang Lang” or type his name in YouTube, and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Lang Lang himself carries out important work in overcoming precisely such stereotypes that do serious harm to the very reception of classical music – and it is doubly disconcerting that such blackmailing falls on an artist doing so much to advance more easygoing reception of the classical repertoire.

Saturday April 27

Daniele Gatti, conductor
Anne Sofie von Otter, mezzo-soprano
Women of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus (John Oliver, conductor)
Boys of PALS Children’s Chorus (Andy Icochea, conductor)

MAHLER Symphony No. 3

I’m much too young to write an overview of all of the Mahler Symphonies, or even just one of them. Giant of Viennese Neoclassicism, the grandmaster of fin-de-siècle decadence in proto-contemporary music, Gustav Mahler dedicated the bulk of his working energies to composing massive symphonies, many of which last longer than an hour and are too long to fit on a single CD. As a general trend, I find that his symphonies are relatively easily digestible from the First to the Fifth, after which his symphonic oeuvre adopts increasingly vast and increasingly difficult-to-digest ambitions.

That is not the whole truth, however. Among the early symphonies, the Third shows massive scale, with a half-an-hour introduction lasting longer than the entire Seventh Symphony by Sibelius, and with vocal parts performed not only by the mezzo-soprano soloist but also by a large choir, in the BSO concert made up of women’s and boys’ choirs. For a philosophical listener like myself, the climax of the Symphony is to be found in a solemn mezzo-soprano solo adopting a text from Nietzsche‘s Thus Spoke Zarathustra, from “The Second Dance-Song,” the penultimate chapter in Part III of the book:

O Mensch! Gib acht!
Was spricht, die tiefe Mitternacht?
"Ich schlief, ich schlief -,
Aus tiefem Traum bin ich erwacht: -
Die Welt ist tief,
Und tiefer als der Tag gedacht.
Tief ist ihr Weh -,
Lust - tiefer noch als Herzeleid:
Weh spricht: Vergeh!
Doch alle Lust will Ewigkeit -,
- Will tiefe, tiefe Ewigkeit!"

Allow me to confine my remarks on the piece to the humble observation that Mahler no less than Nietzsche succeeds in capturing the experience of the sheer depth of life: be it of life’s joys or sorrows, their work craves to give expression to the sheer interiority of experiencing life. In a concert setting, receiving such introspective music is of course no easy task, and to my dismay the audience had to witness certain listeners leaving the Hall right before the entrance of the soloist… (The Symphony was played without an intermission.) This is Mahler’s music curse and its blessing: that it is charged with exaggerated emotion, extreme joy and extreme sadness.

Friday April 26

Bernard Haitink, conductor
Camilla Tilling, soprano

SCHUBERT Symphony No. 5
MAHLER Symphony No. 4

“I like the Fourth, because it’s not as overplayed as the First, not as religious as the Second, not as long as the Third, and not as self-absorbed as the Fifth…”

These were the words by which one of the violinists of the Boston Symphony introduced Mahler’s Fourth Symphony, what she was naming “a jewel among Mahler’s symphonies”… To be sure, she had something bad to say of the latter symphonies as well, but I’m just as incapable of recalling those wordings as I am her name. My last BSO concert for the spring was only two weeks after the Boston Bombings (in the Boston Marathon) which certainly leave an abiding trace on the cultural life of the city. Between the lines, the violinist seemed to be saying that playing Mahler’s Fourth could be part of the “Boston resurgence” after the terror of the bombings.

Among the Mahler symphonies, I count myself among those who like less the grandiose drama of the Fifth than the modest beauty of the Fourth. If I had to name some of the most beautiful themes in classical music – or even some of the most beautiful movements  I would not hesitate to name from Mahler’s Fourth the first and the last movements. The main theme of the first movement stands for me for one of the most moving expressions of beauty of life in music, and in the piece’s finale we find ourselves in heaven. If those remarks sound stale, I mean them in earnest.

Often on a CD, proto-contemporary works such as Mahler’s Fourth come across as more neoclassical than they do in a concert setting. Playing the works at a typically moderate volume at home, one pays perhaps more attention to the power of the themes than to the intricacies of the orchestration. Only in a concert setting, however, did I realize how Mahler’s orchestration in the Fourth is not only highly sophisticated (as it always is) but occasionally markedly modernist. He can take a theme and carry its nuances over to the most unexpected instrumental arrangements, such as the silent hissing of the percussions, the dark growls of the bassoon or the fragile delicacies of the harp. I was fortunate to have concluded my forays into the BSO repertoire with such a tranquil Mahler performance.

Thank you, Boston Symphony Orchestra, for all the music!

Philosophy of Internationalism

The annual meeting at the International Center of Worcester, MA, on 17 June 2013  where I was privileged to represent Finland as one of the two invited speakers  gave me a chance to develop some afterthoughts on what internationalism is really about. In the meeting, I discussed “Internationalism: What Works and What Doesn’t” by offering insights and concrete examples originally developed here on my home pages. The friendly hosting of Dr. Royce Anderson and the lively discussion in the Q & A session at the end of the talks now propel me forward to articulating what I venture to call my Philosophy of Internationalism.

I’m not very interested in internationalism that leaves us untouched, unchanged at the core… I’m captivated by international encounters that transform us, offering us a new angle of looking at things, a new aspect of our personality that we had not seen before, a new way of forging connections and finding our ways in the world. When I spent the year 1994-1995 as a Rotary Exchange Student in Albion, Michigan, my gradual acquaintances with local American youth in the little college town were not just something superadded onto my previous friendships back home. Rather, they set me on the path of rethinking the values of my life whenever I spend time abroad, taking stock of the good things already achieved, setting challenges for what is yet to be accomplished.

International friendships strike to the very heart of who we are, and they do this in a different way than domestic friendships. Neither the long distance between friends nor the extended gaps in getting together face-to-face do nothing to dim the light of insights gained whenever we sit down for talks with international friends. I will want to go as far as to suggest, indeed, that it is the very differences between us that make possible an examination of our lives in ways that would be more difficult to come by in our home countries.

There is no idea in so-called internationalism I’d be more averse to than that of cultural supremacy, of fashioning the fantasy that a certain country (or countries) stand(s) superior to others in its/their achievements. This is a vicious circle: if one holds such a view, one has nothing to learn from other cultures… This is to deny the transformative power of internationalism.

If international encounters, on the contrary, can genuinely transform us, then should we not approach all the different cultures with open-ended curiosity? If we have something to learn from all different cultures, then is it not ultimately the case that not only all human beings but all different cultures are equal? Is it not, as a matter of principle, ethnocentric narcissism to think that we have most to learn from the members of our own culture and not so much from those of others?

I hold the opposite view. Since inter-cultural encounters can really have a transformative power, those encounters can be just as effective when two people from cultures relatively remote from one another chance to meet on common ground. I’ve been touched by music from Serbia, flabbergasted by the deliciousness of Afghan food, moved to tears by the sheer beauty of Iranian or Japanese film. And many of us are familiar with stories of people from different cultures meeting without a common language to start with, little by little forging a lasting relationship.

I think of different cultures, in sum, as taking part in a global & multicultural conversation or a series of conversations  aiming at increased understanding of the world. With some imaginative stretching of terms, I want to call this democracy of cultures, and it is of foremost global importance to foster democracy or equity at such an inter-cultural level. Even matters of disagreement – if only we are willing to pierce their surface, precisely by thinking that different cultures can come into a dialogue – can be used as impetus for growth and increased understanding of the surrounding reality.

At the Questions & Answers session following our talks in Worcester some of the most intriguing comments went in the direction of encouraging the idea that folks from different cultures can indeed create unexpected co-operation and vicinity. It goes without saying that there are stories of ethnic groups failing to meet on common ground, where they remain isolated both from one another and from the country they’re inhabiting. But oftentimes this is far less an expression of the incommensurability of different cultures as such than of failed policies of integration or, say, the spreading outbursts of prejudice. Most commonly it is a matter of doing something together that helps us bridge cultural differences.

The first speaker at the event, an Armenian Professor of Medical Education, Gevorg Yaghjyan (who works for the National Competitiveness Foundation of Armenia) discussed the health care system of his country from an international perspective and the various examples of successful interaction therein. His country is one of far-reaching diaspora: approximately 3 million Armenians live within the borders of their home country, while 7 million Armenians live outside of those borders. If those Armenians living in diaspora can make an important contribution to Armenian culture, then is that not, as I’d like to think, another encouraging sign of how people with difficult fates can carry out important international work?

[Photos by the International Center of Worcester]

 

kv-rientoja!

