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Review: Pigs and Battleships

26/02/2010

Synopsis:

Gonta is a young hoodlum in post war Yokosuka, Japan. He’s working for a local Yakuza gang that makes money from ruffing up local businesses and using left over food from the American Naval base to feed the pigs in their pig farm. The American sailors, having little to do, spend most of their time sleeping with Japanese prostitutes who hope to one day become the mistress of a Naval Officer. Haruko is Gonta’s girlfriend. Haruko is disgusted with the American sailors just as much as she is with the Japanese who use the American Naval base as a means of making a quick profit. Haruko wants more from life and begs Gonta to run away with her to Kawasaki where her uncle has promised steady factory work.

Who will like this movie:

This is a black and white, 1961 Japanese movie, so its got several things working against it: subtitles and a somewhat “dated” feel. Like many of the director Shohei Imamura’s other films, this is a Japan where Geishas, green tea and golden temples are nowhere to be found. Imamura’s message is also quite clear throughout the entire film: complacency leads to degeneration. Visually the film is very striking taking the viewer everywhere from cramped indoor scenes of messy slum apartments to expansive landscape views. Fans of Pier Paolo Pasolini and Francois Truffaut will find more than enough to enjoy here.

Who will not like this movie:

This is a movie with a clear moral message. It didn’t come across as preachy to me, but I could definitely see how people might criticize the characters as only existing to prove the director’s point. The film is also rather slow in the middle and might leave some viewers bored. The American sailors are played by Russians, who apparently thought that we Yanks sing “row row row your boat” all the time and in every situation. This inattention to detail might come across to some viewers as indicative of the director’s bias. If you don’t like the above two directors or in general don’t like old movies, you could probably skip this one.

A closer look:

I did not like last year’s Japanese film “Departures.” It won best foreign film at the Oscars and I cannot for the life of me figure out why. To me, “Departures” is indicative of everything that is wrong with Japanese cinema today. So many Japanese films and their filmmakers are afraid to say anything, to provoke any response out of the audience. Instead films almost always end with the original conflict having been revealed to have never been a conflict to begin with. No character or action is ever criticized and films always make excuses for the terrible things characters do or the unfair circumstances society puts people in. In short, no one ever looks for anything something more in life because to do so would mean that the characters, and in turn the film, would have to be critical of something or someone. I hate these kinds of movies. I don’t care if I disagree with it, I just don’t want to be betrayed by a film that ends with the message: “and everything that you thought was wrong was just a result of one big misunderstanding.” That might be why I like this movie so much. For that matter, that might be why I like the films of Shohei Imamura so much. They actually have something something.

There is an essay by the Japanese author Ango Sakaguchi called “On Decadence.” It was published in  1946. In it there is a part where he criticizes Japan’s rural culture and the wartime Japanese government’s “back to Japan’s agricultural heritage” movement. To Ango, Japanese rural culture at the time was based in mistrust of others, complacency, and fear of change. He says, “How can we call this culture? …culture exists when there is progress. When people strive to better their lives.” With this essay Sakaguchi established himself as one of the leading, post-war Japanese writers. He was and continues to be a unique among Japanese author because of his scathing criticisms of Japan society and his unwavering commitment to change. Though Imamura’s film comes 15 years later, I believe that echos of that original cry for change, for bettering oneself first uttered by Sakaguchi can still be heard in the vivid character of Haruko.

