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A prolific author of dozens of books, including Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, and Absalom, Absalom, William Faulkner (1897-1962) was one of the 20th century's most preeminent American writers. His literary contributions included poetry, novels, short stories, and screenplays. He won two Pulitzer Prizes for Fiction and the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Philip Weinstein is Alexander Griswold Cummins Professor of English at Swarthmore College. He teaches seminars in Modern Comparative Literature, as well as in American and British fiction. Many of his courses and publications focus on William Faulkner, along with other literary greats.

Simply Charly: You’ve written about William Faulkner in several books and even edited the Cambridge Companion to Faulkner. What first got you interested in tackling Faulkner’s life and work? Philip Weinstein: My initial interest in Faulkner was driven by three key dimensions of his writing: his emotional intensity, his formal intricacy, and his abiding concern (shared by none of his fellow white novelists) with the fate of Southern blacks. I come from the South, some 43 years later than Faulkner. Our region has an overwhelming racial debt to pay, and Faulkner's attempt to pay it in his own way—as a writer—moves me greatly. SC: Along with Mark Twain, Faulkner is often credited as one of the primary American authors who helped forge a uniquely American literary voice. In what ways was Faulkner’s writing different from that of his European peers? PW: I think it took the great European masters of the early 20th century—Freud, Eliot, Joyce—to make Faulkner's work possible. Freud's focus on the unconscious, Joyce's development of the stream of consciousness, and Eliot's post-war melancholy all reappear—transfigured—in Faulkner's great fiction. The most salient difference from his European forebears, it seems, is his emotional intensity. His best novels, once you get into them, grab you by the throat: you find yourself wholly immersed in the plight of their beleaguered characters. SC: During his lifetime, a good deal of Faulkner’s authorial fame arose out of the fact that he was unafraid to tackle such controversial issues as race relations and sexual abuse. What was the public reaction to novels such as Sanctuary and Absalom, Absalom? PW: Faulkner himself thought of Sanctuary as a potboiler and he revised it considerably so it would not "shame" the two masterpieces he had just published: The Sound and the Fury and As I Lay Dying. Even so, its way of opening up “sexual abuse”—while powerful—lacks the diagnostic resonance of his treatment of race. Put otherwise, Faulkner's exploration of race has no parallel in the 20th century white American fiction. One would not claim as much for his understanding of sexual abuse. (Sanctuary was widely read as lurid and scandalous, not as a sustained engagement with sexual abuse.) SC: Faulkner was one of the pioneers of the “stream of consciousness” writing style. What are some other trademarks that make Faulkner’s writing unique? PW: Stream of consciousness is indeed the trademark stylistic figure of his first two great novels—The Sound and the Fury and As I Lay Dying—but not of his later work (and most of his novels were written later). His supreme formal trait, I believe, is his way of delaying information until a later point in the narrative, when the full import of that delayed information will virtually explode upon the reader. Such delaying inevitably makes his work difficult, but it is difficult because life itself—inasmuch as it unfolds in ongoing time—is difficult. How often we recognize, later, what we were looking at earlier but not seeing: we lacked the context for making sense of it when it was happening. This is the scandal of living in time itself—a scandal that Faulkner did not invent, but one for which he invented new formal techniques to do justice to it. SC: A good deal of Faulkner’s work, primarily those novels set in Yoknapatawpha County, dealt with the “decay of the old South.” In what ways had Southern society deteriorated during Faulkner’s lifetime? How did this affect his views on race and politics? PW: None of Faulkner's best work escapes the cardinal fact of Southern history: the South lost the Civil War and was ravaged by the North. Born some 30 years after that war ended, Faulkner grew up on romanticized Southern legends (some of these centering on his flamboyant great-grandfather), and his work was cut out for him: how to see through those legends, yet not simply trash them; how to see his region as caught up in a worldview that had ceased to flourish after 1865. Because he understood that worldview from inside, he never caricatured those who held it. But by the time of the Civil Rights turmoil in the 1950s, his racial politics could not abide the stance of segregationists. However, he also abhorred the thought of Northern intervention (yet again!) to impose a racial vision repugnant to the South. Thus, he saw himself as isolated, as "man in the middle”: too liberal for his Southern countrymen, but too conservative for the blacks and Northerners who wanted to end Southern segregation once and for all. SC: The setting of Yoknapatawpha first arose in Sartoris, but Faulkner would later use it for the vast majority of his novels. In what ways was the fictional county of Yoknapatawpha inspired by the real Lafayette County where Faulkner grew up? PW: Actual Lafayette County underlies fictional Yoknapatawpha, but—unlike Joyce in Ulysses—Faulkner invented the fictional cast of characters who would inhabit it. Faulkner's work, therefore, has no autobiographical key. It arises from his unpredictable brooding over the realities of the world he was born into, lived in, but traveled beyond. A local "idiot" living nearby during Faulkner's childhood eventually "metamorphoses" into the idiot Benjy Compson in The Sound and the Fury, but Faulkner has had to invent an entire rhetoric for "saying" Benjy. [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500"]William Faulkner William Faulkner[/caption] SC: Faulkner once remarked that “Hollywood is a place where a man can get stabbed in the back while climbing a ladder.” What was Faulkner’s relationship like with the screenwriting industry? PW: It was uniformly terrible—a bargain made in Hell. He was often in debt and needed the money that Hollywood could pay. Indeed, Faulkner was always bad at managing money. He was not paid well for his fiction until after winning the Nobel Prize in 1949, whereas his connection with Hollywood started as early as the mid-1930s. Few of Faulkner's screenplays were made into movies—perhaps not surprising, given his abiding disapproval of both the film industry and the film medium itself. (This would not have mattered to film producer Sam Marx, the father of Marx Brothers, who saw in Faulkner an icon of cultural respectability  useful for burnishing his company's reputation.) SC: Faulkner won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1949 “for his powerful and artistically unique contribution to the modern American novel.” In your opinion, what sets the “modern American novel” apart from its predecessors, and how did Faulkner contribute to its formation?  PW: The “modern American novel” generally refers to the 20th-century fiction by American writers: a time-marker, not a genre-marker. That said, Dreiser, Crane, London, and Norris—loosely grouped as naturalists—did launch a kind of American fiction in the early decades of the 20th century that attended unsentimentally to the ravages of an economic system that seemed out of control. No more genteel tradition, no more Jamesian or Howellsian focus on delicate sensibilities finding or losing their way; instead, they tended to write fictions of bewilderment, of failure to negotiate the inhuman social machine. Faulkner largely accepted the naturalists’ critical focus on social forces constraining human endeavor. More, he was especially indebted to Sherwood Anderson, the first American novelist influenced by Freud's darker sense of the human drama as shaped by unconscious, familial repetitions. Along with a number of contemporaries—Dos Passos, Fitzgerald, and Hemingway—Faulkner participated in turning that hard-boiled, unsentimental body of naturalist assumptions into more experimental works of art—at once aesthetically free-standing, yet laden with social critique. In their move to “make it new” (Ezra Pound's phrase for modernist writing liberated from Victorian platitudes), this last group of novelists drew variously and creatively on European models of thought and expression—Freudian psychoanalysis, Einsteinian relativity, cubist painting, atonal music, among others—that radically changed the early 20th century conceptual and artistic landscape. SC: Faulkner cited a few other authors as influences on his own work—Twain, Dickens, and Keats, to name a few. Who are some prominent authors you know who’ve been influenced by Faulkner in turn?  PW: First, I'd place Shakespeare and the Bible as more important influences than any of the three named above. Because of his extraordinary narrative inventiveness, he is a hard act to follow. I think that perhaps the two later 20th century novelists who most creatively bear his mark are William Styron and Toni Morrison. Styron’s Lie Down in Darkness draws heavily on The Sound and the Fury, and Morrison's entire oeuvre involves a reckoning with (but never a repeating of) Faulknerian concerns. Her Beloved captures race as a national haunting as powerfully as Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom had done, a half-century earlier. SC: What are some of your own favorite Faulkner novels, and which ones would you recommend to first-time readers? PW: I always propose starting with Light in August (1932). It is great Faulkner (half of his fiction does not rise to that level), yet it is notably easier on its reader (easier: not easy) than either The Sound and the Fury (1929) or Absalom, Absalom! (1936). In Light in August one encounters Faulkner's signature ways of withholding information until it is ready to explode with significance, even as this was his first novel to engage American racism with unwavering seriousness. Later, Absalom and Go Down Moses (1942) would join Light in August as a peerless trilogy of novels focused on racial turmoil. Beyond the novels already named in my various remarks, I would recommend one more, The Hamlet (1940). It attends to class developments in the South more penetratingly than any of his earlier fiction did, and it shows a novelist at the top of his form.

A prolific author of dozens of books, including Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, and Absalom, Absalom, William Faulkner (1897-1962) was one of the 20th century's most preeminent American write...

Irish poet, dramatist, and prose writer, William Butler (W.B.) Yeats (1865-1939), is considered to this day as one of the greatest English-language poets of the 20th century. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923.
Singer, scholar, stage director, producer, lecturer, teacher, and cultural activist, James Flannery is the Winship Professor of Arts and Humanities at Emory University. A specialist in the dramatic work of W. B. Yeats, he is the founder of the W. B. Yeats Foundation. From 1989 to 1993 he was the Executive Director of the Yeats International Theatre Festival at the world-famous Abbey Theatre, the National Theatre of Ireland. His Yeats Festival productions of fourteen of Yeats's challenging plays won critical acclaim and established Yeats's reputation as a seminal figure in modern Irish theater.

