Friday, August 06, 2010

Creativity: An Example of Homospatial Thinking -- In Memory of August 6

Albert Rothenberg, M.D. first described or discovered a process he termed "homospatial thinking," which consists of actively conceiving two or more discrete entities occupying the same space, a conception leading to the articulation of new identities. Homospatial thinking has a salient role in the creative process in the following wide variety of fields: literature, the visual arts, music, science, and mathematics. This cognitive factor, along with "Janusian thinking," clarifies the nature of creative thinking as a highly adaptive and primarily nonregressive form of functioning.

The date August sixth commemorates the anniversary of Wagner's completion in 1859 of his musically revolutionary opera Tristan und Isolde.   August sixth also marks the anniversary of the first atomic blast in wartime: the blast that destroyed the city of Hiroshima, Japan in 1945.

These two events are superimposed in my book Significant Moments: an expression of homospatial thinking.   The manifest content of the writing refers to Wagner's Tristan, but the theme of atomic energy is an "interlinear presence."  Note that the phrase "constantly surging in rhythmic waves from the beginning to the end" expressly refers to Tristan, but also suggests electromagnetic waves.

A third idea superimposed on the text is the metaphor of contagion.  The metaphor is meant to suggest the wide-ranging influence of Tristan: the transmission of a new harmonic idiom to subsequent composers that lead in the 20th century to the breakdown of traditional laws of harmony.

"From the very onset of Tristan und Isolde, no sort of tonal ground is established, immediately separating the piece from almost all music since the invention of equal temperament [in the early 18th century]. Wagner cleverly begins the opera with the dissonance of the ‘Tristan’ chord, giving no indication to where the beginning of the story is, or where it is going. The entire opera consists of a swaying between constant suspensions of leading tones, and no dominant resolutions, much like the story itself.  Even the most advanced composers and theorists have a hard time describing the exact mechanics of the progression. Arnold Schoenberg referred to Wagner’s chordal progressions in Tristan as: “phenomena of incredible adaptability and non-independence roaming, homeless, among the spheres of keys; spies reconnoitering weaknesses, to exploit them in order to create confusion, deserters for whom surrender of their own personality is an end in itself”.  Wagner expanded the harmonic vocabulary, and executed his chromatic vagueness so fluently, that it paved the way for public’s appreciation of the tonal abandonment which rose in his wake. Wagner laid the groundwork for many of the musical movements which quickly followed his example. 'This departure from the Classic Conception of tonality in such a conspicuous and musically successful work can today be viewed historically as the first step toward the breakdown of tonality and the establishment of new systems of harmony that marked the development of music after 1890.'"

