Friday, November 30, 2012

Twinkies are Forever

Hostess Brands may now be going down the dark road to liquidation; but, according to a story filed yesterday on BBC News, the Twinkie is unlikely to go down with the ship. The report claims that the Twinkie brand has 110 potential buyers, including "at least five national retailers." Given that the Twinkie may be one of the more significant factors to the epidemic of obesity in the United States, I find it ironic that the Web-based advertising service used by BBC News decided to accompany this article with an ad for the ideeli fashion, featuring a photograph of a particularly svelte model all dolled up for New Year's Eve. Clearly, no Twinkies were harmed in the making of that advertisement!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

On the Death of Lois Bewley

Today's New York Times ran an article by Bruce Weber announcing the death of Lois Bewley at the age of 78. The headline described her as a "multifaceted ballerina;" but, for her many talents, she never really "made it big" in the dance world, even in New York, where she was based and seemed to accommodate just about anyone with his/her own ideas of what a dance concert should be. Nevertheless, Bewley was important to me. She was one of the members of the First Chamber Dance Quartet, whose "chamber" approach to choreography was refreshingly innovative. Mind you, my opinion is biased, because that ensemble was one of the first I reviewed when I was just beginning to build up my chops as a dance critic. They were the first group I ever interviewed, and I shall always remember Bewley because she did almost all of the talking. This is not a criticism, just a recollection that she was the member of the group who could put her thoughts into words as readily as she could put them into choreography.

In many respect the world of dance is a bit like the Tao. Those who know it do not speak, and those who speak of it do not know. Bewley spoke as one who knew, and her dancing and choreography warranted her knowledge. I thought I had forgotten about her until I read Weber's report this morning.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Another Crazy Birthday Coincidence

From a musical point of view, today is important because it would have been Jimi Hendrix 70th birthday. (I happen to be listening to Anton Bruckner as I write this. Go figure it.) However, we know from statistical parlor games that it does not take a particularly large number of people in one room to find two who share the same birthday. When we broaden the scope of history, the room becomes larger; and the coincidences become weirder.

We thus discover that Jimi Hendrix shared his birthday with Buffalo Bob Smith from The Howdy Doody Show. The thought of Hendrix sitting in front of a television set responding to Smith's famous question ("Hey, kids, what time is it?") with "It's Howdy Doody Time!" is more bizarre than the most psychedelic of any of his album covers. Furthermore, for those who think that things could not get weirder, today is also Caroline Kennedy's birthday!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Literature Gone Wild

Christopher Ricks is playing all sorts of games in his review of Ian McEwan's Sweet Tooth for The New York Review (probably to give the reader some impression of what McEwan is doing). In the course of his exploits, however, he lands on one gem of a sentence that is so delightful that "sharing with the group" was my immediate reaction:
It is a truth universally acknowledged that Oxford University's effortless superiority to Cambridge is nowhere clearer than in the pathetic inability of Cambridge spies to remain undetected.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

On the Pornography of Bogus Science

Alissa Quart has a wonderful op-ed piece in today's edition of The New York Times. The title is "Neuroscience: Under Attack." The crux of the title is that the study of neuroscience by qualified and competent practitioners is being undermined by writers to peddle their wares to pop culture and therefore do not even deserve the be called journalists in any professional sense of that term. Quart is not shy about naming names: Naomi Wolf for Vagina, Chris Mooney for The Republican Brain, Jonah Lehrer for Imagine: How Creativity Works, and, of course, Malcolm Gladwell, the undisputed master of drawing unwarranted conclusions from mountains of anecdotal data.

I particularly like the way Quart has assigned a label to this particular genre of writing about neuroscience. She calls is "brain porn." She even has a nice one-sentence characterization of the category:
Another way of saying this is that bogus science gives vague, undisciplined thinking the look of seriousness and truth.
Mind you, Stephen Colbert already gave us the noun "truthiness;" but I much prefer the pornographic connotation.

If Quart had been given more column inches, however, she might have point out that neuroscience was hardly the first scientific discipline to be so undermined. Think of all the ways in which genome research got distorted into equally distorted speculations about genes far too bogus to be dignified with the label "hypothesis." I was beginning to think that Richard Lewontin would have to spend the rest of his life straightening out the misconceptions of those searching for a "gene for creativity," a "gene for homosexuality," and (most recently and perhaps most chilling) a "Jewish gene."