“Pigs and Battleships” is published on DVD by the Criterion Collection

About the Film:

Directed by Shohei Imamura
Produced by Masaya Nakamura
Written by Hisashi Yamauchi
Starring Jitsuko Yoshimura
Yôko Minamida
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Medium: Flash Games

21/02/2010

Yesterday I posted about the game ImmorTall. What was unique about ImmorTall to me was that it requires no skill from the player, the story progresses no matter what. While one might play again to see all the endings, ImmorTall is an excellent example of a new breed of games, the interactive art toy, as the folks over at JayisGames.com call them. To me what is impressive about these games are their simplicity and the lack of traditional game mechanics. While some of these games employ puzzle elements and others action sequences, they are on the whole not goal oriented. There are no points to earn and no correct ways to finish. The multiple endings of many of these games seem to exist not to rate the player’s performance but to make some statement about either choices that you make or the subject of the game. The following are a list of games from two developers: Daniel Benmergui and Gregory Weir. All games are free to play. While there are many other games like these that I will write about in future posts, I felt that these have a sense of cohesion. They all share a similar art style and they all seem to directly respond to traditional conceptions of what a game should be.

The Majesty of Colors

To me this game is about, more than anything, consequence of actions.

I Wish I Were the Moon

This game is apparently based on an Italio Calvino short story.

Today I Die

I found this game a little to abstract, but intriguing still the same.

How to Raise a Dragon

Split into three parts, this game explicates the myth of dragons.

In Japan there is a popular genre of game called “Sound Novel.” These games are most easily described as visual choose-your-own-adventure games. They are text and still images only. Most of theme feature characters that are see-through ghost like figures with no facial features or distinctive clothing. The idea being that rather than create a concrete image, the player both creates the characters in their choices make and in their imagination.

The above games to me are yet another kind of interactive fiction. These games take a distinct idea or an emotion and through the medium of web-based flash games, allow the player to explore the many sides of that central concept. If you take a look at the comments people make about these games, you’ll notice that the subject inevitably turns to the relationship between art and games. While I am still uncomfortable calling games art, I think that there is great potential in theses interactive fiction games. There is a line in the Fellini movie 8 1/2 that I think can be applied to the state of artistic games today.

You see, at first it’s obvious the film lacks a fundamental idea, or say a philosophical premise…. That turns the film into a series of completely senseless episodes. Oh, their elusive realism is, perhaps even amusing, but what is the writer’s real intention? To make us think? To frighten us? From the very opening scenes there is a total lack of poetic imagination. I’m sorry but this could be the most pathetic demonstration, proof that cinema is 50 years behind all other arts. The subject doesn’t even have the merits of avant-garde films, though it has all their drawbacks.

Born to lose

21/02/2010

Isn’t the point of a game usually to win? Not in ImmorTall. In this short flash game, the player is destined to lose. I hesitate to call it losing though, since only in doing so does the game and its story reach completion.  While there are multiple endings, all of them ending in you losing in one way or another. Which makes me think, is this a game or is it an interactive work of fiction? Have a look for yourself.

http://armorgames.com/play/5355/immortall

I might add as a point of clarification that when the game says “Shield,” it means to position your character so as to protect your friends from dangerous objects.

Sonoko Ito – POMERI DREAM

20/02/2010

I took a visit to Ginza today in search of an art gallery called Mori Yu Gallery. After walking in the same circle three times I realized I had put the address down incorrectly and proceeded to retreat despondent to the nearest subway station. That was until the small Ono Art Gallery, only two rooms, caught my eye. The artist on display was Sonoki Ito. Ito-san herself was there and she told me about her works and a little bit about herself in the 5 minute mini-interview she gave me.

Ito-san’s collection of work on display was almost entirely of her apple shaped character, Pomeri. The Pomeri she had on display were of all different colors and sizes, each one made to have its own character. Together, she says, they form the Pomeri Town. The name came to her from the french word for apple, pomme. Her work as an artist, she said, began in 2002. At the time, she was involved in academic work when she came to a crossroad in her life. Rather than spend her life in the world of books and ideas, she wanted to do something more “pop,” something that allowed her to express her creativity and individuality. Her hope is that people who see her work will be brought to think about their own life and about what it means to live. She says though that more than anything she wants to impart on people the importance of not losing one’s individuality.