Fulbright-stipendiaatin eittämättömiin etuihin kuulu mahdollisuus osallistua kansainvälisiin häppeninkeihin, joista tiedotetaan keskitetysti kaikille alueen stipendiaateille yhteisellä postituslistalla ja joihin osallistumien on yleensä ilmaista. Koska en oman stipendikauden aikataulun vuoksi voinut osallistua nk. enrichment-seminaareihin, otin ilon irti ja osallistuin mahdollisuuksien mukaan kaikkiin muihin loppukeväästä järjestettyihin tapahtumiin. Viimeisimpänä oli tunnin ajomatkan päässä Worcesterissa järjestetty Kansainvälisen keskuksen (International Center of Worcester) vuosikokous, jossa pitämästäni esitelmästä kirjoitn aiemmin. Seuraavassa napakat raportit muista kansainvälisistä riennoistani:

Berklee International Folk Music Festival 2013

Boston on tunnettu yliopistoistaan: kun tehdään kansainvälisiä listauksia maailman parhaista yliopisto- tai opiskelijakaupungeista, sijoittuu Boston usein aivan kärkikahinoihin Pariisin, Lontoon, Wienin, Melbournen ja Sydneyn kaltaisten kaupunkien seuraksi (ks. tunnettu listaus täällä). Laskutavasta riippuen Bostonista tai kaupungin liepeillä löytyy yliopistoja kuutisenkymmentä, ja joukkoon mahtuu maan tunnetuimpiin musiikkikouluihin kuuluva Berklee School of Music.

Maaliskuun lopulla Berkleen musiikkikoulu isännöi järjestyksessään 27. kansanmusiikkifestivaalin, jossa koulun monenkirjavat virtuoosimuusikot esittivät joko oman maansa tai muuten vain sopivaksi katsomansa maan musiikkia. Illan kohokohdiksi muodostuivat korealainen lyömäsoitinesitys, joissa kymmenkunta nuorta naismusiikkia rakensivat yksinkertaisen toistuvista rytmeistä äänivyöryn, sekä jazzista arabialaiseen ja intialaiseen musiikkin edennyt kitarakollaasi, jota hallitsi sähkökitarallaan nuori eteläamerikkalainen muusikko. Tapahtuman jälkeen istuttiin WorldBostonin johtajan Bill Cliffordin ja hänen avustajansa kanssa lähikapakkaan parille oluelle, puhuttiin amerikkalaisesta yliopistokoripallosta ja jazzista.

Teachers’ Roundtable + Celtics’ game!

Heti kansanmusiikkifestarin jälkeisenä päivänä samainen WorldBoston isännöi eri maalaisten opettajien ja opetusalalla työskentelevien vaikuttajien lounaan ja keskustelutilaisuuden, jossa vaihdettiin ajatuksia vierailevana tutkijana toimimimesta, Fulbright-säätiöstä ja kansainvälisyydestä. Tapasimme Bostonins satamassa, jossa myös WorldBostonin toimistot sijaitsevat, ja aloitimme syömällä yhdessä merenelävistä valmistettua lounasta sataman No Name-ravintolassa. Pöytäseurueeseeni kuuliu Oulussa asuva, Opetushallituksen kansainvälisyysasioiden parissa työskentelevä Eija Ruohomäki sekä pari itäeurooppalaista opettajaa.

Lounaan jälkeen osallistuimme yhteiseen “pyöreän pöydän” keskusteluun, jossa kullakin Fulbright-stipendiaatilla oli mahdollisuus kertoa kokemuksistaan, ja kansainvälisellä opettajadelegaatiolla oli puolestaan sauma esittää meille kysymyksiä. Erityisen seikkaperäinen esitys kuultiin intialaiselta sosiologian professorilta, joka oli tutkijavierailulla Yhdysvalloissa nyt toista kertaa parinkymmenen vuoden tauon jälkeen. Hän korosti sitä, kuinka juuri nyt on kiehtova aika Yhdysvalloissa vierailulle, kun maa käy läpi yhteiskunnallista murrosta: musta presidentti, maahanmuuttajuuskysymykset, seksuaalivähemmistöjen oikeudet, finanssikriisi jne.

Kuin bonuksena keskustelut opettajien kanssa poikivat urheilua illan päälle: sain vapaaliput NBA-otteluun Boston Celtics – Atlanta Hawks, jossa kotijoukkue Boston otti askeleen lähemmäs pudotuspelipaikan varmistamista.

Valasjahti, 5. toukokuuta 2013

Lopuksi tärkein – tai siis kansainvälisistä häppeningeistä epämuodollisin mutta monille varmasti mieleenpainuvin! Bostonia ympäröivillä merialueilla on mahdollista nähdä valaita, ja tottahan toki Fulbright-stipendiaateille kaupiteltiin mahdollisuutta hypätä veneen kyytiin valasjahdille… Puolustaudun toteamalla, että muutoin en nyt välttämättä moiselle risteilylle kyytiin hyppäisi, mutta Fulbright-säätiön tarjoama mahdollisuus ilmaiseen valaskatselmukseen madalsi kynnystä ratkaisevasti. Ilokseni tapasin laivalla myös tuttuja Massachusetts Institute of Technologyn (MIT:n) tanskalaisia opiskelijoita, joiden kanssa keskustellessa matka meni leppoisasti.

Kuvasin valaista videota vietäväksi Suomeen 5-vuotiaalle tyttärelleni, kun yhtäkkiä jahtia järjestänyt Bill Clifford vetäisi minua hihasta ja totesi: “Heikki, olet valasmatkan virallinen valokuvaaja, tahdon sinun lähettävän kuvat valaista minulle!” Niinpä sitten sain ottaa valaista parhaani mukaan valokuviakin! Annetaan ryhä- ja lahtivalaita esittävien kuvien siis puhua puolestaan – suosittelen valasristeilyä sillä varauksella, ettei laivojen pörrääminen valojen suosimalla alueella ehkä tarjoa mitään ekologisinta esimerkkiä ihmisen suhteesta luontoon…

Thanks, WorldBoston and Bill Clifford, for organizing all of these great events!

LES-album coming up!

The best possible news for many a lover of L E S … !

– Yes, we do have our first full-length album coming up!

The songs to be included in the record will be tentatively titled as follows:

  1. Dark Night Wind (Kovalainen)
  2. Chalk Circle (Palomaa)
  3. Ancient Forms (Palomaa)
  4. The Ideal Type (Palomaa)
  5. Into the Sea (Palomaa & Kovalainen)
  6. Outsider Superior (Kovalainen & Palomaa)
  7. Delirious Love (Palomaa & Kovalainen)
  8. Wipe (Kovalainen & Palomaa)
  9. Frozen Sparrow (Palomaa & Kovalainen)
  10. Minor Fortunes (Kovalainen)

All in all, it will run up to about an hour, including a 12-minute track about the end of days … as well as a five-song series of catchy pop tunes composed by Mr. Palomaa!

If all goes well, there will be a piano added to the familiar instruments in a few songs, and our new bass player Juha will be playing a few guitar parts and singing a bit, too!

Scheduled for release in the spring 2013 … in the meantime,
we’ll be hoping to see you in some of our upcoming shows!

For one, we’ll be playing a gig at Nuclear Nightclub
on Thursday 13 December 2013
; more info will follow…

Fiennes meets Kiarostami

[I had an article come out recently in the Finnish philosophical journal niin & näin on two documentary films to have struck me recently. As of now, I'm working on an extended draft of the piece in English, titled "Silk Factory Mazes, Natures Devoid of Men: The Two Paths of Reality-Grounded Documentary Films"... Please find below some snippets of my original Finnish articled translated into English.]

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Familiar and foreign, Sophie Fiennes’ Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow (2010) offers us a strange documentary mixing downright naturalism with elements of the uncanny: a film in the realist tradition of direct cinema and yet at the same time broaching sublimity in a virtually alienated way. The film brings to the fore the German contemporary artist Anselm Kiefer (born 1945) and his gigantic Gesamtkunstwerk in a derelict silk factory in Barjac, Southern France, where the artist moved in 1993. Seven years later he embarked on the project of transforming the location into a massive work of art. Upon his arrival at Barjac, there was nothing there. It behooved him to map out the vistas to be opened by the buldozers, and to draft the initial sketches of the houses to be built. Little by little, Kiefer filled the once abandoned factory area with criss-crossing alleys swarming underground, houses bristling with paintings and installations larger than human beings, and gigantic towers in the outdoor open space reaching towards the heavens.

Allow me to venture into suggesting, then, that we find in the film the rudiments of a novel form of art. Art is no longer the object of the film but rather its subject: Kiefer’s art works come to life—they performatively happen—qua Fiennes’ cinematic shots. His art is pervasively processual. Her treatment of his art is no less so. To go with the versatile fabrics of the paintings Kiefer constructs “Holy Books” weighing more than a hundred kilos, but before taking their place in the works the books are washed by the waves of the ocean such that the ocean leave its traces on the pages. In their own peculiar materiality, Kiefer’s broken jars, astronomic charts, forests of ash notched in the paintings, or streams of lead reminiscent of volcanic eruptions, all contribute to create an impression of a world of its own. Only rarely do the last touches of the paintings come from the artist’s brush, since Kiefer treats his surfaces with multifarious materials, and all the stages of the working process leave their imprint on the works.

