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October 28, 1923 - Image 16

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1923-10-28

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Music and Musicians
There are two distinct points in- ed Liszt's "Loreley". Were she able
volved in Galli-Cur5l and her type of to sing it in a correct fashion, one
program. One of them is that in he might over-look its place on the pro-
exquisite presentation of "Way Down gram. But for Galli-Curci to attempt
Upon the Swanee River" (and others) the "Loreley" is as preposterous as a
she is bringing trash into the lime- chanticleer's trying to effect a moo.
light and thereby degrading the pub- She has absolutely no dramatic sense
lic as regards choice of music. The of the type'necessary tosing the "Lore-
other point is that, were she to take ley"--no warmth nor sincerity; jest
the trouble to unearth a few of the naivety. To be sure, there is no voice
many songs not only of a light char- like her-there is no voice like any-
acter but also of artistic value, she body else's. She sings French beauti-
would make exactly as big a hit as fully; Italian still more so; but lier
she does singing "Love's Old Sweet native Spanish she does the best. She
,Song" (and others). Indeed, she is a is the very spirit of Spain herself.
most unpractical person (almost a But is there anything tragic in the
nuisance) to those who are striving Spanish? No, they are almost entirely
to get the mob away from "Robin without it, Granados. being the only
Adair" (and others). Spanish composer who seems at all
Is there anybody who would attempt thoughtful. Occasionally a composi-
the task of teaching a pig to sit at a tion or Folk Song will lapse into un-
table with a napkin around its neck happiness, but in a second it is back
and to obtain its nourishment in that to terrific vivacity, and it is this that
fashion? The answer is quite evident. Galli-Curci sings the best The Italian
Yet, would this not be a most as- songs on the program were all well
founding advance in the civilization of chosen to suit her style, and nobody
pigs? Again there is no doubt as to can sing them as superbly, with each
the reply. But how unhumane it absolutely unique and appealing tech-
would be and how horribly barbarous nique. But to the thoughtful mind
to make a pig to sit with a bib, or to gaiety is not as long-lasting as incer-
suffer a cow to repose in a crib. ity; and so, permit me to state that
Hence, civilization is barbarity; so Galli-Curci appeals only to those
one has to credit Galli-Curci with be- whose lives are commonplace-those
ing at least humane. who do not think things but live the
The lovely soprano in question blissful lives of the Epicurians, and
seems entirely ignorant of the fact those who are neither Epicurian nor
that she is in no sense a Lilly Lehman. anything else but simply stand and
Between a Spanish love song and a gaze and accept what comes and don't
Polonaise of Bellini she boldly insert- worry about what doesn't.
MENCEN jthe paradox; In him the bluenose and
(Continued from Page One) the Ja-sager struggle for supremacy.
against the weaknesses of our time Happily, however, Mencken's puritan-
and place. Mencken himself would ism has been ameliorated by a hum-
,have us believe that this business of ane and foreign culture, and his mor-
playing Fury is but the idle pastime ailty tempered by a frank and shame-
of the hour. "I am entirely devoid of less hedonism.
public sprit," he would say. "I en- In general there are two classes
tettain nomessianfc delusions: it sim- of sceptics. One tolerant, easy-going
ply delights me to chase mounte- ones, such as Renan and Anatole
banks and so I occasionally yield to, France-charming, polite, urbane, dis-
the vice." No doubt this is parly trustful even of their own "truths";
true. Mencken, like all of us, is some- and the less consistent, but mor in-
thing of a hedonist, and witch-hunt- sistent ones, such as Nietzsche and
ings, pogroms, and inquisitions are Luther-loud, vehement, and Puritan-
still tlIe favorite divertisements of the Ical. It is because Mencken, like
human animal. But in his loud whoop- George Bernard Shaw, vacillates be-
ings and fierce denunciations-not- tween these two extremes that one is
withstanding his insistent proteta- not always sure just how seriously
tions to the contrary-there are num- to take him, Of course, again like
eius vestiges of resentment and un- Shaw, he is constantly giving himsel
questionable signs of noble rage. away; he is forever playing peek-a-
"The very too-muchness of his pro- boo, as it were, from behind his mask.
testing classifies him" In his Conrad Someone once referred to Mencken
essay, for example, we catch him in- as the "civilized consciousness o
troducing, at the risk of all form and Modern America." Modern America!
artisty, his inevitable diatribe on the The United States!-whom H. G.
shoddiness of the national culture and Wells has characterized as "a vain,
the depravity of our currentfliterature. garrulous and prosperous female of
This jeremiad, in fact, is the chorus, uncertain age and still more uncertain
theme, and coda of all his writing. temper, with unfounded pretensions
He finds These States dropsical with to intellectuality and an ideal of re-
morals, uplift, and paternalism. He finement of the most negative des-
sees the art of letters prostituted to cription. . . the Aunt Errant of
the level of the proletariat, and the Christendom." Is it any wonder that
ignorance, superstitions, and credit- this Modern America, this Aunt Er-
lity of the great masses of our people rant of Christendom, should have
played upon by preposterous mounte-' brought forth such a creature as
banks and ranting demagogues. And Mencken-a changeling who ducks at
so with a merry "What-Ho." he is his very shadow, who squirms and
off to the chase. twists as a schoolboy, and who, in his
And then there is his style!-a style very contortions, symbolizes the im-
which in no way argues a calm and becilities, childish inconsistencies, and
indifferent disposition. It savors as as yet confused struggles and aspira-
much of the street and marketplace tions of a nation in travail. A crier
as of the study. The truth is that out to his generation is this Mencken,
Mencken, despite his sophistication, this curiously intelligent child of a
has none of that epicurean calm and curiously unintelligent mother-and
Horatian reserve of the true sceptic. a destroyer of shams, and the prophet
Though he may agree with Henry; of an intellectual aristocracy.
Adams that life is horrible and mean- Sometimes one wonders just how
ingless he shows very little of the deep is the love of this god-given and

