Saturday, December 30, 2017

Rahsaan Works the Crowd

Rahsaan Roland Kirk is one of my favorite musicians. I first heard him on his album, Rip, Rig, and Panic, probably in the summer of 1966 or perhaps that fall. I heard him live three times, once in Baltimore in 1969, once a couple years later (but before I went to Buffalo in 1973) and then finally in 1977, in Buffalo. This is about the first time I saw/heard him live. It's from my book, Beethoven's Anvil: Music in Mind and Culture (Basic 2001, pp 4-6).

* * * * *

rahsaan broadcast

* * * * *

Sadness and tenderness are certainly not the only emotions elicited by musical performance. Joy and exaltation demand our attention as well. Rahsaan Roland Kirk was the most reliably joyful performer I have ever seen. I first saw him at the Morgan State Jazz Festival in 1969. It was outdoors, and at night. Bright searchlights beamed onto the stage. As Rahsaan walked onto the stage the light splintered from his black vinyl jump suit and from the complex textures created by the mantle of musical instruments Rahsaan wore like liturgical vestments. He began by rapping to the audience as he walked onto the stage, “They can keep us off the radio, but they can’t keep us outa’ the air!” He then took his band into the first number, “Volunteered Slavery,” a raunchy blues proclaiming that “If you want to know what it is to be free/ you gotta’ spend all day in bed with me.” Rahsaan did not have much of a singing voice, but he delivered the lyrics with force and vigor. He then took up his tenor saxophone and began to conjure a solo up out of the ground.

Rahsaan was a skilled and muscular saxophonist able to perform in a variety of styles from 30’s swing to 60’s freak-out. On this occasion he played straight-ahead all-out blues that achived lift-off.[ ] Rahsaan was playing a multiphonic riff on three horns at once and then simplified it to playing just the tenor sax, while his side men were riffing away. Rahsaan settled on one note and held it as the riffing grew louder. The drum figures became more complex, the piano riffing more insistant and, above all, Vernon Martin let loose a mighty thunder on the bass. As the thunder crested Rashaan began playing the concluding riff from the Beatles’ tune “Hey Jude” on his tenor sax. The musical thickness cleared away, Dick Griffen switched his trombone riff, and the audience let out a gasp. We rose to our feet with some standing on their seats. People were clapping in time to the music and swaying back and forth, together. Rahsaan had us and we were pleased to have him.

Who orchestrated this activity? In one sense the question has an easy answer: Whoever organized the 1969 Morgan State Jazz Festival. But that isn’t quite the question I’m asking. In a different sense, Rahsaan and his musicians orchestrated their performance. How did they do it? Part of the answer is traditional and banal: they practiced. Through that practice they’ve developed routines, signals, and an intuitive sense among each of them of how each of the others shapes, moves and reacts to musical flow. For all its rhetoric of spontaneity,jazz is a highly rehearsed music. The sequence of events in “Volunteered Slavery” might have been fully scripted before Rahsaan first played it with the group, though I doubt it. On the other hand, it may simply have happened that way in performance or rehearsal and worked so well that they made it their standard performance. The routine may reflect a self-organizing process typical of such musical collaboration. In either case, the performance rests on hours upon hours of rehearsal and practice by these musicians, individually and as a group.

Whatever happened among the musicians accounts for only part of the event’s orchestration, the part that happened on stage. Who organized the audience so that they knew when to gasp and rise to their feet? No one. That’s the most interesting component of this orchestration.

Of course there are conventions one follows as a member of a concert audience. You sit in your seat; you don’t talk during the performance; you applaud after a solo—this was a jazz concert, and applause after solos has been the convention for decades. And you applaud at the end of a number.

There were no conventions regarding gasping. As for clapping to the music, and standing, there certainly were people in the audience for whom those were conventional responses, as this behavior is common in churches that favor enthusiastic song from the choir and parishioners. But this was not such a church; it was a jazz festival. Beyond that, there are no conventions governing standing on one’s seat. That just happened in the enthusiasm of the moment. What I find so interesting is that so many people got enthusiastic at the same time, a time that made musical sense. People rose to their feet and then to their chairs at a point in the music where there was a major shift in the energy.