The choice of Kiefer’s art as the subject matter of the film is illuminating precisely because cinematic expression—as the most full-fledged space-time art form—grasps the very processual character of art. Like drama and dance, the film unfolds in both time and space. The visual imagery opens up on a wide screen, and the film always has its duration. Such temporarily bound art forms customarily also have their own voice. In a literary sense, the sounds of Fiennes’ film are made of the crackling fire, the shattering of glass against the floor, and the roar of the buldozers, all of which make Kiefer’s art sensible, virtually smellable. In a figurative sense, Kiefer’s voice as an artist unfolds itself in the swift visual narratives of the film. In other words, film becomes art at those very moments when it follows the processes of creation of Kiefer’s works, which means either working on a new work or the gradual unfolding of a “finished” work in the investigative gestures of the moving camera. Allow me to generalize the observation. Art, in general, unfolds itself in cinema; cinema turns into art once it grasps the birth process of art.

The Iranian master of slow cinema, Abbas Kiarostami’s 74-minute film Five (2003) forms a parallel with Fiennes’ film. Whereas Fiennes has scripted her film precisely, manipulating the images with carefully calculated moving shots and razor-sharp editing, Kiarostami dwells, rather, on the sheer surprises in nature. Five uses no human voice, and in the only scene where human beings do appear, all they do is walk across the screen (as if to express the very disappearance of humanity). Kiarostami like Fiennes leaves himself—and leaves humans—into the background and allows nature to show herself. Kiarostami’s film carries into a climax the transition, adumbrated above, from anthropocentric narration to nonhuman things. The proper subjects of the film, indeed, are elements of nature: bark, waves, white light, dogs, ducks, black light, rain, thuhderstorm, and the Moon.

Five, in sum, is an exceptional one-man auteur documentary, characterized by the director himself as an experimental and meditative work of art, akin to poetry and photography. The film is dedicated to the Japanese master of the static visual narrative, Yasujurio Ozu, who like Kiarostami used extended takes virtually without any visual accentuation, excepting the camera angles and composition. By putting the Ozuesque visual language into documentary use—more specifically, into depicting in an immediate way the simplest incidents in nature—Kiarostami carries further than his master the director’s technique whereby carefully considered gestures are used to minimize the power of the director and maximize the power of the imagery.

Kiarostami’s film is analogous to Fiennes’ documentary precisely insofar as it surrenders expressive power from the director to the nuances of reality. In the Kiefer documentary, man-made art has been transformed into a world, which the film shows in itself—permanently abandoned and therefore perennial. Kiarostami’s film, in turn, demonstrates how the surrounding nature is desolate even when humans kill their time lingering around it. Fiennes’ camera is constantly in motion, thus making Kiefer’s realities to speak. Kiarostami’s camera stays virtually still, letting nature speak: when the camera is on and directed at the unscripted world, anything can happen… With deliberately advanced director gestures, Fiennes creates an impression of a world of its own not entirely unlike the world left to its own by Kiarostami’s digital camera. The subject of Five is no longer the human mind, but the elements of nature turn into animated personae speaking in their own, wordless tongues.

The novel cinematic art arises from understanding how the original and ultimate subject matter of film is not the human world but the humanless, derelict reality, which only a wordless image can translate into its own tongue. It is precisely by stripping visual imagery of too many human sounds that cinematic art may ever more intimately grasp the reality of images always saying more than words. Kiarostami demonstrates the nonhuman nature of cinema by warning us of the senseless projections and intentional illusions, both of which are taken to pieces—with cool rage—by his radical-ecological film. The key to the film about Kiefer, in turn, lies in understanding that while much of what’s shown in the images stems from human hands, the filmed transition of art from transient moments into timeless cinematic narrative is not in itself of human origin.

Kahvilla laitospomon kanssa

Tapasin täällä perjantaina viimein Harvardin yliopiston filosofian laitoksen johtajan Sean Kellyn, joka on ollut koko vuoden virkavapaalla. Siksi miitinki Seanin kanssa onnnistui vasta nyt keskikesällä, ja mukavaa olikin miekkosta nähdä!

Sean kutsui minut toimistolleen iltapäiväksi. Rupattelimme niitä näitä, esitin kymmenisen minuutin tiivistelmän omista Emerson-tutkimuksistani, ja Sean kuunteli innostuneena. Hän kertoi työstävänsä parhaillaan tunnetun mannermaisen filosofin, Hubert Dreyfusin kanssa Dostojevskin ja Kierkegaardin olemiskäsityksiä käsittelevää kirjaa, jossa olisi sijansa myös kristillisellä ajattelulla. Käsite “mannermainen filosofia” tarkoittaa nk. analyyttiselle filosofialle vastakkaista tai ainakin siitä poikkeavaa filosofian suuntausta, joka on vahvoilla erityisesti Saksassa ja Ranskassa ja jossa pyritään ajattelemaan mieluummin mutkikkaita asioita mutkikkaasti kuin selkeitä asioita selkeästi (niin kuin analyyttisessa filosofiassa tehdään). Analyyttiseesti suuntautuneelle filosofian laitokselle tuokin raikkaan tuulahduksen Dostojevskia ja Kierkegaardia tutkiva laitoksen johtaja!

Sanoin Seanille että kahvia pitäisi saada. Koska Emerson Hallista ei oikein mistään kahvia saa, Sean ehdotti että kävelisimme pari korttelia kahvilaan nimeltä Crema Cafe (jossa saa Cambridgen parhaat cappucinot), ja jatkaisimme matkalla keskustelua. Niin teimmekin, Sean amerikkalaiselle tyylille uskollisesti lenkkareissa, farkuissa ja flanellipaidassa, ja minä mukamas-mielestäni pikkuisen formaalimmim pukeutuneena sukkuloimme tietöiden ja muiden kadun melujen keskeltä kohti kahvilaa. Jatkamme keskustelua siitä, kuinka Amerikassa ei oikein ymmärretä aatehistorian merkitystä – vaan sitä pidetään arvoltaan toissijaisena reaaliseen historiaan nähden – ja ehkäpä siksikin muutamien amerikkalaisten filosofien tutkimuksessa ammottaa aukko.

Kun palailimme cappucinot kourissamme takaisin kohti Harvard Yardia, kerroin Seanille olevani ortodoksi. Tuosta uutisesta amerikkalaiset – niin kadunmiehet kuin akateemikot – poikkeuksetta innostuvat, joskin oma työnsä on aina selittää, olenko oikeastaan “Russian” (venäläinen), “Finnish” (suomalainen) vai “Eastern” (itäinen) ortodoksi. USA:ssahan erilaiset kristilliset kirkkokunnat ja lahkot muodostavat varsinaisen tilkkutäkin. Seania kiinnosti aihepiiri myös siksi, että hän koettaa uutta kirjaansa varten saada otetta Dostojevskin uskonnollisesta ajattelusta.

Yhteensä ehdimmekin jutella puolisentoista tuntia, kunnes Seanin piti palata toimistolleen ja lapsille suunnattua filosofiaprojektia hahmottelemaan. Siitä singahdin pelaamaan viikonlopunvieton käynnistävät sulkapallogeimit ystäväni Anshulin kanssa, jonka matkaväsymyksistäni huolimatta onnistuin kukistamaan. Mukavaa oli aiemmin huomata sekin, kuinka ihan muina miehinä saatettiin Seanin kanssa jutella kaikenmoisia, lapsista, uskonnosta ja Amerikasta.

[päät palanneet paikoilleen, tai ainakin melkein]

Emerson meets Steiner!

