Posts Tagged ‘schopenhauer’

Schopenhauer Was Right: Part 2 – When The Levee Breaks

Thursday, August 7th, 2008 by William Reynolds

Led Zeppelin IV was released in November of 1971. A number of heavy metal standards comprise this album. Black Dog, Rock & Roll, Misty Mountain Hop and Stairway to Heaven are sovereign heavyweights in the lexicon of rock and roll. I first purchased this record in 1980. At the time, I wasn’t much of a Zeppelin fan though to be noted I wasn’t overly familiar with their catalog of work. However, shortly after I gave this album a listen I became a convert.

Percussion was my first instrument. I began playing snare drum in a marching drum corp named the Cavalets in 1974. From that experience, I learned a valuable lesson with metaphorical overtones: When marching in a parade, it is infinitely better to proceed a horsed cavalry than to follow. I subsequently went on to play drums in my junior high and high school bands. The experience of listening to John Bonham on Rock and Roll, for example, was influential on my musical life beyond estimation. The way everything in this song seems to come apart as Plant spirals the chorus back into verse, and Bonham lazily lags a beat behind the turn and then in an instant snatches back the time on the down beat of the next verse….exhilarating! From Zeppelin, I learned time is elastic as pertains to musical expression and this elasticity is paramount to creating groove.

Zeppelin IV shares a rare and notable attribute with a select few other recordings in the catalog I’ve amassed over the years: Its finale, When The Levee Breaks, is as strong a closing song as Black Dog is as an opener. From the early beginnings of album sales, bands have struggled to muster up 10 -12 songs of equal musical and lyrical strength. This difficulty is evident by the comparative strength of the first 3 or 4 songs of most albums when juxtaposed with the last 2 or 3. Fortunately, this tendency allows us the listeners to evaluate recordings quickly when deciding whether or not to purchase. For myself, if I don’t hear something compelling; some persistent hook in the first 3 or 4 songs, well….I’m not going to stay around for the floor sweepers.

It all began with a bit of graffiti on a bridge enclosure. From that point, every new discovery felt like it supplanted its antecedent. Schopenhauer led to Nietzsche who led to Husserl who led to Heidegger… Just like Led Zeppelin IV, that great album of epic scope where each song is integral to the collective effort fusing monolithic hard rock with a mystical, rustic English sensibility, each of these thinkers are essential and deeply influential to the next. When The Levee Breaks majestically brings closure to LZ4; Heidegger’s phenomenolgy fitly closes a German movement begun with Schopenhauer’s negation of the world. And for a wee freshman at the U of M circa 1984, Schopenhauer was merely a point of introduction on an otherwise long, linear line stretching on past the horizon in both directions. That bit of graffiti shook me from my remedial slumber, and onward and forward I stumbled.

To be continued…

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Schopenhauer Was Right: Part 1

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008 by William Reynolds

The other evening, I listened to Zen Arcade (Husker Du for those lacking cognizance and/or familiarity with the state of punk circa 1984), and was quickly transported back to my freshman year in college. Zen Arcade came out in July of 84 as did Double Nickels On The Dime (Minuteman for those lacking….oh nevermind). Looking back, July was a remarkable month considering how seminal both of these efforts proved to be.

My freshman year of college saw many transitions in my personal development. I began college as a pre-dental major, but in short time came to a sad realization that molars, incisors and bicuspids were not nearly as compelling as Freud, Sarte and rock and roll. Fast forwarding a bit to 1986, after brief dalliances with history, theology and pastoral studies (I’ll discuss this another time), I finally settled upon philosophy as the major most likely to guarantee my future unemployment.

In 1984, I attended the University of Minnesota. The U of M is split into east and west banks separated by the Mississippi river and connected by a bi-level bridge allowing for car traffic below and pedestrian traffic above. In December of 1984, while crossing this bridge to attend a class on the west bank, I noticed a new piece of graffiti sprayed on a small, square piece of wall lining the enclosure through which students cross back and forth. It was a short message written with white paint that read, “Schopenhauer was right!” I stopped in my tracks, and began staring as if at a newly found form of tropical insect or bird. Just prior to stopping, I had put a cassette of Zen Arcade into my walkman, and so there I was, staring curiously at this unintelligible declaration in front of me while the opening chords of “Something I Learned Today” ripped through my headphones. I’d never heard of Schopenhauer, so I couldn’t attest to the rightness or wrongness of his utterances. I thought to myself, “Who is Schopenhauer, and what does he have to be right about?” I needed to find out.

I remember the air that day was bitterly cold, and my breath rolled from my nostrils like an avalanche of hoarfrost as I stood there transfixed. This was the first of many touchstone moments to come during my collegiate years. I removed a pen and notebook from my backpack, wrote down the inscription, and continued on to class. That night, I went to the Wilson Library on campus, and checked out The World As Will and Representation. A bit overmatched was I given my youth and unfamiliarity with philosophical nomenclature. Nevertheless, I never looked at the world through the same eyes again.

To be continued….

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