Such behavior needs to be explained—something we’ll think about later in this book. For now I would like simply to note that the distinguished historian William H. McNeill has argued in his book, Keeping Together in Time, that coordinated rhythmical activity is fundamental to life in society. By dancing together to music, by marching together in military drill, we bond with one another and become a group. In McNeill’s view human society would not be possible without such activity. Music and dance are not mere luxuries consuming resources. They are every bit as fundamental to our life as hunting or childrearing, but fundamental in a different way.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

My kind of photo – WILD! Lions, and thunder, and dragons – Well, lions anyhow (one of a matched pair)

20171225-_IGP1992

I love shooting into the sun, and I was certainly doing that here. It was late afternoon – in the topiary garden at Longwood Gardens outside of Philadelphia – and the sun was low in the sky. I was shooting that lion, one of a pair. I have no idea what I was thinking when I took this shot. Probably something like, WOW! the SUN, the LION” And CLICK, it was done.

I doubt that I could see much through the view finder. The direct sun was simply too strong. I just pointed the camera in the right direction and hoped that the shot was reasonable framed. And I was. Luck and instinct.

20171225-_IGP1992-2

The image as it came from the camera was rather dark and ‘flat’. That’s what happens then the camera is flooded with light. The sensor all but shuts down in ‘self protection’.

Consequently it took a bit of monkeying around to pull a reasonable image out of the photo. Of course, there’s no one way to do this, if you’re going to do it at all. What kind of image do you want? I like that the lion is reasonably well-defined, I like that a lot. And the lens flair, it must touch about half the image, upper left and lower right. With all that light in there there’s no pretending this is anything but a photograph.

20171225-_IGP1997


Of course, no photograph ever presents the world AS IT REALLY IS. Whatever photorealism is, it isn’t the world as it is. Realism, in photography, as in painting, or writing, is just another style, another way of interacting with the world. Photos such as this add a bit of delirium to the mix.

20171225-P1150125

Women posing for a photographer and having (delicious) fun [#naked]

Ove four years ago I went to an exhibition of photographs by the Japanese photographer, Nobuyoshi Araki. Many, but by no means all of them, were of women, often naked, sometimes outrageously so, and sometimes intricately bound in what, I gather, was a traditional Japanese style – though not the sort of tradition widely on display. I wrote three blog posts about Araki, one based on a documentary about his working which included footage of photo sessions with female models, many/most of whom where not professional models. It was fascinating stuff, especially his (often jovial) relationship with his models during a photo shoot.

I was reminded of that while reading about a Chinese (art) photographer who died this year, Ren Hang (Jenna Wortham In The NYTimes). Here's the first paragraph:
Jun Sui didn’t plan to get naked for the Chinese art photographer Ren Hang. But as the day wore on, she loosened up, and the clothes came off. Ren’s shoots could become electrified with the illicitness of being nude, especially when they were in public, where such activity in China guarantees arrest or worse. The atmosphere of adventure created trust, as did the spirit of rebellion. “There was a sense of being free,” Sui told me. In person, Sui is demure, inconspicuous; in Ren’s photographs, her eyes blaze from her crouch between two upright women, her arms snaking between their thighs. “We hide the body in our culture,” Ren once said; in China, it is “a demoralization to show what they think should be private.” Ren, Sui said, encouraged everyone around him to shed that conditioning.
Yes.
“He repeated over and over that nothing was ever planned for photographs,” said Dian Hanson, an editor at Taschen who worked with Ren on a monograph of his photographs that was published earlier this year. “Nothing was planned in his life. He was determined to live in the moment always. There was no thought for the future. In retrospect, one sees that as a plan not to be around for very long.”
While you're at it, you might also look at this brief portrait of Jane Juska, by Maggie Jones.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Topiary Garden

20171225-P1150125

20171225-P1150119

20171225-P1150101

Jakobson’s Poetic Function and Textual Closure

Note: This consolidates several older posts and, in the last section, adds a bit of detail.
Roman Jakobson’s poetic function[1] is one of the best-known and most obscure ideas in modern poetics. I believe that it extends beyond the kinds of examples Jakobson himself gave, to include, for example, ring-form narratives. It may as well be considered a computational principle applying to texts considered as strings of word forms.

Literary Form

Two years ago Sandra MacPherson wrote[2] that she's looking for “for a genuinely formalist critical practice, a little formalism that would turn one away from history without shame or apology” (p. 385). What does she mean by form? She means “nothing more—and nothing less—than the shape matter (whether a poem or a tree) takes” (p. 390).