Simply Charly: What was W. B. Yeats’s role in the Irish Literary Revival? James Flannery: In a word, it was everything. He was the visionary who conceived the Revival as a way of galvanizing the creative energies of Ireland at the turn of the twentieth century and directing them towards the realization of a new and vital Irish identity. He located artists of promise, nurtured their talents, and provided them with opportunities to make their voices heard within Ireland and far beyond. He founded the world-famous Abbey Theatre in 1904 and raised funds to pay the professional actors, designers, and technicians needed to produce plays. He brought the Abbey on tours to England and ultimately the United States so that the work it produced would become internationally known. In addition to all the above, Yeats located publishers for the new school of poets, playwrights, and novelists that emerged in Ireland. He courted critics, editors, and journalists, especially in England, so that new Irish writing would receive a fair hearing. He fought special interests in Ireland that would have the literary and dramatic movement serve narrowly defined political causes. In the name of artistic and intellectual freedom, he also fought against those who would limit the rights of Irish writers to express their own views on sensitive religious, social, and even sexual issues. He championed the genius of John Millington Synge against the pressure of those who sought to prevent Synge from being produced at the Abbey Theatre because his work was immoral. Yeats was the public voice of the Abbey Theatre and, indeed, the entire Revival. His was also the dominant critical voice in Irish letters throughout the early years of the twentieth century. And on top of all that, he was the major English language poet and, I would argue, one of the most significant playwrights of modern times. Yet Yeats’s work on behalf of others cost him the audience he might have won in Ireland, particularly as a dramatist. SC: What impact have Yeats’s contributions to the Revival movement had in terms of newfound appreciation for traditional Irish literature in Ireland and abroad? JF: Yeats created an audience for Irish writing that continues down to the present day. As Seamus Heaney has written, “In Yeats’s work was the beginning of a discovery of confidence in our own ground, in our place, in our speech, English or Irish.” Arguably, the current worldwide interest in Irish culture, as exemplified in the poetry of Heaney, the plays of Brian Friel and Colin MacPherson, the novels of Colm Toibin and John McGahern, the music of The Chieftains, U2 and Bill Whelan, the composer of Riverdance, and the films of Neil Jordan and Jim Sheridan, would not have gained an audience nor had the same impact without the ground-breaking work of Yeats. Prior to Yeats and the Revival, there was, of course, a distinguished body of Irish writing in the English language. What would the English comedy of manners tradition amount to without the contributions of writers like William Congreve, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Oliver Goldsmith, or Oscar Wilde? Think as well of the satirical work of Jonathan Swift or the songs of Thomas Moore, who was the first explicitly Irish writer with an international reputation. Yet, unlike Yeats, these writers emigrated to England where they wrote for an English audience. Yeats, in contrast, determined that what was needed in Ireland was a body of literature that reflected a distinctively Irish perspective on the world. Moreover, he realized that an audience for that writing needed to be developed in Ireland so that artists no longer would be forced to leave their homeland to earn a decent living. Of the writers mentioned above, all were Anglo-Irish except for Moore, meaning that they belonged to the Protestant Ascendancy class that had colonized Ireland in the seventeenth century and thereafter ruled the native people with an iron fist. While Irish life and culture obviously exerted a powerful influence on these writers, they lived at a distant remove from the native people of Ireland. Understandably, the majority of them felt far more at home in the upper-class drawing rooms of Dublin and London than in the cottages of the Gaelic-speaking peasantry – the very people who originally inspired Yeats’s love of Irish culture. Moore, like Yeats a century later, was directly inspired by Irish mythology and folklore in his writing. A Catholic, who fiercely resented the grievous wrongs done by the colonizers of Ireland, Moore became known as “Ireland’s National Poet” during the first half of the nineteenth century. Yet even he was forced to earn a living in England, where he became the darling of the nobility by performing his wonderful Irish Melodies as after-dinner entertainment. Despite the immense influence, Moore exercised in creating an interest in Irish subjects, including the cause of Irish political independence, in England and throughout the Continent, Moore’s contribution pales in comparison with that of Yeats who established and promoted an entire literary and dramatic movement rooted in Irish soil. SC: In 1923, Yeats was awarded a Nobel Prize in Literature for what the Nobel Prize Committee described as “inspired poetry, which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation.” Can you quote some examples of Yeats’s works that best reflect the spirit of 19th and early 20th century Ireland? JF: There are so many instances. Let’s start with an early poem, “To Ireland in the Coming Times,” published in 1893 when Yeats was only twenty-eight. In that poem, he stakes out a claim to be considered a kind of bardic witness-bearer to the greatness and grief of Ireland past, present, and future. Politically, Yeats places himself in the company of those writers of ancient times who sang “to sweeten Ireland’s wrong. / Ballad and story, rann and song.” Recognizing that the bards of ancient Ireland were senior members of the priestly Druid caste, Yeats also claims to have access to the arcane knowledge of a poet-seer. Referring to himself as “one / With Davis, Mangan, Ferguson”—all nineteenth-century Irish poets—Yeats goes on to imply that, because of his occult and mystical studies allied to his extensive research in Irish mythology and folklore, he has a much more profound understanding of the essential spirit of Ireland than any of his immediate literary forebears. In effect, Yeats sets himself up as a latter-day bard with all the rights and responsibilities of a witness-bearer to the cultural values of an independent Irish nation yet to be born. All of these claims would be bold enough for any young Irishman to make amidst the turbulent political and cultural climate of late-nineteenth-century Ireland. What makes Yeats’s stance all the more audacious is that he was neither a Catholic nor a Gael by background, but rather an Anglo-Irish Protestant. Yeats’s father, the distinguished portrait painter John Butler Yeats, was typical of many intellectuals of his time in having rejected his Christian heritage. However, his son developed an unquenchable desire for some form of spiritual meaning capable of easing the tensions, both psychic and physical, that tortured him from early childhood. Growing up in County Sligo surrounded by a luminous landscape of haunting beauty, Yeats was entranced by the stories he heard from the local peasantry of unseen presences that cast everything into a supernatural light. Yeats made of this belief system of the Irish peasantry a lifelong faith that he carried into virtually all his work as a poet and dramatist. As an artist, Yeats was committed to an imaginative process that aimed to give actuality to forms that lie beyond the ken of ordinary existence. Among his earliest publications are four volumes of folktales that he collected and edited during the late 1880s and early 1890s. The most famous and influential of these, The Celtic Twilight (1893), contains a passage titled, “Concerning the Nearness Together of Heaven, Earth and Purgatory,” in which Yeats proclaims that, “In Ireland this world and the world to which we go to after death are not far apart.” Throughout his entire career, a central theme of Yeats’s work is what he called “the war of the supernatural upon the natural order.” As a poet-seer in the tradition of the ancient bards of Ireland, Yeats sought to give his readers and his audiences in the theater with an experiential awareness of the truths that he had himself come to know in moments of heightened consciousness. Like the depth psychologist Carl Jung, Yeats is concerned with a search for wholeness of being, for integration into the personality of neglected aspects of the psyche. His work can, therefore, be described as a kind of wisdom literature that attempts to guide people to a state of consciousness that he called Unity of Being. In that heightened state of consciousness, all the latent powers of human personality are activated to their highest power. Yeats came to believe that Unity of Being, or complete expression of personality, was not possible except within a community that enabled all its constituent members to realize their full potential. Such an ideal community was bound together by shared imaginative possessions and thus had achieved what Yeats termed Unity of Culture. Throughout the nineties, Yeats dreamed that, by drawing upon the rich cultural heritage of Gaelic Ireland and expressing that tradition through the medium of art, such a Unity of Culture could ultimately be created throughout the entire country. In Ireland, he believed, there were two passions ready at hand for artists to draw upon: “love of the Unseen Life and love of country.” Dinnshenchas, or the lore of places preserved in songs, stories, poems, and myths, had created among the Gaelic-speaking peasantry a profound spiritual connection amongst themselves as well as with their native land. Yeats wrote of his ambitions for modern Ireland with the zeal of a prophet: “I would have our writers and craftsman of many kinds master this history and these legends, and fix upon their memory the appearance of mountains and rivers and make it all visible again in their arts, so that Irishmen, even though they had gone thousands of miles away, would still be in their own country.” Such an art allied to scholarship would, according to Yeats, “make love of the unseen more unshakable, more ready to plunge deep into the abyss;” and also over time would “make love of country more fruitful in the mind, more a part of daily life.” In an incredible burst of idealism, optimism, and enthusiasm, Yeats proclaimed that ultimately, “The Irish race would … become a chosen race, one of the pillars that uphold the world.” A madly utopian vision, particularly for a nation that at the turn of the twentieth century was struggling to find its way out of a morass of poverty, political division, and cultural degradation caused by centuries of colonial oppression. But what must also be acknowledged is that, without the vision and practical enterprise of a Yeats, the miraculous cultural renaissance of Ireland that continues to the present day would not have been possible. As the poet John Montague avers, “Now that the class to which he claimed to belong, the Anglo-Irish, have been melted back into the Irish, we can see him as the spokesman for an ideal Ireland where all traditions cohere.” To that one might add, if today Irishness is cool throughout the world, much of the credit for that is due to Yeats! The poetry, plays, and other writings of Yeats throughout the 1890s represent a systematic and concerted effort to draw upon the inherited dinnshenchas of the Irish country people and make it an accepted part of the culture of Ireland. To a considerable extent, his creative writings of the time are based on his research into the fairy lore that was a living remnant of the ancient nature religion of Ireland. Towards the end of his life, in a magisterial General Introduction for My Work (1937), Yeats spoke of “a great tapestry” comprised of a mixture of Druidism and Christianity that lay behind all Irish history. No stranger by that time to the existential despair and impersonal violence of the twentieth century, Yeats’s understanding of the “Savage God” of modernism was tempered by a belief that the ancient spiritual beliefs of Ireland would someday find renewed meaning. Yeats was, of course, espousing the same mystical belief system that he proclaimed at the beginning of his career. As Thomas Cahill has said in his best-selling study on the early Celtic Church, How the Irish Saved Civilization, it was relatively easy for St. Patrick to convert the Irish to Christianity because they understood with their “natural mysticism” that “the world was holy—all the world, not just parts of it.” Thus the Celtic Church founded by St. Patrick in the fifth century emphasized not dogma, moralistic judgments, hierarchical structures or the trappings of ecclesiastical power but a direct apprehension of God’s presence in the world. If the entire world is holy, then it follows that the body is as well and that the sacred dance of life is intended to be celebrated with all the strength of one’s being. This, then, is the great theme of Yeats’s art: flowing, concrete, and phenomenal in every aspect of its conception and realization. Throughout the nineties, Yeats grounded much of his work in imaginative forms of the Irish folk tradition, as if he were a poet-seer still in touch with Druidic methods and practices. Central to that tradition is a perpetual dynamic of opposing forces. As Robert Welch puts it, “Yeats’s idea of the otherworld, which he takes from Gaelic tradition, becomes, in his mental arena, a kind of uncertainty principle.” Flowing and phenomenal as the cosmos is, things are never what they seem to be. The glittering world that the sidhe (or fairies) inhabit in early poems like “The Stolen Child” or “The Man Who Dreamed of Fairyland” is by no means a place of pure ingenuous joy. Indeed, the face of a smiling, beckoning, enticing welcome offered by the sidhe is just as likely to lead one to a place of peril as of joy. That is the warning offered by a fairy to the young man in Yeats’s charming love song, “Down by the Salley Gardens” (1889). Such warnings, however, are not ones that a true Yeatsian entirely heeds, for, as embodied by the heroic characters in his plays, self-knowledge and wisdom are won only by those who would brave the tortuous pathways of their own heroic destiny, wherever that may lead. Hence, Cuchulain, the archetypal hero of Yeats’s poetic imagination, makes a fatal choice in At the Hawk’s Well (1916) to pursue the leanansidhe, or fairy-woman, of his dreams, only to call catastrophe on his head. The loss of love, the self-inflicted murder of his only son, the destruction of his marriage—there are the costs of Cuchulain’s tragic choice. But heroes, like artists, are not ordinary folk. Suffering, bravely accepted, and endured is the price of their calling. Yeats in his own life learned that lesson well. He challenged others and himself to realize their highest, most ideal concept of themselves—that is, to live heroically. Yeats failed, naturally, much of the time in his own quest—nowhere more so than in pursuit of the love of his life, his leanansidhe, the beautiful revolutionary Irish leader Maud Gonne. Maud rejected him, but out of his frustrated longing, the poet wrought some of the most beautiful love lyrics ever penned. The figure of Maud lies behind the leanansidhe that Cuchulain fatefully pursues in At the Hawk’s Well. The presence of Maud also lies behind the shape-changer in his poem, The Song of Wandering Angus (1899), who is transformed from a fish into a beautiful woman and then disappears into the morning mist, but whose phantasmagorical presence the poet will pursue until the end of his days. SC: Yeats’s early works draw heavily on Irish mythology and history. They also reflect his fascination with mysticism and spiritualism. How were these topics accepted in late nineteenth century Ireland? JF: I’m someone who resists dividing Yeats’ work so neatly into early, middle and late periods. I recognize, of course, that there were considerable changes in both style and content as Yeats continued to evolve both personally and artistically. But in terms of the basic quest I’ve earlier described—that of demonstrating over and over how the irrational, the visionary, the imaginal, the supernatural—impacts ordinary life, I find a continuity of aspiration and achievement throughout Yeats’s career I happen to love the early poems of Yeats with their lyricism, their yearning for transcendence and their deployment of haunting imagery drawn from Celtic folklore as well as mythic and mystical sources. I also love the sheer magic of the music in early Yeats: the long, wavering breath-lines, the delicately syncopated rhythms, the lingering vowels, and consonants, again directly carried over from Gaelic poetry and song. Yeats listened intently to the speech-patterns of the traditional storytellers and singers whom he encountered in the West of Ireland. Always in his work, he sought to recreate the “half-conversational quality” which was another legacy of the Gaelic tradition in singing, the recitation of poetry, and in daily speech. Yeats never entirely abandoned the oracular, chant-like quality of his early work—a style intended to induce a state of reverie in the listener. As he moved forward, however, that more lyrical style was counterpoised with English speech-patterns found in everyday modern Irish life. There are passages in Yeats that, if lifted out of context, have the direct impact of prose utterance. Indeed, Yeats is fond of quoting from actual conversation in his poems: I said, 'A line will take us hours maybe; Yet if it does not seem a moment’s thought Our stitching and unstitching has been naught. Better go down upon your marrow-bone And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather; For to articulate sweet sounds together Is to work harder than all these, and yet Be thought an idler by the noisy set Of bankers, schoolmasters, and clergymen The martyrs call the world.' “Adam’s Curse” (1903) Or 'Fair and foul are near of kin, And fair need foul,’ I cried. ‘My friends are gone, but that’s a truth Nor grave nor bed devised, Learned in bodily lowliness And in the heart’s pride!’ “Crazy Jane Talks with the Bishop” (1933) Thirty years and a lifetime’s experience separate these two poems, yet each is anchored in the realities of the flesh. The older poet is preoccupied with the natural infirmities of age, including the waning of sexual desire. Paradoxically, however, the poems and plays of the later period celebrate the pleasures of the body with an urgency and delight that are almost shocking in their erotic explicitness—a vivid contrast with the more allusive and subtle but nonetheless passionate sensuality of his earlier work. Yeats, of course, lived through turbulent times and this, too, is reflected in both the style and content of all his work, as Ireland moves from nationalist aspiration, to open rebellion to the betrayals and brutality of civil war. Yeats’s meditation in volumes like The Tower (1928) on the horrors of warfare is especially noteworthy in a century, like ours that has been devastated by the “rough beast” of murderous violence. It has been said that Yeats is a guide to the irrational, but just as truly what Yeats represents is a way to live with wisdom, compassion, courage, and serenity even in the face of barbaric forces that would destroy every vestige of civilization in their roiling path. Unflinchingly Yeats portrays the wanton chaos of a world where “The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.” But just as powerfully, the intellect and artistry of Yeats combine to express a vision of human possibility based on moral principles and cultural values that have been tested over the ages. This, to me, is where the greatness of Yeats as a kind of shamanistic healer for the modern world really lies. SC: Do the transitions in Yeats’s work reflect a change in his personal views, or was it just a natural progression of his style? JF: It was both. As with most of us, life became more and more complex for Yeats as he matured. But the greater the obstacles he faced, and the more cruel and destructive the losses he suffered, so, in a miraculous way, grew Yeats’s imaginative power and his ability as a poet to give sublime expression to all that he experienced. In some ways, this can be seen even more clearly in his plays than his poetry. Yeats’s plays are written in the widest range of forms of any dramatist in history. Yet the form of the plays perfectly captures the particular meaning that Yeats wishes to express. I have had personal experience of this as a Yeats director, particularly in staging fourteen of his plays for the Yeats International Theatre Festival that I produced at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin from 1989 to 1993. The Yeats Festival opened with the first production ever at the Abbey of Yeats’s Cuchulain Cycle—five plays written over thirty-five years on the growth towards maturity and wisdom of the Bronze Age Celtic hero Cuchulain. Each of the plays—At the Hawk’s Well, The Green Helmet, On Baile’s Strand, The Only Jealousy of Emer, and The Death of Cuchulain—can be described as a male initiation rite in which Cuchulain meets a difficult challenge that defines his character at crucial stages in his development. Interestingly, Yeats did not deal with Cuchulain in the chronological order of the epic, but rather as events in his own life stimulated him to focus on various aspects of the myth. Thus On Baile’s Strand, written in 1904 when Yeats was thirty-nine, deals with Cuchulain as the hero approaches middle age and is forced to reckon with troubling personal and social circumstances that impinge upon his very sanity. At the Hawk’s Well (1917), the first play in the Cycle, portrays Cuchulain as an adolescent on the point of making crucial choices that, as we have seen, will determine his tragic destiny as a hero. Yeats wrote the play at the age of fifty, when he was confronting the prospect of old age and the loss of his own youthful ambitions and energies. It was also the first of Yeats’s plays inspired by the dramaturgical form and theatrical techniques of the Japanese Noh—an influence clearly evident in all his remaining plays. The Green Helmet, written in 1909 in the aftermath of the riots over Synge’s Playboy of the Western World that shattered Yeats’s hopes for the Abbey Theatre as an agent of national renewal, concerns Cuchulain in young manhood becoming a genuine Yeatsian hero offering to sacrifice his life than compromise his deepest convictions. The Only Jealousy of Emer (1919), written shortly after Yeats’s marriage, portrays the hero as he absorbs for the first time the full psychic energies available to him through marriage and through an awareness of the suffering that some of his willful actions have caused others, including his wife. The Death of Cuchulain (1938) was completed on Yeats’s own deathbed and concerns the way that true heroism involves for the male a reordering of the psyche so as to accept the intuitive, more feminine aspects of his personality, thus completing his personality and preparing his soul for the otherworld. There is obviously a great deal I am leaving out of this deliberately selective scenario, but I hope I have managed at least to convey a sense of the connections that always exist between Yeats’s life and the energies that inspire his work. In staging groups of several Yeats plays gathered around a single subject, what I have always attempted is to sustain the through-line of the action, both in narrative flow as well as the metaphysical implications of the overall theme, while allowing each play to express itself with maximum effect. Among the most striking aspects of Yeats’s dramaturgy are the startling shifts he suddenly makes in focus, tone, texture and rhythmic thrust so as to alter the consciousness of the audience. On one level the action of the plays occurs in the territory we are accustomed to on a daily basis, that of behavioral patterns, personal and social, in which the conscious mind appears to be in control. But suddenly, in the wink of an eye, that comfortable playing area is dissolved, and we plummet into an irrational territory wherein almost anything can occur. Early in his playwriting career, Yeats achieved these startling emotional and psychic shifts mainly through verbal techniques. Take, for example, the awesome moment in On Baile’s Strand when Cuchulain learns that it is his own beloved son whom he has slain in single combat. The actual slaying takes place offstage, but the moment that really interests Yeats occurs immediately afterward when Cuchulain’s façade shatters, and he plunges into a paroxysm of grief and ultimately madness. Yeats employs all the theatrical arts brilliantly to carry the audience along with Cuchulain as he plunges into the depths of madness. Note first of all the figure of Cuchulain on the bench, and behind him the trembling figure of the Fool. The Fool here, as he does throughout the play, mirrors Cuchulain’s increasingly fragile hold on reality. In the Abbey production, the face of the actor who played the Fool was covered in a mask topped with straggling chicken feathers that shook as he was dragged into the morass of wildly conflicting emotions that grip Cuchulain. The Blind Man, wearing opaque dark glasses, speaks in a flat low-pitched rasping voice that sharply contrasts with the high-pitched almost childish whimper of the Fool. The Blind Man’s utterly still body conveys a powerful sense of barely contained malevolence. The Fool, however, is an image of flittered vulnerability that Cuchulain himself begins to physically reflect as he struggles to his feet and flails helplessly against imagined enemies everywhere. The Fool, as Yeats intended, is indeed a mirror of the very foolishness within Cuchulain. Starting with Cuchulain’s speech, we move into iambic pentameter, the classic meter of Shakespearian tragedy. But never have the beating iambs been more broken than in Cuchulain’s frantic shifts of syntax and mood. One moment his is a voice of rage. A split second later bewilderment. Then terror. Then anguish. The patterns of a tortured mind breaking apart, with no certain grounds for existence. A series of hurtling questions followed by seeming clarity as the imagined enemy suddenly appears and is attacked. Then the most terrible line of all: “What is this house?” as he clutches his head, then opens his fingers outward, his gesture ultimately taking in the whole space, including the audience. The image refers both to his mind now filled with confusion and chaos, as well as the order of a kingdom now completely riddled with corruption and blight. Yeats is already a master of stagecraft, even at this relatively early point in his career. But it is stagecraft in which dialogue is the dominant dramatic value along with his uncanny skill at expressing powerful feeling through bodily action. The latter technique – the mark of a true dramatist—is what increasingly Yeats emphasizes as he continues to develop. In The Green Helmet, written only five years after On Baile’s Strand, the climax of the play occurs in a Marx Brothers mêlée in which the entire stage erupts in a wild parody of the kind of drunken brawl that can suddenly erupt in certain Irish pubs. Remember, this play is, among other things, a satire of the rioters, many of them drunk on a misplaced patriotic fervor, who sought to prevent the performance of The Playboy of the Western World. The play, echoing Molière, is written in rhymed couplets, and the theatrical style is borrowed from an Italian Commedia Dell-Arte Company that Yeats saw in London and admired because of the pure physical expressiveness of the performers. The inspired in him an idea that became central to his dramatic art: “Only tragic or comic art which uses all the resources of extravagant action, which concentrates the whole of a lifetime into an hour can move large masses of men and will again in the future, I believe, move large masses of men.” Another eight years pass and, with the production of At the Hawk’s Well, Yeats creates a form of drama inspired by the Japanese Noh where the climax of the play is now entirely given over to physical movement in the form of acted dance. The young Cuchulain, filled with impetuous impulses, has, on “a rumor”, come a vast distance in order to taste the waters of a magical well. He finds the well guarded by an Old Man who, like a mangy dog protective of his territory, tries to warn Cuchulain off. Suddenly a strange creature, a “Woman of the Sidhe” with the cry of a hawk, emerges, as she always does when the waters of the well are about to flow. Frantically, the Old Man warns Cuchulain of the dangers he will encounter if he tries to challenge the hawk-woman. The blood of Cuchulain is roused, however, by the unfathomable powers of a creature that seems to embody all the allurements of a bird, woman, and witch combined. The stage directions read as follows: [He has sat down—the Guardian of the Well has begun to dance, moving like a hawk. The Old Man Sleeps. The dance goes on for a while.] Three short lines, but they imply up to eight minutes of stage time occupied with an intensely dramatic dance in which Cuchulain and the hawk-woman act out the elemental struggle between a male and the femme fatale who will define his destiny. What other dramatist has ever trusted more fully the arts of theatre to convey his ideas? SC: Yeats, as we know, was influenced by Noh plays, a classic Japanese form of musical drama that has been performed since the 14th century. How did he get interested in this art form, which is so removed from the concepts of traditional Irish arts? JF: In many ways, the traditional culture of Japan—like Ireland an island nation—is not that far removed from that of Ireland. This is especially evident when one compares Shintoism, the natural religion of Japanese Buddhism, with the Druidic folk beliefs of pre-Christian Ireland that carried over into the early Celtic Church. Nor would a Japanese steeped in the ancestor worship of his country find anything strange in Yeats’s statement about the congruence of the natural and supernatural order in Ireland. As I have experienced it at the Yeats Summer School in Sligo, Japanese students with an understanding of their own historic traditions are thrilled to find in Ireland an entire realm of folk beliefs and practices that exist precisely in order to establish imaginative links between the individual and the landscape he/she inhabits. The ghost stories alone which both traditions share, even in striking details of plot, character, and imagery, are further evidence of the strange cultural correspondences between two island nations from opposite ends of the globe. Those cultural and especially spiritual correspondences between Ireland and Japan are, in the first instance, what attracted Yeats to the Japanese Noh. But there were several other motives for his interest in the dramatic and theatrical possibilities of the Noh. The first was the need of finding performers who were capable of responding to what became more and more ambitious histrionic demands posed by his plays. Ireland to this day lacks a conservatory of theater devoted to training performers who are skilled in Shakespeare, the Greeks, Racine, Molière, and the other classical icons of Western drama. No doubt, Irish actors have made a tremendous contribution to modern theater and film, but that is almost entirely within realistic and naturalistic genres based upon literal imitations of life. Classical work requires a physical, vocal, and mental training that equips the performer to interpret work of a far more formalistic nature. Yeats during his lifetime was forced to look beyond Ireland for such performers. Another factor that attracted Yeats to the Noh was that, as a lyric poet writing for the stage, he came to believe that all the arts of stagecraft—lighting, costumes, and scenery along with acting – must serve the poetic spirit, especially in its distillation of experience into extremely intense and stylized forms of utterance. Realism and naturalism, instead, concentrate the audience’s attention on the surface activities of life as expressed in a plethora of meretricious details. In nineteenth-century productions even of Shakespeare the stage picture was filled with spectacle—Julius Caesar staged with an elaborate precession of circus animals and Midsummer Night’s Dream with real grass and live bunny rabbits hopping around. As a poet, Yeats hated such effects, finding them a hideous distraction from the pure aural appeals of poetic drama. Yeats, as a young man, had started out to be a painter and was particularly influenced by Pre-Raphaelite artists who, with their exquisite sense of patterns based on medieval embroidery and tapestry, seemed to be closer to what he saw in his mind’s eye. A regular visitor to Paris during the 1890s, he was also inspired by the work of the French symbolists in the theater with their use of stage imagery based on the inter-relationship of complex forms and colors intended to have an almost talismanic effect on the audience, like that of a magical charm. Above all, he sought to return the theater to its roots in ritual so that a play unfolded with all the formal, hieratic attributes of a religious ceremony. What in effect Yeats was aiming to create was a theatrical experience equivalent to his work as a lyric poet—an art based not upon the flash of show business effects but upon much deeper thoughts and feelings. For a time, the visionary stage designer and director Edward Gradon Craig seemed to have answers to Yeats’s needs as a poetic dramatist. In the early years of the century, Craig began to promote his ideas for a new theatrical art that, like that of the dancer Isadora Duncan, would express ideas in time and space. He also posited a concept of acting that, like the French symbolists, was based upon the symbolic language of puppetry. By covering his face with a mask, the fleeting and variable expressions of the actor would be transformed into an everlasting artistic expression of the poetic spirit. In other words, the actor would become a living, moving flesh and blood equivalent to the same symbols employed by the poet in his verse. The ideas of Craig came to Yeats’s attention during a period when, because of his frustration with the productions of his plays at the early Abbey, he was about to give up writing for the stage and return exclusively to his work as a lyric poet. Yeats’s interest in Craig also was aroused at a time (1909 - 1910) when he became fascinated with the multifarious philosophic, psychological, and theatrical implications of masks. Ezra Pound is usually credited with introducing Yeats to the Japanese Noh. But Craig played a larger role than is generally realized. As early as 1908 Craig began to relate his own theories to the Noh, particularly the Japanese emphasis on symbolical gestures intended to express elemental passions rather than external notions of reality. These Craigian ambitions corresponded exactly to the poetic vision that Yeats was seeking to realize on the stage. Excited by the practical opportunity Craig provided of actually using masks in productions of his plays, Yeats immediately thought of how characters like The Fool and the Blind Man in On Baile’s Strand could gain an archetypal wildness by putting masks on them. Thereafter masks were an essential aspect of Yeats’s arsenal of dramaturgical and theatrical devices. Yeats’s actual turn to Japanese Noh as a dramaturgical and theatrical model was again occasioned by practical experience. Having been involved in the staging of his own plays and those of other dramatists at the early Abbey Theatre, Yeats became aware that the strongest emotions may often be aroused in the theater not through the medium of language but through physical actions that speak where words no longer suffice. Indeed, as he once expressed it, his interest in writing dance drama was the result of his frustration in locating either speakers of verse or modern audiences whose response to language was as powerful as their response to expressive movement: “I wanted a dance because where there are no words there is less to spoil.” From very early in his career Yeats was intrigued by the possibilities of combining poetry and dance, as evident from his first produced play, The Land of Heart’s Desire (1894) where a Faery Child summons the soul of a young bride to the otherworld. But it was the theories of Craig and, more importantly, the example of the Japanese actor-dancer, Michio Ito, who showed him how dramatic movement might become the means by which poetic drama could be reborn on the modern stage. The problem, as Yeats saw it, was that over three centuries ever more gaudy stage spectacle combined with greater and greater literalism had reduced the expressiveness of the human voice and body. What excited Yeats most when in 1915 Ezra Pound introduced him to Ito was the sheer histrionic power he displayed in the most intimate and revealing of contexts, a bare studio, or even the drawing-room of a house. Yeats by this time was no longer concerned so much with the possibility of furthering Ireland’s Unity of Culture as with the ability of the individual to will his own tragic fate. Writing in 1916 of Ito as “the tragic image that has stirred my imagination,” Yeats emphasized the sheer human aspect of his artistry. With no help at all of elaborate stage lighting or scenery, I to was able, simply by rising or throwing out an arm, to recede from us into some more powerful life. Because that separation was achieved by human means alone, he receded but to inhabit as it were the depths of the mind. One realized anew…that the measure of all arts’ greatness can be but in that intimacy. Ito was not, in fact, a trained Noh performer, but rather one of the first creators of buyoh, or Japanese modern dance—a genre that combined techniques borrowed from Kabuki and Noh with Western styles, including Dalcroze eurhythmics, Russian ballet, and the free improvised style of Isadora Duncan. In order to play the role of Yeats’s hawk-woman in the first production of At the Hawk’s Well, Ito and Yeats spent hours at the hawk aviary at London Zoo mimicking the movements of the birds. Pure Noh movements would have been far too abstract for the effect desired by Yeats in the mesmerizing dance of seduction that brought the play to a climax. Nor is the dramaturgical intent or structure of Yeats’s dance plays literally copied from the Japanese Noh. Instead, Yeats remains a quintessential Western dramatist whose work is rooted in actual life as human beings actually live it. The conventions of the Noh—including masks, ritual, dance, and symbolic posture, all exercised within a vividly concentrated stage environment emphasizing the human being as the primary expressive instrument—are what Yeats employs to carry the audience into the phantasmagorical reaches of the imaginal. Always as an audience member experiencing a Yeats production, one is conscious of existing at the same time and place as the performers as well as others in the audience. Always the possibility of passing over into an altered state of consciousness is present. But unlike the Noh, which functions almost entirely on an imaginative plane of existence, Yeats celebrates the sheer exhilaration of living in a creative tension between dialectical extremes: Great art, great poetic drama is the utmost of nobility and the utmost of reality. The passions and drama fall into two groups commonly, the group where nobility predominates and the group where reality predominates. If there is too much of the first all becomes sentimental, too much of the second all becomes sordid. Nobility struggles with reality, the eagle, and the snake. SC: Was Yeats inspired or influenced by any other poets, either Irish or foreign? JF: T. S. Eliot described Yeats as “one of those few whose history is the history of their own time, who are part of the consciousness of an age which cannot be understood without them.” This, of course, implies that Yeats was inspired and influenced by a vast number of other artists, past and present, Irish and non-Irish. As we have seen, his earliest writing shows the influence of Irish folklore, poetry, and songs. He even wrote of being moved to tears as a boy by some sentimental verses describing the shores of Ireland by a returning, dying emigrant. So the patriotic interest was early set. His father educated him by reading poetry aloud with the deliberate intention of awakening his interest in the dramatic work of Shelley, Byron, and Shakespeare. As a boy, his father also took Yeats to see Henry Irving perform Hamlet, and this led him for a time to adopt an heroic walk. In boyhood play he also dramatized himself as a sage, magician, or poet, posing as Bryon’s Manfred or Shelley’s Prince Alastor. Later, inspired by Spenser, he began a play with Spenserian characters (knights, shepherds, enchanter, and enchantress) and scenery (gardens, islands), but also with a proud and solitary Shelleyan hero. His most serious early poetic influence, however, is William Blake, primarily because of Blake’s mystical beliefs—an aspect of the poet that his father dismissed. From 1889 to 1893, Yeats actually edited a three-volume edition of Blake’s works, with a memoir and interpretation of the symbolism. On the shakiest of evidence, he persuaded himself that Blake’s father had been born James O’Neill, an Irishman. Hence he proclaimed that Blake’s poetry had “an Irish flavour.” As a young man in London, one of Yeats’s closest friends was the English poet and translator Arthur Symons. Symons knew the contemporary French writers well and in 1899 published The Symbolist Movement in Literature, the first major English study of the subject. In fact, Symons dedicated the book to Yeats, stating that he had little to teach his friend about symbolism. By then Yeats was well acquainted with the French fin de siècle literary and theatrical scene. Indeed, some of his fervor in promoting the development of the Irish literary and dramatic movement at the turn of the century was his belief that the legendary movement of Mallarmé, of Verlaine and Rimbaud, was about to find a spiritual rebirth in Ireland. Anne Yeats, the daughter of the poet, once invited me to visit her home and see her father’s library. This occurred in 1993, the last season of the Yeats Festival at the Abbey. Once there, I randomly picked up a volume of Nietzsche and opened it to find on every page in Yeats’s inscrutable hand a series of scribbled responses to virtually every idea of the German philosopher. Yeats was not a passive consumer of knowledge. Yeats was always somewhat embarrassed by his lack of a formal education, having entered Dublin’s Metropolitan School of Art in 1884 because he could not meet the entrance requirements of Trinity College, Dublin in classics and mathematics. Nonetheless, his pursuit of higher knowledge was carried out with conscientiousness and fervor. He read deeply, if rather fitfully, depending on his intellectual and artistic interests at a particular time. While researching A Vision (1925, 1937), his mythic interpretation of the past and future, he intensely sought corroborations for his pet ideas on history and the soul in the major classical writers: Plato, Plotinus, Aristotle, and Pythagoras. As usual, he quarreled as much as agreed with these writers. Towards the end of his life, he made the acquaintance of an Indian Swami, Shri Purohit, and learned that in the wisdom literature of the East the accepted belief is that, “the individual self, eater of the fruit of action, is the universal self, maker of past and future.” Only in the highest moments of consciousness is the individual self, detached from action, made fully aware of his real identity. One can imagine Yeats’s response to this confirmation of one of his own most deeply felt convictions about the sanctity of individual life. Near the end of his own life, when Yeats was asked to sum up his philosophy, he wrote: “When I try to put all into a phrase I say ‘Man can embody truth but he cannot know it.’” That, perhaps, is why he also wrote of the educational process he often followed: “I have remembered nothing that I read, but only those things that I heard or saw.” Not entirely true, by any means, but truer than most of us to the idea that fully lived experience is the greatest of all teachers. SC: What was your goal in establishing the W. B. Yeats Foundation at Emory University? JF: My principal goal was to gain a greater understanding of Yeats’s poetry and drama and thereby promote a greater appreciation of the enormous richness and diversity of Irish culture. That goal was initially realized by raising funds to establish the Yeats International Theatre Festival at the Abbey Theatre. During the five years of the Yeats Festival, fifteen of Yeats’s plays were produced, starting with the production of The Cuchulain Cycle in 1989. Each of the Festivals was focused on a group of Yeats’s plays gathered about a particular theme along with poetry readings, concerts, lectures, exhibitions, and symposiums also reflecting and exploring that theme. These ancillary events featured an international range of artists, scholars, and public figures. I am pleased to say that the Yeats Festival succeeded in persuading many of the best thinkers on Irish life and culture that Yeats’s plays are every bit equal to his poetry in their magical appeal as well as their intellectual power and resonance. Over the past sixteen years, thanks to the support of Emory University and a number of generous patrons, here in Atlanta the Foundation has presented a wide range of public events, including a series of multi-faceted symposiums on the following subjects: The Great Irish Famine, Celtic Spirituality, The Scots-Irish of Northern Ireland and the American South, and Contemporary Irish Film. Our major event each year is the Atlanta Celtic Christmas Concert, which has become one of the most popular traditions of the Atlanta holiday season. In music and dance, poetry, song, and story, the Concert celebrates the holiday tradition of the Celtic lands and their connections with similar traditions of the American South. I am working to raise the sponsorship funds necessary to turn the Celtic Christmas Concert into a national PBS telecast. One of the proudest legacies of the Yeats Festival at the Abbey is the worldwide success of Riverdance. Bill Whelan, the Grammy Award-winning composer of Riverdance, functioned as the Music Director of the Yeats Festival, and has often traced the inspiration of Riverdance to our collaborative work together staging Yeats. Fintan O’Toole, Ireland’s leading drama critic, also credits Riverdance back to the groundbreaking work of the Yeats Festival. O’Toole compares the impact of Yeats to Shakespeare in the contemporary relevance of his ideas and dramatic imagery. Yet O’Toole also raises some important questions with regard to the wider recognition of Yeats’s achievement as a dramatist: More than half a century after his death, William Butler Yeats is still Ireland’s foremost avant-garde playwright. We return to his theatre work, in all its diversity and contradictions, not because we are sure of its place in the repertoire of modern Irish theatre, but because we are not. Yeats’s plays are unsettled and unsettling, radically incomplete until methods of performance and reception by an audience which are adequate to them are found. Even in his own theatre, the Abbey, Yeats is not a part of a given tradition, but a search for new forms. I am working to establish a Yeats Creative and Performing Arts Institute in Dublin, hopefully in association with the Abbey Theatre, whose principal goal will be to explore the techniques in acting, verse-speaking, voice, movement, and mask work required to realize Yeats’s extraordinary dramatic vision successfully. Besides drawing upon the cultural traditions of Ireland, particularly in music, mythology, and folklore, the Yeats Institute will also explore the theatrical traditions of Japan, India, South America, and Africa. It is my strong belief that the actor who can successfully perform Yeats can perform anything from the Greeks, Shakespeare, Racine, Molière, and Goethe to Strindberg, Brecht, Beckett, and the other masters of the modern stage. The Yeats Institute will thus attempt to honor the vision of Yeats in realizing a theatre that functions, in the words of the poet, as “a memory and a prophecy.” SC: Which of Yeats’s works are your favorite and why? JF: I find it impossible to answer that question because, as I continue to change, so do my responses to Yeats. All I can say is that whenever I return to Yeats, I find myself once again astonished and uplifted by his staggering artistic inventiveness and masterful technique, the courage, and passion with which he engaged himself with life, the complexity, contradictions and heartbreak resulting from that engagement, his unflinching honesty in confronting his own heart mysteries, his compassion towards the suffering of mankind, his magisterial vision of what a world invested with spiritual meaning might be like and the coherence and consistency with which he voiced his vision of such a world. Even a desert island would not be lonely with the Collected Works of Yeats as company.

