29 April 2008

The full Monteverdi

UPDATE: John La Bouchardiere, the director of "The Full Monteverdi" (who's in a relationship with someone who sounds very Norwegian sounding ... :), wrote me a short message saying that there's also a FaceBook group set up for the project. I should also point out that I am actually one of the biggest Monteverdi fans around, so for me his project is the most fantastic thing that has happened in the "Monteverdi trenches" in a long time. I cannot praise it enough. It's on my Christmas wish list, and the wife has been informed.

By pure chance I happened to find out that "The Full Monteverdi" was shown on Swedish TV channel 1 (which we here in Norway also get) last night at 9.15pm. I hurried cleaning up the house, putting the children to bed and making a cup of tea (and Milo for the wife), and turned the dreaded box on at the right moment.

I normally don't like watching TV. Our culture has become too dependent on being fed spoonfulls of whatever some committee has decided that you should see, especially those in charge of the no. 1 entertainment medium. TV seems to have embrace the idea that the lack of understanding a complex context can be solved through a simple mix of image and music, with some additional editing and commentary thrown on top, with the news, I guess, being the prime example.

On the radio the other day (a place quite a bit way down the list of entertainment outlets these days, on a channel that don't meddle much in the realm of fast and funny tidbits) I heard it mention that the sale of the great classic books was decreasing every year, and there was some concern to the lack of reading going on these days. I'd go further and express concern for any real thinking going on. Even 100 years ago poetry was an integral part of modern society; where did it go? As a society we are less about smart opinions as we are about strong opinions. Why is it that strong is better than smart? And what do I mean by smart? Not always the smart we think.

Personal freedom is great, but not always so smart. The individual detached from a social network is locked into rigid systems we as human beings really don't maintain well over time. So what is smart? Smart is to do things that urge the survivability of cooperating systems. Maybe this is a tonic of misconceived misanthropies, but even the human individual is a system of organic matter. We are all cooperating systems of sorts, and there's strong reasons for why we stick together even when we probably shouldn't. We need cooperating systems because we often don't understand the repercussions of missing pieces. What happens when our humanity turn diabetic? Will we find a remedy for the asthma of our little blue planet? And do we know what happens to the definition of humanity when all things not human is shaken up or taken away?

Context is everything, and humanity with everything which is not human is - in fact - nothing at all. Our conscience and our ability to even think human thoughts are dependent on every other system we've got on this planet and outside it. Thinking we're above such things are the very thing that keeps me up at night; we need every context we can get our hands on, and we need to nurture them and take care of them, because they are what we are.

I used to work for a national library. I think that was very smart move by me, and I met a lot of really smart people there, too. The library world is an example of a world that in many ways is a cooperating system of people who hold some ideals about education, reading, knowledge and accessibility, often for the sake of advancing humanity. And, by humanity, they're often thinking of education about everything out there as a means to understand that what is human is dependent on everything non-human. Libraries give context to what it means to be human.

It is important to understand this context; it gives light to the more complex models of life on our little blue planet. Like music, for example.

I listened to "The full Monteverdi" and the songs from Monteverdi's fourth book of madrigals, songs and music written over 300 years ago put to modern settings. Music is sounds in cooperating systems, where one sequence of tones provides a context to other sequences, where a single note could ruin a whole! If the singer, or the lyrics, or a note, or the visual representation, or the physical singing, or even the thoughts and feelings inside my head, if any single one of these didn't cooperate in some form of a system and create an environment that didn't work, it would render the whole experience very bad indeed.

But that didn't happen. Instead I cried in the best possible way, by understanding something that I cannot easily express. The Full Monteverdi was indeed in and out of context at the same time, and this - my dear friends - is art, an art that is rooted in reality and show us where we could be going, expressed through a complexity of systems we as humans don't understand very well but fully embrace. And it was beautiful. And I urge you to see it, too.

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