When I asked her how she came up with the idea for using apples, she said that it just came to her one day. She says, apples themselves are already living things, but by giving them feet and arms and a face, they become a new life, they become something people can relate to. The clothing It0-san was wearing was also all hand made, all designed in the Pomeri style, though she only gets to wear them on special occasions. “I consider myself a Pomeri,” she says.

Sonoko Ito-san’s Website:

http://web.me.com/korugamerian2009/サイト/HOME.html

小野美術画廊 Ono Art Gallery

Tokyo, Chuo Ward, Ginza 3-14-2 Shiratori Building First Floor.

東京中央区銀座3-14-2白鳥ビル1階

Review: Encounters at the End of the World

06/01/2010

Plot

Werner Herzog and cinematographer Peter Zeitlinger travel to Antarctica to find out what it is that people do there.

Who Will Enjoy This Movie

Werner Herzog fans, even those who may have not seen any of his documentaries before will find more than enough Herzog-ian moments to enjoy this movie. Compared to other documentaries, this film does not have any clear message that it imposes upon the viewer, having more in common with a travelogue than journalism. In someways it shares similaries with Ichikawa Kon’s Tokyo Olympiad in the way that the camera serves as a non-judgmental viewer.

Who Will Not Enjoy This Movie

The documentaries of Werner Herzog are like the anti-thesis of the Michael Moore camp of documentaries. Herzog does not need to tell the viewer what to think because Herzog realizes that what can be shown through a camera in the span of two hours amounts to no more than a small fragment of the whole picture. Similarly Herzog’s film is not plotted in the way that many documentaries are such as King of Kong or March of the Penguins, nor is it set around some preplanned event like Gimme Shelter or Capturing the Friedmans. As a Result some viewers may find themselves wondering what Herzog is trying to say by the end of the film.

A Closer Look

To me, film documentaries have long been mis-represented. Many documentaries, by virtue of inherent nature of the genre, pivot on a fundamental lie: that what the viewer sees is the truth. In other words, by means of utilizing the term ‘documentary’,  a filmmaker is able to create the illusion that a) the camera sees all, b) that there lies in the filmed event a narrative with a beginning and an end, and finally c) that like a novel, through this narrative some meaning that we might call the ‘truth’ of the event can be derived. These three illusions constitute the great lie of the documentary and they stand in direct contrast to three truths about documentary filmmaking: the limitation of the camera, the effect of filming on a subject, the suggestive power that lies in editing. So when a filmmaker focuses on say some problem (social, historical, economic) or some event (a concert, a sporting event, an election) one of the first choices that must be made is how to find balance between the three truths and the three illusions of documentary filmmaking. The filmmaker may try to make some generalized comment about either the thing or people being filmed or what the thing or people being filmed suggest in a broader context. In fact, this is often what happens. In this sense, anyone expecting something more than entertainment, will always disappointed. For me, I feel the lie, and it hurts.

Herzog’s film Encounters at the End of the World, and for that matter many of his other documentaries seem to acknowledge the lie of the documentary and in some ways, go on to incorporate that lie into the subject of the documentary. Herzog does this in Encounters at the End of the World in a number of ways. First he places himself in the documentary, not as the voice of truth, but as a participant in the events. He is not some detached outsider unaware of his own involvement, he is there experiencing, reacting and interacting with his environment. At one point Herzog, riding on a snowmobile over a frozen bay, comments that it is incredible to think that just six feet below him lies vast arctic waters. Then when meeting with a penguin specialist, Herzog juxtaposes what he has heard about the man prior to meeting him with what he actually experienced while filming the subsequent interview. But this juxtaposition is not to claim that one opinion is closer to the ‘truth’, but rather to show that there lies value in the varied experiences of those who have gathered in Antarctica. That the experiences, opinions, goals and dreams of those on this southern continent are all part of a greater ‘truth’. And in a way this is one of the things that Encounters at the End of the World impresses upon the viewer. That while there is only one Antarctica that lies on a map, there are many Antarcticas that exist in the individuals that have visited it. In an interview at the end of the film with a local philosopher/forklift operator, the interviewee talks about how he was once impressed by the words of American Philosopher Alan Watts: “We are the witness through which the universe becomes conscious of its own magnificence”. Perhaps meaning in the context of this film, that the act of looking, searching and learning  in and of it self is a kind of testament to the beauty of the natural world.  That we as humans, equally a part of nature as the penguins that we study, are unique in the sense that we have this ability to ‘turn the camera on ourselves’. That perhaps the act of looking has its own magnificence.