Irish poet, dramatist, and prose writer, William Butler (W.B.) Yeats (1865-1939), is considered to this day as one of the greatest English-language poets of the 20th century. He received the Nobel P...

English mathematician Alan Turing (1912–1954), was a pioneer of computer science and, although he never thought of himself as a philosopher, his 1950 paper, “Computing Machinery and Intelligence,” is one of the most frequently cited in modern philosophical literature. Among his notable accomplishments is also the Turing machine, considered to be the basis of the modern theory of computation.
Professor of English at the University of Florida, David Leavitt is the author of several books, including “The Man Who Knew Too Much: Alan Turing and the Origins of the Computer.” He is the author of the short story collections Family Dancing (finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Prize and the National Book Critics’ Circle Award), A Place I’ve Never BeenArkansas, and The Marble Quilt, as well as the novels The Lost Language of CranesEqual AffectionsWhile England Sleeps (Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Fiction Prize), The Page TurnerMartin Bauman, or A Sure Thing, and The Body of Jonah Boyd.
A recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Institute of Catalan Letters in Barcelona Spain, Professor Leavitt was recently named a Literary Lion by the New York Public Library.

Q: You’re a critically acclaimed novelist and a professor of English at the University of Florida. What prompted you to write a book on an obscure mathematician by the name of Alan Turing covering such arcane topics as Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems, recursion theory, Church’s lambda calculus, etc.? Do you have a mathematical background? A: My mathematical education ended with high school calculus. Some twenty-five years later James Atlas, esteemed biographer, editor, and founder of Atlas Books, wrote to tell me he was launching a series of short books on great scientific discoveries and to ask me if I might consider contributing a volume on Turing. At that time, I knew something about Turing’s life—in particular, the tragic circumstances of his last years—but virtually nothing about his work. When I agreed to do the book, I assumed that I would soft-pedal the math and focus on Turing’s biography. The more I read, however, the more the math fascinated me. I realized that to do Turing justice I would have to represent how his mind worked and to explore the connections between his forays into mathematical speculation and his strange personal journey. Q: Alan Turing is widely considered to be the father of modern computer science. Can you summarize his contributions in this field? A. In his famous paper “On Computable Numbers” Turing conceptualizes, for the first time, the idea of a machine capable of calculating any algorithm presented to it. Although the concept of a calculating machine or “difference engine” dates back to the nineteenth century, Turing was the first person to propose—and draw a plan for—a machine that was not task-specific but rather capable of transforming itself into any of an infinite number of task-specific machines: a universal machine. Such a machine, he theorized, would need to be simple in design. More importantly, the “instructions” by which it undertook a specific algorithm would have to be written in the same language as the algorithm itself. In proposing this radical idea, he in effect invented programming and the concept of software. Later in his career, Turing participated in the construction and programming of one of the first supercomputers, the Manchester “Baby.” His last and perhaps most significant contribution to the field was philosophical: in his famous paper “Computing Machinery and Intelligence” he addressed the complex question of whether a machine could ever be said to think and proposed a test to determine the answer. Q: As a consequence of his work in the advancement of modern computer science, his research overlapped with philosophy anticipating the concept of artificial intelligence. Can you tell us what his views were on this? A: Turing's argument for computer intelligence rests on the premise that behavior equals identity. If a machine persuades you that it is thinking, then it is thinking. How we behave is who we are. Critics countered that thought necessitated consciousness: to think, a mind or a machine has to be able to know itself to be thinking. In "Computing Machinery and Intelligence" Turing anticipates not only a future in which thinking machines exist but the likelihood that they in that future will be the victims of discrimination. Fearful of the machines, humans "born in the usual manner" will oppress them. In this regard, his polemic reflects his own experience as a gay man living in a country that criminalized homosexuality. His cry for "fair play for the machines" encodes a cry for an end to discrimination. [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Alan Turing Alan Turing[/caption] Q: Can you explain Turing’s hypothetical test for whether a computer could think; the so-called Turing Test? A: An extremely abbreviated gloss: C is told that A and B are a man and a woman but not which is the man and which is the woman. C must assign a gender to each purely on the basis of typewritten answers. A and B do everything they can not just to influence C but to suggest that the other is lying. Now let us suppose that A and B are a human being and a machine. C must likewise determine which is which. If the machine persuades C that it can think—that it is human—then it has passed the test. This constitutes, in Turing’s mind, proof that machines can think. Q: At Cambridge University, Turing attended lectures by philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein on the Foundations of Mathematics. The two were said to have argued over certain fundamental issues. Can you tell us more about this? A: In his famous seminar on the foundations of mathematics Wittgenstein cast Turing, rather against his will, in the role of the “mathematician.” Their arguments were fruitful and stimulating but, as is usually the case with philosophy, generated more questions than answers. Q: It has been said that Turing’s work on deciphering the German Enigma code at Bletchley Park during the Second World War made a significant contribution to winning that war. How so? A: As the architect of the "Bombe"—a machine specifically designed to break a code generated by another machine (the German Enigma)—Turing laid the foundations for a massive code-breaking operation as a result of which the Allies were able to gain a significant advantage over the Germans in that portion of the war that took place in the waters of the Atlantic. Q: From 1936 to 1938, Turing studied at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton, where Kurt Gödel lectured. Did they cross paths at any point? A: Only briefly. Turing was very shy and Gödel, at this point, reclusive. Q: How was Turing’s own work related to Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem? A: David Hilbert called for proofs of the completeness, consistency, and decidability of a mathematical system such as the one put forth by Russell and Whitehead in their tome Principia Mathematica. Godel proved that such a system could be neither complete nor consistent, Turing that it could not be decidable. Q: During his final years, Turing became interested in chemistry. Can you describe his work in this area? A: This is the aspect of Turing’s life about which I know the very least. Q: Turing ended his life after eating a cyanide-laced apple. His death was ruled a suicide, though rumors of assassination still linger. What is your take on this? A: So long as the documents and files relating to Turing’s death remain classified, this is an open question.

English mathematician Alan Turing (1912–1954), was a pioneer of computer science and, although he never thought of himself as a philosopher, his 1950 paper, “Computing Machinery and Intelligence...

The Russian composer Igor Stravinsky (1882–1971) was one of the most influential composers of the twentieth century. His career spanned from the early 20th century, when he composed ballets inspired by Russian myth and the era’s revived interest in distinctly Russian culture, to the experimentation in compositional styles that followed the Second World War. Though born in the 19th century, he lived and worked long enough to see his works inspire progressive rock music, just as he himself had been inspired by earlier masters like Bach and Tchaikovsky. His importance in the history of music is unquestionable.
John Heiss is an active composer, conductor, flutist, and teacher. He is the Director of the Contemporary Ensemble at New England Conservatory, where he teaches in the flute, chamber music, composition, music history, and music theory departments.

Simply Charly: Stravinsky was a student of the great Russian composer, Rimsky-Korsakov. Can you tell us the state of Russian music at the time, as practiced by Rimsky-Korsakov and others of his ilk? John Heiss: Well, I think we were talking about the 1870s, 1880s, and 1890s when there was a tremendous explosion of Russian musical culture, particularly in classical music. And you had what was called The Russian Five: Rimsky-Korsakov, Cesar Cui, Borodin, Balakirev, and Mussorgsky. And, of course, the grandfather of them all was Tchaikovsky, who had been somewhat more Western in the music that he wrote. But those other five constituted a new, national school that developed with as much force, color, uniqueness, individuality, and originality as could have been expected at the end of the 19th century; when German musical thinking and, to a degree, French, English or Italian were the predominant musical cultures in Europe. And here come the Russians. SC: Like Picasso, Stravinsky's career developed in phases or periods. Can you outline those distinct phases for us? JH: Sure. For Stravinsky, there are three distinct, creative phases. This is not so much biographical as it is artistic. Firebird came in 1910 and was followed immediately by Petrushka and The Rite of Spring, and in the middle of all of that, he finished an opera called The Nightingale. And then, there were some other dramatic works into the mid-teens. And so we call this his early Russian period when the native folklore that he grew up with, and that was so embossed into his soul was just oozing out of every pore. And he wrote a lot of music in that period, all of it dramatic, highly colorful, mainly for very large ensembles and rather large pieces. Then, of course, the war came in 1914, and by 1916 and 1917, most of his financial resources had dried up. There were no commissions or performance opportunities. And he investigated another phase, out of the want of an adequate economy. He was able to write chamber music much more; that began probably with L'Histoire du Soldat, A Soldier's Tale, in 1918. And if you don't count that, then you certainly have to think about Pulcinella of 1919. Stravinsky also started to show interest in the music of the classical, Western past rather than folk music. And so, this commenced the period that we call the neoclassic phase of Stravinsky's music, where the classical composers of the past had become the sources of inspiration for him. And that runs all the way to 1951, with many major works and by far the largest of his three periods, in terms of quantity of pieces and length of time. It's a thirty-three-year period from 1918 until 1951. And one of the culminating works is, of course, the famous Symphony of Psalms of 1930. And probably the other work that stands the most important, at least to those of us who know the piece well, is his opera, The Rake's Progress, which he worked on from 1948 to 1951. And that is the last work in which this neoclassic flavor in Stravinsky's music is fully expressed. Then comes a different period. Schönberg had died in 1951, and Stravinsky began to get interested in the twelve-tone and more fully chromatic methods that Schönberg had been espousing already for thirty years at that point. And Stravinsky changed, little by little, to the point where he was using, finally, a twelve-tone method in his great ballet, Agon, from 1957. So one would say that his third period, really, is 1952 to 1966. That is the period of the late works, which are very beautifully austere and ritualistic, and they are based on a twelve-tone method. However, I think they have very great appeal and a lot of harmony, a real sense of ritual, and a kind of quiet beauty, as we hope all music has, and as Schoenberg's twelve-tone music also had. But Stravinsky sounds much more like himself than like any German composer or his rival, Schönberg. They're really very, very different. So, to sum it up, it's the early period—you can even say 1906, although he considered himself still a student at that time—1906 to 1918, then 1919 to 1951, and then 1952 to 1966. In having these three phases, Stravinsky really traversed territory that was covered by all of his contemporaries. There were the three primary strands in the 20th century: folk music influence; the neoclassic music influence, where still some kind of tonality reigned and lasted, although a contemporary kind of tonality; and then, the third element that was tonal chromatic, more cutting edge, avant-garde, atonal and even twelve-tone. It's said that these are the three major trends in the 20th century, and they do run concurrently in the 20th century. But probably Stravinsky, more than anybody, contributed very significantly to each of these three strands over the course of his lifetime. And as of the time of his death, there weren't very many composers of whom that could be said. SC: Stravinsky burst onto the scene with the premiere of his work, the Firebird. How was that received? JH: Firebird surprised everybody, because, at that point, no one knew what kind of dramatic force and orchestral colors Stravinsky was really capable of, in a large-scale work. He was commissioned to write Firebird and the first words out of his mouth, when he was offered the commission, was that he wasn't ready yet. He said, "I can't do that. I don't know enough, yet, to do it." But Diaghilev persuaded him that he could do it, would do it, and it would begin immediately. And Stravinsky always obeyed his elders, so he went and got going. And the world premiere of Firebird was a big success for him, an overnight rise to world prominence and world fame. So then Diaghilev went back to him and asked, “Can I have another ballet from you next year?” Stravinsky said, “No. I'm working on my opera.” And Diaghilev said, “Are you working on anything else?” “Well, I wrote three pieces for a solo piano, about the puppet Petrushka.” “What? Could you play those for me?” "Sure." Stravinsky plays them. Diaghilev says, "That would make a great ballet. Would you do it right now?" And he offered him ten times the amount of money he'd been offered by the previous commission. So Stravinsky set aside the opera and wrote Petrushka. You don't see an advance of a composer's skill and his language that's that gigantic between two works that are written one right after the other in one year's distance. So Petrushka, in 1911, furthered his reputation, and I think everyone already knew, at that time, judging by what I read from the writings of that time, that Petrushka was the more original, the more highly personal. Stravinsky himself identified with Petrushka, a small, wiry puppet that was manipulated by powerful forces he wanted to combat. In that ballet, Petrushka is represented by the piano, which was Stravinsky's instrument. And he used to say of Petrushka, "This was the first piece in which I've had the full confidence of my inner ear," and that "Petrushka was the first piece that really represents me, as I think of myself." So then comes the finishing of the opera and then The Rite of Spring in 1913, and it's a very meteoric rise for any composer to make in three years. [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Igor Stravinsky Igor Stravinsky[/caption] SC: Firebird was commissioned by Russian impresario, Sergei Diaghilev, who was very instrumental in getting Stravinsky the recognition and, ultimately, the fame that he so deserved. Can you describe for us their relationship, how it began, how it developed? JH: Just to tell you what I know, is that he found Stravinsky through Stravinsky's teacher, Rimsky-Korsakov. There was a composer, I think, Lyadov, who failed to deliver Firebird on time, and he was the one who had been originally commissioned. So Diaghilev was in a panic, and Rimsky-Korsakov recommended his student. And Diaghilev went to him and then found out that Stravinsky could deliver Firebird. That led to a very fruitful relationship. Later, Diaghilev commissioned The Rite of Spring and Petrushka, as well as several other works, and was Stravinsky's largest and most important patron in the early part of his life. But one of the things about their relationship that changed, as Stravinsky grew in stature, was that he soon became bigger than Diaghilev. And it was difficult for Diaghilev to accept that Stravinsky was the one, in The Rite of Spring, telling what the movements should be and the exact shape of the action that he wanted to see on stage. He had, of course, Nicholas Roerich and also Nijinsky to help him with that. But Diaghilev could no longer simply order Stravinsky to do a certain thing; Stravinsky would tell Diaghilev what he was going to do. There was a famous moment, by the way, in their lives, which I think I'll try to play on the piano, where this chord (plays chord), fantastic chord, was played. Diaghilev went to Stravinsky and asked, "How is The Rite of Spring coming?" Stravinsky and another pianist doing four-hand, I think, sat down and started to play as much of the score as had then been composed. As they were pounding away on that chord, Diaghilev, after two bars, came up, tapped Stravinsky on the shoulder, and asked, "Does that go on a long time, like that?" And Stravinsky looked right up to him and said, "Very long, my dear." So that's a little symbol of their changing relationship. They remained compatible and close, in spite of the frictions that they felt. And I think the most bothersome aspect of it was that Stravinsky was tiny and younger, and Diaghilev had discovered him. And what do you know, the person I discovered has now eclipsed me. How can I handle this? That's not easy, I suppose, for somebody with the kind of power and genius that Diaghilev had, to accept a lower status, but that's what he had to do. SC: The premiere in 1913, of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring, caused a furor, resulting in a riot. What was it about The Rite of Spring that made it such a groundbreaking work? JH: Well, The Rite of Spring premiered on May 29, 1913, at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees in Paris. And it was a piece richly expected by its audience to be a further development of the color, the lushness, and the beauty of the two previous ballets, Petrushka and Firebird. But it was a different kind of piece. Stravinsky surprised everybody with a piece that was much more violent, earthy, and, in a certain sense, banal and crude, but also expressively and artistically incredibly powerful with the driving rhythms, the cross-rhythm accents, and the rich, distant harmonies. And dancing that was path-breaking. The audience saw things, emotions, that were very body-oriented, not much in the way of costumes—skin-tight, pink covers for those bodies. They looked like they were maybe naked. And a lot of the steps that were made were very crude, according to some standards. So, the piece hadn't gotten more than a minute when the audience started to boo. And then there was a general hubbub, quiet, which kept crescendoing. But the noise got so loud, the protest noise—people booing, yelling, other people telling them to shut up—and they were saying, I won't shut up. Fistfights broke out, with people wrestling in little pockets around the hall. It was an utter kind of chaos, the sort of thing you would never expect to see at any kind of concert performance. The music was drowned out by the noise of the audience, if you can imagine that because The Rite of Spring is a fairly loud piece. So Stravinsky rushed backstage and, in his own memoirs, tells of listening to his lead dancer and principal choreographer, Nijinsky, counting out the syllables in Russian, because they couldn't hear the orchestra anymore. And if you count in Russian, the numbers run to four, five, six or even seven syllables. So he couldn't keep up with the actual music, and Stravinsky was struck by the irony of Nijinsky trying to do that, and failing at it. And we know that Stravinsky and Diaghilev were taken out, at the order of the police, in a taxicab, and taken back to their hotel before the piece was halfway through. Stravinsky said it was the angriest moment of his life. He couldn't understand why there could be such protests. But looking at it another way, there was a quantum jump in the vitality of Stravinsky's music and a much higher level of dissonance, noise, and primacy of rhythm than had ever happened in any music before, and especially in music of this size and scope—accompanying a ballet, which is supposed to be a very pretty experience. And it wasn't. It's a great work. The choreography, when I've seen it, I've always admired; but it was a new moment in the development of the 20th-century musical style. SC: About the time that Stravinsky was making his mark on the world scene, Arnold Schönberg was marshaling in a new form of music called serialism. What did Stravinsky think of Schönberg and this new form of music? JH: They did not like each other, and they did not like each other's music. And if you are talking about that time period—it's the nineteen-teens—Schönberg had not yet developed the twelve-tone method. That did not come until 1923. But in 1908, Schönberg abandoned the key signature and wrote music that today we call free atonal, and so they had a very high awareness of each other and a sense of anxiety about each other. It's reported that early on they communicated well, but Schönberg wrote Pierrot Lunaire, his masterpiece, and in 1912 or maybe in 1913, it premiered with a part for sprechstimme, namely a singer who is narrating the text but speaking with a kind of curved rhythm and making the words go up and down to the exact rhythm that the composer notated. You hear this going on, and it's marvelous but strange. And at the world premiere sat Stravinsky, a few rows ahead of Schönberg, and listened to about the first seven pieces out of the twenty-one. Then there was a pause, and Stravinsky was offended, and he said this in a fairly loud voice. "Oh, God. I wish that woman would stop talking so I could hear the music." And then there was laughter, at a very serious point in the piece, and Schönberg had heard that there was laughter, wanted to know why, and when he found out, was furious. That's the way the story goes, anyway. I don't know that I'm telling it with full accuracy. But the beginning of their antipathy came about 1912 or 1913. Later on, Schönberg took up the twelve-tone method, to try to make his free atonal music a little more, as he saw it, coherent and ordered. I don't see it that way. I think his free atonal music is great, and, in a way, more instantaneously imagined than the more planned-out, kind of triumphal music that came later. Schönberg's twelve-tone development corresponds almost exactly with Stravinsky's neoclassic development, so you can't imagine two more separate kinds of trends going on, at the same time. And most of their lives, they tried to keep away from each other. Each one said things about the other which showed what the anxiety level was. And then Schönberg died in 1951. They lived in Los Angeles, only nine miles away from each other. They were both horrified to find out they lived so close to each other. So one would go to a concert, and the other wouldn't go. They always wanted to know if the other was going, just trying to avoid each other. Finally, their wives had the idea that these two men should meet; after all, they'd shared so many trials and tribulations, and had so many successes. So the wives scheduled a dinner, but Schönberg died before the meeting could take place. It's not all about Schönberg and Stravinsky now. They were two prominent figures, but there's another person who was writing great music, right at the same time, and that's Charles Ives, who lived in Danbury, Connecticut, and wrote masterpieces. And so you could think of it this way: that the Ives Concord Sonata, The Rite of Spring, and Pierrot Lunaire all came within three years of each other. SC: It's been said that Stravinsky sometimes had a negative view of conductors, especially how they interpreted his music; and that they were self-serving, in some way. And in one encounter, Stravinsky had some unkind words, as we understand it, for Leonard Bernstein, after conducting The Rite of Spring. Do you have any insight into that? JH: Well, you know, Lenny, as we all called him—I got to play under him with the Boston Symphony Orchestra one time—was a wonderful person, a profoundly aware and sensitive musician. Stravinsky felt that there were conductors who sought to do his music on the basis of their own glorification, rather than the elevation of the score. And he was never angry at Bernstein, but he did something very funny, one time. I heard about it because it went all over Manhattan Island in an hour. This was in the mid-sixties, I guess. Stravinsky was at a performance of The Rite of Spring that Bernstein conducted. Backstage in the green room, after the concert, they met, and Bernstein was bowing down and kissing Stravinsky's feet. Stravinsky patted him on the head and said, "Very well, Lenny. Very well. But the tempos weren't right." And everybody laughed and gasped, and Bernstein said, "Well, I try to do them the way I feel them," and Stravinsky apparently said, "But I try to write them the way I feel them." And it wasn't harsh between them, but it was a conversation that got reported all over Manhattan within an hour. The news came right up Broadway. I heard about it that same night. SC: In the late 1940s, a young composer by the name of Robert Craft entered Stravinsky's life and remained by his side until Stravinsky's death in 1971. Tell us about their relationship. JH: 1948. Craft, a recent graduate of The Juilliard School, had tried his hand at composition, wasn't pleased with the results, though he was very gifted in his understanding and ability to transmit that understanding for contemporary music, and he had organized a number of contemporary concerts. He wrote Stravinsky, asking if he could see both the original and the revised score of a very unusual work by Stravinsky, something called Symphonies of Wind Instruments, a piece for winds and brass only, no strings, that had been performed miserably in 1921 at the premiere, and never again. And Stravinsky was making the usual revision. You know, twenty-six years after you do a piece, you lose a copyright, and if you want to renew the copyright, you can file for it. But what Stravinsky did always, was to take that time interval to rewrite the piece and score it in a more efficient way, as he saw it. And many of his works have a twenty-six-year revision. Symphonies of Winds, composed in 1921, is such a work By 1947, people were aware that Stravinsky was revising that. It was perceptive of Craft to have seen the importance of that piece because I don't think anybody knew about the piece or had seen how significant it was. It's one of Stravinsky's most significant, wonderful, and important pieces. So Craft, I think, must have had an inkling of that. He wrote Stravinsky, asked to see the scores, and asked if they could ever talk. And Stravinsky, in fact, went so far as to invite Craft to come out to L.A., and they could meet and talk about it because Craft was interested in conducting the first recording. I don't know whether he ended up doing that. But they made such a very warm acquaintance, with Craft understanding Stravinsky in a way that not many people did; and Stravinsky finding Craft to be a wonderful helpmate, somebody who could conduct, somebody who could edit, somebody who could represent the younger generation, that Stravinsky soon invited Craft to live in his household. And in a sense, Craft, Stravinsky, and his wife, Vera, became a kind of family. They were a family. Maybe he was a surrogate son, at some level. But in any event, they loved each other, and they found their work together to be wonderful and nourishing, and it lasted until the end of Stravinsky's life in 1971. So Stravinsky without Robert Craft is unthinkable. We owe a great debt to Robert Craft for what he did, because it was selfless, given in the service of a great music and a great master of that music; it helps the vitality of his music grow before the public and helps the composer remain very creative, way beyond the years where some composers can be creative. SC: How did you come to discover Stravinsky's music? JH: The first time I heard a piece by Stravinsky, it was probably Firebird. And it may have been in a music appreciation class that I took in school; tenth grade, I think, or eleventh grade, when I took that course. And I thought it was fabulous. So I went right out and bought other recordings and found that I loved his music as much as I loved, already at that time, Mozart, Beethoven, and Bach. And so, as I grew older, I became aware of the quality of Stravinsky's music, the permanent vitality of it, and its ability to teach you something. One thing that I've always found in my own work, as a conductor and a composer, as a teacher, as a player on the flute, the piano, and the saxophone, is the ability to be precise about articulation, rhythm, the control of time, the ability to make original but very telling harmonies, and the ability to orchestrate well. In that sense, Stravinsky became my teacher. He said he never taught anybody. Oh, he taught many people, and his scores are the lessons. So he was always a model for me, even in my period of more active jazz playing, which I engaged in through my tenor sax, the big band, and the little band that I led. Not that I knew Stravinsky in person, but his music was so personal and so close to me that I felt that I knew him. And I never thought I'd meet him, of course. He was too much of a legend. But, he sort of set a standard for me in music and I had a number of heroes in my teens; people who I felt were special, certainly. In my twenties, my idols were President Kennedy, my father, Stravinsky, the baseball player Ted Williams; all the people who excelled at what they did, and who were very humanistic in the same way that our own parents are. I always found Stravinsky to be my mentor, even though I had never met him. SC: I understand you had a chance to meet Stravinsky. Can you tell us about that? JH: In graduate school, I decided that I would try to study his music on another level, and to really learn some pieces, maybe write about them. And this came to a culmination when I went to Princeton in the fall of 1965. There was a Stravinsky course that I took, and I think I excelled in it. He came, and I was invited, as one of the active freelance flutists in New York, to play in the orchestra. And of course, I signed the contract, which I was thrilled to be able to do. And then my teachers told me that the exams for my degree were at the same time as these rehearsals, and that I couldn't play, which was infuriating to me, and I was going to quit and just play. They tried to talk me into a different point of view, telling me that I was one of their strong students; that I had come there to engage in their program, and that if I got honors on these exams, as they thought I might, that I would be a top candidate for a good job which they would personally help me find. And one of them found me the job that I have today, at New England Conservatory. So I decided that I would not play, but I was asked if I could come to rehearsals and listen and then help with my ear—which is sharp for pitch especially—find wrong notes. There would be many wrong notes. So Edward Cohen, true to his word, came and got me from an exam as it was finishing, walked me over to McCarter Theatre at Princeton, and sat me down in the chair right behind Stravinsky. And that was unbelievable to see him; he was frail, but there was vital energy inside that little body. Big ears that stuck way out. Five beautiful hairs, combed all the way around to the back of his head, and back the other way. And a person of immense vitality when the music started. He looked old and frail until the music got going, and suddenly his body was up and vibrating. And he was counting a lot, and grunting, and then, whenever there was a rest on a downbeat bar, he would yell, "One," as if he were in karate class. It was just like this chop that kept happening. He would do it with his hand. And sometimes he wouldn't say one, but "eins," in German or "odin" in Russian. I was so enthralled; seeing him listen to his own work was a tremendous experience... But guess what? There were a lot of wrong notes and many of them scorchers. I had the scores, and I started writing a list of them, as my teacher had asked me to do; I found forty within about a half-hour or an hour of rehearsal. So I made this list, and my teacher, Cohen, came up to me and asked, "Are you doing what I think you're doing?" I said, "Here, take this up there. The horns aren't transposed right. The bassoons are in the wrong clef. There are sharps missing in the bass and cello parts," etc. So they took them up to Robert Craft, he corrected a number of pitches, and they started again, after the break. And then, the same things that had sounded pretty bad sounded a little bit better, if I remember it right. But what happened at the end was the stunner. I got up from my chair, thinking the rehearsal was over and that I'd been privileged to be there. And there was no way in the world I was going to walk over and talk to Stravinsky. I respected him too much. I didn't want to penetrate his space, and who was I to do that? I started to walk away, but then I heard, "ahem, ahem," very throaty and guttural. I turned around, and he was standing and looking at me; he gave me a deep bow and then, with a big grin on this face, pointed his cane at me and said, "Are you the pitch doctor?" So that was my encounter with Stravinsky. I muttered something like, "I just wanted to get the notes right. I love the notes so much." And he said, "Well, thank you so much." Later I heard that in New York when they were doing the recording, he had asked somebody if the pitch doctor was going to be there. SUGGESTED READING [table id=43 /]