latter's cynical indifference and aris- rebellious mutant for his strange half-
tocratic aloofness, civilized mother. One cannot believe
Of course one must not push this that here there are no genuine bonds
indignation-motif too far. Mencken' of interest: there are too many con-
is hedonist as well as Puritan, hum- tra-indications. Just howv far dare
anist as well as moralist. Here again one tear off themask? One even sus-

pects that l e. in spit of his -2 futility, this theoretical pessi-
frequent a ssr'ions to ;iia ef ci t ' asi- ., plus, of coerse, a certain in-
lila genetri , deincrocy, is lbasli 5fall-ona eaood tatoo, whichi savs'ehimfrom
ur e and a nuisance, has realy re- th awild agaries and imbecilities of
signed himself to this "daranest of vice-crusading, politics, and tin-pot
frauds" and become vitally inte,'est(d evangelisa. In a very real sense,
in he.r futur wlfaare. W' knea 'ist1 nckiesn is a 'lpractical man." tHe is
as churchishly distrustful of meta-

Ihe aester doife his cap and blls,
And stood t ho mocking court bYiore;
They could not see the bitt-er' -ile
Behind the paited grin he ore.
Cf course it would never do to con-
fuse M'en'ke. witas such facile fllos-s
as Bryan and Sunday. encken ,as
assimilated all that learning and cul-
tore awsich his mater-genetrix has
not--and his philosophy is neither fa-
cile nor shallow. The corner stone
of this philosophy is grounded on the
doctrine of the permanence and bene-
ficence of the evolutionary process-
and, by corollary, on the impotencyj
and insignificance of mere man.
'Mencken is not the one to accept theI
doctrine of John Stuart' Mill that all
the great sources of human misery are
largely conquerable by human care'
and effort. For all his high spirit and
gusto, Mencken is, in a cosmic sense,
of a melancholy temperament. As he
sees it, all great works of literature
deal with failures, and all honest phil-
osophical systems are pessimistic. He
clearly understands the narrow limi-"
tations of human power and the fu-
tility of effort beyond these limits.
But though Mencken is a pessimist,
he is no idle dreamer. Rather is he
a man of action: the Roosevelt of our
literary critics, the Billy Sunday of
our satirists. It is only this conscious-

physics as of theology. His only guide
is "comsmon-sense."
But what of Mencken the literary
critic? To say that he is not a critic
is simply to haggle over a matter of
definition. To be sure, he is not in-
terested in the mere catalogueing and
appraising of books, plays, or philos-
ophies; indeed, he seems to have given
up the serious consideration of spe-
cific works of art altogether. Nor is
lae animated by any itch to improve
the mind, or advance the cause of "the
good, the true, and the beautiful."
His motive, according to his own con-
fession, is that of the artist, pure and
simple. It is the desire to function
freely, to exploit one's own ideas, to
make an articulate noise in the word.
In Mencken's hands, criticism (if
this be the correct designation) takes
on warmth, life, personality. "Criti-
cism is a fine art or it is nothing."
To criticize is to Menckenize. In a
word, it is impressionism. No doubt
this attitude leads the critic into many
errors. Well, what of it? "The sort
of criticism I detest and try to avoid,"
he says, "is that which pretends to be
relentlessly judicious." With charac-
teristic scepticism, Mencken would.
discredit all attempts at so-called
(Continued on Page Seven)

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