I wrote recently that the essence of Art with a capital ‘A’ lies in a works ability to use the inherent properties of a medium to express an idea. I might go further to say that true Art uses that medium in a reflexive manner to show the assets and limitations of the medium itself. In a sense, Films about Films, Paintings about Paintings. Herzogs film is to me, in a similar way, equally about the people in the antarctic as it is about the act of looking. The people living and working in Antarctica are for the most part scientists looking for clues suggesting the natural laws that bind us. And is not Herzog too doing a similar thing? Is not Herzog, as a filmmaker, someone who wants to know why, who wants to see why we as humans have a lust for knowledge and experience? Though for other reasons I am weary to call Herzog’s film a work of Art, I do feel that it is not just visually stimulating and thought provoking, but an example of the best of what the film documentary genre has to offer. Jean Luc Godard once said that he never felt the need to comment on other filmmaker’s work that he didn’t like.  That to praise what is praise worthy and ignore what falls short is by far the stronger statement. In that spirit, I can only offer my highest praises for Herzog’s Encounters at the End of the World.

Alternate Headlines

Positive Review: Antarctica: Encounters of the Herzog Kind

Negative Review: Another year, another Penguin movie, same old Herzog

About The Movie

Directed By: Werner Herzog

Cinematography: Peter Zeitlinger

Released By: THINKFilm 2008

Review: The Testament of Dr. Mabuse

05/01/2010

Plot

With Dr. Mabuse in an insane asylum following the events of the previous film (Dr. Mabuse the Gambler), the citizens of 1930s Berlin slip into complacency. Then, one evening Inspector Lohmann gets a call from his former subordinate Hoffmeister.  Hoffmeister has craked the counterfeiting ring and the mastermind behind it all is…. With Hoffmeister’s words cut short on the other end of the line, Lohmann must follow a trail of clues to first find his friend and then bring down a criminal genius bent on watching the world burn.

Who Will Enjoy This Movie

Despite being made in 1933 this movie offers just about as much as any similar police mystery today. With three main plot lines converging towards a fiery climax, there is more than enough story to fill the two hour run time. If you liked the director Fritz Lang’s other movies, M for example, Testament is definitely for you. But for those who aren’t familiar with the German Expressionist, I would imagine that anyone who enjoyes the Kiss the Girls and Bone Collector brand of suspense movies would also appreciate Lang’s movie. The thing is here, you don’t need to like old movies to get into this one, though maybe it would help.

Who Will Not Enjoy This Movie

With 77 years of cinema between now and Testament‘s original premier, predictability is definitely an issue. At a certain point near the midway point of the film the modern viewer will have figured out the who why and where. Even though this movie shows remarkable technical achievement, the car chases for example are still mired in 1930s aesthetics. While Testament is far from ever being made fun of by MST3K, the fact that it is old will definitely turn off some viewers. The emotional complexity of the characters is also disappointing and fans of Seven or Heat will probably find certain aspects of Testament overly simple. To put it another way, were it released today for the first time, The Testament of Dr. Mabuse would probably be considered mediocre.