I recently read a paper with the fascinating title "When the Brain Plays Music: Auditory—Motor Interactions in Music Perception and Production." It was a review paper. Review papers are not for casual readers. Indeed, back when I was involved with more specific projects, I used to hate them because they were too broad for the narrowly-focused goals I was trying to pursue. These days I can take things at a more leisurely pace, which means I can be patient with plodding through a review paper; and, as readers of this site know, I was rewarded with some fascinating insights into what we now know about how the brain deals with such matters as rhythm. It is a perfect example of a question to which there is no simple answer but which there are valuable insights for those willing to live with the complexity.

Quart is one of those who appreciates when complexity is necessary. She probably also recognizes that those who can manage complexity are in a very small minority. My fear is that the minority is so small that, in the brutality of social Darwinism, it may have lost its survival value.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

They Still Do Things Big in Texas

This is one of those grim stories about how bigger is not always better. According to a BBC News report, dense fog on Interstate 10 in Texas resulted in a 100-vehicle pile-up in which a man and woman were killed when their vehicle was crushed by a tractor trailer. It is no coincidence that this should occur on a day of the year when travel is at its heaviest. I suspect also that all of those families getting from here to there for the sake of having a good time did not expect that roads would also be crowded with commercial traffic, but the photograph accompanying this report shows just how wrong that assumption was. Nevertheless, I am sure that none of this will put a dent in the day's television commercials showing free-spirited individuals and families tooling down the open road in their overly-large vehicles. In another world today's disaster might serve as a reality check, but our world is one in which the pursuit of happiness has become the pursuit of happiness through consumerism.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Paul Volker Identifies the Problem behind the Mess

The latest issue of The New York Review of Books has an article entitled "What the New President Should Consider." The text comes from a lecture that Paul Volker gave at Cooper Union long before election day, and he submitted the excerpted version before the Election Day results had been finalized. Hence, the title was kept generic.

One particular remark struck me as particularly perceptive:
To my mind, our universities with prestigious schools of “Public Affairs” and “Public Policy” have concentrated far too much on high-level policy debates—i.e., what should be done—and far too little on what in practice can be done. Grand policy and great strategy can’t count for much without the resources and skills needed for implementation and management.
What Volker may have failed to recognize is that this precept cuts to the heart of why our country is so fed up with its government and the inability of that government to get anything done. The ideological gulf that has divided both the country and the Congress has progress to a point where we are now governed (sic) by representatives whose only "resources and skills" lie in promoting and defending ideological positions, rather than in the nuts and bolts of "implementation and management." Of course all of them are there because they were elected, meaning that the electorate is similarly obsessed with ideology, rather than with getting things done.

Volker offers some sage advice on how our representatives should set aside their differences and focus on shared values and goals, but he overlooks the role that divisiveness played in their becoming representatives in the first place.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Getting Some Satisfaction from the Literature

It turns out that my concern over that claim I cited that "freely generated rhythms always have interval ratios of 1:2 or 1:3" may have been a result of a misreading on the part of its authors. This weekend my reading took me to what may have been the source of the claim, a paper entitled "Hierarchical Organization of Temporal Patterns" by Peter J. Essens (whose work I used to follow when I was a more "serious" researcher. This paper was published in 1986, quite some time before the paper in which I found the claim appeared, which was in 2004.

First of all, the claim itself can probably be traced to the follow sentence from Essens' abstract:
From the systematic errors subjects made in reproducing temporal patterns, it is concluded that an accurate internal representation will be arrived at only if the temporal structure of a pattern enables an organization in which hierarchical levels relate as integers with prime factors 2 or 3.
While this sentence is, indeed, consistent with the experimental data, the paper concludes with a "General Discussion" section, which, in turn, concludes as follows:
The research reported here restricts itself to conceptual structures used by subjects from a western culture. In other cultures, different conceptual structures might be used. Data across cultures could provide insights into the universal nature of our results.
Exactly. Essens was careful to establish the limitations of his conclusions based on the limitations of his data, and it is more than a pity that some of those who read those conclusions did not respect those same limitations.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Meows Have It

Friday saw a post to NYRBlog that was as entertaining as it was informative. The title was “A Roman Cat Fight;” and the author was listed as Massimo Gatto. This was clearly a pseudonym; and, if I were a betting man, I would probably put my money on Tim Parks.