The Russian composer Igor Stravinsky (1882–1971) was one of the most influential composers of the twentieth century. His career spanned from the early 20th century, when he composed ballets inspired...

Considered by many to be the greatest writer in the English language, William Shakespeare (1564–1616) was an English playwright and poet. His plays, MacbethHamletRomeo and JulietKing Lear, and Midsummer Night’s Dream among others, have been performed in many languages around the world. Peter Holland is McMeel Family Professor in Shakespeare Studies at the Department of Film, Television, and Theatre at the University of Notre Dame. The author of many works on Shakespeare, he is editor of Shakespeare Survey as well as a number of other series. Among his books are English Shakespeares: Shakespeare on the English Stage in the 1990s and a major study of Restoration dramaThe Ornament of Action. He has also edited many Shakespeare plays, including A Midsummer Night's Dream for the Oxford Shakespeare series. In 2007, he completed publication of a five-volume series of collections of essays entitled Rethinking British Theatre History. In 2007-08, he served as President of the Shakespeare Association of America.
Simply Charly: To this day William Shakespeare is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language. What, in your view, makes him the "greatest?" Peter Holland: The brilliance of turning narrative into drama, the astonishing nature of his ability to create characters on stage, the depth of possibility in his language and the ways in which his plays mean so many things in such different cultures across the world and across time. SC: What is your view of the “authorship debate,” which brings forth the idea that maybe some (or perhaps even all) of the plays that have been attributed to the Bard were actually written by someone else? PH: There is no convincing evidence whatsoever that anyone other than William Shakespeare wrote the plays. SC: In the context of the Elizabethan era and the prevailing mores of that period, were his plays considered mainstream or avant-garde? PH: The words “mainstream” and “avant-garde” don’t mean anything for the early modern period. But Shakespeare was a great innovator and changed the ways plays could be written. SC: Did Shakespeare act in any of his own plays? PH: So early gossip said, and there is some evidence, for example, his being listed as an actor in plays by his contemporary Ben Jonson, that he did act. But, given that the traditional high point of his acting career was said to have been the small role of Adam in As You Like It, it doesn’t suggest that he was much good! SC: Was he influenced by any other authors? PH: Of course. He was profoundly influenced by, for instance, Marlowe as a playwright and by his favorite classical writers like Ovid, Plutarch, and Apuleius. SC: The majority of Shakespeare’s plays were published after his death. Why did he not publish them in his lifetime? PH: Half of his plays were published in his lifetime, some in many editions; the other half were included, after his death, in the collection of his work that his colleagues, Heminges and Condell, put together. Plays did not belong to the playwrights but to the companies who bought them. So he didn’t ever publish any of his plays; the King’s Men did. Remember that most plays written in the period were never published; publication was less important than performance. SC: What is the importance of the First Folio, containing 36 of Shakespeare’s plays? PH: Obviously, without the First Folio we may never have been able to read half of his work, plays like Macbeth and Antony and Cleopatra, The Tempest and Coriolanus. I see it, along with the King James Bible, as the most important book of the English Renaissance. SC: His play, Cardenio, was performed in his life but has since been lost. What do we know about it, and is there any way of recreating it? PH: No, there is no way to “recreate” it. We know it was based on some material in Cervantes but not any details of its turn from narrative to drama. Lewis Theobald in the early 18th century published a play, The Double Falsehood, which may have been based on the play Shakespeare co-wrote with his younger contemporary John Fletcher. Of course, as with the new production of a play by Charles Mee and Stephen Greenblatt, one can always write a play using some of the same materials Shakespeare used. SC: In the last few years many critics have begun to reassess a play called Edward III, currently grouped with a collection of 11 other plays known as the Shakespeare Apocrypha. Another play, Sir Thomas More has also been examined. Handwriting analysis has led scholars to believe that Shakespeare revised parts of Sir Thomas More, but, like Edward III, it is not part of the standard collection of Shakespeare’s plays. What is your view? PH: I do not doubt that Shakespeare was Hand D, as the handwriting is called, one of the authors of Sir Thomas More, contributing the wonderful scene of the May Day riot, and equally no doubt that he wrote the Countess of Shrewsbury scenes in Edward III. There are other scenes, like a scene in the anonymous play Arden of Faversham, which may well be by Shakespeare. And, of course, there are plenty of plays in the First Folio that are collaborations: Macbeth, Timon of Athens, Henry VI Part 1, Henry VIII, Titus Andronicus. SC: Was the language he used in his works actually the spoken language of his time or was it only the literary/theatrical language? PH: It’s both. This was a time when English was coining words at an astonishing rate; some may be Shakespeare’s coinages, others not. Lacking direct evidence we can only guess what the spoken language of the time was like but when Cordelia says to King Lear ‘No cause, no cause’ or Hamlet says ‘To be or not to be; that is the question’, they sound as if they are speaking a very ordinary language in very remarkable ways. SC: How does a teacher/professor motivate today’s students to read Shakespeare? PH: By showing them that the plays are fun, engaging, exciting, powerful, thoughtful, exhilarating works. Without engaging students in performance, there is no point in trying to encourage them to read.

Considered by many to be the greatest writer in the English language, William Shakespeare (1564–1616) was an English playwright and poet. His plays, Macbeth, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, King Lea...

William Shakespeare (15641616) is best known as the greatest writer in the English language, but he was also a philosopher of note. His plays give us a glimpse of his views about human nature and the world in general.
Author of Shakespeare's Philosophy: Discovering the Meaning Behind the Plays, Colin McGinn was educated at Oxford University. He is the author of 16 other books, including The Making of a Philosopher. He has written for the London Review of Books, The New Republic, the New York Times Book Review, and other publications. He has taught philosophy at University College London, Oxford, and Rutgers University, and is currently a distinguished professor of philosophy at the University of Miami.

Simply Charly: William Shakespeare is considered to this day as the greatest writer in the English language. In his own time, aside from being a playwright, an actor, and a businessman, was he also considered to be a great thinker? Colin McGinn: We don't really know what people thought about Shakespeare in his own time. He was a very deep man, but he was thought of more in terms of being a playwright than a philosopher. Shakespeare also made the Greek tradition available to people in a more digestible form and kept those themes alive in his plays. The fact that he belonged to the intellectual tradition, and not just the theatrical one, made those themes come alive in his plays. SC: Since he left no diaries or letters revealing his personal views, do we infer his philosophical leanings from his plays only? CM: I look at those ideas not necessarily as his personal views, but the themes that permeated his thinking and were embedded in his plays. His characters speak deeply about what it means to be human. As I point out in my book, most of those who analyze Shakespeare's works are literary scholars and historians. It is most unusual for a trained philosopher to give his insight. SC: What themes prevalent in Shakespeare's work were you particularly interested in? CM: There are several recurring themes in his plays: knowledge, self, causality, skepticism, and evil. For example: what is evil? Where does it come from? What are the limits of human knowledge? Shakespeare was interested in those kinds of subjects and expertly weaved them into his plays. SC: Which of Shakespeare's works did you analyze for your book, and what philosophical leanings did you discern from them? CM: I chose six of his plays: Midsummer Night's Dream, Macbeth, Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, and The Tempest, and analyzed all of them in depth. Every aspect of the world and human nature was represented in these plays. Hamlet, for example, is the most philosophical of Shakespeare's plays as it presents very puzzling and contradictory characters, as well as mysterious aspects of the human character. In Othello we glean problems of the mind; nobody knows what other people's true thoughts or intentions are. In King Lear, we see causality—why do people do what they do? In The Tempest—the power of language; people are too easily swayed by it. [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500"]William Shakespeare William Shakespeare[/caption] SC: Who among his contemporaries was Shakespeare influenced or inspired by? CM: In my book, I show the profound influence of (the French scholar) Michel de Montaigne on Shakespeare, by citing the spiritual and literary affinities between them. Montaigne's book of essays is one of the few books scholars can confirm Shakespeare had in his library, and Montaigne's essay “On Cannibals” was a direct source for The Tempest. SC: Were Shakespeare's ideas considered mainstream or unconventional in the Elizabethan times? And do we know whether he was religious? CM: I wouldn't say that Shakespeare was “unconventional,” but he was certainly intellectually very progressive. And I don't believe he was religious. He can be described as a Catholic, who kept his mouth shut. Being an open atheist was not an option at that time. King Lear, for example, is very secular. SC: Was Shakespeare a visionary? CM: One fact I raise in my book is that the period in which Shakespeare wrote preceded the Scientific Revolution. Very little of what we now take for granted—such as astronomy, physics, chemistry, and biology—was understood at that time. The laws of mechanics were unknown, disease was a mystery, genetics was unheard of. Intelligent people believed in witchcraft, ghosts, fairies, astrology, and all the rest. Eclipses were greeted with alarmed superstition. The conception of the world as a set of intelligible law-governed causes was at most a distant dream. So I think that if William Shakespeare were alive today, he would be very pleased with the state of progress and technology because he had anticipated it. SC: What, in your view, was Shakespeare's genius? CM: The answer to this question is in my book: Shakespeare's genius should be seen in his submission to nature. He didn't impose his own vision on reality; he let reality impose itself on his vision. He told us how the world looks from the perspective of itself. And the world never looked the same again.

William Shakespeare (1564–1616) is best known as the greatest writer in the English language, but he was also a philosopher of note. His plays give us a glimpse of his views about human nature and ...

One of the greatest artists of the 20th century, Pablo Picasso (1882–1973), left behind an enormous body of work, spanning many distinct phases and styles, such as the Blue Period, the Rose Period, and his most famous contribution to modern art, Cubism.
Professor of Art History at California State University Long Beach, Karen L. Kleinfelder, Ph.D., describes herself this way: "It seems that I have given the best years of my life to a dead artist: Picasso. Graduating from the University of Michigan in 1989, I wrote my Honors undergraduate thesis, masters thesis, and dissertation on various aspects of Picasso’s art. Published writings include The Artist, His Model, Her Image, His Gaze: Picasso’s Pursuit of the Model and Essays in Picasso: Inside the Image and Fingering Ingres."