A Closer Look

The first scene of this movie is amazing. The camera slowly finds its way around a windowless workshop, perhaps underground. Some nearby machine churns ominously blocking out all other sound. Its vibrations jolt every paint can, every washcloth ever element in the cluttered workshop into a rhythmic danse, and yet all we can hear is the deafening unseen machine, pounding as if indifferent to human suffering. There we find Hoffmeister hiding behind a large wooden chest. Then a few minutes later, Hoffmeister narrowly dodges a steel rum as it rolls down the street, suddenly twirling 10 feet up in the air leaving behind a coiled tail of fire. The Testament of Dr. Mabuse offers so much to look at, so many unique images that one could forget to take into account the equally impressive plot. The elements that would come to define the crime drama genre are all there (the conflicted criminal, the freudian explanation of criminal psychosis, the unseen mastermind). In many ways I can see that the Joker from The Dark Knight might have been partially based on Dr. Mabuse’s character. Both have similar motivations and even facial expressions.

Though The Testament of Dr. Mabuse suffers in several respects. Firstly, the kind of acting we see today on the screen has less to do with the acting in Testament than that from a dramatic stage. The actors and actresses show their feelings in a very physical way. When someone is scared, they look and act like a person acting scared, not a person truly scared. But what is the point of criticizing the film in this respect? Film in the 1930s was still at its infancy, actors were for the most part paving completely new ground, having nothing to look back to or grow out of. Speaking to a 2010 audience about the relative merits of The Testament of Dr. Mabuse is certainly not the same as speaking about the relative merits of say The Departed. Fritz Lang is dead and his work now stands less as entertainment then a historical example of cinema’s development.

There is probably very little in The Testament of Dr. Mabuse that will stay with a viewer except for perhaps a few images and the general plot. There is no point at which they might think, “I’ve seen something new!” So why watch such a movie? What merits does it offer? Thinking about this I found that perhaps the enjoyment in watching such a film is in someways similar to the enjoyment of looking at old photographs. Like looking at photos of some great event taken when photos were still a rare commodity. Take for example photos taken during World War I. This great war that happened nearly 100 years ago seems so distant to us now. Though by looking at photographs of it one might feel that somehow these soldiers and the civilians depicted are not actually so distant. They lose their faceless identity and revert back to the individuals they once were. In this way, each photograph becomes not a photograph of the great war, but a kind of story about this one individual soldier seen depicted.  One can read in a text book that the war was fought in trenches, but to see soldiers, not only in dramatic poses, but gathered around a makeshift table playing cards, to see them leaning against a wooden fence while a milkmaid milks her cow for him makes everything so much more tangible. These moments that will never be recorded in any history book, these moments that were mundane at the time, seem today, all the more real to us because they separate the event from the individual. These weren’t Austrians and French fighting, these were young men each with their own past and future.

And in a way watching The Testament of Dr. Mabuse, or any ‘old’ movie for that matter offers a similar pleasure. One might, as I have, see the technical aspect of the film and be amazed that even with limited resources such images were transfered to celluloid. Though one might just as easily see the elements that aren’t part of the story. The way that streets were not striped with lanes, that manservants respected unconditionally the will of their employer. If The Testament of Dr. Mabuse were made today it would be a period piece, like Once Upon A Time In America or the recent Public Enemies. Great attention would be paid to recreate a time and a feeling. What these classic films offer us is a window into the aesthetics and values of a time past. But this is not an artificial window.  As modern day viewers looking back, we are presented with two movies, one: the movie that the director intended us to see, and two: a kind of accidental documentary. That is: the then that we see preserved on film. In a way, with films like The Testament of Dr. Mabuse the modern viewer can never really experience the film as the filmmakers intended because so much time separates us. But we can, by knowing what came before it, by knowing was came after, place ourselves mentally in that time period and imagine what it must have been like for the contemporary viewer. Even more so, we can imagine ourselves as that ancient viewer.

Alternate Titles

Positive Review: Dr. Mabuse, Testify!