The story has to do with an effort by Roman politicians to shut down a sanctuary for cats on the grounds of Largo di Torre Argentina, presumably to satisfy more commercial interests behind city planning. One comes away with the impression that this is another instance of what we have come to call “vulture capitalism,” championed in Italy by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. However, when the vultures take aim at historical artifacts, usually destroying them in the process, it turns out, according to this post, that they are maintaining a historical legacy. Thus, the post is framed in such a way as to leave the impression that Berlusconi and those of his ilk are simply continuing a long a path previously trod by both Benito Mussolini and Saddam Hussein (both of whose names appear explicitly in the post).

That makes for some pretty powerful rhetoric. If Wilfred Owen stated, during the First World War, that all a poet could do was warn; this post demonstrates that a blogger can do more. If the blogger has the right gifts, (s)he can shake the world with a shattering miaou de cœur.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Our Inherent Sense of Rhythm

Recently, I have been reviving my interest in the role of the "wet brain" in making music. This led me to a fascinating paper entitled "Emergence of Rhythm during Motor Learning." The basic idea is that, when we learn sequences of actions, we associate a rhythm with how we perform those actions. At the end of the paper, the authors then posed the following as an outstanding question:
Why do freely generated rhythms always have interval ratios of 1:2 or 1:3?
This of course presume that those ratios always arise. While we know that they can be traced by to the earliest origins of Western music, the authors of this paper were Japanese. Is it really the case that, on a global scale, all metric patterns are organized around those two ratios?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Real Loser on Election Day

Elizabeth Drew entitled her post-election thoughts post to NYRBlog “A Victory over Suppression;” and I agree that it was right to view this election as a concerted effort by those determined to exercise their right to vote in spite of the efforts equally determined to disenfranchise them. However, since I seem to have a disposition to prefer the negative to the positive, I prefer to think about what happened last week in terms of who the real loser was. In those terms that loser would have to be Karl Rove. He staked his reputation on the premise that large sums of money could be applied to either buy or steal a victory for Mitt Romney. There are any number of ways to analyze why and how that premise was falsified; but the result was a Rove so undone by that falsification that he made a fool of himself on Fox Television, thereby prompting the network to make what may have been its first significant commitment to place reporting the news over promoting an ideology.

Unfortunately, as we know from the history of American politics, losers have a nasty habit of rising again, often high enough to become winners. We have only to look at the roller-coaster biography of Richard Nixon and his checkered (pun intended) legacy. Rove may be down (even down for the count, to play a bit more with words); but we should not assume that he is no longer a contender. At the very least, those forces of the rich and mighty, so determined to have stronger influence over all dealings of our government, are still with us; and they are already worried about salvaging their agenda. It is, of course, possible that they will turn to a better strategist, having been led astray by Rove; but that assumes that they will be able to find one.

Last week the American voters fought the good fight. It says something about our national spirit that they prevailed. However, the forces that opposed them are as strong as ever (even if, for the immediate present, they are not quite as rich). This is not a time for us to relax our vigilance, just because we maintained our freedom in last week’s battle.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Tom Wolfe's "Isle Joyeuse"

I have been having a lot of fun lately with Claude Debussy's "L'isle joyous," particularly after a student performance at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music inspired me to write an piece entitled "An encounter with Debussy at his most erotic." What struck me about this performance was that the student appreciated how this piece was inspired by Antoine Watteau’s L’Embarquement pour Cythère (whose image I had reproduced when I wrote about a less satisfying performance last May). What this student "got" was the significance of "L'Embarquement" in Watteau's title. The painting did not depict the "pleasure island" of Cythera itself but the anticipation of the travelers of what they would do when they got there (except, as I observed, for one couple in the painting who were already off to a running start).