Q: Picasso is commonly thought of as the father of Cubism. Throughout his life, he continually invented new styles. In fact, his work was a continuous metamorphosis of styles. Is this the reason he is thought of as the most influential modern artist? A: Picasso’s name has become synonymous with Modern Art; it is difficult, if not impossible, to think of one without the other. He may have been only 5’4” in height, but his influence towered over most of the other artists considered Modern Masters. Is that because he is the best artist of them all? Not necessarily, and one wants to avoid ranking artists as if it were a competition. The more curious issue is how Picasso became such a cultural institution in his own right. How, for instance, does he get dubbed “the father of Cubism” when the Cubist project was something he undertook in collaboration with Georges Braque? Cubism’s complexity was bigger and more groundbreaking than any one artist’s vision could contain, and I think the much more interesting story is how these two artists gave birth to it together, and how it was then disseminated in many stylistic directions developed by many artists. The tale of how Cubism grew and expanded is perhaps a bigger story than simply one of influence; it is more an example of a complex system that involved many dynamic elements and players, yet Picasso is the one whose name surfaces as the “originator.” Why does this twisted tale ultimately reduce to him? Perhaps it has something to do with the way his body of work adds up to a complex, non-totalizing whole, like a map of the Cubist project itself. For Picasso, style performs like Cubism by branching into many forking paths and acting out the principle of multiple perspectives. From the Blue Period to the Rose, from Cubism’s embrace of the “primitive” to his Neo-Classical mannerism after Ingres, from hard-edge grid networks to his sensual, biomorphic nudes, from his precocious student work to the wildly exuberant and expressionistic late paintings, Picasso’s many styles certainly have something to offer everyone and constitute a mini-History of Art in microcosm. Taken in their totality, these many styles, along with the many media he tackled, often seem conflicting and at odds with each other, especially when he combines several in a single work or series. However, his “trickster” capacity to play one hand and then the other attests to another impulse, and that is to avoid being boxed in by the question of style itself. He once said:
"Basically I am a painter without style. Style is often something that locks the painter into the same vision, the same technique, the same formula during years and years, sometimes during one’s whole lifetime. One recognizes it immediately, but it’s always the same suit, or the same cut of cloth. There are, nevertheless, great painters with style. I myself thrash around too much, move too much. You see me here and yet I’m already changed. I’m already elsewhere. I’m never fixed and that’s why I have no style."
Of course, that artful dodging becomes his style. The desire to elude being defined by any stylistic designation makes Picasso more postmodern than might be suspected. What he embraces is closer to the stylistic pluralism that characterizes our own age rather than allegiance to any particular school or avant-garde movement modeled on competing “isms.” So once again this Modern Master manages to be “influential” even to a more contemporary, postmodern scene that eschews signature or period “style” in favor of destabilizing strategies, cultural diversity, and hybridity. Q: Picasso’s paintings from the early 20th century seem to reflect different moods. For example, his blue period portrayed sad people, whereas his rose period depicted a more optimistic mood. What was, originally, the intended meaning behind Cubism? A: One of the key shakeups of Cubism is how it literally “broke the mood.” As Georges Braque so perceptively put it, “In Cubism, the subject is not the object.” Subject matter no longer matters; it is not subject matter that makes or breaks a cubist painting. It is more a question of form. In Cubism, the ways in which painting speaks through its own formal language of line, shape, space, plane, and color starts to eclipse the subject, or rather, starts to become the subject. A cubist painting of a woman, even when Picasso used a model, is less a portrait of a particular woman than a portrait of painting itself. The psychological mood of the sitter or the subject is not the objective. The mood, thus, shifts from emotional expression to one of rigorous analysis. Cubism is born out of a radical rethinking of the medium itself and a critique of the Eurocentric systems of representation based on mimesis, the accurate representation of outward appearances. Is painting to be conceived of as a window extension of our own space? How can we keep clinging to one-point perspective after Cézanne’s shifting perspective, which begins to add a temporal dimension to space? How do we go on mimetically portraying a face once we encounter African masks that diagram rather than mirror the subject? Cubism begins with a set of questions more than any firm, fixed position, and that is the way it should be since Cubism develops into a new way of thinking categorically opposed to the privileging of any single, fixed position. Picasso famously said, “ In the old days, pictures went forward toward completion by stages. Every day brought something new. A picture used to be a sum of additions. In my case, a picture is a sum of destructions. I do a picture, then I destroy it.” Cubism advanced as a sum of destructions: a shattering of one-point perspective, a rupture of the unities of space and time, a breakup of the body into bits and pieces, and a disallowing of the separation of figure and ground. Gone is the pathos of the Blue Period that followed his young friend’s suicide; gone is the more romantic, yet still lingering elegiac tone of the Rose Period. Cubism breaks the mood like it breaks everything else. Picasso and Braque could not have known where all Cubism would lead in the beginning stages of its development, but they did know they were on to something big. They jokingly called each other Orville and Wilbur after the Wright Brothers because they sensed they were taking painting to new heights. Q: Is it true that the 18th/19th-century Spanish painter Francisco Goya, was Picasso’s idol? If so, what inspiration did Goya’s works provide for Picasso? Also, who were some of his other idols, and did they inspire any of Picasso’s styles? A: Picasso used to claim he had no compunctions about stealing ideas from other artists’ work, but that he had a horror of copying himself. Late in life, he would do variations on several Old Masters, such as Velázquez, Manet, Poussin, and Cranach. Rembrandt and Van Gogh, two Dutch artists who could not be more different, are both credited with inspiring varying aspects of Picasso’s late style. There would always be a special place for Spanish artists, however, in Picasso’s pantheon. When still a young student, Picasso was inspired by the brooding, dark realism of Ribera. While eagerly looking forward to his first visit to the great Prado Museum of Art in Madrid, Picasso was instructed by his father to study the work of Velázquez from Spain’s Golden Age. He added a warning to his young, impressionable son: stay away from El Greco! Naturally, Picasso made a beeline for El Greco, and the elongated Blue Period figures owe something to that forbidden encounter. It would take another fifty years before Picasso followed his father’s advice and took on Velázquez’s masterpiece, Las Meninas, creating an extensive series of variations in 1957.It might seem strange, thus, that there is no series of variations on Goya’s art in Picasso’s oeuvre, but that does not mean that the older artist did not leave his mark on the younger. Goya’s Caprichos, an astute study of courtly life and the tragicomic caprices that make up human nature, find their parallel in Picasso’s later drawings known as the “Human Comedy.” The horrors of war, something Goya depicted firsthand from living through Napoleon’s brutal invasion of his country in the name of “Enlightenment,” also find a fitting echo in Picasso’s impassioned protest against war, Guernica, painted when Franco joined forces with Hitler to test out the 20th century war machine in a cold, heartless “rehearsal” for world war during the Spanish civil war. Throughout Picasso’s long career, he would return again and again to the theme of the bullfight. In fact, the very first painting we know of by Picasso when he was still a boy is a bullfight, and Goya’s many renditions on this most Spanish of themes are never far from Picasso’s own profound feelings about the ritualistic nature of the running of the bulls. In many ways, Goya’s art lives on through Picasso’s wit and broad, ironic vision that stems from their shared Spanish lineage. [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="480"]Pablo Picasso Pablo Picasso[/caption] Q: In 1907, Picasso and George Braque pioneered Cubism. How did the art world of that era react to this style? A: 1907 is the year of the groundbreaking painting, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, so shocking that Picasso did not even attempt to exhibit it publicly for many years. The avant-garde saw it, nonetheless, in Picasso’s studio, and it managed to shock even these cutting-edge artists. Alice B. Toklas, Gertrude Stein’s partner, said the painting frightened her. Braque exclaimed that it looked like the artist wanted us to eat rope and drink gasoline. Whether the Demoiselles is the first Cubist painting or not is highly debated, but it is clear that it was the birth of something radically new and confrontational. These five women—prostitutes from the red light district of Barcelona — have been described as five of the least seductive nudes in the history of art. They have been called a species of bitch goddess, and when they fix their fierce gazes outward, they assault the viewer and turn us into their “johns.” This is not a painting that stays tucked neatly and securely within its frame. Picasso breaks the frame here, literally as well as figuratively, since he wanted the painting to show just the way it looked in the studio, without a frame and threateningly in your face. He has been accused here of committing pictorial rape on tradition, the nude, and one-point perspective. These women are naked, sexual, and fragmented like the spatial field itself. As the poet Yeats would say in another context, “The center no longer holds; mere chaos is loosed upon the world.” Most disturbing of all is the squatting figure looking at you head-on and rear-on simultaneously. Picasso is mooning the Academy here, and he tops it off with that face! Her lopsided eyes stare out from a mask that shows how boldly Picasso was making use of his new encounter with African art at the Trocadero Museum. What attracted him to the so-called “primitive” arts of Africa was their “sophistication” of form. Eurocentric art would never be the same again. No wonder Alice B. Toklas was frightened. If the public was not ready for what would follow in the wake of the Demoiselles, the avant-garde was. Georges Braque, still in shock from his encounter with the canvas, went home and painted his version, called the Large Nude. Others started to follow in the years leading up to the First World War, and it would not be long before Cubism was the hip new style. Much imitated and with talk of the fourth dimension filling the cafes, Cubism was nevertheless not well understood. Many of these imitators were still thinking in conventional terms and just adding a cubist gloss like a veneer to the surface to make the paintings look more modern. Picasso and Braque kept working in tandem, often not able to tell their own works apart, pushing Cubism through its analytical stage to a point of hermeneutics so cryptic that to most the subject was virtually unreadable, only to bring the subject back with a vengeance through collage and the synthetic Cubism that followed. Cubism was truly a revolutionary turning point, changing the way space was rendered on a flat canvas plane in a radical way beyond anything else that had been seen since the Italian Renaissance first invented one-point perspective hundreds of years earlier. Though there is no direct influence, the fact that Einstein published his theory of relativity two years before Picasso painted the Demoiselles seems no coincidence. Space and time had fragmented, with faith in an absolute, fixed Truth giving way to multiple perspectives and shifting frames of reference. Gertrude Stein once said that artists do not live ahead of their time; they just see the composition of the age, while the rest of us still live in the past, trapped by outmoded frames of thinking based on the composition of a previous age rather than the continuous, changing present. Cubism was the composition of the age, for better or worse. Q: What is the difference between analytical and synthetic Cubism? A: Analytic Cubism comes before Synthetic. You can think of one as a deconstructive turn, which dismantles the conventional codes of representation and shatters the unities of space and time, while the other is a reconstructive move that picks up the fragmented elements and pieces them back together according to the logic of multiple perspectives and hybrid, often conflicting realities. In the earlier analytical stage, color drops out so Picasso and Braque can concentrate on rethinking how space can be mapped on a flat surface by fragmenting one-point perspective into multiple perspectives. What began as a form of “volumetric flatness” around 1908-09 progressively evolves (or devolves) into a complex grid network by 1911 where the illusion of mass is increasingly flattened and fragmented, suggesting what Einstein had already discovered: that you cannot think space without thinking time, and you cannot think time without thinking space. When the paintings of 1911 became almost impossible to decipher (remember, Braque said that “in Cubism, the subject is not the object”), Picasso reached the point of no return. What he does next is critical. If he goes any further in terms of analysis and abstraction, there will be no subject left. There will only be lines, shapes, and faceted planes on a flattened spatial plane. Does he take that step into complete abstraction? He never does. Instead, when the paintings are no longer readable, he adds words, or rather, word fragments, and starts bringing back symbols and other cues to keep the image hovering between representation and abstraction rather than resolving the conflict one way or the other. The turning point between analytic and synthetic Cubism is the invention of collage, which happened in a little painting by Picasso as 1911 slipped into 1912. Still Life with Chair Caning brings several disparate elements together: a cubist-fragmented glass seen from shifting perspectives along with the letters—JOU—that form only a word fragment, coupled with a piece of contact paper depicting a commercially printed trompe-l’oeil illusion of chair caning, all topped off by a mock frame formed by a piece of hemp rope surrounding the canvas’ circumference. The representational and the abstract collide here along with the real and the fake, the truth and the fictional. The little canvas is both an analysis and a new synthesis of different, even contradictory modes of representation that show how no single style has more “truth” value than any other. Cubism, thus, is not simply the breakthrough of abstraction or the privileging of abstraction over realism. It is at once more complex and subversive than that. Cubism points to the fact that all styles— whether realistic or abstract — are just different modes of representing and therefore equally valid. The cubist project does not culminate in the climax or apotheosis of abstraction as some have argued, claiming Picasso was too scared to go “all the way” into complete abstraction. On the contrary, Cubism leads to a conclusion more in keeping with Einstein’s theory of relativity and postmodern’s embrace of diversity and pluralism. Abstraction and realism exist along more of a continuum than in a hierarchical relationship where one trumps the other. Cubism’s multiple perspectives speak of multiple truths rather than any fixed, absolute axiom. Q: It is said that there is scarcely a 20th-century art movement that Picasso didn’t inspire or contribute to. What are some of those movements, besides Cubism? A: Much of the first half of the 20th-century art is an unfolding of the cube. The German Expressionists add an emotional edge due to their anxiety-filled experience of fragmented space and time during the years building up to WWI, while Mondrian in Holland pushes Cubism all the way to the non-objective grid. Marcel Duchamp’s ingenious take on the appropriation of the real object—the readymade—was initiated by cubist collage, which opened the way for mixed media through its inclusiveness of materials. A penniless Russian artist, Vladimir Tatlin, crashed in Picasso’s studio for a month while visiting Paris during the time Picasso was busily at work on collage and cubist sculptures. He returned to Russia and after the Communist Revolution developed Russian Constructivism, whose motto, inspired by collage, was “real materials in real space.” The idea was to apply the lessons of Cubism to real-world design by making a functional art that utilized the abstract principles of Cubism’s multiple perspectives and flattened planes in space. Constructivist sculpture stopped being conceived simply in terms of shape and mass. By following the example of Cubism’s dematerialization of matter, the Constructivists turned sculpture from solid mass into a construction of space. Germany Bauhaus picked up on the same principle of applied Cubism to solve the social needs of a machine age through design and architecture modeled on the dematerialization of mass into lines and planes in space. Even Surrealism’s biomorphic dreamscapes and psychic automatist drawings — so different from Cubism’s hard-edge geometric abstraction — still owe a debt precisely because the Surrealists were reacting, in part, against the rational logic of Cubism. Virtually every avant-garde style developed in the first half of the 20th century in one form or another developed from or reacted against Cubism in some way. Even Jackson Pollock’s webs at mid-century can be looked at in terms of pushing past cubist gridlock by finding a way to make a painting hold itself together as tightly as a grid, but without resorting to hard-edge geometry. Both Picasso’s Cubism and Pollock’s webs are examples of structured chaos. Clearly, Cubism was not an easy act to follow. No wonder Pollock reportedly muttered of Picasso, “God damn it, that guy missed nothing!” In addition to Cubism’s expansive sphere of influence, Picasso led what some saw as a more conservative return to Neo-Classicism during and after WWI, but its gigantic figures proved subversive in their own right. In 1932, under the influence of a new muse—his much younger girlfriend, Marie-Thérèse Walter—biomorphic curves began to supplant the straight edges of his Cubism, and Picasso made art “sexy” again (at least, that is what the later American painter, Frank Stella, claims in his book, Working Space). Picasso was also invited by the Surrealists to design the first cover of their serial publication, titled Minotaure. He made revolutionary advancements both in sculpture and printmaking as well as painting, and the innovative ceramic work he did is finally being given the serious attention it deserves. One of the most prolific artists who ever lived, Picasso’s restlessness meant there were few media and styles left unmarked by him. Q: Though art appreciation is a very subjective matter, generally speaking, which of Picasso’s works are considered the greatest and/or most popular? The greatest works are not always the most popular. Certainly, the 1907 Demoiselles d’Avignon, where we see the first signs of the Cubism to come, is arguably the most radical, groundbreaking work of the century. Thirty years later, he paints Guernica, which taps all his various styles: from Cubist fragmentation to simulate the structured chaos of war to a surreal biomorphism in the elastic body language of his Greek chorus of women, along with an expressionistic angst painfully acted out by the weeping women. The saturation bombing of a small Basque town on market day, which meant children and women were even more exposed and vulnerable than usual, would have been just one among countless forgotten atrocities of modern warfare were it not for this painting. Guernica makes a powerful statement about the horrors of war that transcends the specificity of its own context. It is a sad commentary on our times that the painting has remained all-too-relevant all-too-often in the years that have followed. [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Pablo Picasso Pablo Picasso[/caption] Q: Picasso and Paul Cezanne were friends. Who were his other friends in the art world? By the same token, did he have any harsh critics? A: Cézanne died in 1906 when Picasso was still new on the scene in Paris and a virtual unknown. Cézanne’s influence was not through an actual friendship so much as through his art, which Picasso saw in a retrospective exhibition at the Salon d’Automne of 1907. What so amazed Picasso and his friends was the way Cézanne’s paintings were so tightly knit together structurally rather than simply unified or focused on their subject. The key strategy that Picasso and Braque picked up from Cézanne was the use of passage: the way Cézanne faceted together planes in space, linking figure and ground in the process. The lesson of Cézanne’s passage, coupled with the counter-cultural alternative to mimesis represented by African masks, gave Picasso and Braque all they needed to launch Cubism. Picasso had many other friends in the art world, from other painters to writers and photographers and, late in life, movie stars of the French cinema. Matisse was both a respected rival and friend throughout his life. Gertrude Stein, the avant-garde writer and art collector who was his first important patron, introduced Picasso to Matisse at one of her salons, where he met many other leading cultural figures of the day. The gifted poet Apollinaire, who invented the word “surreal,” was a symbolic father figure to the young Picasso in the early days, but Apollinaire tragically died of head wounds inflicted in the war and never lived past the armistice of 1918. Picasso was on familiar terms with many of the surrealists, and one of his mistresses during WWII, Dora Maar, was a surrealist photographer in her own right. Brassaï, another photographer, wrote a book about his friendship with Picasso and the social circles in which they traveled. The versatile writer, artist, and filmmaker, Jean Cocteau, was an admirer and close friend for many years. At the end of his life, Picasso was surrounded by friends and hangers-on, making it hard sometimes to tell them apart. Curators, dealers, and publishers all wanted something from him and continually tried to win his audience, as if he were the Pope or a king who had to be sought at court. By contrast, he must have missed the early years when he was young, penniless and unknown, but supported by a loyal band of bohemian artists. As for critics, there were always those who decried the work, but after WWII, Picasso had achieved heroic status, in part because he stayed in Nazi-occupied Paris when many other artists fled. His critics were outnumbered by those who wanted a piece of his celebrity. The aged Picasso would point out a life lesson learned the hard way: when one is young, unknown, and penniless, there are few people who understand what you are trying to do, but when you are old, rich and famous, there are still only a few people who truly understand what you are trying to do. For a long time, a major art journal used to take a poll of leading figures in the art world, asking them who they considered to be the top 10 most underrated and overrated artists. Picasso is the one whose name made both lists most often. Q: It is said that Picasso had contempt for women artists. Is it true, and if so, why? A: Picasso once quipped: “For me, there are only two kinds of women—goddesses and doormats.” Fortunately, his body of work unfolds a more complex tale. Take, for instance, his portrait of Gertrude Stein, painted in 1906. A Jewish lesbian from California and a brilliant writer and astute art collector, Stein was neither goddess nor doormat, and it is in the course of trying to paint her image that Picasso was forced to rethink the idea of a portrait likeness and what constitutes a true resemblance. After she had posed for him more than 80 times, he still found that he could not get the face right, so he left town and returned to Spain for the summer. Only then was he able to come to terms with his first encounter with “primitive” art: the ancient Iberian sculpture of Spain. When he returned to Paris and began work on her portrait again, he painted in her face without even seeing her; in other words, he did away with the model. This was a first and very important step in breaking from mimesis. The result was a face that more readily resembles an abstracted mask than a conventional portrait likeness. His next step: the Demoiselles of 1907. Gertrude Stein implied that it was in the process of painting her portrait that Picasso became a man. There is no doubt that Picasso, who had come of age in Spain at the end of the 19th century (he was already 19-years-old when the 20th century began) had never met a woman like Gertrude Stein before, but it is also clear that he respected her. After all, he invented a new style just to be able to do right by her in her portrait. She responded later by writing her “portraits” of him: two poems about the artist and a short book simply titled, Picasso. Picasso’s love life is the stuff of tabloid journalism and bad movies. Sensationalized accounts talk in highly aroused terms about his ability to destroy women. One wonders if they might be confusing the deformations of his various artistic styles and what he does in his art with what he did in his life. It is true, though, that his love affairs did not end happily as a rule: one mistress and his last wife committed suicide; another mistress had a nervous breakdown, and his first wife resorted to sadistic acts against his new mistress after he left her for a much younger woman, actually for a succession of three younger women. As I said, his art unfolds a more richly complex collection of female figures much harder to pigeonhole or categorize than the rigid, impoverished terms of a binary fixed along the schism of goddess or whore would ever suggest. Q: A lot of people who are used to representational art say they can’t understand Picasso. How can they develop an appreciation for his art? A: Many people might be surprised to find out that Picasso rejected complete abstraction himself; he pointed out that you always have to start with something. His own body of work is varied and sufficiently diverse in stylistic range for there to be something for everyone to appreciate if they get enough exposure to the many works he did. To be fair, one could argue that there is enough there for everyone to find something they dislike, as well. While Cubism at its most analytical does not provide enough color or emotional content to seduce the uninitiated eye or even prove accessible by most standards, there is another way to approach Picasso’s output and that is as a body of work formed by continual metamorphosis and creative experiment. The question then becomes not so much whether one “likes” a particular style or not, but more a case of plugging into the protean creativity that continually weaves in and out of so many styles. There is a sequence in the French film called Le Mystère Picasso in which we watch Picasso begin a drawing of some flowers, only then to implant them within the surrounding contour of a fish, with the flowers transforming into fish scales in the process. Next, Picasso boldly embeds the fish within the larger, encompassing contour of a bird, as if each successive version of this drawing was being swallowed by the next. Picasso finishes off the image with a flourish at the last minute by transforming the profiled bird into the giant-sized head of a whimsical, horned creature — a satyr or faun, who lightheartedly looks directly out at us. It is he, and Picasso by extension, who gets the last laugh. My contention is that if you look more at how Picasso transforms his style than at any one image or singular period you will tap into his logic, which is all about maintaining a continuous creativity rather than a fixed, masterpiece aesthetic. Hopefully, his own words will ring true with the viewer who gives his work a chance: “A picture is not thought out and settled beforehand. While it is being done, it changes as one’s thoughts change. And when it is finished, it still goes on changing, according to the state of mind of whoever is looking at it. A picture lives a life as a living creature, undergoing the changes imposed on us by our life from day to day. This is natural enough, as the picture lives only through the man [or woman] who is looking at it.” Q: Are any new art movements emerging in the 21st century? If so, are any of them inspired by Picasso? A: Our own present moment is difficult to categorize or fix in its own right since it is all too much like Picasso, exhibiting an eclectic diversity of approaches and strategies more than any school or signature style. This discursive unfolding of art resists classification and “ism” labeling, seeing such stylistic designations and periodicity as part of Modernism’s old avant-garde—the composition of a previous age. Discussion today focuses more on concepts and one’s positioning on various issues than on a breakdown of style. Identity politics, including constructions (and deconstructions) of gender, race, ethnicity, and simulated avatars make the Picasso “brand” seem all-too-stuck in its own monolithic institutional success. Picasso starts to retreat more and more into a Mt. Olympus kind of status as one of the gods, one of the Immortals, and thus no longer seems so pressing, so urgent. Andy Warhol and his proclamation that everyone shall have their 15 minutes of fame speak more to a YouTube generation raised on heavy doses of commodity and screen culture, instant celebrity and reality TV. Yet, as Picasso the man and myth seem more and more relegated to a Modern age now long past, his art ironically may have new relevance for a postmodern age that is more discursive than focused, more polyvalent than fixed and performs more like a complex, nonlinear, dynamic system than a unified whole. Perhaps it is finally time for the art to tower over the man whose fame and “genius”—not to mention his love life—have too often eclipsed the work itself. Picasso made his own hopes for his legacy known: “All I have ever made was made for the present and with the hope that it will always remain in the present.”

One of the greatest artists of the 20th century, Pablo Picasso (1882–1973), left behind an enormous body of work, spanning many distinct phases and styles, such as the Blue Period, the Rose Period...