Nevative Review: The testes of Dr. Mabuse

About The Movie

Directed by: Fritz Lang

Starring: Rudolf Klein-Rogge, Otto Wernicke, Oscar Beregi Sr., Gustav Diessl

Written by: Thea Von Harbou, Fritz Lang

Released: Hungary: April 21, 1933, France: April 1933, United States: 1943, Germany: August 24, 1961

Note

Though this film is available on DVD, as far as I know it is also in the public domain, which means that you can watch legally online for free. The website Veoh has it, without subtitles unfortunately.


Musica Practica

04/01/2010

I was reading some Roland Barthes the other day, you know, for fun, and came across his short essay: Musica Practica. In it Barthes sketches out what he calls a practical music and why that music began to die out with Beethoven. And like so many of Barthes’ essays, it suffers from the same set of problems. In one sense, Barthes is incapable of making his essays accessible to the average person. He nearly requires of the reader that they become him, Roland Barthes, in order to comprehend certain references or vague assertions. Further more, his wording is overly obtuse and his conclusions stated with unfounded certainty. In other words, Barthes was an elitist when it came to writing. Is not the measure of a person’s intellect not only that he can understand the truths that define our universe but also their ability to express those findings, to effectively promulgate the fruits of their work among the people?

Below I have given my best interpretation of Barthes’ essay.  Though there are still some sections that I feel Barthes purposely keeps opaque, and therefore unexplainable except by the author himself. Though for the most part I found Musica Practica interesting.

There are two musics (at least so I have always thought): the music one listens to, the music one plays. These two musics are two totally different, arts, each with its own history, its own sociology, its own aesthetics, its own erotic; the same composer can be minor if you listen to him, tremendous if you play him (even badly) – such is Schumann. The music one plays comes from an activity that is very little auditory, being above all manual (and thus in a way much more sensual).(omission) This musica has disappeared; it lapsed into an insipid social rite with the coming of the democracy of the bourgeoisie (omission) and then faded out altogether. To find practical music in the West, one has now to look to another public, another repertoire, another instrument ( the young generation, vocal music, the guitar). Concurrently, passive, receptive music, sound music, is become the music (that of convert, festival, record, radio): playing has ceased to exist; musical activity is no longer manual, muscular, kneadingly physical, but merely liquid, effusive, ‘lubrificating’, to take up a word from Balzac.

Reading this section, I think about how often music is just playing in the background for me, at the supermarket, while I am studying, in the elevator, wherever I go there is music ‘lubrificating’ an otherwise dull experience. And while Bartes certainly is an elitist in tone, he does not shy away from looking at popular culture, he just refrains from writing about it in depth.

So too has the performer changed. The amateur, a role defined much more by a style than by a technical imperfection, is no longer anywhere to be found; the professionals, pure specialists whose training remains entirely esoteric for the public (omission) never offer that style of the perfect amateur, (omission) touching off in us not satisfaction but desire, the desire to make that music. (omission)

Though I wouldn’t be able to put this in my own words I really feel that Barthes distinction between the Amateur and the professional as being in the formers ability to awake in the listener ‘the desire to make’ is well stated.

The work of Beethoven seems to me bound up with this historical problem (omission); an ambiguity which is that of Beethoven’s two historical roles: the mythical Role which he was made to play by the whole of the nineteenth century and the modern role which our own century is beginning to accord him (omission).

(With Beethoven) The artist is in search of his ‘truth’ and this quest forms an order in itself, a message that can be read, in spite of the variations in its content, over all the work or, at least, whose readability feeds on a sort of totality of the artist: his career, his loves, his ideas, his character, his words become traits of meaning; (omission) the shattering of the melody, taken as the symbol of restlessness and the seething agitation of creativeness, the emphatic redundancy of moments of excitement and termination (a naive image of fate dealing its blows), the experience of limits (the abolition or the inversion of the traditional parts of musical speech), the production of musical chimera (the voice rising out of the symphony) – and all this, which could easily be transformed metaphorically into pseudo-philosophical values, nonetheless musically acceptable since always deployed under the authority of the fundamental code of the West, tonality. (omission)

To me what Barthes is trying to say here is that Beethoven’s life and his music are so intertwined that one looks even at the structure and the sound of the music as artistic expressions of the living artist’s own ideas and character. In a sense, what I think Barthes is trying to say is that the romantic view of Beethoven is to view his music as a kind of autobiography. As the artist grows we expect the music to reflect that growth.

