Saturday, August 21, 2010

Could Facebook Become a Latter Day Wiener Kaffeehaus?

The following appeared first on FB, 8/21/2010. © 2010, All rights reserved for respective authors.

My friends; This is a good read, and an re-affirmation of the very idea that our many hours on the FB could some day be worth something -- vielleicht! Next step: Let's get together for a real coffee! Best, P.A.

I came across a very insightful post and its associated comments by Prof. Donna Shalev, and I thought that these deserved to be compiled into a single note. (You may find my own brief -- yet equally insightful! -- points at the end.)

I hope the non-musicians won't be distracted by musical references. Similar things were happening with writers, philosophers, poets and painters, also in Paris or Barcelona. The point is, it's possible that FB could become conducive to an unprecedented cross-culturization of a somewhat scattered community of intellectuals worldwide, with results similar to that of the close intellectual encounters of early 1900 Vienna. (Payman)


By Donna Shalev

"Kaffeehaus was ueberall": Is Facebook the new fin-de-siècle Kaffeehaus? Does it fulfill similar functions? For these, see the following excerpt of an essay on the culture of the Kaffeehaus. (Schoenberg was a member of Karl Kraus' "stammtisch" [regular's table, or the regular's gathering] at Kaffee central... More ideas and pictures, more artists and their stammtisch/kaffee affiliations are welcome):

[The following passage is quoted from: ]

"The incestuous nature of Viennese café society may have sparked petty infighting, but tight quarters fostered intellectual cross-fertilization as well. Indeed, Vienna's incredible fin-de-siècle creative renaissance has been partly ascribed to the interdisciplinary encounters that occurred in the city's Kaffeehäuser. For example, Kokoschka knew and painted just about everyone at Kraus's Stammtisch, including Schoenberg and Schoenberg's disciple, the composer Anton von Webern. The atmosphere of the café, with its large mirrors, stimulated both exhibitionism and voyeurism. The melding of private introspection and public display—typical Kaffeehaus preoccupations— is a hallmark of Egon Schiele's work, particularly evident in his self-portraits and his studies of the cabaret performers Erwin van Osen and Moa. Cabaret was itself a natural outgrowth of the café, which encouraged social satire and caricature. For writers, inventing jokes and pithy aphorisms was a Kaffeehaus game, the equivalent of chess or billiards; for artists, caricature served the same function. Brevity and incisiveness—of word or line—distinguish much fin-de-siècle writing and art. If speed was a guarantor of authenticity, Schiele again can be considered one of the grand masters, for his drawings often took just minutes to complete. The taste for exquisite miniatures is further reflected in the Wiener Werkstätte's postcard series (including many café scenes) and in the work of Peter Altenberg, who specialized in expressive verbal sketches, often written on photographs or postcards. The combining of material from multiple inputs—word and image, or fragmentary bits of information—also owes something to the Kaffeehaus, with its broad array of written and visual diversions."

Donna further wrote, "One of my fave lines in this passage from the essay was about the brevity of writing and speed of performance, which reminded me of the new genre called 'comment', which is forming conventions and a canon of its own, as my 'regulars' here have heard me pontificate: "Brevity and incisiveness—of word or line—distinguish much fin-de-siècle writing and art. If speed was a guarantor of authenticity, Schiele again can be considered one of the grand masters, for his drawings often took just minutes to complete."


I was delighted to read this, since it resonated with my own (PA) observations. Hence, "I think besides "Comment", there are two other important [emerging] genres, which I have been using as exercises in brevity: 1) FB Status Updates; 2) Tweets. I am so glad you [Donna] formulated it so eloquently."

I should have added that once "Telegraphic" was a common word to describe "brevity"; now, Tweets withe their 140 characters, and before that, TXT's with their 160, have made us rethink precision and concision.

As for the Kafeehäusen, you may find in composer Zemlinski's or Alma Mahler's memories many detailed passages on how the young Schoenberg and his pals would accompany Maestro Mahler, on a cold night, from one place to another, crashing at his house, and starting to argue on music, and "Klangfarbenmelodie", among others.

Upon her inquiry, I further added in connection with music:

What about "teasers", "jingles", "movie tunes"? Think "Jerry Seinfeld" and those short transition meldoies, awkward, but memorable. Not easy to do. Or what about "Ringtones"? I read on awhile back that he was commissioned to write 8 "ringtones" for an upcoming cell-phone series.

The downside is ever shortened attention spans, and memories. That's something I have tried to counter, by staying on a subject, inviting my friends in practice to write comments on older posts, archives, etc. "Journalism" in a way could be "anti-intellectual", by focusing on the transitory, as much as it helps collect facts. But that's not my area.

By the way, one reason that Bach's works (and Beethoven and Chopin; all the greats) still hold is that even their long pieces were built on extremely precise ideas. Beethoven sketches show us that he worked, and reworked, and reworked a motive, until it was exactly the way he wanted it. Bach's fugue subjects (D#m, for instance) are perfect examples in brevity, as well.

Schoenberg's (possibly) greatest achievement, i.e. "Sprechstimme" (which would later also inform his 12-tone rows), was a product of the coffee houses and especially the cabaret culture? They used to do poetry declamations, accompanied by small ensembles. These highly influenced "Pierrot Lunaire". I doubt if he would have come to this piece without that background.

[Sprechstimme: Speaking-Singing Voice. Schoeneberg notated it with accurate rhythm, but only approximate pitch indications, basically giving the contour and degree of inflection. The result is an exaggerated, theatrical declamation. It's aleatoric elements also went a long way in the 20th century art music.]

The above was compiled and edited by Payman Akhlaghi. Due credit reserved for respective authors.

1 comment:

Payman Akhlaghi ----- ( پیمان اخلاقی ) said...

Speaking of brevity and concision, I am also reminded of my first piano teacher, the late Kourosh Haddadi, کورش حدادی, who once told me, as a composer, "Try to always express your ideas in as few words -- or notes -- as possible." I wish to dedicate a post to this man, whose life was wasted due to the harsh political conditions of Iran. Payman