10/29/09

A (Modest) Swordfish Proposal

Oftentimes, while watching, say, some playoff baseball broadcast featuring the sadly non-self-parody that is Tim McCarver, or listening to Troy Aikman's often insightful but linguistically nightmarish analysis of a football game, it occurs to me (incredulously) that:

These people get paid to talk for a living.

Figure 1: McCarver (R) with Broadcast Partner and Serial Enabler Joe Buck. "Pitching is such a vital part of the game, as far as winning is concerned." --Tim McCarver, 2006

Now, I'm a reasonable guy. I don't expect every ex-jock that goes into color commentary to have the rhetorical skills of Churchill, or even William F. Buckley, Jr.

Figure 2: Not William F. Buckley, Jr.

But is it too much to ask that people who (again) are paid to talk for a living have some modicum of facility stringing together words that form comprehensible sentences?

...

On an unrelated note, I was reading a concert review the other day.

Felix Mendelssohn didn't leave the world a lot to discover this 200th birthday year, at least in terms of hard notes.

He what what what?

I don't know what that sentence means.

Felix Mendelssohn didn't leave the world a lot to discover this 200th birthday year, at least in terms of hard notes.

"...hard notes?" His music is...easy? Too easy? Man.

"...a lot to discover..." He didn't write much music? Yeah, I guess. I mean, only about 300 works survive today. Fuck you, Webern!

"...in terms of hard notes."

I have no clue what's being suggested here.

Fastidious in his composing habits, refined in the extreme, he created a series of masterworks or close to it whose single-dimension emotionalism assures that new meaning probably won't be uncovered - particularly when the music is confined to a concert's first half and not expected to leave audiences sated.

What the hell? How many sentences died to make that "paragraph"?

Fastidious in his composing habits, refined in the extreme, he..

Just a little background, I guess? Okay...

...he created a series of masterworks or close to it...

I don't know what that means. I don't know if that means anything.

For what is the pronoun "it" standing in? "Masterworks"? No, "it" would have to be plural. "A series of masterworks..."? I...I guess so? I mean, that doesn't really make much sense.

I've been thinking.

It seems like there should be a position filled by an ancillary person who oversees and re-reads articles for content. You know, it's easy to get too close to your prose to see what you wrote sometimes; perhaps a person whose job is to "edit" (if you will) your work so that it's clean and fit for publication.

I'm going to name this imaginary person--the one who does the "editing" (to coin a word)--the "swordfish."

...he created a series of masterworks or close to it whose single-dimension emotionalism...

Um. Aren't nouns usually modified by adjectives? Maybe we should ask a swordfish. Even if the implication is that Mendelssohn--even in his "close to it" masterworks [sic]--is emotionally flat, wouldn't it be better to use "single-dimensional"?

Yes. Yes, it would. But hey: I'm not the swordfish, here.

...masterworks or close to it whose single-dimension emotionalism assures that new meaning probably won't be uncovered...

The research of musicologists into the cultural context of music is stupid; once it's determined that music is "single-dimension emotional...", new meaning is assured to probably not be uncovered.

It's wonderful, too, how the determinism of "assured" is totally hedged and qualified by "probably." This inconsistency both a) sets up the reader for the big payoff [sic] coming up, and b) should have probably been corrected by a swordfish.

"...new meaning probably won't be uncovered - particularly when the music is confined to a concert's first half and not expected to leave audiences sated."

Because nobody ever found anything new about a work programmed in the first half of a concert. I mean, how fucking gauche would that be?

Figure 3: Le main gauche

Yet in an unusual role reversal, the Emerson String Quartet ended its Kimmel Center concert Monday with Mendelssohn's String Quartet Op. 80, written when some scholars say the composer was in creative decline.

How is that a "role reversal"? Is it statistically evident that Mendelssohn is so seldom programmed at the end of a concert that it constitutes an anomaly?

In a performance that bested the Emerson's 2005 recording of the piece, such received wisdom was defied so handily as to leave a burning question about what was different.

The performance was so good...that it might have some meaning?!

Often, 21st century Americans seem cramped by Mendelssohn's tidy, Biedermeier world.

Figure 4: A Tidy Biedermeier World (or: The Fictional, Nostalgic, Lost America That Never Existed but Is Somehow Being Thwarted by Barack Obama)

Figure 5: The Cramps (somewhat circuitously Biedermeier-induced)

This quartet, however, was written following the death of the composer's sister, Fanny. Thus, even the most typical Mendelssohnisms can be credibly charged with greater-than-usual meaning.

Ah. I think I understand now.

So:

Mendelssohn's music, although "single-dimensional emotional" [sic] and despite being "masterworks or close to it" [wtf] actually can have some (heretofore undiscovered) meaning if we do the tiniest, most obvious bit of musicological research?

Projecting that can often be a matter of surface inflection, though on Monday the Emersons created a sound better blended than usual - unusually warm under the surface but pulsating with something hotter underneath.

Warm, hotter. Surface...surface. Ususal--unusually?

Okay, I give up. Talk to the swordfish.

Figure 6: Modern Copy Editor (presumed extinct)

3 comments:

Danny Liss said...

Since you mentioned McCarver and Buck...

Did you catch McCarver's puzzlement at Jeter laying down a foul sacrifice bunt with two strikes? Never did it enter his mind that perhaps Jeter wasn't trying to make an out on purpose, and that maybe if the defense pulls back with two strikes it makes it much more likely that he can bunt for a hit to load the bases.

But no, players who bunt to hit are selfish assholes. Jeter is so classy he only could have been sacrificing. That's what great leaders do. Sacrifice.

Sator Arepo said...

I'm pretty sure that when McCarver's driving home at night, or sititng in a chair, or staring at a kitten, he's thinking, "Gee! Derek Jeter sure is awesome!"

AnthonyS said...

That made my brain hurt.

Though, I think I will use this example in my writing about music class tomorrow. Got to love DT for interesting classroom activities!