______________________________

It required more than vision and audacity—
Ronald W. Clark, Einstein: The Life and Times.
This, Tristan, . . .
Richard Wagner, Tristan und Isolde.
. . . this extraordinary work . . .
Wilkie Collins, A Rogue’s Life.
. . . demanded also the quality of intuition, a feel for . . .
Ronald W. Clark, Einstein: The Life and Times.
. . . the Poetry of Earth . . .
Leonard Bernstein, The Unanswered Question quoting Keats.
. . . a feel for nature as indefinable as a poet’s sense of words or the artist’s knowledge of what his last dab of materialistic paint can unlock in the human mind.
Ronald W. Clark, Einstein: The Life and Times.
Wagner’s . . .
Martin Gregor-Dellin, Richard Wagner: His Life, His Work, His Century.
. . . interior monologue in . . .
Bryan Magee, Aspects of Wagner.
. . . Tristan . . .
James Joyce, Finnegan’s Wake.
. . . dark, dense, profound . . .
Janet Malcolm, Psychoanalysis: The Impossible Profession.
—an experiment in density, really, as Venice is an experiment in water—
Adam Gopnik, The City and the Pillars: The Long Walk Home.
. . . embodied the composer’s . . .
Edward F. Kravitt, Mahler’s Dirges for his Death: February 24, 1901.
. . . paradoxical preoccupation with . . .
Christopher Knight, Peering Beyond the Edge.
. . . enchantment and . . .
Vladimir Nabakov, Speak, Memory: An Autobiography Revisited.
. . . oblivion, . . .
Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha.
. . .during his weeks and months in Venice.
Martin Gregor-Dellin, Richard Wagner: His Life, His Work, His Century.
This inner life is not the words nor even the plot as conceived by . . .
George and Portia Kernodle, Invitation to the Theatre.
. . . Wagner . . .
Margaret Brenman-Gibson, Clifford Odets: American Playwright.
. . . the playwright, but a dynamic sequence, constantly surging in rhythmic waves from the beginning to the end.
George and Portia Kernodle, Invitation to the Theatre.
This “birth of the modern” was an explosion of energy.
Martin Gregor-Dellin, Richard Wagner: His Life, His Work, His Century.
For the past several months, since the middle of April, he has dreamed many dreams about time . . .
Alan Lightman, Einstein’s Dreams.
. . . a new dimension of time, quite different from anything before in music. It is a time which no longer ticks by, or even dances or saunters by: it proceeds imperceptibly, as the moon moves, or as leaves change their color.
Leonard Bernstein, The Unanswered Question.
His dreams have worn him out, exhausted him so that he sometimes cannot tell whether he is awake or asleep. But the dreaming is finished.
Alan Lightman, Einstein’s Dreams.
My sleep . . .
Richard Wagner, Siegfried.
. . . says Wagner, . . .
Leonard Bernstein, The Unanswered Question.
. . . is dreaming, my dream is searching, my search . . .
Richard Wagner, Siegfried.
. . . he says is . . .
Ivan S. Turgenev, Virgin Soil.
. . . for weapons of knowledge.
Richard Wagner, Siegfried.
Thought that can merge wholly into feeling, feeling that can merge wholly into thought—these are the artist’s highest joy. And our solitary felt in himself at this moment power to command and wield a thought that thrilled with emotion, an emotion as precise and concentrated as thought: namely, that nature herself shivers with ecstasy when the mind bows down in homage before beauty. He felt a sudden desire to write.
Thomas Mann, Death in Venice.
He mused awhile, sat down at the table, and wrote down the following lines in his sacred copy-book, without a single correction:
Ivan S. Turgenev, Virgin Soil.
My task is done, my song hath ceased, my theme
Has died into an echo; it is fit
The spell should break of this protracted dream.
George Gordon, Lord Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.
On the afternoon of August 6, . . .
Martin Gregor-Dellin, Richard Wagner: His Life, His Work, His Century.
Or, maybe, . . .
Albert Camus, The Stranger.
. . . it was the 5th . . .
Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo.
. . . I can’t be sure. . . .
Albert Camus, The Stranger.
. . . Wagner summoned . . .
Martin Gregor-Dellin, Richard Wagner: His Life, His Work, His Century.
. . . a young musician . . .
Hugo Wolf, Letter to His Parents in Romain Rolland, Hugo Wolf.
. . . to his hotel room and invited him to look through the score of Tristan. It was almost finished.
Martin Gregor-Dellin, Richard Wagner: His Life, His Work, His Century.
All . . .
Albert Camus, The Plague.
. . . the visitor . . .
H.G. Wells, The Stolen Bacillus.
. . . gathered was that the work . . .
Albert Camus, The Plague.
. . . Wagner . . .
Charles Darwin, Origin of Species.
. . . was engaged on ran to a great many pages, and he was at almost excruciating pains to bring it to perfection.
Albert Camus, The Plague.
“Eh? What’s that?”
Albert Camus, The Stranger.
. . . where are you?
Richard Wagner, Tristan und Isolde.
. . . bar 28 . . .
Ernest Newman, The Life of Richard Wagner.
Can one imagine F sharp and G sharp accompanied by a chord in A minor!
The Beethoven Companion quoting A. Oulibicheff, Beethoven, ses critiques et ses glossateurs, Paris, 1857.
He was bending over the manuscript.
Albert Camus, The Plague.
What key are we in?
Leonard Bernstein, The Unanswered Question.
. . . no sphinx ever imagined such a riddle . . .
The Beethoven Companion quoting The Harmonicon, London, August 1823.
. . . it seems to elude analysis . . .
Hector Berlioz, A Critical Study of Beethoven’s Nine Symphonies.
“Well?”
Albert Camus, The Stranger.
A minor?
Leonard Bernstein, The Unanswered Question.
“More or less.”
Albert Camus, The Plague.
‘Ah! Now I see,’ said the visitor.
H.G. Wells, The Stolen Bacillus.
“It’s my opening phrase, and . . .
Albert Camus, The Plague.
. . . it gave me . . .
Arthur Conan Doyle, The Parasite.
. . . trouble, no end of trouble.”
Albert Camus, The Plague.
The theme floats serenely . . .
Philip T. Barford, Beethoven’s Last Sonata.
. . . says Wagner, . . .
Leonard Bernstein, The Unanswered Question.
. . . like a planet in the void, a star born in the emptiness of that motionless moment which gives the clue to the whole work.
Philip T. Barford, Beethoven’s Last Sonata.
At half-past four . . .
Martin Gregor-Dellin, Richard Wagner: His Life, His Work, His Century.
. . . in front of this audience, . . .
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, The Flight to Italy: Diary and Selected Letters.
. . . Wagner . . .
Anthony Storr, Solitude: A Return to the Self.
. . . wrote in the final bars.
Martin Gregor-Dellin, Richard Wagner: His Life, His Work, His Century.
That was all.
Elia W. Peattie, The Piano Next Door.
No agony and no ecstasy.
Judith Rossner, August.


4 comments:

Gary Freedman said...

Good Democrats (and opera lovers) will remember that Justice Sonia Sotomayor was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on the afternoon of August 6, 2009.

Gary Freedman said...

"Or maybe it was the 5th" is a reference to the death of Lawrence Sack, M.D. I wrote this entire passage in August 2003 -- it was inspired by Dr. Sack's death and is a memorial to him.

Gary Freedman said...

Twenty four years after he completed Tristan in Venice, Wagner died suddenly in Venice in 1883 -- while he was on vacation. Dr. Sack died while he was on vacation in Massachusetts.

Gary Freedman said...

"I fear the opera will be banned –-unless the whole thing is parodied in a bad performance -–: only mediocre performances can save me! Perfectly good ones will be bound to drive people mad, –- I cannot imagine it otherwise."
Richard Wagner to Mathilde Wesendonck