I was reminded of this article while reading Nathaniel Rich's review of Tom Wolfe's latest novel, Back to Blood, in the latest issue of The New York Review. The novel is set primarily in Miami but also takes in one of the Florida Keys. Specifically, Wolfe invests his usual level of enthusiastic (typographically, as well as verbally) description on Elliott Key. Rich summarizes Wolfe's description (after quoting a bit of its outlandishness) as follows:
The idea is something like Bourbon Street on Mardi Gras, only on boats—thousands of boats, yachts, cigarette boats, dinghies, kayaks, clustered around the key like sharks around a bleeding seal.
In other words Elliot Key is just an Americanization of Cythera, and the anticipation depicted by Watteau has been heightened to such a fever pitch that none of the voyagers can wait to get off their respective boats!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Rachmaninoff Question

Having worked my way to the end of my project to write a series of pieces on my national site about the recordings in Arturo Toscanini: The Complete RCA Collection, I discovered something interesting about which composers among his contemporaries he chose to record. I knew that Ottorino Respighi would be there, since the old vinyl of "Pines of Rome" and "Fountains of Rome" was one of my childhood favorites. I also knew that he had conducted the American premiere of the seventh ("Leningrad") symphony of Shostakovich. Still I was a bit surprised to discover that, among all of those CDs, while both Shostakovich and Sergei Prokofiev were represented, Sergei Rachmaninoff was completely ignored. This is somewhat curious since Rachmaninoff also recorded with RCA. This has led me to wonder: Could it be that Rachmaninoff so disliked Toscanini that he refused to let him have anything to do with any of his compositions?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Beat of Hatred Goes On

One of the reasons we should, as I suggested on Wednesday, brace ourselves for four more years of governmental dysfunction is that, whatever the numbers may tell us, the primary reaction to Tuesday’s election may be one of unbridled hatred. I caught a taste of this from one of this morning’s calls made to C-SPAN by an irate listener (eventually cut off) who fomented about what was really wrong with the country, which was a failure of immigrants to recognize “American values.” When pressed by the announcer as to just what those values were, the result was a tirade about how democratic values always lead to dictatorship and must give way to republican values as the basis for stable government. (Since this was radio, there was no way to tell whether the speaker was using upper or lower case for those adjectives.) Then we had the FOX40 news story about a woman from Turlock (California), who used Facebook to rant about the election results, managing to include both the N-word and “assassination” in a single thirteen-word post.

The fact is that, if social capital were traded on a stock exchange, its value would be on the rise due to a growing enthusiasm for hate speech. I suspect we have Bill Clinton to thank for this, not for what he did but for how he provoked it. By beating the Republicans at their own game, Clinton inspired the Republican Party, at that time under the spell of Newt Gingrich, to plant a Blake-like “poison tree” nurtured by every possible expression of raw hatred. By now just about any politician interested in survival has made use of the fruits of that tree, the most notable exception being our President, who has become the most prominent target of that hatred, as Clinton had been during his second term of office.

Is it any wonder that a government motivated by nothing other than hatred should be so dysfunctional?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Grand Canyon Thoughts

Listening to the recording of Arturo Toscanini conducting the NBC Symphony Orchestra in a performance of Ferde Grofé's Grand Canyon suite reminded me of how thoroughly I had come to know this music before actually seeing the place. Needless to say, none of that music came to mind either while I was standing on the south rim or when I went half-way down on the back of a mule. (I did not have the time for the full descent on my first visit, which I why I used a second visit to provide my wife with her first.)

The fact is that I came to the Grand Canyon with precious little background knowledge. The only thing I really remembered vividly was the Sam Levenson joke about a kid from Brooklyn whose parents take him there for a summer vacation. When they returned to their motel, his mother insisted he send at least one postcard to a friend. The kid wrote:
Dear Louie,
Today I spit one mile.
Your friend,

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

America Votes for Dysfunction

When the latest issue of The New York Review of Books hit the stands, it included a short “think piece” by Joseph Lelyveld entitled “The Likely Winner.” This was not written to predict whether Barack Obama would be able to return for four more years in the White House or be displaced by Mitt Romney. Rather, Lelyveld took a broader view that included the Congress, as well as the White House, and concluded that, whatever would be decided in the polling places, the “likely winner” would be four more years of dysfunctional government. Listening to today’s “morning after” commentary, it would appear that Lelyveld has made the most sensible call of the whole electoral season; and, given the budget decisions that have to be made before the new Congress convenes, there is no reason to believe that the dysfunction will ramp up to full throttle before the end of the present day.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Life Imitates Art (again)

Those who saw today's BBC News story about six cameras embedded in a structure similar to that of a tennis ball may accept the "emergency services" applications for which it was designed; but anyone familiar with The Wire will recall the use of a similar device and the sad fate it suffered.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Can the Figurative be Enacted?