The basic shape that literary matter takes is simple, a string. When spoken the string is an acoustic wave. When written the string is a collection of written symbols that generally take rectangular form on the page but that are read as though they were one long string – which they are. The rectangular arrangement is but a convenient way of fitting the string onto sheets of paper.

Music takes the form of a string. That’s one example for us, and poetry is often likened to music. Beads on a wire is another example – a metaphor sometimes used to characterize DNA. I suggest that Roman Jakobson’s poetic function is an abstract statement of a formal principle for things strung together in linear order, such as words.

Jakobson’s formulation of this principle is one of the most enigmatic statements in the critical literature (p. 358):
The poetic function projects the principle of equivalence from the axis of selection into the axis of combination. Equivalence is promoted to the constitutive device of the sequence.
What does that mean? The sequence, of course, is our string. A bit later he says (p. 358):
Measure of sequences is a device that, outside of the poetic function, finds no application in language. Only in poetry with its regular reiteration of equivalent units is the time of the speech flow experienced, as it is — to cite another semiotic pattern — with musical time.
Almost all of his examples are from poetry. Take rhyme. Line endings occur at regular measured intervals. When similar syllables occur at specific fixed intervals, that is projection from the axis of selection (one syllable or another, one word or another) to the axis of combination. That is rhyme. Rhyme is a simple and obvious example of the poetic function. Jakobson goes on to give other, more sophisticated, examples.

But I want to move out of the domain entirely. Let me suggest that ring-composition also exemplifies the poetic function. You may recall that ring-composition involves linear arrangements of this form:
A, B, C...X...C’, B, A’.
The letters indicate ‘slots’ in the sequence while the identity of the letters indicates the pattern of symmetrical matching that is characteristic of ring composition. Matching pairs are equivalent in some semantic sense and the form requires that they be deployed in a certain sequence.

That, I realize is a highly abstract paragraph. As I intend this as only a short note, I have no intention of filling that out [3]. My object is simply to point out that ring-composition can be seen as exemplifying Jakobson’s poetic function, thereby extending its applicable range beyond the kinds of examples Jakobson himself gave and that others typically give. The poetic function isn’t specifically about poetry. It operates in non-poetic narrative forms as well.

I have no reason to believe that the poetic function will account for all aspects of literary form. Just how many aspects it accounts for, I wouldn’t hazard a guess. That will require more work.

The poetic function as a computational principle

Not only can Jakobson’s poetic function be extended beyond the examples he gave, which came from poetry, to other formal features, such as ring composition. I now want to suggest that it is a computational principle as well. What do I mean by computation [4]? That’s always a question in these discussions, isn’t it?

When Alan Turing formalized the idea of computation he did so with the notion of a so-called Turing Machine: “The machine operates on an infinite memory tape divided into discrete cells. The machine positions its head over a cell and ‘reads’ (scans) the symbol there.”[5] There’s more to it than that, but that’s all we need here. It’s that tape that interests me, the one with discrete cells, each containing a symbol. Turing defined computation as an operation on the contents of those cells. Just what kind of symbols we’re dealing with is irrelevant as long as the basic rules governing their use are well-specified. The symbols might be numerals and mathematical operators, but they might also be the words and punctuation marks of a written language.

Linguists frequently refer to strings; an utterance is a string of phonemes, or morphemes, or words, depending on what you’re interested in. Of course it doesn’t have to be an utterance; the string can consist of a written text. What’s important is that it’s a string.

Well, Jakobson’s poetic function places restrictions on the arrangement of words on the string, restrictions independent of those made by ordinary syntax. Let us recall his definition:
The poetic function projects the principle of equivalence from the axis of selection into the axis of combination. Equivalence is promoted to the constitutive device of the sequence.
The sequence, of course, is our string. As for the rest of it, that’s a bit obscure. But it’s easy to see how things like meter and rhyme impose restrictions on the composition of strings. And we have just seen, if only briefly, that ring composition may be seen as restrictions of the composition of a string. In a working paper on ring composition, I have already pointed out how the seven rules Mary Douglas gave for characterizing ring composition[6] can be given a computational interpretation (pp. 39-42).