Further, this romantic image (omission) creates a problem of performance: to want to play beethoven is to see oneself as the conductor of an orchestra (omission). Beethoven’s work forsakes the amateur and seems, in an initial moment, to call on the new Romantic deity, the interpreter. (omission)

I feel like here Barthes started to say one thing and ended up saying another. Even now when I read his essay I feel like he is about to say that the performer cannot play Beethoven adequately because the music could only every be adequately performed by Beethoven himself. Instead he talks about the physical logistics of playing the music. That Beethoven chose to write his music for the symphony means that one must resign themselves to a role, the violin the oboe. I feel like Barthes did this to set the essay up for the next point, to show that the individual can actually perform, in a sense, Beethovens orchestral pieces.

The truth is perhaps that Beethoven’s music has in it something inaudible and this brings us to the second Beethoven. Beethoven’s deafness designates the lack wherein resides ll signification; it appeals to a music that is not abstract or inward, but that is endowed, if one may but it like this, with a tangible intelligibility, with the intelligible as tangible. (omission) The operation by which we can grasp this Beethoven (omission) can no longer be either performance or hearing, but reading. (omission) Just as the reading of the modern text consists not in receiving, in knowing or in feeling that text, but in writing it anew, in crossing its writing with a fresh inscription, so too reading this Beethoven is to operate his music, to draw it into an unknown praxis.

The second sentence of this section baffles me, and I feel like Barthes worded it this way because he himself wasn’t sure what he wanted to say. That said perhaps he is trying express though “tangible intelligibility” the experience of Beethoven himself. Because Beethoven could not hear his own music at the end of his life it was in a sense intelligible. But since it was written, it was tangible, he could read his music and hear the performance of it in his head. The second part of this second is equally baffling to me. In Barthes essay Death of the Author, he talks about how the role of the reader is to ‘focus’ the various aspects of a work and through this process give meaning to it. In other words, each reader kind of constructs their own version of a work by means of reading it; a work means something different, has different significance to each reader. Is this what he is trying to say about reading Beethoven? That to read Beethoven is to give new meaning, new life to it? I do not know.

In this way may be rediscovered (omission) a certain musica practica. The modern location for music is (omission) the stage on which the musicians pass, in what is often dazzling display, from one source of sound to another. (omission) But one can imagine the concert – later on? – as exclusively a workshop, from which nothing spills over – no dream, no imaginary, in short, no ‘soul’ and where all the musical art is absorbed in a praxis with no remainder. Such is the utopia that a certain Beethoven, who is not played, teaches us to formulate – which is why it is possible now to feel in him a musician with a future.

Again here in this final section I find problems with Barthes conclusion. What does he mean by ‘a workshop’? or that ‘musical art is absorbed in a praxis with no remainder’? Does he mean to say that a performance on stage does not, like the amateur, inspire the listener to make music of his own? to participate in his own performance, to take part in a practical music? Or does he mean that modern performance exhausts the performed piece of any interpretive value? That what is performed is the just a literal transcription of printed note to strummed/blown/harped sound? Finally, what does Barthes mean by a musica practica? At the beginning of the essay he seems to suggest that the sensual element of practical music is its defining elements, but were that so, how is reading, listening to the imaginary performance at all similar? Barthes does say in a section I did not include that to compose something means to give someone something to do. Perhaps it is merely a question of audience participation that defines practical music, I do not know.

A final note on my omissions. Most of the omitted parts are Barthes’ examples or his attempts at being poetically clever. The reason I cut them is because his examples need more explaining that I am able or probably then they are worth and his poetics are smug rubbish.