Aatehistorian erilaiset kehityslinjat leikkaavat toisensa joskus veikeästi, toisinaan tyystin odottamattomasti. Kymmenisen vuotta olen tutkinut Ralph Waldo Emersonin (1803–1882) ajattelua, ja tuon tuosta nimi tulee vastaan erilaisissa yhteyksissä, oli kyseessä Emerson String Quartet, Kainuun Sanomien päivän mietelause tai Andrei Tarkovskin elokuvanäytös, jossa ennen elokuvan alkua yhtäkkiä innostutaan puhumaan Tarkovskin yhteyksistä Steineriin, Emersoniin ja Thoreauhun. Emerson-jousikvartetti on kuin onkin nimetty samaisen Ralph Waldon mukaan, toisin kuin formulakuski Emerson Fittipaldi tai taannoinen progebändi Emerson, Lake & Palmer…

Yhtä lailla Emersonin hahmoon törmää Steiner-pedagogiikan piirissä. Suomen Snellman-korkeakoulua vastaava antroposofinen oppilaitos Englannissa on nimeltään Emerson College (mitä ei pidä sekoittaa samannimiseen, Bostonissa toimivaan retoriikkaopinahjoon), ja viliseepä Emersonin nimi siellä täällä myös Steinerin kirjoituksissa. Kun kymmenisen vuotta sitten haastattelin Helsingissä Suomen antroposofisen liiton toimitiloissa Markku Maulaa, sain kuulla sangen rohkaisevia väitteitä kahden ajattelijan yhteyksistä. Markku totesi Steinerin antaneen teoksissaan ymmärtää, että olisi pitänyt Emersonia aivan Goethen mittaisena esikuvanaan, ellei amerikkalainen esseisti olisi sattunut syntymään väärälle mantereelle… Melkoinen sielunsukulaisuuden tunnustus! Havainnon todistusvoimaa vahvistaa tieto siitä, että Goethe oli paitsi Steinerin, myös Emersonin filosofis-kirjallinen esikuva.

Mitkä yleiset piirteet yhdistävät ja mitkä erottavat Emersonin ja Steinerin ajattelua? Aatehistoriallisesti molemmat sijoittuvat samaan saksalaisen ajattelun jatkumoon, joka ponnistaa Kantista kohti Goethea, myöhempiä romantikkoja ja idealisteja, ammentaa varhaisesta hermeneutiikasta ja ennakoi monin tavoin 1900–luvun fenomenologiaa eli elävän kokemuksen filosofiaa. Molemmat olivat syvästi kiinnostuneita henkisestä maailmasta, Steiner tuota maailmaa sangen seikkaperäisesti luotaavana hengentieteilijänä, Emerson poeettis-esseistisenä eklektikkona, jonka varsinaisten uskomusten jäljittäminen on joskus työläämpää kuin systemaattisen Steinerin.

Niin amerikkalaisen esseistin kuin antroposofian luojan sivistysihanne oli pohjimmiltaan klassinen, ja molemmat kehittelevät omaperäisin tavoin aatehistorian elämänfilosofista juonnetta, jossa käsitystä hyvästä (ja syvästä) elämästä uusinnetaan 1800– ja 1900–luvun sielunmaisemiin sopiviksi. Molempien mielikuvituksen vangitsi ajatus siitä, että pieni pisara voi kätkeä sisälleen valtameren, yksi ihminen voi edustaa koko ihmiskuntaa. Steinerin viimeisinä vuosinaan luoma veistos Ihmiskunnan edustaja kantaakin samaa nimeä kuin eräs Emersonin pääteoksista Representative Men (1850).

Entä Steinerin Emerson-viittaukset? Kaikkien sitaattien kartoittamisessa riittää vielä työtä, mutta mainittakoon kymmenien viittausten joukosta yksi. Esitelmälehtisessään Suomi ja Kalevala (esitelmä pidetty alun perin Dornachissa 1914) Steiner siteeraa Emersonin lausahdusta ranskalaisesta esseististä Michel de Montaignesta. Montaignen ajatukset ovat Emersonin sydäntä niin lähellä, että hänestä tuntuu, kuin hän itse olisi kirjoittanut Montaignen esseekokoelman. Kirjasessaan Steiner tulkitsee toteamusta vihjeeksi siitä, että Emerson uskoi sielunvaellukseen. Emersonin kirjallinen hyperbola saa jokseenkin kirjallisen tulkinnan kahden eri aikoina eläneen sielun, Emersonin ja Montaignen, kohtalonyhteydestä.

Pieni sitaatti ja siitä tehty tulkinta auttaakin hahmottamaan myös Emersonin ja Steinerin eroja. Siinä missä Emerson käytti räiskyvissä esseissään pitkälle vietyjä retorisia tehokeinoja – ammensi samassa lauseessa häikäilemättä niin hindulaisuudesta kuin aikansa rajatiedosta – Steinerin ajatteluprojekti on kokonaisuudessaan järjestelmällisempi. Molemmat tähtäsivät ajattelullaan pikemminkin maailman muuttamiseen kuin sen tulkitsemiseen, mutta tähtäyspisteet olivat erilaiset. Emerson tahtoi kirjoituksillaan luoda Yhdysvaltoihin omaperäisen, alkuvoimaisen kirjallisen perinteen, kun taas Steiner halusi luoda uuden tieteen, jonka perustalle pystytettäisiin kokonainen kasvatusjärjestelmä.

Emerson ja Steiner – kaksi kulttuurin uudistajaa, jotka edellisen sanoin edustivat ihmisyyttä (stand here for humanity). Molemmat onnistuivat tehtävissään niin hyvin, että heidän esimerkkinsä innoittaa edelleen sekä kasvattajia että kirjailijoita.

Opiskelua, töitä ja opiskelua!

Matkojen, sahailun, punttiennoston ja aurinkopiipahdusten lomassa olen täällä ehtinyt tehdä hommiakin: opiskella, tehdä töitä ja tutkimusta! Olen työstänyt eteenpäin pariakin kirjaprojektia, jotka olivat viime vuosina jääneet muiden kiireiden keskellä taka-alalle… Vihdoinkin olen ehtinyt muokata väitöskirjastani kahta kirjakäsikirjoitusta, joista molemmat tarjoan syksyyn mennessä julkaistaviksi (tai mahdollista julkaisua varten arvioitaviksi) Yhdysvalloissa. Eräs kustantaja (Fordham University Press) on jo aiemmin osoittanut kiinnostusta julkaista väitöskirjani (osia) erillisenä teoksena täällä amerikanmailla, mikä on toki hyvä startti käsikirjoitusten viilailulle!

Toukokuun 17. päivänä, lukukauden vedellessä täällä viimeisiään, pidin Harvardin yliopiston filosofian laitoksella esitelmän omista tutkimusaiheistani. Kun olen varsinaisesta tutkimastani ajattelijasta, esseisti-runoilija Emersonista esitelmöinyt niin monien vuosien ajan, nyt päätin hyödyntää tilaisuutta ja pohtia laajemmalti sitä, kuinka Emerson on jäänyt amerikkalaisessa kulttuurissa – ja myös yliopistofilosofiassa – yllättävän tuntemattomaksi. Näin tarjoutui mahdollisuus herättää samalla keskustelua amerikkalaisen kulttuurin vinoutumista, sudenkuopista ja kummallisuuksista, jotka voisivat osaltaan selittää kulttuurin kyvyttömyyttä tunnustaa oman suurmiehensä tärkeyttä.

“In Emerson Hall, in Emerson Oblivion: Passing Remarks on American Culture”
[Emerson-rakennuksessa Emerson-unholassa: Huomioita amerikkalaisesta kultuurista]

Lähtökohta esitelmääni oli jännä: filosofian laitosrakannus on täällä nimeltään Emerson Hall – jonka alimmassa kerroksessa myös komeilee Emersonin näköispatsas – joten oli korkea aika puhua tuossa rakennuksessa Emersonista! Kumma kyllä, Harvardin filosofian laitoksella kukaan professoreista ei tutki Emersonia, eikä heidän voi oikeastaan sanoa olevan juuri edes kiinnostuneita amerikkalaisen esseistin ajatuksista (tuskin heistä kukaan mainitsee Emersonia teksteissään, saati kirjoittaisi hänestä artikkelia). Yleinen kulttuurinen selitys tälle löytyy amerikkalaisen kulttuurin aatehistoriattomuudesta: tärkeimpiäkään kulttuurin luojia ei tutkita samoin kuin Saksassa tai Ranskassa tai edes Suomessa, jossa Emerson-unholan sukulaisilmiöksi kävisi vaikkapa tietämättömyys siitä, mitä Lönnrot, Runeberg tai Snellman ajattelivat ja saavuttivat.

Yliopistomaailmassa Emerson-unhola selittyy pitkälti sillä, että amerikkalaista filosofiaa – kuten suomalaistakin – on toisen maailmansodan jälkeen hallinnut ns. analyyttinen suuntaus, joka ei teknisine painotuksineen tarjoa kovinkaan otollista maaperää elämänfilosofisen Emersonin tutkimiseen. Sitäkin yllättävämmäksi Emersonin poissaolon filosofian laitoksilta tekee se, että muita Emersonin sukulaissieluja (vaikkapa Nietzscheä tai Kierkegaardia) kyllä tunnetaan amerikkalaisilla filosofian laitoksilla, ja vastaavasti amerikkalaisia klassikkofilosofeja saatetaan tuntea varsin hyvin vaikkapa — Suomessa!