Textual closure and literary form

I propose these as central to a computational account of literary form:
1. The process whereby word forms, whether spoken, written, or gestured (signed), are linked to meaning/semantics is irreducibly computational.
2. A complete text is well-formed if and only if its meaning is resolved once the last word form has been taken up.
3. It is in this context that Roman Jakobson’s poetic function may be considered a principle of literary form.
1 and 2 are about language in general.

It is not clear to me whether 1 is a matter of definition or a statement empirical fact subject to investigation. If it is to be construed as fact, what would the investigation be like? What counts as evidence? If it is a matter of definition, what is the more general definition of computation of which this would be a particular instance? Would Alan Turing’s defintion, via the Turing Machine, be sufficient?

On 2, I rather imagine there is relevant literature, though I don’t know. Obviously there is a huge literature about computational completion, and 2 would fall within the scope of that literature. Whether or not a computation will complete is one thing. This is much more specific. It says that we are
1. computing the value of a string by
2. moving through the string from left to right (though I suppose we can allow some back-tracking and some looking ahead) and that
3. the value of the string will have been completed shortly after the rightmost character has been read.
“Shortly after” means, say, less than 1/1000 to 1/100 of the time it takes to read the string from beginning to end–something like that; it needs to be adjusted to allow for both haiku and driple decker Victorian novels.

On 3, I note that Obama’s eulogy for Clementa Pinckney takes the form of a sermon, but it exhibits ring-composition and thus falls within the scope of Jakobson’s poetic function [7]. I note as well that Alan Liu’s essay, “The Meaning of the Digital Humanities”, exhibits ring-composition, but is expository and argumentative prose [8]. It is possible, but by no means obvious, that all literary texts are governed by the poetic function (whatever “govern” means), but that non-literary texts exhibit it as well. It is also possible that some literary texts exhibit it and some do not. Finally, we might ask whether or not, and if so, in what way, the use of the poetic function in a text contributes to its closure, as defined in 2.

References

[1] Roman Jakobson, “Linguistics and Poetics,” in Thomas Sebeok, ed., Style in Language (Cambridge, Ma.: MIT Press,1960), 350-77.

[2] Sandra Macpherson, A Little Formalism, ELH, Volume 82, Number 2, Summer 2015, pp. 385-405.

[3] For that, see, e.g., Mary Douglas, Thinking in Circles: An Essay on Ring Composition, Yale University Press, 2007. I have numerous posts on ring form at New Savanna, https://new-savanna.blogspot.com/search/label/ring-form and a number of working papers at Academic.edu: https://independent.academia.edu/BillBenzon.

[4] I have argued at some length that literary form is computational: Literary Morphology: Nine Propositions in a Naturalist Theory of Form. PsyArt: An Online Journal for the Psychological Study of the Arts, August 2006, Article 060608. https://www.academia.edu/235110/Literary_Morphology_Nine_Propositions_in_a_Naturalist_Theory_of_Form

[5] Turing machine, Wikipedia, accessed Sept. 19, 2017: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turing_machine

[6] Ring Composition: Some Notes on a Particular Literary Morphology, Working Paper, September 28, 2014, 70 pp.

[7] Obama’s Eulogy for Clementa Pinckney: Technics of Power and Grace, Working Paper, July 2015, 37 pp., https://www.academia.edu/14487024/Obama_s_Eulogy_for_Clementa_Pinckney_Technics_of_Power_and_Grace

[8] Remarks on Alan Liu and the Digital Humanities, a Working Paper, April 2014, 24 pp., https://www.academia.edu/7776079/Remarks_on_Alan_Liu_and_the_Digital_Humanities_A_Working_Paper

The world of children's competitive dance

The children who enter these competitions train up to 30 hours per week, primarily on weekends and after school. Because children must compete in many styles — hip-hop, ballet, jazz and others — versatility is essential, and training can be rigorous to the point of extremity. Each competition bestows its own regional titles, and bigger events also offer national ones. Studios choose which competitions to attend based on careful consideration of cost, quality and competitiveness. Some students compete nearly every weekend during the season, which runs approximately September to July, and train at intensives and classes during the rest of the year.