Emily Eakin’s latest post to NYRBlog, “Cloud Atlas’s Theory of Everything,” may tell you more about Cloud Atlas (the novel, the film, and probably the mystical philosophy of Ken Wilber) than you may ever need to know. However, her punch line may go a long way towards clarifying the challenge of taking a highly literary text and turning it into a movie. She takes, as her point of departure, one of the characters from David Mitchell’s novel, Luisa Rey, and discloses how her name pays homage to Thornton Wilder’s The Bridge of San Luis Rey, a connection with a variety of implications for both style and content.

She then develops her punch line as a riff on Wilder’s book:
In that novel, a lonely society matron veers between despair that “the world had no plan in it” and a flicker of belief in what Wilder eloquently terms “the great Perhaps.” Belief in the great Perhaps suffuses Cloud Atlas the novel; the misstep of Cloud Atlas the film is to try to turn Perhaps into Certainty.
This is an elegant form of closure; but, like many good conclusions, it raises more questions than it answers, most of which go beyond the scope of any specific film adaptation of any specific novel. There have, after all, been at least two adaptations of The Bridge of San Luis Rey, both of which do justice to the plot line and fumble because the impact of the novel comes from far more than the plot.

Ultimately, the Wilder novel is a philosophical tract made palatable through not only narrative but also the capacity to make its argument through figurative, rather than literal, language. A major element of Eakin’s account involves Mitchell’s facility in working in the figurative domain, through which his novel emerges as a powerful text. Thus the most important question raised by Eakin’s punch line is whether any movie can be primarily figurative.

Yes, it is true that Alfred Hitchcock unsettled François Truffaut by demonstrating that the camera can lie; and, for all we know, he learned that trick from Robert Wiene’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. However, the figurative use of language is not about truth and lies. It would be better to say that it is about the difference between denotation and connotation. The real question is whether or not cinematic language can connote or whether it is limited to exploiting ambiguities and paradoxes of denotation. I would be willing to consider that, when opera works, connotation may be communicated through music beyond the setting of text; but an opera score is a far cry from a movie soundtrack. Thus, if there is any critical element of a novel that goes beyond the plot line, there is probably a good chance that it will get lost by even the best of film adaptations.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Confessions of an Early Voter

I have begun to make it a consistent practice of voting early. My primary motivation for doing so was that, over the last year or so, my polling place has become a comedy of errors. The staff has received so little training that their ineptitude is embarrassing, probably to the poll workers themselves as well as the impatient voters. Whether it involves checking the rolls or dealing with mechanical recalcitrance from the machine that is supposed to accept the completed ballot securely, my polling station is a paragon of disorder; and that was the case even before touch-screen voting machines were added to the mix. Since I am such a short walk from City Hall and the exercise is good for me, going over there to cast my vote early has always been pretty much a no-brainer.

However, this leads me to a somewhat ambivalent position over how much money I make candidates waste. Between the junk crammed into my modest mailbox and the density of robocalls, I realize that a fair amount of money is going up in smoke because those engines of distribution have no way of knowing that I have already voted. The one interesting thing is that almost none of that waste has involved the Presidential election, perhaps because mine is not one of those hypercritical “swing” states. Rather, the media assault is all about local issues, both ballot initiatives and the Supervisor for my district.

The funny thing is that I received at least a month’s worth of advertising from Supervisor candidates for District 5 before I learned that, due to redistricting, I was now in District 5. Supervisor elections alternate between odd and even numbered districts. I used to be in District 6, a point which I made on my site when I announced the San Francisco Arts Town Hall, which was held last August. This seemed necessary to declare my objectivity in reporting on an event at which my own vote was not at stake.

It was only after I had reported on the Town Hall that I discovered that my vote was at stake. Indeed, District 5 had the largest number of competing candidates who accepted the invitation to address members of the arts community on the question of support for the arts. The Town Hall turned out to be a rather gratuitous affair, the high point of which was the discovery that all of the District 7 candidates had not the foggiest notion of any arts activities in that District (some of which were rather impressive). Ironically, I singled out exactly one candidate from the whole evening of mindless speechifying who was capable of putting a reality check on the table; and she turned out to be a District 5 candidate. (She was also running against a candidate with a strong progressive reputation whose performance at the Town Hall was significantly less than clueless.) As a result, even where local issues were concerned, I had the necessary information to vote early.