Esitelmääni oli kuuntelemassa kymmenisen Harvardin filosofia, enimmäkseen amerikkalaisia, mutta olipa joukossa pari turkkilaistakin, eräs australialainen jatko-opiskelija sekä germaanisen filologian tutkija Saksasta (Harvardissa jatko-opiskelijana). Keskustelu oli niin vireää, että tuskin olin ehtinyt esitelmäni puoliväliin, kun olimme jo jutustelleet tunnin. Keskustelua heräsi mm. siitä, kärsiikö yhdysvaltalainen filosofia tosiaan alemmuuskompleksista eurooppalaisten esikuviensa varjossa ja voisivatko syyt Emersonin tutkimattomuudelle löytyä institutionaalisista tekijöistä eri oppiaineiden välillä. Runsas keskustelu osoitti ainakin sen, että Emersonin kaltainen uutta luova ajattelija – tunnettiin hänen varsinaisia ajatuksiaan tai ei – herättää kiivaita mielipiteitä amerikkalaisissa filosofinaluissa.

Thanks to all to have attended the talk & thanks to Doug for organizing it and making sure we have snacks to munch on while talking; the conversation will go on!

Getting international: Practicalities

Getting international just for the sake of getting international doesn’t always work. Rather, international encounters can be organized around interests that we already share: in arts, religion, sports, science, or politics. Thus construed, becoming international is not something we necessarily need to make an extra effort to bring about; oftentimes, it can grow out of international elements already present in our everyday natural behavior.

Here are a few concrete thoughts, stemming from about 20 years of international experience, of what’s NOT such an efficient way to foster cultural exchange, on my view, and how RATHER to do it. It goes without saying that these are my opinions which ought to be seen as alternatives to the ways in which international matters are often understood as opposed to knock-down arguments! My aim is to challenge stereotypes (presented below in quotation marks). Since the topic is large, I’ve decided to prefer quick flashes of insights to anything definitive and elaborately explained.

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I. STARTING POINTS 1/2

“Getting international begins with critical distance to nationalistic feelings, because you can’t be genuinely international if you love your country too much.”

NO: Healthy love of one’s country, RATHER, is a precondition for genuine internationality in the first place; in the end, nationalism & internationalism are two sides of the same coin.

II. STARTING POINTS 2/2

“Only a person with extensive experience of and living in a specific culture can make a contribution to the the culture of that country.”

NO, RATHER: Sometimes an “outsider” is better adapted to offering fresh insights into a foreign culture: think of, say, the Frenchman Tocqueville’s classic Democracy in America.

III. NATIONAL VS. INTERNATIONAL

“Whenever spending time abroad, it will be good to spend a lot of time with people from your own country and get to speak your native tongue.”

WELL, ONLY TO AN EXTENT: Since one communicates with friends back home anyway, you’ll be better off concentrating your energy in immersing yourself in the culture you’re in.

IV. ORGANIZING EXCHANGE

From top to bottom: “Let’s have centrally organized institutions to help folks from different countries get in touch with each other and get together.”

From bottom to top: Today’s social life is largely co-ordinated through things like social media anyway, so we should help people organize on their own at the grassroots level.

V. IMMIGRATION POLICY

“Let’s close our doors to foreigners and not take any more in, especially not those abusing our welfare system.”

NO, RATHER: If our country offers great opportunities, we can take active initiatives to make these opportunities available to everybody (e.g. the Visa Lottery in the U.S.).

VI. STEREOTYPES OF IMMIGRANTS

“A person from a foreign culture can never become fully integrated into an entirely different kind of culture.”

RATHER: Take a look at how well various immigrants cope in their new home country, and don’t deny the fact that the natives are often out of touch in their native land, too!

VII. ARTISTIC INTERACTION

“Let’s have people, e.g., knowing how to play an istrument perform music such that each plays something from their own country, adding appropriate costumes.”

NO, RATHER: Since music is an universal language to begin with, it will be wiser to just get people from different walks of life together to play great music.

VIII. CULTURAL IMMERSION

“If people are living in a foreign country, say, in the U.S., it’ll be good for them to indulge themselves in some quintessentially American traditions (e.g. barbecue and baseball).”

WELL, TO A LIMITED EXTENT: Since so many countries are increasingly global anyway, we could get to know people from different ethnic backgrounds wherever we live.

IX. CULINARY MATTERS

“Once spending time in America, let’s make sure we get fully acquainted with American food.”

WELL, ethnic food in America can be intriguingly different from ethnic food, say, in Europe. (A few concrete examples: Afghan food in America, or, say, the Assyrian Orthodox people organizing the church potluck in a Finnish Orthodox church.)

X. SO WHAT TO DO, IN THE END?

If we genuinely wish to promote things international, I suggest we distance ourselves from stereotypes and explore the world with an open mind. Getting international isn’t a special procedure or a technique: it means healthy pride of one’s own culture and insatiable hunger for the new. After all, we’re dealing with human beings interacting with human beings…!

In sum, since the world is increasingly global and multicultural, much of what we call “international” can arise from distancing ourselves from extensive reliance on ready-made structures, encouraging rather spontaneous, natural and meaningful interaction between folks from different cultures on a daily basis.

Photos by Eija Ruohomäki (in the middle),
a fellow Finn I met through WorldBoston.

Finnish Education!

If Finland has gained some unanimous international recognition recently, this has been in the field of education. In the international PISA studies on education, our country has constantly ranked high on the list, with the likes of South Korea, Singapore, Japan, and Canada. So successful has our nation’s performance been, indeed, that international delegations working in the field are increasingly paying visits to the Scandinavian country, to see what could be learned from the Finnish system. I had the fortune of having a specialist from Finland come and explain the secrets of the system to us at Harvard, at the Askwith Forum in April 2013 at Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Pasi Sahlberg, Director General of CIMON (Centre for International Mobility and Cooperation) at the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture – my apologies for the convoluted title! – gave a most inspired and inspiring talk before a crowd of some hundred people gathered at Harvard. In a nuthshell, he went through five factors to have contributed to Finland’s performance in education, followed by a summary of the educational policies underlying these. The emphasis was on early education, and I’m assuming his points carry somewhat less truth if one were to move through the middle period towards secondary education. The five points stressed include the following, in my paraphrase:

  1. Finland has never aimed to be the best in education unlike, say, the U.S
  2. The Finns pride themselves on public education as one of the country’s great achievements
  3. We trust our public institutions more than perhaps any other country, including the legel system, health care, education, and police
  4. Proportionaly speaking, wealth is distributed more equally than is often the case – and a sense of equity pervades the school system as well
  5. Finland performs highly in various international indices (see the picture below)

In his book Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn From Educational Change in Finland (2012) as in his Harvard talk, Mr. Sahlberg argued that international thinking on education has been too often plagued by what he nicknamed the GERM (Global Educational Reform Movement). According to such educational philosophy, one strives for standardized tests, increased competition and hence test-based accountability, whereas the Finnish instead stresses collaboration, personalization and trust-based accountability. The former set of characteristics was summarized under the umbrella term MARKETIZATION, while Finland’s way of improving education was summed up as PROFESSIONALISM.

The three educational policies, in turn, underscored by Mr. Sahlberg were, first, better equity reaching from the structures of society to educational organization at schools; second, investment in early education (including special education), proportionately higher than that in the U.S. (investing a relatively high sum of money in the middle rather than the early period); and third, teacher pforessionalism, captured by the fact that every teacher in Finland needs to get a Master’s degree before they can teach. The last point, for one, was seen as guaranteeing trust-based accountability: since the Finnish system of education implements strict quality control at the level of entrance to teacher education, we don’t need to worry so much about test-based accountability. (Indeed, the speaker emarked how accountability often fills the blank vacated by responsibility.)

Throughout the talk, Mr. Sahlberg quipped at how the U.S. might not be the best country in the world after all; just take a look at, say, the international indices measuring varying degrees of happiness such as depicted above…! Here, a bristling sense of humor and spontaneity that the speaker displayed softened the blow of what, perhaps to some, may come across as unwanted news… At any rate, the American setting for the talk seemed to propel Mr. Sahlberg to offering various comparisons between Finland and the U.S., regarding their respective educational systems.

The Q & A session at the end included concerns such as Finland’s established excellence in education leading to stagnation (and hence, lack of novel innovation) as well as challenges posed by the cultural differences between different countries resulting from their discrepant national histories of (in)equality. The former Prime Minister of Finland, Esko Aho – who was also in attendance (currently working at the Kennedy School at Harvard University – pointed out that Finland’s edudcational success story has its flipsides as well, as exemplified, say, by the proportionately high number of boys dropping out (or at least becoming socially outcast) at schools.