There are no official figures about how many children are involved in competition dance nationwide, but the number of national competitions has ballooned into the hundreds since the 1980s. In the late 1970s, one of the first of the organizing companies, Showstopper, held competitions out of the trunk of a station wagon. Last year, 52,000 dancers participated in Showstopper, and its touring fleet included a semi truck that transported trophies alone.

A turning point came in 2011, when Lifetime aired a reality show called “Dance Moms.” A number of dance-themed reality shows premiered in the previous decade — “So You Think You Can Dance,” “Dancing With the Stars” — but “Dance Moms” focused on relatable kids who aspired to be famous for their dancing, not adults. The show followed a Pittsburgh competition team at the Abby Lee Dance Company, reporting breathlessly on the wins and losses suffered by its team of preteens. “Dance Moms” emphasized drink-sloshing and hair-pulling by the team’s parents rather than the particulars of the students’ lives, but it made several young dancers, particularly Maddie Ziegler, now 15, into minor celebrities. The competition community almost unanimously considers the show in poor taste, but it normalized the idea of child stardom among competition-dance students, teachers and parents. When she was 11, Ziegler was cast by the musician Sia in a music video for her song “Chandelier.” The video featured Ziegler as the sole performer, doing pirouettes, splits and kicks with a series of fierce facial expressions.

When I started dancing professionally four years ago, dancers I worked with would sometimes make one another laugh in rehearsal by whipping out old competition moves: preposterously wide smiles, coquettish shoulder tilts. As adults looking for dance jobs in New York, they had hurried to leave these overblown faces behind, like a newscaster trying to scrub herself of a regional accent. They wanted to be modern dancers, and maximal facial expressions aren’t stylish in the world of concert dance, which is still the purview of college dance programs and conservatories. When competition dancers enter college or seek jobs in the modern dance world, they tend to tone down their “fire,” as one former competition dancer put it, to fit in. She was a national-competition titleholder while in high school, but now she treated her competition past like a secret. She wanted to join a modern dance company, and competition dance is often considered better suited to music videos, concert tours or cruise ships. She felt that some of the companies she wanted to join, which performed exclusively in theaters, looked askance at her background. As mainstream as it has become, competition dance is still a distinct dance subculture, revolving around pop music, hard-hitting choreography and young female adherents. “It’s a different world,” Melinda Wandel, a mother of an 11-year-old competition dancer, told me.
Several years ago I was hired to take photos at one of these competitions, held in suburban New Jersey. Here's my report, Dance to the Music: the Kids Owned the Day.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Saturday Ramble: Ethical criticism and too much to do

“Deck the Halls with Double Joy” –



It’s early Saturday morning, December 23, 2017. In a couple of hours I head off to Philadelphia to spend the Christmas weekend with my sister. Monday, Christmas day, we’ll visit Longwood Gardens, a DuPont estate south of Philadelphia with magnificent grounds and a wonderful conservatory.

Lots to do. The Bergen Arches project is going to heat up in the new year. Who knows where that will lead.

And I’ve got a lot of writing to do, some in connection with the Arches project, but most in connection with my intellectual life. On high priority:
  • A working paper about the direction of cultural evolution and cultural evolution as force in history.
  • I want to say so more about the problematics of the text, about how standard lit crit bridges the gap between signifier and signified with intention, but that naturalist criticism has actual mechanisms on offer. And how the vague intentional text (what I’ve been calling the interpretable or hermeneutic text [1]) of standard lit crit leads to the transcendental critic who treats the world as a text. Not good.
  • What about ethical criticism? Just what does it do?
I’ve got some quick thoughts about ethical criticism.

First, a 21st century ethical criticism must discard that vague intentional text, the one with hidden meanings that must be closely read. It’s useless artifact serving no purpose but to prop up a now moribund conception of literary commentary.

Second, back in the mid-1950 when literary criticism explicitly disavowed, well, criticism, the cultural world was a different place. The literary academy was resting secure in the implicit assumption of nationalist criticism where the cultural valence of the nation, or each nation, was secure. That fell apart in the 1970s and 80s. Now we’ve got a proliferation of identity criticisms. That’s one thing an ethical criticism needs to deal with.

