Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Listening ideas for 23 March 2011

Naxos Classical Music Spotlight Podcast
Vasily Petrenko talks to Edward Seckerson about his latest Shostakovich recording
The latest instalment in Vasily Petrenko’s highly acclaimed cycle of the Shostakovich symphonies offers a telling flashback to the composer’s youth. Symphony No.1 -his sensational symphonic debut- is, according to Petrenko, a whistle-stop tour through revolutionary Petrograd with Shostakovich donning the masks of comedy and tragedy in practical pursuit of his already highly developed sense of irony. As Petrenko explains to Edward Seckerson, the really big influence here is Stravinsky’s Petrushka, (as witness the devilishly flashy solo piano part) and there is something of the feel of a silent movie in the flickering imagery. Symphony No.3 “The First of May” offers a rather more prescribed view of the Revolution with its brassy choral paean redolent of those striking propaganda posters.
(review, feed)

Fresh Air
Why Libya Matters To The Middle East's Future
Story: The future of Libya has become a key part in the rapidly changing transformation of the Arab world. On today's Fresh Air, political scientist Marc Lynch explains why the United States and its allies decided to intervene — and what's at stake for each side.
(review, feed)

Entitled Opinions
Italian Cinema - Sarah Carey
Sarah Carey specializes in nineteenth and twentieth-century Italian literature, visual culture and cinema. She received her B.A. from Stanford University in 2002, her M.A. from UCLA in 2007, and her Ph.D. from UCLA in 2010. Her current book project analyzes how photography has met with artistic and literary aspirations in order to collectively explore Italy's own “autobiography.” Such a study, which would be one of the first full-length works in English to explore the relationship between photography, literature and cinema in Italy in the past two centuries aspires to show how the integration of photography into literary and filmic texts is idiosyncratic – a direct result of Italian visual traditions and the nation’s need to find a way to narrate its own story. Ms. Carey has published in Quaderni d’Italianistica and CARTE ITALIANE; her most recent article, “Futurism’s Photography – From fotodinamismo to fotomontaggio,” examines the complicated and at times hostile relationship between Italian Futurism and the photographic medium. She also has two forthcoming articles: a work co-authored with Thomas Harrison on the films of Michelangelo Antonioni in Italian Culture and an essay on photography in Vittorio Imbriani’s 1867 novel Merope IV that will be included in the book Enlightening Encounters Between Photography and Italian Literature (2010). Ms. Carey currently teaches Italian cinema and literature for the Department of French and Italian at Stanford. Her present course, “Rebels, Outcasts & Iconoclasts – Italian Cinema 1943-1975,” focuses on figures of social deviance in films from the most important Italian auteurs.
(review, feed)

Meaning Systems - Big Ideas

A very worthwhile piece of audio to pick up is the podcasted lecture by David Sloan Wilson on Religions and other Meaning Systems on the podcast Big Ideas also without the additional reading and listening that embedded it for me (feed). Sloan Wilson is an evolutionary biologist who shines his perspective on religion in general and does so in a very integrated fashion and with fascinating insights.

My perspective on religion is sociological and anthropological and it makes me always feel a bit queasy when I see biologists take on religion. Whether it is Richard Dawkins (in The God Delusion that I recently read) or Stephen Gould or PZ Myers, I always feel they somehow miss a fundamental point. Sloan Wilson is an exception to that rule, he explicitly does not miss the point: even though religions carry claims about facts, claims that biology or other sciences are by far more qualified to make, religion is not essentially about facts, or even about salvation or morality - religions are a social construct that supply people with meaning. That is what Sociology and Anthropology could have told you in the first place and what Sloan Wilson presents as a zoological discovery: unlike other animals man is profoundly symbolic. And while we are at it, political ideologies and science are no less a product of that symbolic inclination of man than religion is. They all are meaning systems, in the terminology of Wilson. I would have called them symbolic universes, but again, that is my baggage from sociology.

It is also my baggage as a sociologist that I feel the social sciences are more qualified to analyze religion, yet I happily acknowledge that the biology perspectives of David Sloan Wilson and Richard Dawkins offer insight as well. It helped I was pointed by the DIY Scholar to the Stanford series with Robert Sapolsky: Human Behavioral Biology which is a very interesting and broad course in its own right, but in this context it gave me the much needed introduction in the tools, methods, terminology and mind set of the biologist. (feed)

More Big Ideas:
The Elegance of the Hedgehog,
Age of Unequals,
Dan Dennett: what should replace religion?,
Chris Hedges,
Needham about China.