I had a chance to chat briefly with Mr. Aho after the talk, expressing related concerns about the absence of athletics in the Finnish school system. The fact that the American schools, in comparison, make sports an elemental part of school activities from the comprehensive level all the way to the universities, offers an important venue of self-expression to such youth as may find themselves uncomfortable sitting at desks six hours a day. Some of Mr. Sahlberg’s points stressed in the talk, moreover (adding here a couple of remaks of my own), come with drawbacks: the Finnish trust on public institutions, for example, occasionally leads to blind faith before authorities, which in turn makes it more difficult to tackle problems at work (e.g. to do with persnal tensions in the working environment) when they arise.

All in all, I was happy as a Finn to have a Finn come to the U.S. to speak about Finland and the U.S., and it wasn’t so bad either to speak to the ex-Prime Minister about sports and the problems boys face.

New York 2013!

Parin viikon Suomen visiitin jälkeen (oli ilo nähdä rakkaimpiani) palailin USA:han lentämällä ensin New Yorkiin ja viipymällä pari päivää siellä toisia suomalaisia Fulbright-stipendiaatteja tavaten. Nähtävästi kollegat pitivät N.Y.:ssa olemisesta niin paljon, että kaupungissa oli stipendikauttaan suorittavien tuttujen lisäksi väliaikaisesti käymässä pari muuta suomalaista stipendiaattia, joiden New York-kausi on jo päättynyt mutta jotka olivat nyt kaupungissa viikon lomalla…

… Näistä vierailjoista toinen, Miika, keksi kutsua porukkaa Manhattanin itäpuolelle aivan Brooklynin eteläkärkeen Coney Islandille, jonne pääsin yhdellä metron vaihdolla, vaikka parisenkymmentä pysäkinväliä saikin matkustaa. Alueelle on muuttanut viime aikoina paljon itäeurooppalaisia, erityisesti venäläisiä ja ukrainalaisia, ja lisäksi saarekkeella asustaa paljon mustaihoisia ja Italian amerikkalaisia. Meno oli rantabulevardilla leppoisaa ja tarjoilijoiden aksentti paksun venäläinen turistiravintolassa:

Fulbright-stipendiaattien lisäksi paikalla oli pari heidän kaveriaan, joista toinen, ukrainalainen Lena, räpsi jatkuvasti kuvia. Yleensä ulkomailla asustaessani en ole niinkään viettänyt aikaa suomalaisten kanssa, mutta nyt tuli puhuttua ihan rehellisesti suomea! llallista söimme Euroasia-nimisessä paikassa, joka vaikutti ulospäin melkomoiselta turistirysältä mutta jonka ruoka oli poskettoman herkullista borssikeittoineen, blineineen ja khachapureineen (jälkimmäinen georgialainen “juustoleipä”).

Filosofinen ajattelija ja ortodoksinen hirviö ottavat yhteen itäeurooppalaisessa ravintolassa. Myös paikan alkoholipolittiikka oli mielenkiintoinen: ravintolalla ei ole anniskeluoikeutta, mutta omien juomien nauttiminen on sallittua. Pöydästämme juuri ennen meitä lähteneet venäläiset herrat jättivät jälkeensä konjakkipullon, jota tarjoilijat yrittivät toistamiseen viedä pois… Toistelemme pullon olleen lahja meille, eikä siinä nyt niin paljon sitä väkijuomaa ollut!

Monenkirjavia ovat New Yorkin kaupunginosat, ei ole ihme että kaupunki houkuttelee monia katu- ja nykytaiteilijoita. Yksi päivä meni pitkälti Coney Islandilla seikkaillen, muuten vietin aikaani Upper West Sidella eli Manhattanin luoteiskulmilla papyrologiaan erikoistuneen Fulbright-stipendiaattikollegan, koiransa ja puolisonsa kanssa. Kiitokset erityisesti heille vieraanvaraisuudesta!

 

Notes on Sibelius 2/2

Subjective impressions of the Sibelius symphonies, part II/II
Or value judgments about composers that move me

These notes were written in the aftermath of the complete cycle of Sibelius’s symphonies performed by the Tapiola Sinfonietta and conducted by the charming Leif Segerstam in the Main Auditorium of the University of Helsinki in the fall of 2010. It was in this Auditorium where six of the seven symphonies were originally premiered, so it goes without saying that I was excited about the cycle. My apologies for the slight overlap with the earlier musings from 2008 and for stretching the limits of what one might say without an extensive education in music.


© Yousuf Karsh 1949

The prevailing misunderstandings of Sibelius’s symphonies are rooted in two errors in the reception of his music: on the one end, in the misreading of interiority as nationalistic hegemony, and on other other end, in the misconstrual of the cosmic relation to nature so characteristic of his music as banal programmatic content. Not even Bruckner or Bach furnish the listener with the same transcendent world of sound as Sibelius in the celestial climaxes of his most lucid symphonies. These works are not composed so as to elevate certain melodies above certain rhythmic material but simply as soundscapes wherein the notes bespeak an other-worldly beauty and ethereality.

In Beethoven’s late string quartets, one witnesses a degree of earnestness virtually transcending life and death, yet his music always takes place within the sphere of this life. To be sure, Beethoven looks at death in the eye, starting a wrestle with death and well-nigh vanquishing mortality, yet ultimately his music does not offer glimpses of the afterlife. (Shostakovich poses the question but he was hardly ever concerned with providing an answer.) In contrast, Sibelius’s symphonic music situates itself in an important sense beyond death, in an other, more sacred world, the locks of whose doors are gently picked already by the transcendent fatalism and the triumphant finale of the second symphony. In the Third and the Fourth symphony, the composer focuses his gaze upon his own interiority, creating a most distinctive, neoclassical language of inner sensitivity. The modest minimalism of these two works, however, is still fitted to the classical three-or-four-part structure, while the holy ascetism (if you allow me the phrase) of the Seventh symphony, in particular, results from radicalized form and perfected inner maturity.

After the climax of the Second symphony’s finale, the composer’s music puts on increasing sensitivity (the Third), glances into the abyss of nihilism (the Fourth), sheds light on the laws of the divine reality (the composer himself virtually said as much about the Fifth!), dies and comes to life again. The sacrality of Bach’s music, ineffably beautiful though it is, is in its thematic thinking still rooted in the conventions of the Baroque, and its dramatic force cannot, as I think, be seriously juxtaposed with the likes of Beethoven or Bruckner (and it would be a musical anachronism to try that in the first place)… Yet even the religiosity of Bruckner – often cited as an equal to Bach, as regards the sacredness of their music – is in some ways contrived; his means of expression are, on my view, constrained by the grandiose drama of his musical idiom. By saying this I don’t intend to take any stance on the composer’s religiousness as such!

Sibelius, to the contrary, doesn’t try to be religious, he doesn’t try to be anything at all. His music simply is (as I imagine Sibelius the man to have been, i.e. such as depicted in the famous photo by Yousuf Karsh). In preparation for his Fifth symphony, he allegedly recounted to having intended to compose a symphony about Finnish nature, though no one, as he went on to note, would really understand the work. And so it seems: perhaps the most difficult task facing a listener of Sibelius’s music, indeed, is to comprehend the profoundly personal and the cosmically mystical relation to nature manifested by the music of this great composer – in philosophical language, an ontological relation to reality – emptied of any ”programmatic” content whatsoever.

The Sixth symphony, on second listening, appears to me as the most Beethovenesque of all Sibelius symphonies. I say this because I find the symphony integrating oddly rectangular, downright cubistic forthrightness and Volkmusik-idiom with subtle fatalistic wisdom. As is the case with some of Beethoven’s finest compositions (I’m thinking, in particular, of the string quartet op. 127), so also in this Sibelius symphony the mundane accessibility of melodic thinking and the music’s proximity to Earth serve the higher purpose of coming to terms with the whims of fate.

After all, the Seventh symphony is the all too natural and ultimately the only possible consummation of the symphonic ouevre of this grand master of organic thinking. In this work, the seamless contemplation of the world is condensed into one incessantly flowing movement of inner vigor. I remind the reader that such a formal radicality – virtually breaking down the multi-movement symphonic structure – wasn’t done by Beethoven, nor was it done by Bruckner or Mahler. What most of all impresses me in Sibelius’s Seventh are the very final chords of the work, entirely wanting the religiuos bravado of the Second and the Fifth, now replaced with the living experience of this intriguingly eccentric Finn, a return of sorts, if you like, to the roots.

*   *


© Leif Segerstam by Richard Houghton

The interpretations by the Tapiola Sinfonietta conducted by the charming Leif Segerstam in the Main Auditorium of the University of Helsinki deserve a place, as I’m inclined to think, in the history of musical life in the capital of Finland. Their lucid world of sound and the most deliberate handling of rhythm (with bravely elongated caesuras so characteristic of Sibelius’s music) – combined with the neoclassical beauty of the Auditorium – encompass all the elements of tranquil beauty.