Considered by many to be the greatest composer of all time, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791) composed hundreds of pieces of music. Among his most famous works are Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (A Little Night Music, 1787) and the operas Don Giovanni (1787) and Die Zauberflote (The Magic Flute, 1791). He died of a mysterious fever at age 35.
One of the greatest violin virtuosos of our time, German-born Anne-Sophie Mutter has performed concerts in all the major music centers of Europe, the USA, and Asia. She celebrated her 30th stage anniversary in 2006 - which coincided with Mozart’s 250th anniversary—with a series of new recordings of all his major works for violin. About Mozart, she said: “He has always been present in my life. I’ve never stopped thinking about him, and I’ve always been trying out new ways to get closer to him. He’s the composer I have grown up with, who was always there waiting for me at every juncture of my career.”

Simply Charly: You said that you first fell in love with Mozart at the age of six. What was it about his music that enchanted such a young child? Anne-Sophie Mutter: I was attracted to his life in general. I remember reading a biography of his early “wunderkind” years. We both started early to play the piano and the violin, and, of course, he then became a genius composer. But I felt a close bond just in the fact that we were both in love with these two instruments. And Mozart was the composer with whom I made my orchestra debut at the age of nine. Back then, when I played his second violin concerto, his music felt so simple, pure, and straightforward. Years later, I also began to understand how complex his music is. The most difficult part of playing Mozart is keeping the complexity transparent. SC: You also said, “We hear differently from the way Mozart’s contemporaries did. And we can’t pretend to be able to go back to hearing as they did 250 years ago.” Can you explain just how we hear differently, and why? ASM. The violins back then were strung differently; they had gut strings tuned lower, and they were not held on the shoulder but placed on the breastbone. The total dynamic sound production was way different, much more limited in terms of the largeness of sound because music was something you would entertain yourself and your friends within intimate surroundings. The Kings and Queens entertained themselves in their castles with the chamber music, with small orchestras. The violin itself had a much shorter neck, later the neck was elongated, and that contributed to a higher tension of the strings, so the strings were able to hold higher pressure and, therefore, produce larger and more focused sound. In the last 250 years, we had to adjust our way of playing to the size of modern halls. But I find it utterly fascinating to still be able to bring the intimacy of a small room to a large stage, which we can do with wonderful instruments like a Stradivarius, that has this mystical ability to be heard even in the last row of a large room and that has this body of sound which is present even in a whisper. Not just the string instruments have undergone changes, but also the body of a piano has dramatically changed from the 18th century to the 19th century. We had virtuosos like Paganini; he had a revolutionary view on how to compose for the violin. But Mozart was one of the first and great virtuosos on the fiddle, and he also was the one who brought the virtuoso style from Italy back to Germany and Austria. What is a pity is that we tend to neglect his father’s contribution to music history, but he also spoke on violin studies. He was analyzing vibrato, for example, that is another tool that we use differently today than in the 18th century; they used the so-called Italian tremolo in a way where they actually counted the number of hand movements per note, depending on how much expressivity they wanted to show. These days, we are a little more liberal with the use of vibrato. SC: As a follow-up to the previous question, does the fact that we hear differently today mean that contemporary performers have to “update” the original compositions for the modern audiences or are these compositions performed exactly the same way they were in Mozart’s time? ASM: There are many ways to look at a score, and music can only stay alive if we can change focus and viewpoints. It’s a little like Cezanne’s life—he was a wonderful French painter, who was fascinated by apples. And you can say that the apples are all the same, but Cezanne was able to view them with fresh eyes, with a different perspective, and that it is also what keeps me motivated in my music: to see it with fresh eyes and try to be careful, with all due respect to the composer. SC: In 1816, another Austrian composer, Franz Schubert, attended a Mozart concert, and afterward wrote in his diary that the “Zaubertone”—magic sounds—of Mozart's music kept echoing in him, impressions “that no time and no circumstances extinguish.” Is this assessment something you can relate to? ASM: Yes. There are many other composers such as Tchaikovsky, for example, who said once about Mozart’s music that it is of such pureness, and it moves him so deeply that he feels the nearness to God stronger than with any other composer. Great art has a key to our hearts, which makes us tremble, and which gives us goosebumps and shelters us, and makes us more sensitive and vulnerable. That is true of Mozart’s music and I must say that one of the great times in my life was actually the period in which I was mostly dedicating concertos to his large sonatas - sixteen of them—and all the violin concerti, a time when I got to know this young composer. I mean, he only lived to the age of thirty-five, so we can’t really speak of an old master. But his development as a musician, the depth of his soul, and the beauty of his music are so overwhelming that every time I went on stage with Lambert Orkis or the LSO chamber players, we were enchanted and driven to tears. There is something in his music that is inexplicably heavenly, not only beautiful but almost tragic—tragedy is always around the corner in Mozart’s music. He very often wrote modulations from minor to major, and it just takes you by surprise. But, if you look at his life story, you’ll see that this man was driven by the need to be successful as a composer to survive. He has written so much that he must have worked day and night. Whatever he wrote was just perfect, and he never revised anything. That is truly amazing. SC: Several years ago, The New York Times wrote that Mozart’s compositions, which are so familiar to us today, were, in their time, quite audacious. Was Mozart’s music considered innovative when he first composed and performed it? ASM: I think that some of his operas were not understood, and some of them were not liked by society and especially by the Royals, because Mozart’s works were critical of the prevailing social morals of the time. I can only speak as a violinist about the way he treated the instrument. Look at the Concertante; He started to write it at a time when it became more and more fashionable to write in that style. Look at what development the piano and violin sonatas took because of him. He started out having the violin, as it was customary in the 18th century, to be like an enhancement of the melody hand, the right hand, and the piano. And it led the way for Beethoven to establish the violin as an independent equal to the piano. For that alone, you could say that he created a revolution, at least in the violin repertoire. He certainly has pushed the violin further than many other composers before him. It was such a luxury that he was such a virtuoso on the instrument, and therefore we have an enormous volume of pieces that many other composers, who were not like Beethoven or Brahms, were not able to produce. SC: Many musicians say that one of their hardest challenges is bringing a sense of “newness” and adventure to a performance. How do you, who has performed Mozart’s compositions countless times, reinvent this sense of freshness and fun each time you play? ASM: In my life, it’s quite the opposite because I am learning new things every day. Keeping it fresh is really not the problem. I think what is much more of a challenge, at least for me, is finding all the subtle details and interactions between the musical voices in a concerto, or even in a piano trio. He was such a great improviser, and that is something you have to bring back to his music, the sense of invention in the instant. There is a wonderful story about him. In the 18th century, people used to applaud in the middle of a performance, when they liked a virtuoso passage. Mozart wrote to his father that when the reprise came at that particular moment in one of his piano concertos, he tried to play it even more virtuoso, even more enchantingly, so that the audience would be even more appreciative. And some of that fresh dialogue with the audience you always have to try to bring into an evening. SC: The Mozart Effect is a theory that listening to his music can stimulate or enhance intellect. This theory has been debated and debunked many times. What is your view? ASM: I am not a neurologist, so I can’t really give you a very profound answer. Fact is that early music studies do help to develop the brain, and the more children are exposed to music, the faster the neurons in their brains are developed. Music-making does have a positive effect on the intellectual development altogether. And there are other benefits too: music teaches social skills, listening to others, learning to concentrate and building team spirit. I think that’s the bigger picture of the Mozart effect. SC: Which of Mozart’s works are your personal favorites, and why? ASM: There are so many, it’s very hard to pick just one. It could be the Sinfonia Concertante because of this heavenly second movement, it could be the G minor symphony, it could be any of his piano concertos. It could be almost anything. I must say that during the period in which I nearly exclusively played Mozart’s works for violin if you had asked me that question, I couldn’t answer it either. It is impossible. Because even the first minuet he wrote at a very early age is perfect in form and musical expression. So, I love them all. SC: In 2006, to celebrate your 30th stage anniversary, as well as Mozart’s 250th anniversary, you launched the Mozart Project, a series of new recordings of all his major works for violin. Have your performances or interpretations of individual pieces changed over the past three decades? ASM: I had up until then never played all his major sonatas; I have played some of his late ones, but not all sixteen. So I can’t say how my approach to these 16 sonatas has changed because I have only relatively recently started to study them. I can tell you that the violin concerto which has been part of my almost daily life as a violinist from the moment of my orchestra debut at the age of nine, has changed quite a bit also because in the year 2000 I started to lead orchestras to play these concerti without a conductor, just as Mozart used to do it. Leading means learning many other details about the score of all the different keys of the transposed winds, you have to be prepared for every possible question. Goethe once said: “what you don’t see you don’t see”. And it is true, what you don’t know about music you are not missing, but once you have learned it and once you see the miracle of details, the interaction between the second violin and the solo is just breathtaking. So was my rediscovery of Mozart, and during that period I also looked into the newest editions, which have only recently been published with phrasings and dynamics as close to Mozart’s original score as possible. That also gave me a number of new insights toward every section of the orchestra with a more chamber music-like approach with a smaller orchestra that Mozart had, and the primus inter pares has made my playing more subtle, more varied, more spontaneous, more like a debate, or a conversation with friends. We should not assume that Mozart really was dreaming of having his music performed only with small ensembles, but he just had to make do with the number of musicians he had. And there was a time when he—I think it was in Paris—mentioned that to his father in a letter: “Oh my God, today I had eight first violins and it just sounded gorgeous.” But the reason why I downsized the orchestra to a smaller group was just the fact that a smaller group can be more spontaneous and still feel comfortable without a conductor because each player has to take quite a responsibility. You can’t blame the conductor if something goes wrong, but you can’t blame the soloist either because he’s busy too. But that approach really helped me to come as close to Mozart’s style of performance as possible.

Considered by many to be the greatest composer of all time, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791) composed hundreds of pieces of music. Among his most famous works are Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (A Li...

A child prodigy who wrote his first piece of music at the age of five and completed his first symphony at eight, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791) composed over 1,000 works, including 20 operas, 17 masses, 41 symphonies, 27 string quartets and 25 piano concertos before he died at the age of 35, inspiring countless composers of later generations.
World-renowned American pianist and composer, Robert Levin has performed internationally to critical acclaim. He is also a noted theorist and Mozart scholar, as well as the author of a number of articles and essays on Mozart. His completions of Mozart fragments have been recorded and performed throughout the world.

Simply Charly: People believe that Mozart was a child prodigy with an innate gift for music. However, he once said: "People make a mistake of thinking that my art has come easily to me. Nobody has devoted so much time and thought to composition as I. There is not a famous master whose music I have not studied over and over." So was his music the fruit of his genius, or hard work? Robert Levin: Both. His genius is the stuff of legends—writing down by memory Allegri's Miserere after hearing it a single time, composing nine movements of three piano concertos simultaneously (the four different ink tints present in all nine prove it), using as the principal theme of the overture to The Magic Flute the first theme of a Clementi sonata he had heard ten years before. Nonetheless, he drafted and sketched, and his mature compositions have the same dazzling intellectual rigor, the same process of building up reality a tone at a time, that amazes us in the music of Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms. SC: Who were some of the masters he studied over and over, and who influenced or inspired him in one way or another? RL: Every work he heard was considered, digested, and miraculously refracted. Among the most influential composers upon his personal style were Johann Christian Bach and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, both sons of Johann Sebastian Bach, whose music profoundly altered Mozart's perception of intellect and expression when he encountered it in 1782. Handel, like Mozart, a man of the theater, appealed to him deeply, and he re-orchestrated four of Handel's works. Haydn was perhaps the most immediate influence, but both masters profited from each other's mastery. Mozart was taught primarily by his father, violinist Leopold Mozart, whose violin method was read and used throughout Europe; he took counterpoint lessons in Italy with Padre Martini and corresponded with him thereafter. But there were many less famous composers, such as Myslivecek, whom Mozart admired. SC: Mozart has been invariably portrayed as playful, childlike, and frivolous. Is there any hard evidence that sheds light on his true character? RL: His articulate and unabashed letters, of which countless numbers survive, show him in every conceivable state of mind, from the sublime to the didactic, from the polemic to the ardent, from the poetic to the scatological. SC: Mozart was hailed by composer Franz Joseph Haydn as "the greatest composer known to me in person, or by name." Yet some people have said that his influence on music was largely temporary but nonetheless indispensable. What is your view? RL: If Mozart's influence was so temporary, why was Beethoven traumatized by him until his very last breath, emulating Mozart in work after work? Why did Grieg compose second piano parts to Mozart's piano sonatas, and why did Tchaikovsky create an orchestral suite of his piano pieces? Why did Stravinsky model his opera The Rake's Progress on Mozart's Così fan tutte? Why does virtually every precocious child who begins to compose does so in the style of Mozart? Why, at the death of the celebrated, political or literary, is Mozart's Requiem selected over those by Berlioz, Verdi, or Fauré? [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart[/caption] SC: What was the professional and personal relationship between Mozart and other great composers of his era, for example, Beethoven and Salieri? Were they friends or competitors? RL: Beethoven was of the succeeding generation. He allegedly played for Mozart in 1787, when Beethoven was 17, and Mozart is reputed to have said, "Keep your eye on him." He returned to Vienna in 1792, too late to study with Mozart (Beethoven's patron, Count Waldstein of the piano sonata fame, wrote into his autograph book, "Through tireless industry you shall receive Mozart's spirit from Haydn's hands"), but Mozart's influence is everywhere in Beethoven's oeuvre. Salieri was a colleague and rival, but both had respect for each other. SC: You once said in an interview that "Mozart was the showman of his age." How so? RL: His "academies"—subscription concerts—allowed him to present himself as a dazzling improviser, virtuoso pianist, and composer. His piano concertos, premiered in these concerts, spotlighted all of these abilities, for which we have vivid, starstruck accounts (for example, from his first biographer, Niemetschek). These concerts are the 18th century equivalent of the big band era—Mozart was the Duke Ellington of his time and vice versa. SC: You are a noted Mozart scholar and theorist. What exactly does this work entail? RL: Study of the tiniest details of Mozart's musical language, microscopic examination of the manuscripts to ferret out all phases of the creative process, attempting to understand his precise vocabulary—of rhythms, melody, counterpoint, chords, as well as his uniquely complex structural complexity. Mozart hides sophistication behind apparent simplicity: a child can understand the music and delight in it whereas adults fret at its merciless exposure of the tiniest defect. I have used the knowledge I have obtained to inform my performances, aid in my teaching, and to complete a large number of works that Mozart left unfinished at his death, such as the Requiem and the Great Mass in C-minor. SC: There are still unanswered questions about who completed Mozart's Requiem after his death. The widely held view was that his friend, Austrian composer Franz Xaver Süssmayr, finished the work, the view promoted at the time by Mozart's widow. What's your take on it? RL: There is no question whatsoever about who completed the Requiem. At first, Joseph Eybler worked on it but gave up before finishing. Süssmayr, Mozart's assistant (but not pupil) provided in early 1792 the version most commonly performed today. Maximilian Stadler had an involvement in this process, but it is Süssmayr's version that is the standard one. In the 20th century, various musicians have tried to correct the numerous grammatical and structural shortcomings of Süssmayr's version, including me. The future will decide which of these best represents Mozart's terrifying and towering confrontation with death. SC: Speaking of the Requiem, you are one of several musicologists who attempted an alternate ending. What prompted you to undertake this task, and in what way is your version different from others? RL: I was commissioned by the International Bach Academy to provide a new completion, premiered by Helmuth Rilling on Aug. 24, 1991, at the European Music Festival, Stuttgart (Germany). Maestro Rilling attended a lecture I gave discussing the problems of Süssmayr's completion and the linguistic attributes of more recent completions. On the basis of my remarks, he placed his confidence in my ability to create a version he would wish to perform (he declared to me that he could not perform a version in which he did not believe, and none of the 20th-century revisions met with his approval). In the intervening 17 years, he has performed my version, which has been recorded eight times and performed all over the world, dozens of times. To attempt such a version is an exercise in humility. Unlike other versions, mine sought to change as little as possible from the traditional Süssmayr completion, so as to respect its history and the audience's familiarity with it.

A child prodigy who wrote his first piece of music at the age of five and completed his first symphony at eight, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791) composed over 1,000 works, including 20 operas,...

A German social scientist, political activist, and philosopher, Friedrich Engels (1820–1895) was, along with Karl Marx (1818-1883), the father of Communist theory. He was instrumental in the writing of the Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital, two of the world's most influential political manuscripts.
Tristram Hunt is a lecturer in history at the University of London. The author of Building Jerusalem: The Rise and Fall of the Victorian City and most recently, Marx's General—The Revolutionary Life of Friedrich Engels, he writes political and cultural commentary for The Guardian, The Times, and the London Review of Books, among other publications.

Simply Charly: In your new book, Marx's General: The Revolutionary Life of Friedrich Engels, you attempt to bring Engels, who long played Horatio to Marx's Hamlet, out from under Marx's shadow. Why do you suppose there has been a dearth of books on Engels? Tristram Hunt: Not a 'dearth', but certainly not merely as many as there might have been. The last major biography of the man was, I think, by Gustav Mayer in the 1930s. For much of the post-war era—especially in the West—he was regarded with both suspicion and hostility as the ideological architect of Soviet-style Communism. And even with the revival of Marx's stock over the last 15 years, Engels himself has still lagged behind in public recognition or critical engagement. Hopefully, this book is a small step in counter-balancing that bias. SC: What kind of research did you do when assembling this book? TH: Well, the major event was to go to visit the city of 'Engels' in Russia. Named in honor of the great man in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, it was in an area along the Volga river where a high proportion of ethnic Germans. And, as a result, it suffered terribly at Stalin's hands during World War II. In addition, I spent time in the archives in Wuppertal, Germany, Engels's birthplace; in Amsterdam, where large Marx-Engels Archives exist; in Manchester, where Engels lived for many years; as well as working my way through the multi-volume editions of their work and letters. Marx and Engels certainly wrote a prodigious amount. SC: As Communism's "dream team," Marx and Engel couldn't have been more different. Engels had a carefree life as a prosperous bachelor while Marx suffered the vicissitudes of poverty. Can you describe their relationship? TH: It was the greatest friendship in Western political thought, which lasted pretty much solidly for 40 years. When they met in 1844, they did so as intellectual equals, both having come to the same political and philosophical conclusions independently. Engels then realized Marx's genius and agreed to take a step back—to play 'second fiddle' to so fine a first fiddle as Marx. And he was never envious of Marx's genius, he always wanted to exploit it to the maximum. There was also that temperamental difference: Engels was far less complicated, more boisterous, hospitable, and carefree than Marx with his domineering wife and numerous daughters. SC: Why do you suppose Engels railed against the conditions of the proletariat when he seemed to enjoy the fruits of Capitalism? Did he ever renounce this way of life in favor of the ideals outlined in The Communist Manifesto? TH: No, Engels would never apologize and only rarely explain how he justified living off profits derived from the exploitation of the proletariat. In essence, he believed one had to do what one had to do in a Capitalist society whilst working for its downfall. And, secondly, he worked in the cotton industry and played the Capitalist to fund Marx. Without his labors in Manchester as a cotton merchant and the spiriting of huge sums down south to the Marx family, it is very doubtful whether Marx would have been able to have the financial security to write Das Kapital in the manner he did. SC: Two of the chief evils that Marx complained about, which resulted from Capitalism, were alienation and exploitation. Can you briefly explain what he meant by these notions? TH: The notion of alienation was originally used in the context of criticism of religion: how man's worship of a Christian deity, necessarily involved a process of dehumanization within himself. He became alienated from his human essence by giving so much of himself up to a Godhead. Marx and Engels' achievement was to transfer that notion of dehumanization and alienation from the realm of religious worship to Capitalist society; under the system of private property and Capitalism, man was involved in an equally disfiguring process of alienation. And those most dehumanized and alienated were the proletariat, whose life was sucked out of them by the Vampire-like demands of Capital. SC: What would you say was Engels' main strength as far as his contribution to The Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital? TH: His great contribution to The Communist Manifesto was to do the groundwork on the first two drafts. It was Engels who systematically thrashed out the line of argument and the political settlement with The Communist League. But it was Marx's genius to write the Manifesto with such extraordinary brio and confidence. His work on Das Kapital was equally significant: it was Engels who provided much of the material evidence of Capitalism in action. His knowledge of the Manchester cotton industry and its workings—machinery depreciation rates; pay bargaining; raw material costs—made its way into Marx's brilliant critique of how capital functions. While Marx was stuck in the British Museum researching the theory, Engels was providing the facts. SC: The term "dialectical materialism" is one of the dominant pillars of Marx's philosophy, even though the term was never used by either Marx or Engels in their writings. Can you explain what is meant by this term? TH: Dialectical materialism was a philosophy that helped to explain historical and social change. It drew on elements of Hegel's understanding of the dialectic in history but replaced idealism with materialism and connected some of that thinking to the 19th-century revolution in science, to provide a science of society which assisted Socialists in understanding how tensions within the Capitalist model would eventually become so great that they would lead to qualitative changes—at which point the conditions for revolution were ripe. It remains a difficult philosophy to explain succinctly! SC: When Marx died, Engels completed volumes 2 and 3 of Das Kapital from Marx's scattered notes. And a fourth volume was brought together by Karl Kautsky after Engels' death. However, these volumes are very often ignored in favor of volume one. Why? TH: Volume 1 of Das Kapital is simply a far more compelling account of Marxian economics than Volumes 2 and 3. It has an urgency and critical currency that the later volumes, especially Volume 2, often lack. However, it should be remembered how few contemporaries came to Marxism through a reading of Das Kapital—even then a hefty tome to make your way through. Far more influential were Engels's works, Anti-Dühring, and its edited version, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific. These polemical, shorter texts were often the vehicles through which the coming Socialist generation of the late 19th and early 20th century discovered their scientific Socialism. SC: Do you think a viable and just society can be created using Marx's original principles without going off track as they did under Stalin or Mao? TH: Well, Marx is notoriously unclear as to the exact mechanics of his just society. I find him far more useful and interesting as a critic of Capitalism, rather than a seer of Communism. His insights into the nature of globalization, the processes of exploitation and immiseration, the inhumanity of unregulated Capitalism, the consequences of colonialism, feminism, historical materialism, warfare, etc., all make Marx well worth reading today. And, in my view, Engels was particularly adept at taking forward some of these ideas into new intellectual terrains. At the core of Marxian Communism was a belief that humanity would be transformed at the end of history as mankind makes the leap from the kingdom of necessity to the kingdom of freedom—I'm afraid I am still unable to make that leap of faith. SC: Marxism is back in fashion now that Capitalism has been teetering on the brink of collapse. What do you make of our current economic crisis and its prospects for a Marxist revival? TH: All the background to the current economic crisis—escalating complexity and instability of the Capitalist process; the concentration of capital within ever more dominant corporate players; the nexus of politics and big business; the impact on the poorest of the crash; the attempted return to business as normal—would have been intensely familiar to Karl Marx. Indeed, he commented upon a number of similar crises during the mid-19th century. And, as a result, there has certainly been a powerful upsurge of interest in the ideas of Marx and Engels, with some high-profile events in London exploring Socialist responses to the current crisis. But, sadly, the real response in Britain has been an upsurge of enthusiasm for far-right parties, just as in the 1930s, it was the extremists who seemed to be benefiting. At the moment, Britain looks set to elect a Conservative government in 2010 with an extremely reactionary policy agenda. Although, if one was an optimistic Marxist, you might argue this was only accelerating the contradiction.

