I am not ashamed to admit that I am completely obsessed with The Transparency of Evil. You know that feeling when you read something and it articulates so perfectly all that you think about a particular topic, or your own personal circumstances? It is officially joining the ranks of books-that-changed-my-life, right next to The History of Western Philosophy, Peace is Every Step (a lovely antidote to ToE, actually) The History of Sexuality, Aristotle's Poetics, Feminine Endings, Discipline and Punish, and Siddhartha (yes, yes, make your jokes if you must).
Baudrillard writes with impressive elan: passionate and sobering but always beautiful. To me, his book is incredibly inspiring. An expression of our deeply troubled historical moment, The Transparency of Evil embodies the arguably bifurcated post-modern spirit. Indeed, the intoxication of immediacy and virtual equality fosters both bacchanalian ecstasy and profound despair--the result, an orgy of aporetic emptiness. But despite such a distressing message, Baudrillard's text contains within its elegantly crafted words an intrinsically hopeful--if subtle--message. The experience of reading ToE is deeply satisfying, comforting, and for lack of a better word, beautiful. That this type of response is still possible in the epoch of Transaesthetics and the Telecomputer Man, speaks to human nature: our instinct for edification, survival and yes, beauty (what can I say, I'm an eternal optimist).
I bring it up again, because this (in response to this [in response to this]) came across my Google Reader recently. Both Bergman's and Kuchar's posts are diversions (George Crumb is a total hipster, by the way), however reading Davidson's review, I couldn't help but think about Baudrillard (because, as I just said, I am completely obsessed with the Transparency of Evil).
Admittedly, I am not so familiar with the so-called new New York School. I went through a "phase" some years back, but nothing that would really qualify me to make any sort of meaningful aesthetic value judgments. My personal taste notwithstanding, what interests me more is Davidson's critique in all its Baudrillardian overtones. I've excerpted the review below, with added emphasis for passages that I found particularly resonant in the context of ToE.
This cornucopia of new music seems perpetually promising. It bristles with allusions and brims with ambition—yet it somehow feels stifled by all that freedom.
Today’s styles need not be born of deep experience; they form out of collisions that bypass history and geography.
These well-crafted but oddly familiar works display the virtues of facility, versatility, and curiosity, but they also showcase a group that seems disoriented by its own open-mindedness. Composers who could do anything somehow don’t.
Despite their gifts and alertness to the moment, [the new New York] composers seem muffled, bereft of zeal. What they badly need is a machine to rage against and a set of bracing creative constraints.
Davidson seems to be articulating that orgy of aporetic emptiness: compositions teem with Schnabel-esque excess thus they result in something that registers as "tame" or lacking "angst." Judgments like good and bad are hollow; reductionist at best. However, whether or not these composers are aware of it, their music--according to Davidson--seems to be articulating Baudrillard's description of our historical moment: an epoch of saturation, immediacy, and apathy induced by hyper-stimulation.
As far as any musical criticisms are concerned, I'm going to do some listening and get back to you.