Will any of this make a difference? I suspect not. Votes are not cast on the basis of issues. All forms of advertising are calculated to penetrate the limbic system so thoroughly as to block out any activity from the cerebral cortex. Most voters will probably put less thought into the choice they make than they will in buying an SUV (which they may not even need); and the “product” they receive through the polling place (regardless of the level of government) will likely be even more unreliable than any hulking gas-guzzler!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Will Jony Ive Remember HCI Rule #1?

Dan Farber definitely captured the right idea in his headline for his CNET News article today: “Jony Ive's challenge: Redesigning the human-computer interface for the masses.” However, Farber failed to say anything about why designing a human-computer interface (HCI) for software is qualitatively different from evolving the design of a new physical device. It is not just that software is more malleable. Rather it involves the problem that software engineers do not always think of functionality the same that the interface designers do.

This is why the best educational venues for learning software engineering recognize that an interface is not some final layer placed on top of a black box capable of performing some wide variety of operations. Indeed, many who have been trained at such educational institutions will tell you that Rule #1 is that the development of the interface should take place in parallel with that of the code. Thus, if the code starts to go down a path that will be hard for the interface to handle, the problem will be detected early in the development stage and hopefully remedied.

Yes, there are functions within OS X that could do with access through better interfaces. However, there are also a variety of perfectly good interfaces that connect to code that just doesn't work. The interface induces false expectations and then leaves the user in the lurch. It may be necessary to dispense with a lot of the nuts and bolts currently under the hood, perhaps even down to the current library of functions currently accessible only through the Unix interface. Otherwise, Ive may find himself pushed into the unpleasant situation of trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear; and the problem runs a lot deeper than providing that sow’s ear with the superficial appearance of silk!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

What are the Real Fetish Objects?

About a week ago I was attacking Andrew Ross for what I called “an unfair attempt to conflate musicology … and music criticism.” Using Theodor W. Adorno’s “On the Fetish-Character in Music and the Regression of Listening” as a point of departure, I suggested that I was putting the fetish of a newly discovered Beethoven manuscript in opposition to Ross fetishizing the performance of “new works by living composers.” Shortly after writing that, I made one of my rare treks across San Francisco Bay in order to see the first revival performance of Einstein on the Beach at the University of California at Berkeley. I discovered that fetishes were still on my mind as I wrote my “examination” of this performance for

However, Adorno was interested not only in fetishization but also in that “regression of listening.” His point was that consumerist preoccupation with fetish status may cloud our capacity to perceive the object itself. He illustrates this with a very caustic (and, I suspect, highly accurate) sentence:
The consumer is really worshipping the money that he himself has paid for the ticket to the Toscanini concert.
Sitting there among the audience in Zellerbach Hall, I felt surrounded by such consumers, wondering if even one of them either knew or cared about what was going on up on stage or in the orchestra pit. I realize that sounds more than a little self-serving; but close inspection of a sample of those faces let me to hypothesize that most, if not all, of those folks were there to make a fetish out of the ticket on which the name Einstein on the Beach had been printed. This was not about the power of art to enlighten but about the power of possession to gratify.

Adorno’s words were particularly ironic because I have been using my national site to examine the recently reissued CD box Arturo Toscanini: The Complete RCA Collection. The amount of time I have put into this project (covering the individual recordings on the basis of a system of seven categories) should provide sufficient evidence that my attitude towards Toscanini is far more positive than Adorno’s. This is not to say that I passionately approve of every recording in the collection, but I suspect the energy behind some of my highly positive remarks would be strong enough to set Adorno spinning in his grave.

My point is that one should be able to write about Toscanini without turning either him, or any of the CDs themselves, into a fetish object. The good news is that I have already negotiated that risk with two other conductors about whom I have been far more enthusiastic, Wilhelm Furtwängler and Sergiu Celibidache, whom I have “examined” through both recent CD releases and a collection of DVDs. The good news is that any of these material objects is far easier to come by than a ticket for Einstein on the Beach; and I would like to believe that ease of access serves to facilitate our directing attention to the content presented by the object, rather than on the object itself!