A German social scientist, political activist, and philosopher, Friedrich Engels (1820–1895) was, along with Karl Marx (1818-1883), the father of Communist theory. He was instrumental in the writing...

Political activist, philosopher, and revolutionary, the German-born Karl Marx (1818–1883) is arguably the most influential socialist thinker of the 19th century. His Communist Manifesto, co-authored with his collaborator Friedrich Engels, developed communist theory that was the cornerstone of a new political order that took root in the 1900s.
Simon Tormey is Head of the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Sydney. He is the author of numerous books and articles including Making Sense of Tyranny: Interpretations of Totalitarianism (Manchester University Press, 1995), Politics at the Edge (co-edited with C. Person) Agnes Heller: Socialism, Autonomy and the Postmodern(Manchester University Press, 2001), Anti-Capitalism (Oxford: Oneworld, 2004), and Key Thinkers from Critical Theory to Post-Marxism (London: Sage, 2006).

Simply Charly: Karl Marx is called the father of modern communism. But was he influenced by any of his predecessors or contemporaries? Simon Tormey: Yes he was. A famous way of summarizing Marx is by saying that he combined German philosophy with British economics—or political economy—and French politics. Probably the greatest influence on Marx was his teacher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, who bequeathed the idea of the dialectic—Hegel thought ideas and beyond that, history progressed through contradiction. Marx took that idea up and replaced “ideas” with “class struggle”—so that history was seen to be progressing through a struggle between old and new classes. On the British side, Marx was greatly influenced—perhaps provoked—by Adam Smith and James Mill, indeed by “classical liberalism” generally. This is very apparent in the economic works where Marx seeks to challenge the liberal view of the origin of value and the idea that people find their worth or value in the market. He was vexed by the hidden dimension of liberalism: the support for enclosure of land, the transformation of self-sufficient peasants into laborers, and so forth. From the French, Marx takes his cue from the French revolutionaries and figures like Babeuf, Fourier, Rousseau, and Saint-Simon. He liked their tough-mindedness in political terms, their optimism and desire to overthrow creaking feudal orders with modern, rational governance. This is not to say that he followed any of their ideas particularly, but he certainly learned from them and engaged with them. So in sum, Marx was very widely read and very interested in a variety of disciplines and genres. Works like Capital are replete with references to various theorists and thinkers—usually, disparagingly, it has to be said, but also with grudging respect for the likes of Smith and Mill. SC: Has he defined the difference between the terms "socialist" and "communist?" A lot of people use those terms interchangeably, but they are not the same, are they? ST: No, they’re not the same, as Marx makes very clear in The Critique of the Gotha Programme written in 1875. Communism equates to the complete abolition of private property, by which Marx meant property that created value such as land, mines, factories, etc. People would continue to enjoy sole use of items like toothbrushes, socks, etc.! Private property was for Marx at the root of most evils—inequality, injustice, classes, criminality, etc., so with the abolition of property would come the abolition of those antagonisms and contradictions that make the state necessary. However, before reaching that end state there would, by necessity, be a period of ‘transition’ between capitalism and communism—this is what he termed “socialism.” Socialism is characterized by increased “social power” i.e. nationalization of key industries, democratic planning, distribution according to maxims such as ‘work’ (X number of hours = X number of goods, etc). During this period, it would be necessary for the state to continue as a mechanism for law enforcement and security against, for example, remnants of the old order. It is for this reason that the transition is also called the “Dictatorship of the Proletariat,” which replaces the dictatorship of the bourgeois class (what others call ‘representative democracy’). So socialism was a society in transition on the way to communism. SC: What are the three most important contributions Karl Marx made to social theory? ST: This would be, amongst Marxists, hotly contested themselves, but for me, the items that stand out are: 1) Methodological collectivism: a great deal of social theory turns on what we think the individual is—what is human nature? What needs are specific to humans? And we use these conclusions to arrive at social theory—thus society is selfish and individualistic because this is what humans are like. Marx argued that society shouldn’t be looked at merely in individualistic terms, but in terms of the larger aggregates of which the individual is a part, and, of course, this meant looking at class. Whatever else one thinks of Marx, the idea that people’s destinies are bound up with their class position is a useful one for looking at relative inequality, poverty, and life chances. It is certainly an advance on the kind of thinking that insists that where an individual winds up is a function of his or her own merit or ability—which is pretty feeble sociology. 2) The historicizing of capitalism—a lot of social theory, particularly in its positivist guise, assumes that the order we have is what we must have. It is oblivious to history. Marx shows us that capitalism, rights, individual liberty, and such, are all functions of social reproduction at a particular phase of its development. This also shows that other kinds of systems are possible—not just socialism or communism. 3) Value creation—there is a tendency to think that the creation of value is a business of clever, hard-working people doing well, and others (the lazy, poor unfortunate) doing badly, and thus the hard-working individuals deserve to be where they are, as of course do the poor. What Marx showed, rather convincingly, is that the condition of the poor often worsens as a result of capitalist development. The rich and powerful take the land that peasants and indigenous people lived off, and so created a class of “poor” people who had to sell themselves into labor. Thus, without dispossession, there is no capitalism, and without capitalism, fundamental divisions of rich and poor are much harder to sustain and justify in any meaningful or secular sense. SC: What events in his own life, if any, influenced Marx’s political and philosophical ideas? ST: Marx was intensely interested in the politics of his day. He closely followed all sorts of insurgencies and crises—such as the strikes of the Moselle winemakers, the 1848 revolutions, the rise of Louis Napoleon, the Paris Commune—and he wrote a great deal about all of them. He was also an activist and so fed the events themselves with manifestos, pamphlets, and analyses. Marx was no armchair philosopher—he walked the walk as well as talking the talk. SC: Among the early communists, were there any disagreements on philosophy, theory, or practical application of Marx’s ideas? ST: Marx didn’t see his work as a body to be applied and frequently expressed outrage at the notion of “followers” or loyal subjects trying to apply his ideas. He once famously stated that if one particular group were “Marxists,” then he was “no Marxist.” Of course, upon his death sectarianism broke out fairly quickly. The most fundamental distinction after the 1880s was to be that between ‘social democrats’ like Eduard Bernstein and Karl Kautsky, and revolutionary socialists such as Lenin, Trotsky, and Luxemburg. These disagreements were over many issues: the nature of the historical process, the role of the party in developing revolutionary consciousness, the nature of the transition, etc. They plague the history of Marxism up to the present. SC: Marx’s social, economic, and political ideas gained rapid acceptance in the socialist movement after his death in 1883. How were they accepted during his lifetime? ST: Marx was one of the founders of the International, which was the main umbrella organizationally for left parties and groups from the 1860s onwards—rather like the World Social Forum is today. However, there were many splits and antagonisms, which eventually brought the International to its knees. Probably the most famous of these was with the anarchists, who are actually often fairly close to Marx’s ideas. Marx criticized thinkers like Stirner and Proudhon and fell out badly with Bakunin, who rivaled Marx in terms of stature and eloquence within the International. Bakunin was eventually expelled, and the anarchists have since then found it difficult to sit in the same room as Marxists. SC: How have Marx’s original ideas been modified and his meanings adapted to a great variety of political circumstances? ST: This is a huge question! The most important development has been in terms of the adaptation of Marxism for relatively backward societies like Russia and China. Here the work of Lenin and Mao was instrumental in adapting Marx for basically pre-capitalist societies or societies with large peasant populations. SC: What did Marx really mean when he said: “religion is the opium of the masses?” ST: It has to be understood that Marx was immensely sympathetic to the plight of ordinary people, who lived in misery and poverty. Religion clearly provided comfort and still does to those who have little hope or expectation that their lives would become better. At the same time, he was highly critical of the role of the Church, which seemed to be complicit in maintaining the status quo and thus increasing the misery of the masses. So Marx was essentially a sociologist of religion. Of course, he was also a materialist which meant that he didn’t believe in God - God was an invention of a class of people who found it incredibly convenient to have an alibi for explaining why some people are living in luxury and others in poverty. SC: What is the difference between Marx and other early communists of note, especially Lenin, Stalin, and Trotsky? And what about later ones, for example, Fidel Castro, Mao Tse-Tung, and Kim Jong-il? Can any of them be called Marxists? ST: Oh, they are all Marxists, without a doubt. Marx’s collected works run to 50 volumes, and there is something in there for everyone—if you look hard enough. Just as there are many varieties of Christians, so there are many varieties of Marxists. No one possesses the “true” Marx. At the same time, what this means is that Marx is not ‘bad’ (or ‘good’)—he is not a philosopher of the Gulag or the Killing Fields. Marx cannot be blamed for the inhumanities of his followers any more than Jesus or Mohammed can. What unites all “Marxists” is that they have found a plausible account for the misery that surrounds them and some guidance as to how to overcome it: via revolution or fundamental transformation. Where they differ is how all this works: what the role of the Party is, who should lead, whether peasants are revolutionary or not, and so on and so forth. But even Stalin was clearly a Marxist—in his speeches he referred repeatedly and directly to the works of Marx to justify what he was doing. That makes him a Marxist—of sorts. SC: Where in today’s world do we still witness the “class struggle?” ST: Well, everywhere! Go down to Wal-Mart. There are workers there who have been denied trade union representation, who have been denied holiday pay, health care, etc. Go into any business, and you will see owners and workers—the owners cannot do without the workers and they want to pay them as little as they can for the most amount of product/output; the workers want the most they can get. This is class struggle. Of course, it need not be dramatic or very bloody. The bosses have the laws on their side, the politicians, the state, and the media. They can contain struggle so that it doesn’t disrupt society—for the most part. However, beyond the wealthy countries, the picture is very different. Open and violent struggles are commonplace in much of the world. They just don’t get reported much. The media likes us to concentrate on sport and celebrities—they don’t think people are interested in strikes, lockouts, and beatings of workers in places like China, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa, or violent peasant conflicts in places like Nandigram, India. Look around: class struggle is everywhere and infects almost every human relation. SC: Of all the communist countries worldwide, which ones followed Marx’s teachings the most closely? ST: All communist systems have their “court” philosophers using the texts of Marx to explain what they are doing. Even China today explains its neoliberal policies by reference to Marx (‘the necessity for a period of economic growth followed socialization’). It’s simply not possible to say which is closer: they are all in some sense Marxist. SC: By the same token, is it true that Israeli kibbutz is the only example where Marxism is working quite well to this day? Any other examples? ST: Kibbutz has very little to do with Marxism—even if some of the early pioneers were influenced by Marx! These are classic utopian socialist communities of the kind that Marx could be rather dismissive of because they fail to connect to the “real world” struggles of the working class. This is not to say he was against them, he just thought them a bit of an irrelevance; almost a middle-class reaction that distracted from the muscular serious business of building a movement capable of challenging the ruling class. I don’t think the Kibbutzim are really up to that sort of task. More generally, it wouldn’t make a lot of sense to talk about “examples” of Marxism in action. Marxism is a total explanatory system of thought while communism is a total vision of a different kind of world, and so cannot really subsist in the midst of a capitalist system. There are no and can be no “examples” of communism as long as the outside world remains capitalist. Utopian communities are at best prefigurative or suggestive of other possible ways of living, but nowhere does Marx imply that a better world can be created on the basis of the expansion of communal living of this kind. SC: Now that most of the Communist world has collapsed, are Marx’s ideas still relevant to today’s times? ST: If anything, they are more relevant, not less so. The world is pretty much how Marx described it 150 years ago, which is quite impressive in itself. This is to say that we now have a more or less integrated world capitalist system, with a global rich and global poor—as Marx predicted. There is huge exploitation across all societies—the proliferation of sweatshops and export processing zones are all very much in keeping with Marx’s account. The peasantry is being systematically wiped out in a global process of dispossession, and of course, social democracy, which started as a form of ultra moderate ‘Marxism’ (Marxism lite) is in retreat in all areas where it once enjoyed hegemony. The wealthy are very much in the ascendancy. At the same time, we are daily reminded of the fragility of the global system, its proneness to wild gyrations, and shocks. Only last week one trader nearly brought down one of the largest banks in Europe, which in turn had a very dramatic effect on the stock markets already reeling from increased commodity prices and an escalating debt crisis. All this is highly explicable in Marxian terms. On the other hand, there are problems or shortcomings in the analysis, which should not be lost sight of, not least of which is the resilience of capitalism to deep shocks of this kind. We don’t really see much of a communist movement emerging anywhere either. So the irony might be that at the moment when Marx’s ideas are even more relevant, so the attractiveness of Marxism (or more accurately communism) as a mobilizing ideology seems in decline. But this, of course, can change. SC: How does your own work relate to Marx, and what are you working on currently? ST: A lot of my work rotates around the “if not Marx, then what?”-type question. Marxism is clearly at some level discredited and unattractive to many, not least because of the experience of communism in action. However, the problems Marx describes have not gone away, and thus the need for some post-capitalist thinking is clearly still there. A lot of my work concerns the efforts of those who have attempted in this way to “think past Marx”—figures such as Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze, the autonomists, Hardt and Negri, and so forth. I am interested in the new forms of radical politics that have displaced the political party as the primary agent. Young radicals are often much more interested in events like the World Social Forum, and in hacktivism, subvertising, culture jamming, etc. How do we read these kinds of phenomena? Some of that thinking is explicated in my Anti-Capitalism: A Beginner’s Guide (Oneworld, 2004)—but there’s a lot more to say and study on the topic.

Political activist, philosopher, and revolutionary, the German-born Karl Marx (1818–1883) is arguably the most influential socialist thinker of the 19th century. His Communist Manifesto, co-autho...

Arguably the most influential architect, designer and urban planner of the 20th century, Swiss-born Le Corbusier (Charles-Edouard Jeanneret, 1887-1965), played a decisive role in the development of modern architecture representative of the industrial age. Nicholas Fox Weber was born in Hartford, Connecticut and graduated from Columbia College and Yale University. He is the director of the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation and the author of thirteen previous books, among them The Clarks of CooperstownBalthusPatron SaintsThe Art of Babar and most recently Le Corbusier: A Life. He and his wife, the novelist Katharine Weber, live in Bethany, Connecticut, and Paris. They have two daughters.
Simply Charly: Your publisher describes your book on Le Corbusier as the "first biography of the man." Why do you think it has taken this long to get a "complete" story of this extraordinary architect? Nicholas Fox Weber: It would have been impossible to get the complete biography of Le Corbusier during his lifetime; he would have tried to exercise control and spin stories in the way that suited his personal mythology. But I had never known for sure why, before me, no one had tried since his death in 1965. I have to assume it is because Corbu seemed so cold—which, in fact, he was not—and the life seemed so dry—while it was in truth anything but. SC: Le Corbusier was chiefly known as an architect and urban planner. Yet, he was also an accomplished painter producing an impressive array of work. Why do you think this aspect of his work has been marginalized? NFW: Some people take his painting very seriously. And it commands high prices. But I think it has been put in second place quite simply because it is not nearly as good as his architecture. His buildings are without equal and totally original. His painting conjures Leger, Picasso, and others, without being of their standard. SC: Le Corbusier was a prolific writer with over 50 books and pamphlets to his credit. In fact, Frank Lloyd Wright once remarked about Le Corbusier, "Now that he has finished one building, he'll go write four books about it." Was there a unifying theme that he was aiming to get across through his many writings? NFW: He was forever saying that he had changed the way human beings lived. He was obsessed by, and wrote time and again about, the need for the ideal human habitation to allow people to live in a community, and, at the same time, to enjoy solitude and their private lives. He also was forever writing about the need for honesty in building. SC: Le Corbusier's European contemporary, Mies van der Rohe, produced an impressive number of highly regarded buildings in the United States. Yet, Le Corbusier designed only one - The Carpenter Center at Harvard University. Why do you think he produced no commissions in the United States beyond that building? NFW: Mies moved to the United States. Corbu did not. Moreover, Corbu thought that Americans were essentially unspiritual. But, beyond that, he would have built in the US if Americans had commissioned him; they failed to do so, in spite of his best efforts. SC: Can you briefly tell us what Le Corbusier's five points of architecture were? NFW: I would prefer to have readers go to the source and find this in his own language. As a biographer, whenever I can, I present my subject's own voice. SC: Can you describe Le Corbusier's foray into furniture design? NFW: This is a complex matter because one will never know how much of his designs for chairs and tables depended on Pierre Jeanneret and Charlotte Perriand. But the elan and grace of the furniture designs associated with the three of them probably come from his supreme aesthetic instincts—more than anyone else's. The point of the furniture was, as he always wrote to his parents: enjoy life, enjoy the act of looking, allow yourself pleasure and comfort! SC: Why were Le Corbusier's relations with women so tense and dismissive? NFW: I don't agree with this description. His lovers remained devoted to him, calling him a man of heart and pleasure. He had a tense relationship with his mother, however; he could rarely please her or get the approval she gave to his brother. But while he had problems with, for example, Eileen Gray, he had a wonderful connection with another woman architect, Pauline Schulman. He could be tense and dismissive with women he didn't like, but warm and comprehending with others. SC: What was the most revealing aspect of Le Corbusier's life you uncovered during your research for this book? NFW: That he was a man of immense heart. I suppose it is also fascinating that he was obsessed with sex, which was sometimes a problematic issue for him. SC: Le Corbusier, a fantastic swimmer all his life, drowned while swimming in the Mediterranean. Some suspected it was a suicide while others say it was caused by a heart attack. Do we know the true cause of his death? NFW: Forgive me, but I can only say: please read the book and come to your own conclusions. Corbu's attitudes toward death and the control of one's own destiny are my central issues. SC: Who among today's architects do you feel are extending Le Corbusier's work? NFWA: I wish I could name one. The pretenders don't come close.

Arguably the most influential architect, designer and urban planner of the 20th century, Swiss-born Le Corbusier (Charles-Edouard Jeanneret, 1887-1965), played a decisive role in the development of ...

An 18th-century German philosopher, Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) is considered as one of the most influential thinkers of the late Enlightenment. His works, which offer an analysis of theoretical and moral reason and the ability of human judgment, have had a significant impact on modern philosophy, fine arts, literature, as well as intellectual movements of the 19th and 20th centuries.
Pablo Muchnik is currently Associate Professor at Emerson College, specializing in the philosophy of Immanuel Kant as well as in modern and political philosophy. He is the author of The Dangers of Self-Love: An Essay on Kant's Theory of Evil, Kant's Theory of Evil, Kant's Anatomy of Evil, and editor of Rethinking Kant: Volume 1.