After writing this, I had a chance to read in the leading Finnish newspaper (Helsingin Sanomat) the three reviews by Hannu-Ilari Lampila, Veijo Murtomäki, and Vesa Sirén, of the three concerts (firstly symphonies 1 and 2, secondly 3 and 4, and finally 5, 6 and 7, respectively). What do the First and the Second symphony have to do ”with a feeling and grand heroism of nationalism”?! If whichever composer, say, Bibelius, had in those times composed symphonic music that was good and contained dramatic suspense and triumphant climaxes, of course that music would have been interpreted as a symbol of national integrity!! But what do such interpretations avail today? Do they in any manner advance our understanding of this complex, absolute music?

If not even the leading music journalists of Finland have overcome the stereotype of Sibelius as a nationalist composer, what chances may others have — ?

*   *

Allow me to conclude with a personal Sibelius anecdote of sorts. When in the late winter of 2011 I finally had a chance to pay a visit to Ainola, Sibelius’s home in Järvenpää, Finland now open to the public as a museum, it was neither the beauty of nature nor the nuances of architecture (though both are admirable in themselves) that made the strongest impression on me. I had my liveliest experience, rather, on Sibelius’s grave which is nowhere near to a typical Christian grave, say, with a cross or a gravestone…

What his grave consists in, instead, is a massive block of lime-colored granite sitting solidly on the Ainola grounds, with the composer’s name in capital letters and Aino’s name in smaller handwriting. From dust you have come and to dust you shall return… Those were the words coming to me, as in a quick flash, while wondering what exactly I was doing by the grave. The master of transcendent music was also the master of the transient: amidst all the elevations, his music stems from the Earth and always returns to the Earth.

[notes written in the fall 2010, except for the last little anecdote]

SURUMUSIIKKIA!

HUOM. Surumusiikkia koskeva työpajamateriaalini on ladattavissa täältä.

* päivittyvä lista, koostettu alun perin Tampereen yliopistolla järjestettyyn Surukonferenssiin 2013, jossa pidin esitelmän “Musiikin huojentavuus: taukoamaton surutyö ja sävelet”. Kiitokset ystäville musiikkivinkeistä! — viimeisin päivitys 16.8.2013 *

* ENG: a constantly updated list based on different songs chosen as appropriate GRIEF MUSIC such as presented in a talk of mine in Tampere, Finland (April 2013). Thanks to all the friends for adding their recommendations – last update 6/18/2013

>> helppoa kuunneltavaa / sopii aloittelijalle
>> vaativampaan makuun / synkkää materiaalia

K L A S S I N E N                                                  

Bach, J. S.: H-molli-messu, Matteus-passio, Johannes-passio, soolosellosarjat

Beethoven, Ludwig van: jousikvartetoista erit. 7 (op. 59/1, kolmas osa), 9 (op. 59/3, toinen osa), 14 (op. 131) ja 15 (op. 132, kolmas osa), sinfonioista erit. 3 (toinen osa) ja 7 (toinen osa), Missa Solemnis

Brahms, Johannes: Ein Deutsches Requiem, laulusarja Vier letzthe Lieder, sinfonia 2, Klarinettikvintetto (op. 115), Intermezzo (op. 117) no. 1

Bruckner, Anton: sinfonioista 5 ja 7 (toiset osat)

Chopin, Frederic: erit. ”Hautajaismarssi” (Marche funèbre) toisesta pianosonaatista (Op. 35, osa 3)

Fauré, Gabriel: ”Sicilienne” (teoksesta Pelléas et Mélisande, op. 80)

Mahler, Gustav: Lauluja lasten kuolemista (Kindertotenlieder), sinfonioista 5 (toinen osa), 2, 3, 4, 6 (kolmas osa) ja 9 (neljäs eli viimeinen osa)

Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus: Requiem, sinfonioista erit. 40 (toinen osa) ja 41 (toinen osa), pianokonsertoista erit. nr. 25

Rahmaninoff, Sergei: pianokonsertto 2, ”Eleginen” pianotrio

Ravel, Maurice: G-duuri pianokonsertto (erit. toinen osa Adagio assai)

Schubert, Franz: jousikvartetto ”Tyttö ja kuolema”, laulusarjat Winterreise (D911) ja Scwanengesang (D957), jousivkintetto (D956), Fantasia 4-kätisesti pianolle (D940)

Schumann, Robert: pianokvintetto op. 44

Sibelius, Jean: viulukonsertto op. 47, Satu, sinfoniat 3, 4 ja 5

Šostakovitš, Dmitri: kamarimusiikista erit. pianotrio op. 67, pianovintetto op. 57, jousikvartetoista 3, 5, 8, 9 ja 15, sinfonioista energisiä 5, 7, 8, synkempiä ja kuolemaa käsitteleviä 10, 13 ja 14

Tšaikovski, Pjotr: pianotrio op. 50 (“Suuren taiteilijan muistolle”)

M O D E R N I   K L A S S I N E N                        

Górecki, Henry: sinfonia 3 (”Surullisten laulujen sinfonia”), erit. David Zinmanin johtama London Sinfonietta-levytys

Pärt, Arvo: Fratres (yli kymmenen erilaista versiota), Tabula Rasa, Cantus in memory of Benjamin Britten, sinfonia 4, Johannes-passio

Penderecki, Krzysztof: Dies Irae (Auschwitz Oratorium), St. Luke’s Passion, Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima, sinfonioista 7 ja 8

Reich, Steve: Different Trains, WTC 9/11

Saariaho, Kaija: Notes on Light, Orion, Mirage, L’amour de loin (ooppera), Private Gardens

Vrebalov, Aleksandra: … hold me, neighbor, in this storm … (erit. Kronos-kvartetin levytys, ks. tarkemmat tiedot alla MUUTA-osiossa)

P O P – M U S I I K K I   J A   K E V Y T   R O C K

Alice in Chains (erit. nimikkolevy, jonka violetissa kannessa koira)

Anna Eriksson (erit. levy Mana, jolla mm. kappaleet ”Maailma palaa” ja ”Jos mulla olisi sydän”

Antony & the Johnsons (mm. levy I Am A Bird Now)

Chisu (erit. levy Kun valaistun ja kappale “Sabotage”)

CMX (erit. levyn Cloaca Maxim osasta II, Aethersis, kappaleet ”Ruoste”, ”Yö ei ole pimeä päivä”, Cloaca Maxima 2-levyn osasta II mm. kappaleet ”Kuoleman risteyksestä kolme virstaa pohjoiseen”, ”Minun sydämeni on särkynyt”)

The Cure (erit. levy Disintegration)

Tuomari Nurmio (erit. levyn Kohdusta hautaan kappaleet “Kurjuuden kuningas”, “Oi mutsi mutsi” ja “Kurja matkamies vaan”)

Eppu Normaali (”Murheellisten laulujen maa”, ”Kun olet poissa”)

Dave Lindholm (mm. “Pieni & hento ote”)

Jarkko Martikainen: “Myrsky”

Jeff Buckley

Johanna Kurkela: Sun särkyä anna mä en

Kari Rydman (erit. ”Niin kaunis on maa” samannimiseltä levyltä)

King Crimson (erit. kappaleet ”In the Court of the Crimson King”, ”Epitaph”, ”Starless”

Mana Mana (esim. kappale ”Totuus palaa”)

Mark Lanegan (esim. levy Blues Funeral)

Opeth (erit. levy Damnation, jossa pelkästään hitaita, haikeita balladeja)

Radiohead (erit. levy OK Computer)

Smashing Pumpkins (tuplalevy Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness)

Vond (levy Selvmord)

R A S K A S   R O C K                                          

Burzum

Charon

Cradle of Filth

Dimmu Borgir

Dissection

Emperor

Metallica (mm. kappaleet ”Nothing Else Matters”, ”Sad But True”, ”Unforgiven”, ”To Live is to Die”, ”Fade to Black”, ”Welcome Home: Sanitarium”)

Mokoma (erit. levy Kuoleman laulukunnaat)

Moonspell

Pantera

Paradise Lost (erit. levyt Gothic, Icon, Shades of God, Draconian Times)

Tool

O R T O D O K S I N E N   M U S I I K K I         

Ortodoksinen kamarikuoro: Liturgia (erityisesti “Kerubiveisu”)

Ortodoksinen kamarikuoro: Kiittäkää Herran nimeä – Ortodoksinen jumalanpalveuksen ja juhlan musiikkia

Mikko Sidoroff: Panihida (hieno nuoren suomalaisen säveltäjän kuoroteos vuodelta 2007 – panihida on ortodoksisessa perinteessä kuolleen ihmisen muistopalvelus eli länsimaisen Requiemin ortodoksinen vastine)