Simply Charly: Immanuel Kant was born in Konigsberg, Prussia, and never left his hometown during his lifetime, which was unusual even by the standards of the 18th century. Do we know why he never ventured farther afield? Pablo Muchnik: The proverbial answer to this question is that Kant, living in Konigsberg, which was a thriving port at the time, did not need to leave the city to know the world. The world, rather, came to him through commerce, politics, culture, and the University. Moreover, Kant was an omnivorous reader (of history, biography, literature, travel books, etc.). This bookish existence made him sensitive to, and familiar with, the modes of life of other times and peoples. Kant's was an attitude shared by many of his contemporaries. Rousseau, for example, invented the "noble savage" out of the same literary materials and second-hand accounts Kant was reading. Remember: anthropology was an incipient science at the time, and Kant was instrumental in making it legitimate. SC: How did his home-based existence shape (either positively or negatively) his views of the world and human nature? How did Kant remain open-minded to new ideas in spite of his lack of exposure to the world around him? PM: Kant made a virtue out of locality. He claimed that to know mankind, one must first get acquainted with one's own townsmen and countrymen. Like good cheese or wine, a citizen of the world must be locally rooted if he/she is going to transcend the village. Needless to say, being situated is not to be confused with bigotry. Kant dreamt of a cosmopolitan world, where different states and cultures would peacefully coexist and organize in republican form. This coexistence, he believed, was the result of expanding the "public use of reason" to every sphere of human activity. That is, all claims by authorities (the government, the church, traditions, etc.) had to be submitted to the public examination of reason. This critical attitude was the most powerful antidote to bigotry and prejudice—it would ensure a pluralism in which differences were not to be resolved by violence, but through rational communication. This was the article of faith of Kant's view of the Enlightenment. SC: German philosopher Otfried Hoffe said that Kant's thinking influenced “the modern face of the landscape of Western thought beyond the boundaries of the discipline.” Do you agree and, if so, can you cite some examples of the influence of Kant's thoughts? PM: Kant understood himself as introducing a revolution in our ways of thinking about every important aspect of human activity. To name just a few examples: in knowledge, Kant showed that what we call "objectivity" was subjectively patterned; in morality, that what we call “good” was the result of our own rational activity; in aesthetics, that what we call “beautiful” was not a property of the object, but the pleasurable outcome of the play of our mental faculties. All these conceptual “revolutions” share a common feature: they place the autonomous activity of a subject at the center of philosophical attention. If Marx is right in describing the experience of modernity as one in which everything solid melts into thin air, Kant can be considered, by making us aware of our (almost unlimited) capacity for action and authorship, as the father of the modern period. SC: Kant is universally regarded as one of the most influential philosophers of his time. Did any of his Enlightenment contemporaries, or later philosophers, express disagreements with his thinking? PM: Kant was a revolutionary thinker but was entrapped by an outmoded conceptual apparatus that often fell short of the thoughts he was trying to convey. This tension sealed the destiny of Kant's reception: many of his contemporaries misunderstood him, and many of his successors criticized him for being too timid and conventional in his philosophical moves. He was considered too new for the old, and too old for the new. If one reads Kant carefully, however, one can see that this contradiction was, in a way, premeditated. For Kant, the old thinkers thought of the world as being independent of the subject, and hence disregarded the contribution of our rational activity to its making; the new thinkers, on the other hand, only saw the subject's activity, and hence disregarded the contribution of the world to our making of it. Kant deliberately tried to strike a middle ground. [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Immanuel Kant Immanuel Kant[/caption] SC: By the same token which philosophers of renown had Kant inspired? PM: Whitehead once said that the history of philosophy was a series of footnotes to Plato. When it comes to modern philosophy, the footnotes to Plato derive from the footnotes to Kant. Kant influenced everything and everybody, from Hegel to Nietzsche to existentialism to American pragmatism to the analytic tradition. In the realm of political philosophy, Habermas and Rawls are among the most enthusiastic recent Kantian voices. SC: Kant himself claimed that he had sparked a “Copernican revolution” in philosophy. Can you explain how? PM: Copernicus introduced a shift in our way of understanding the movement of the stars: instead of the sun revolving around the earth, Copernicus proposed to reverse the perspective and have the earth revolve around the sun. This reversal avoided the uncertainty and complications of prior astronomical calculations. Kant made a similar gesture: instead of our conceptions being derived from the objects, as traditional philosophers used to hold, Kant proposed that the object instead accommodate our conceptions. He saw in this shift of perspective a key to bringing metaphysics into the “secure path of science.” Otherwise, he foresaw the perpetuation of a cycle in which dogmatism and skepticism would alternate. SC: Which of Kant's philosophies and views are still relevant in the 21st century? And, as a follow-up, can an 18th-century philosophy still ring true and remain pertinent today? PM: Kantian ethics and political philosophy have offered inspiration to the most original and articulate defenses of liberalism available today; historically oriented Kantian scholarship is among the best in the Anglo-American philosophical world; Kantian aesthetics is perhaps the most amenable to deal with modern art; Kantian epistemology has foiled influential developments in analytic philosophy. Great thinkers, no matter when they write, project big shadows and persevere against the tides of fashion. Critics are perhaps the most important forces in perpetuating their shadows. And this is true of Kant, indeed. SC: How does a professor like you convey Kant’s complex ideas to students in simple terms? PM: It is always a struggle. I try to pass the Kantian bug to my students by bouts of sheer passion, having patience with their difficulties, and acknowledging my own. Kant is a thinker that humbles anyone. Yet, teachers can turn that humbling feeling to productive use by endorsing Wordsworth's motto: "What we have loved, others will love/and we will teach them how." SC: Kant is one of the philosophers you specialize in. What attracted you to his thoughts? PM: Kant's unflinching commitment to individual freedom and responsibility—be that in knowledge, in morality, in politics, in religion, in art. It is always we who make the world according to our lights and must be held accountable for it. It also attracts me to the therapeutic dimension of Kant's thought. For Kant, reason is doomed to wound itself in its attempt to know the absolute, and his philosophy is meant to remind us not only of the futility of such an attempt but also of the way to avoid the wound and channel wasted metaphysical energies towards morally productive uses. Philosophers have much to learn from this self-discipline. SC: At the Siena College where you teach, you founded the Symposium on Living Philosophers. What is its objective, and how does it relate to Kant? PM: The Symposium is a program devoted to exploring the thought of key contemporary thinkers, allow students to experience philosophy as an act of hospitality, and show the general public the relevance of the humanities for the understanding of our world. It tries to cultivate the idea of the philosopher as a public intellectual, not just an egghead that spends her time on dusty books and useless tasks. The Enlightenment was a period in which philosophers thought they could make a difference. They were committed intellectuals, not mere technicians of ideas—and Kant was among their best. This vocational aspect of the philosophical life, sadly endangered by the professional pressures of the current academic world, inspires our program at Siena.

An 18th-century German philosopher, Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) is considered as one of the most influential thinkers of the late Enlightenment. His works, which offer an analysis of theoretical and...

An 18th-century German philosopher, Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) is considered as one of the most influential thinkers of the late Enlightenment. His works, which offer an analysis of theoretical and moral reason and the ability of human judgment, have had a significant impact on modern philosophy, fine arts, literature, as well as intellectual movements of the 19th and 20th centuries.
Allen W. Wood is Ward W. and Pricilla B. Woods Professor of Philosophy at Stanford University. He has also taught at Cornell and Yale Universities, with visiting appointments at the University of Michigan and the University of California at San Diego. His many books include Kant's Moral ReligionHegel's Ethical ThoughtKant's Ethical Thought, and Kantian Ethics; and is the co-editor of the Cambridge edition of Kant's works.

Simply Charly: Kant is notoriously one of the most difficult philosophers to understand. His works are very dense with obscure locutions that impede many from completing his works much less understanding them at all. How would you advise someone approaching Kant's work for the first time? Allen Wood: I don't know how to make difficult philosophy easier. I can only recommend that someone read it over and over again. (I think I misunderstood most of Kant's Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals the first fifty or so times I read it. Then I finally understood it.) About his terminology, however, I do have something to say. Kant uses a set of terms he borrowed from the Wolffian tradition, which in turn got most of them from Latin scholasticism. Kant was not a well-informed historian of philosophy, but his choice to use the jargon he borrowed from Wolff and Baumgarten was very fortunate because it connects him to medieval scholastic philosophy and thereby to Aristotle (when he knew neither the scholastics nor Aristotle very well at all, first hand). So we should be grateful for this terminology since it enables us to relate Kant to the whole history of Western philosophy, although he didn't know it very well. SC: Although primarily known as a philosopher, Kant had an abiding interest in science. In fact, his early writings address scientific matters. Did he make any important contributions in this area? AW: Probably his most famous single scientific contribution was the nebular hypothesis of the origin of the solar system, which he presented in an early essay (1755). This work was not widely circulated, however, and so the hypothesis was not known to be his until after it had received a much more precise mathematical formulation by La Place years later. Kant also had some interesting things to say in early essays about Leibnizian physics. But perhaps Kant's greatest scientific contributions were to what we would now call 'earth sciences' and to anthropology. He was among the first to teach both “physical geography” (as he called it) and the science of human nature. He regarded these two studies as related: the first teaches us about the physical environment of humanity, the second about the social environment. SC: Kant famously remarked, as is often reported, that he was awoken from his dogmatic slumbers by Scottish philosopher David Hume's problem of induction. However, you've argued that “There never was any ‘slumber’ from which to awake.” Can you explain it? AW: The term “dogmatic slumber” (used by Kant in the Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics) suggests (in Kantian terms) unthinking acceptance of Wolffian philosophy. But Kant never was an uncritical follower of Wolff. That's why, in his case, there never was a dogmatic slumber from which to awaken. I think his imaginary account of his philosophical development in the Prolegomena is better seen as his conception of a possible course that a typical reader of that work, educated in Wolffian philosophy, might take—going from uncritical acceptance of Wolff through Hume to Kant's philosophy. Kant was hoping, by depicting his own course as having followed this one, to lead his readers on the same path, even though it was not the path he had followed. SC: Kant's philosophical works were largely a result of his reaction to his predecessors—Locke, Berkeley, Hume, Rousseau. Against what was he reacting to? AW: This question would require a much longer answer than I can give if it were to be answered adequately. In metaphysics, Kant was chiefly reacting against Wolff and Baumgarten. In moral philosophy, he was reacting against them too, but also against Hutcheson's moral sense theory, though he also was positively influenced by Wolff and Baumgarten and also by Hutcheson. He saw himself (I think correctly) as a follower of Rousseau, not a critic. His relation to Hume was ambivalent, but I think in his own view, more positive than negative. Philosophers brought up in the empiricist tradition tend to see Kant's relation to Hume as oppositional, but that tells us more about them, their philosophical prejudices, and the limits of their philosophical imagination than it does about Kant's relation to Hume. This is not an adequate answer to your question, but as I said, an adequate answer is beyond what I can give in any brief space. [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Immanuel Kant Immanuel Kant[/caption] SC: One of Kant's most prominent works is the Critique of Pure Reason, an investigation into the limitations and structure of reason itself. It encompasses an attack on traditional metaphysics and epistemology and highlights Kant's own contribution to these areas. Can you briefly explain what he set out to do in this work? AW: His chief aim in the work is to explore the limits of the capacity of reason to gain knowledge a priori. This was done in the Dialectic of Pure Reason, and the conclusions from it are presented in the “Doctrine of Method” (the last part of the Critique which few people have the stamina ever to read). The most famous parts of the Critique, the Aesthetic and Analytic, attempt to explore what we can know a priori. This seems controversial to people brought up in the empiricist tradition because they've internalized the dogma that we can know nothing at all a priori, so that is the part they concentrate on. But for Kant, these early parts of the Critique had the aim mainly of setting the stage for the exploration of how we come to ask metaphysical questions we cannot answer, why we cannot answer them, and what positive lessons we may learn from the fact that we are driven to ask these questions which lie beyond the bounds of our faculties. We can see that this is really the aim of the Critique from the very first sentence of the Preface in the A edition: “Reason has the peculiar fate in respect of one species of its cognitions that it is burdened with questions which it cannot dismiss, because they are prescribed to it by the nature of reason, but which it also cannot answer, because they surpass every faculty of human reason.” This sentence talks about what happens in the Dialectic, not in the Aesthetic and Analytic. SC: Kant believed that our mind actively structures how we encounter the world—that the mind makes the world not the other way round. Can you briefly explain this? AW: I think this is a very common but very misleading characterization of Kant's transcendental idealism. He doesn't think the mind makes the world—as though it were a figment of our imagination and nothing more. Our cognitive capacities rather prescribe the conditions under which we can cognize the world, and therefore enable us to distinguish questions about the world that we can answer from questions we cannot. That seems to me a more accurate way to put it. SC: He also made significant contributions to the field of ethics as set out in his The Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. Can you briefly tell us what his principal contribution in this area was? And does any of it have any relevance today? AW: His explicit aim in the Groundwork is to search for and establish the supreme principle of morality. This provides the basic grounding of moral philosophy, but nothing beyond that. It is still relevant if you think morality rests on a single fundamental principle. I do think it is still relevant, and especially relevant to the way we think about things is the second formula of the moral law (of the three main ones Kant gives): Namely, the formula of Humanity as End In Itself. I think it is a powerful idea that humanity in the person of every human being has absolute worth or dignity—hence equal worth. This is the basis of a radical Enlightenment conception of moral value, the full consequences of which are still very far from having been fully understood and applied in human affairs. SC: Peter Strawson's work The Bounds of Sense (1966) reinvigorated interest in Immanuel Kant's philosophy. Since then, have there been any other major contributions worth noting in Kant studies? AW: When I last saw Strawson, in November 2005 (about two months before his death) he insisted that The Bounds of Sense was not, and was never intended as, a work of “Kant scholarship.” He said it was a philosophical encounter with Kant. But I think that along with Jonathan Bennett's Kant's Analytic, it played an essential role in getting analytically trained philosophers thinking about Kant. A number of books since then have developed this interest in a way that really is what Strawson meant by “Kant scholarship.” If I had to name the single most important of these, I would say it is Henry Allison's Kant's Transcendental Idealism, first published in 1983 and then much revised for the second edition of 2004. To list all the excellent studies of Kant since then would be a foolish enterprise: I'd have to list many names, and I'd be sure to leave out some important ones. So I won't try. SC: You're regarded as one of the leading scholars on Kant. How have you extended Immanuel Kant's work? And what relevance does he have for us today? AW: I won't comment on my own contributions since that is a job for others. Kant's relevance today is too manifold to attempt to describe. But it can be indicated by simply listing some of the philosophical movements in the past two centuries that would have been impossible without Kant's philosophy as their background: German idealism, Neo-Kantianism, Pragmatism, Logical Positivism, Phenomenology, Existentialism, Analytical Philosophy. If I have left out any important philosophical movements of the last two centuries, they probably belong on the list as well. In short, Kant is central to the background and context of all significant philosophy for the past two hundred years. To say he is “relevant” to all philosophy today would be grossly understating it.

An 18th-century German philosopher, Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) is considered as one of the most influential thinkers of the late Enlightenment. His works, which offer an analysis of theoretical and...

Best known for his Incompleteness Theorem, Kurt Gödel (1906-1978) is considered one of the most important mathematicians and logicians of the 20th century. By showing that the establishment of a set of axioms encompassing all of mathematics would never succeed, he revolutionized the world of mathematics, logic, and philosophy.
Sir Roger Penrose is known worldwide for his work in mathematics and mathematical physics, in particular, general relativity and cosmology. Currently Emeritus Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford and Emeritus Fellow of Wadham College, he has been awarded numerous honors for his scientific contributions. His many books include The Emperor’s New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds, and the Laws of PhysicsShadows of the Mind: A Search for the Missing Science of ConsciousnessThe Nature of Space and Time (with Stephen Hawking), and most recently The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe.

Simply Charly: Kurt Gödel’s 1931 Incompleteness Theorem disrupted German mathematician David Hilbert’s agenda for 20th-century mathematical research and rocked the very foundations of mathematics in general. What was this pivotal insight that turned the foundations of mathematics on its head? Roger Penrose: Hilbert was hoping to be able to formalize mathematics in a completely clear way so that the issue of whether a result was to be considered to be “proved” could be made completely unambiguous. This desire had been prompted by the appearance of “paradoxes,” such as Bertrand Russell’s "set of all sets that are not members of themselves." If some area of mathematics could be formulated in such a way that the proof procedures are completely unambiguous and clear-cut (in a sense that I shall come to below), one should be able to make sure that contradictions, such as Russell’s paradox, didn’t occur (i.e., were not part of the accepted proof procedures), then that area of mathematics would be put on a sound basis. Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems showed that Hilbert’s program was unachievable—at least for sufficiently broad areas of mathematics (such as the ordinary number theory of the integers). Gödel showed that for such an area of mathematics, for any proposed formal system F (a “formalization,” in the above Hilbertian sense) which intended to describe it would always fail to be able to establish some result (that could be explicitly constructed in terms of the rules of F)—let us call this result G(F)—even though G(F) could be seen to be necessarily true, by methods outside the rules of F, provided that the rules of F could themselves be trusted as yielding only true results. In the form of Gödel’s result that is most commonly referred to is his “second” Incompleteness Theorem, in which G(F) effectively asserts that F is consistent, so the argument tells us that the consistency of F cannot be proved within the rules of F itself. In my view, this has the appearance of somewhat downgrading the significance of Gödel’s theorem because it gives it perhaps a somewhat circular appearance, “consistency” being a somewhat internal matter of concern. SC: How would you explain Kurt Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem to a layman? RP: I prefer to state Gödel’s result in a more direct way, using Turing’s notion of computation. The point about a formal system F is that it provides a proposed method of “proof” which has the character that the correctness of any such “proof,” according to the rules of F, is computationally checkable. That is to say, there is a computer program P[F] which when applied to any such “proof” will always say “OK” or “NOT OK” after a finite time. What Gödel tells us is that if we are presented with F which we “believe in” in the sense that we are prepared to accept as actually true any mathematical statement that P[F] says “OK” to a proposed proof of, then there is a specifically constructible mathematical statement G(F) which we must also accept as actually true, but which there is no “proof” within the rules of F which P[F] will say “OK” to. To put this another way, if we accept F as giving us a sound set of procedures of mathematical proof, then we are able (via Gödel’s ingenious argument) to transcend the methods of F to see the truth of results that are beyond the scope of F. Thus, if we trust F, then we can transcend F. SC: In your book, The Emperor’s New Mind, you made clever use of Gödel’s proof to advance the view that artificial intelligence is impossible, or that machines cannot think. Can you briefly explain the main thrust of your argument? RP: The thrust of my argument is that the quality of “understanding” is something outside the capabilities of a computer. It is through understanding that we can use the Gödel argument to extend our belief in the trustworthiness of some F to the belief in the truth of G(F), even though G(F) is unobtainable by means of the rules of F. The generality of Gödel’s argument simply illustrates how powerful conscious reasoning (through understanding) can be. Just following rules (which is what computers do—albeit extraordinarily well) is something very different from understanding. (This is something that educationalists know very well!) I argue that understanding (whatever it is) requires “consciousness” (whatever “that” is!). To take the argument further, I take the view that the quality of consciousness is something that is potentially out there in the physical world, and is not necessarily something unique to human beings. But I regard the Gödel argument as showing that conscious understanding is something that cannot be properly imitated by a computer. So I argue that if consciousness is part of physics—describable by the “true” laws of physics—then the true laws of physics must be non-computable. It is known (using Gödel-Turing-type arguments) that there are many areas of mathematics that are actually non-computable, so I am claiming that the true laws of physics (not yet fully known to us) must also be non-computable. But the known laws of physics are (more-or-less) computable, so we must look outside the known laws. I argue, further, that the only plausible loophole in the laws that we know lies in the issue of quantum measurement, and that the “measurement paradox” (basically “Schrödinger’s cat”) points to where we need to make further progress in our understanding of the laws of physics in order to uncover what is actually non-computable in the true laws). [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="363"]Kurt Gödel Kurt Gödel[/caption] SC: It’s been 20 years since the publication of The Emperor’s New Mind. How has your viewpoint held up? RP: In my book Shadows of the Mind, I developed these ideas quite considerably, mainly in three directions (1) strengthening the Gödelian argument (making it more rigorous) (2) improving my criterion for the onset of new physics, in relation to the “measurement paradox” (3) learning from Stuart Hameroff about microtubules, and taking the view that it must be at the level of neuronal microtubules, basically, (rather than neurons) that the required coherent quantum processes (and “non-computable beyond-quantum-mechanics” processes) must manifest themselves. How has it held up? Of course, many people have remained skeptical. But despite the many (often aggressive) arguments from others, my arguments seem to me to have stood up well enough (and are described in the soon-to-be-published proceedings of the Vienna conference honoring Gödel’s centenary, with the approval of some of my sternest critics from the community of logicians). On the biological side, there are some recent very striking results concerning microtubules, but these are not published as yet. On the quantum physics side, there are some theoretical developments, but the (extremely difficult) experiments are still being developed. SC: Philosopher J.R. Lucas advanced a similar argument in a paper entitled “Minds, Machines and Gödel” in the journal Philosophy in 1961. Are you familiar with his paper? RP: Yes, Lucas put forward a similar type of argument to my own before I did (and Nagel and Newman before Lucas, and Gödel before them), although I believe that my own argument has rather more mathematical rigor than Lucas’s one did. Of course, Lucas was arguing from the point of view of a philosopher, and I from the point of view of a mathematical physicist. SC: How did Gödel’s proof influence Alan Turing’s work? RP: Quite a lot. Turing was very impressed by Gödel’s argument, and he developed that argument further, phrasing it in terms of non-computability, more-or-less in the way that I have done (following Turing) above. Turing’s philosophical standpoint (at least later in his life) was different from Gödel’s, however. Gödel seemed to think that human minds must transcend physics, whereas my view is that conscious minds must transcend the presently known physics, but that physics is too limited. Turing seemed to base his later views on a computer model of minds in which the way around the Gödel theorems lies in the fact that conscious humans make mistakes. I try to argue in my books that this is an implausible let-out. SC: Around the same time that Gödel was working on his Incompleteness Theorems, another logician by the name of Alfred Tarski was working with similar results. Why do you suppose Tarski’s work hasn’t garnered as much attention as Gödel’s? RP: I don’t know the history well enough. There were several other logicians who were on to the same sort of issues that Gödel was. My guess is that Tarski’s results weren’t so developed as Gödel’s at the time, but I don’t really know the details. I had the impression that Gödel’s results were a bit of a bomb-shell though taking a bit of time to be appreciated fully. SC: Another fundamental result that Gödel worked on was his proof of the consistency of two problematic hypotheses with the axioms of set theory in 1939. Can you briefly explain this? RP: I think this must refer to the Gödel work that was carried on by Paul Cohen. They showed that Cantor’s continuum hypothesis and the axiom of choice (two famous assertions in mathematics) cannot be proved or disproved within one of the standard formal systems for mathematics (known as the Zermelo-Frankel system). This is very interesting, of course, but as we already know from the Gödel Incompleteness Theorems, proof within a specific formal system is not the same as being able to see that something in mathematics is true or false by general mathematical argument. SC: Gödel also dabbled outside of his field of expertise by proving that time travel to the past was possible under Einstein’s equations. Should we give any credence to his proof? RP: He only showed that such time travel was possible within his specific cosmology. This, of course, is fascinating, but we don’t now believe that this particular cosmological model actually holds for our own universe. Yet Gödel’s arguments were ahead of their time and certainly influential in the development of relativity theory. SC: Like Gödel, you are a Platonist, who views mathematical truth as "absolute, external, and eternal, and not based on man-made criteria." Is there any proof one can evince to support such a standpoint? Or is it just a belief? RP: I think there are many possible different understandings of what "Platonism" means. Some "Platonists" like Gödel were very "strong Platonists" in the sense that they would believe that all mathematical statements must have an absolute truth value—so the truth is in a sense "out there," and not the product of our minds, having some subjective aspect to them. In my own case, I do not feel so strongly as Gödel seemed to that all mathematical truth is objective, but I would probably go much of the way with him. There is a separate issue having to do with the basis of physical reality. Is physical reality based on a deeper mathematical reality? I think that my own picture is best expressed in my "Three-worlds" picture (in "Shadows of the Mind" and "The Road to Reality"), in which I indicate how the physical world, the mental world of conscious experience, and the Platonic world of mathematical forms inter-relate to one another via three "mysteries". This is not really a belief system, however, but rather a clarifying picture, in my view. SUGGESTED READING [table id=3 /]

Best known for his Incompleteness Theorem, Kurt Gödel (1906-1978) is considered one of the most important mathematicians and logicians of the 20th century. By showing that the establishment of a set ...