Bysanttilaista kirkkomusiikkia suomeksi: Pyhä pyhä pyhä ja Armon hedelmä (Ortofonia-kuoro, sovitukset ja soololaulu Jaakko Olkinuora)

Vaativammalle maulle löytyy myös Sergei Rahmaninoffin kuoroteos Kokoillan Vigilia (All-Night Vigil, op. 37), joka on ortodoksista sävellyksistä kaikkein tunnetuimmin noussut klassisen musiikin kaanoniin

M U U T A______                                                 

Anouar Brahemin ja Jan Garbarekin jazz (erit. heidän yhteislevynsä Madar Shaukat Hussainin kanssa)

Klezmer-musiikki eli juutalaisten kansanmusiikki (esim. Doina Klezmer-levyt)

Kronos-kvartetin levyt (erit. Floodplain, joka sisältää kansainvälisillä konfliktialueilla sävellettyä musiikkia mm. Iranista ja Pakistanista)

Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin -jazztrion levyt (erityisesti levyt Llyrìa ja Holon)

Vanhaa musiikkia: John Dowland: Lachrimae or Seaven Teares

Vanhaa musiikkia: Jordi Savall & Hesperion XXI: Diaspora Sefardi

*   *

Mark Isham: “Melancholy of Departure”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mAmx4yd7d98

Szakcsi Lakatos Béla / Sachi: “Peace For Pastorius”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HjnsafJV5QIo

Johannes Schmoelling: “White Out”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8TAdQCB0vI

Brian Eno: “An Ending (Ascent)”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aKw5mbcE7VY

Patrick O’Hearn: “A Lovely Place to Be”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4WkFAzwM3i0&playnext=1&list=PL347B7ED0BFD92C9D

Book: Narratology à la Mäkelä

[--] comme si la plénitude de l’âme ne débordait pas quelquefois par le métaphores les plus vides, puisque personne, jamais, ne peut donner l’exacte mesure de ses besoins, ni de ses conceptions, ni de ses douleurs, et que la parole humaine est comme un chaudron fêlé où nous battons des mélodies à faire danser les ours, quand on voudrait attendrir les étoiles… (Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary)

What’s the best way to spend the last evening in the U.S., getting ready for a two-week trip to Finland? A little more than half a year ago, by a fortunate coincidence, I chanced to come across a PhD dissertation – published as a monograph in Finnish, though the work would well deserve an international audience – by Maria Mäkelä at the University of Tampere. Textual Deceptions and the Unfaithful Mind (2011) is a cutting-edge foray into the tradition of adultery and illicit romance in occidental narrative literature; a hot topic, if we may say so! At the same time, the book offers an original narratologically grounded argument to the effect of analyzing literary representation of consciousness, in particular, the problematics of mind reading, where the case of unfaithful minds is regarded as an emblem of failed (and therefore paradigmatic) mind reading.

Following the sub-heading of the book, Conventions of Liteary Consciousness Representation as a Narratological Challenge is also an ambitious contribution to the swarming debates in contemporary cognitive narratology. The author engages herself in what she describes as descriptive poetics dealing with seven test cases, ranging from classics such as Gustave Flaubert‘s Madame Bovary (1857) to more recent works in the genre of adultery, such as Emmanuèle Bernheim‘s Sa femme (1993). Mäkelä uses all of these case studies to develop her argument about the gradual unfolding – for her, both historical and theoretical – of what she tags the literary mind. The study finds its climax in a modestly ground-breaking analysis of the media scandal centering around President Bill Clinton and the former White House intern Monica Lewinsky, the textual intricacies of whose illicit romance Mäkelä reads with unerring wit. This analysis shows how the literary conventions originally to have arisen in novelistic discourse can – and indeed often do and have – become a frame of reading applicable to non-literary phenomena.

The choice of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal as the interpretative pinnacle of Mäkelä’s book in itself shows how the study ultimately transcends the bounds of the corpus of cases under examination. Ultimately, mind reading is a phenomenon whereof literature offers an illustration par excellence, rather than arguing for the opposite thesis – much less interesting and arguably more conventional – that literature offers a deficient example of mind reading.

This is part of the reason, indeed, why the book is so insightful in unraveling a multi-layered narrative of a literary mind within itself: to start with, one might gain the impression that infidelity will be probed in a – literally – literary way, offering narratological interpretations of novels dealing with the theme. But what is really at stake, on a careful reading (taking ‘literary’ now in an aptly figurative way), will turn out as the bold suggestion that minds, as it were, are by their very nature unfaithful: mind reading was never possible in the first place, except in an indirect sense, and there are no more accurate worlds or realities of this phenomenon to be found than in the very genre of infidelity in literature… It is for this reason, then, that the very genre of literary adultery is made to do theoretical work in the book.

The author is herself aware of the exceptionally broad scope of the book, and in her concise but crisp conclusions, she outlines three programmatic suggestions as to where contemporary narratology might next be headed to. Among these, she suggests that “post-classical narratology ought not to focus attention only on narrative anomalies but to look for lines of interaction between real-life structuring … of experiences and litererary mechanisms”. This she takes to hold true, in particular, for so-called unnatural narratologists, who ought to turn their gaze from taxonomy of narratives to unnatural reading in general, interpretative strategies diverging from everyday experience.

So many strands for projects of future research open up from Mäkelä’s work that it would be vain of me to try to name too many of them. To mention but a few, intriguing new ideas could be developed respecting the idea of creating worlds vis-à-vis fictional narrative or, say, the thematics of distinctive minds emerging from such processes, feigned voices, if you like (how representing the contents of consciousness of a fictional character feigning to use his or her own voice is a deceptive venture to start with)… As regards theoretical frameworks, a discussion of these and related themes might be brought to bear on diverse fields such as psychoanalysis, film theory, media studies, and hermeneutics, to mention but a few. If, indeed, we’re faced with a circle where liteary representation of consciousness is based on literary as opposed to real-life frames, while literary frames themselves operate in everyday life, what more might we say about the radical inversion of the interrelationship between art and reality?

Strikingly beautiful roundedness in this book, indeed, but luckily nowhere near to a vicious circle. Quite the contrary, Mäkelä’s book demonstrates how narratology can actually be used to make better sense of human experience, and not just in comparative literature.

* As it happens, the said Mäkelä is also the fiancée of the author of this review. Frankly, I wanted to give it a try and do my best to see if I could draft an objective review of a work I would have enjoyed even without this happy union of souls…

Remonttireiska!

Toivottiin semmoisia henkilökohtaisempia kirjoituksia. Ajattelin kirjoittaa kirjoituspöydistä. Olin kaksi viikkoa Suomessa, häitäni suunnittelemassa, ja taas on sydämeni siellä…

Joskus viisitoistakesäisenä vaihtarina en niin muista aivan sietämättömästi ikävöineeni kotiin, nyt kaipaan! Pieni kiusaus olisi muuttaa blogi hääblogiksi, mutta hillitsen itseni…

Takaisin kirjoituspöytiin: ennen lähtöäni ajattelin, että sellainen pitäisi saada. Iltakävelylläni kotikulmilla bongasin tämän, vinon ja rähjäisen mutta mukavasti harteille nostettavan:


ENNEN: surullinen kirjoituspöytä kadunkulmasta

Pitäisi tuunata kuntoon. Ostin sahan, halvimman sellaisen, mutta mitä tekee sahalla, jonka yläreunassa on metallinen levennys niin, ettei sillä minkään läpi leikkaa?

Kyselin kämppiksiltä nauloja, muttei heillä ollut, sahaa on turha edes kysyä… Naapurissa liikkuu sätkää poltteleva Boston Bruins -mies, jonkinlainen sähköasentaja kai.

Amerikassa kaikki on suurempaa, niin myös saha, jonka Obituary-paitaa (klassinen hevibändi joskus 80-luvulla) kantava naapurini minulle lainaa:


SAHA: Amerikkalainen ja eurooppalainen käsitys

Kaveri tulee tarkastamaan nikkarointiani. Juttelemme jääkiekosta (Bruins kun on Bostonin paikallinen joukkue, jossa pelaa maalivahti Tuukka Rask), kuinkas muuten, kuin yhtenä suurena white trash-perheenä…

Ikävään tuo lohtua ajatus, että voin pöydältä kirjoittaa rakkaimmilleni. Kun täällä tunnen oloni yksinäiseksi, voin löytää iloa vasaroista ja sahoista, tutkijan reviirin venyttämisestä!

Lopputuloksessa tähtäsin skandinaaviseen linjakkuuteen, ilmaisun yksinkertaisuuteen ja kirkkauteen, valmiin pöydän jämäkkyyttä ja käytännöllisyyttä unohtamatta:


JÄLKEEN: dosentin vastaanotolla käynyt pöytä