Third, consider this, the final paragraph of my first “Kubla Khan” essay [1]:
The hermeneutic critic is, ultimately, asking: What is the meaning of life? What is man’s place in the scheme of things? What does this text tell us of that scheme? These are not properly scientific questions and we should not expect a science of man to answer them. But that science must answer closely related questions: What is the nature of the human mind such that it continually inquires into its own nature, into its place in the world? What is the nature of a poem such that it stills, for the moment, such questioning? A science that fails to address such questions may indeed be a science, but it will not be profoundly of man.
For those initial questions I offer a substitute: What is it that makes human life problematic? Yes, life is often difficult and painful. But that in itself is not problematic. What makes life problematic? I’d suggest things like knowledge of death, the contradictory demands and challenges of a complex nervous system – that would, I suspect, include knowledge of death, and perhaps everything else as well. That is, that must be understood as a problem arising within the mechanisms of the brain. That’s a challenge for the behavioral sciences. And I think it’s approachable. But that’s a discussion for a different time and place.

The ethical critic is concerned with how one lives through those challenges. That is to say, how does a given text get from here to there? The ethnical critic isn’t trying to observe the text “from above” (transcendentally) but is registering how it feels to live in the text.

Wayne Booth speaks to that in The Company We Keep: An Ethics of Fiction (1988). After quoting from a Chekov story (“Home”) he observes (p. 484):
We all have “this foolish habit,” [liking stories] and we all are by nature caught in the ambiguities that trouble the prosecutor. Yet we are all equipped, by a nature (a “second nature”) that has created us out of story, with a rich experience in choosing which life stories, fictional or “real,” we will embrace wholeheartedly. Who we are, who we will be tomorrow depends thus on some act of criticism, whether by ourselves or by those who determine what stories will come our way – criticism wise or foolish, deliberate or spontaneous, conscious or unconscious: “You may enter; you must go away – and I will do my best to forget you.”

Each culture provides every member with an unlimited number of “natural” choices that seem to require no thought.
“But how” Booth asks (p. 484), “should we make those choices?” We take advantage of the fact that fiction is a “relatively cost-free offer of trial runs” – the psychologist Keith Oatley talks of simulation, literary experience simulates life [2]. Booth observes:
If you try out a given mode of life in itself, you may, like Eve in the garden, discover too late that the one who offered it to you was Old Nick himself…. In a month of reading, I can try out more “lives” than I can test in a lifetime.

Ethical criticism aims to help us explore the implications of the simulations we read, or see in films, or even enact in video games.
More later.

[1] From Canon/Archive to a REAL REVOLUTION in literary studies, Working Paper, December 21, 2017, 26 pp., https://www.academia.edu/35486902/From_Canon_Archive_to_a_REAL_REVOLUTION_in_literary_studies

[2] Articulate Vision: A Structuralist Reading of "Kubla Khan", Language and Style, Vol. 8: 3-29, 1985., https://www.academia.edu/8155602/Articulate_Vision_A_Structuralist_Reading_of_Kubla_Khan_

Santa Shrooms

Friday, December 22, 2017

Friday Fotos: Manhattan from Hoboken

20171216-_IGP1795

20171216-_IGP1781

20171216-_IGP1777

20171216-_IGP1714

20171216-_IGP1685

"Love" from Burning Man

Textual closure and literary form

The process whereby word forms, whether spoken, written, or gestured (signed), are linked to meaning/semantics is irreducibly computational.

A complete text is well-formed if and only if its meaning is resolved once the last word form has been taken up.

It is in this context that Roman Jakobson’s poetic function may be considered a principle of literary form.

* * * * *

See Jakobson’s Poetic Function and Literary Form, New Savanna, blog post, September 7, 2017: https://new-savanna.blogspot.com/2017/09/jakobsons-poetic-function-and-literary.html

Jakobson’s poetic function as a computational principle, on the trail of the human mind, New Savanna, blog post, September 19, 2017: https://new-savanna.blogspot.com/2017/09/jakobsons-poetic-function-as.html

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Enjoyment in music

PERSPECTIVE ARTICLE

Front. Psychol., 13 December 2017 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.02187
A Neurodynamic Perspective on Musical Enjoyment: The Role of Emotional Granularity

Nathaniel F. Barrett and Jay Schulkin

Introduction

Musical enjoyment is a nearly universal experience, and yet from a neurocognitive and evolutionary standpoint it presents a conundrum. Why do we respond so powerfully to something apparently without any survival value? A variety of explanations for the evolution of music cognition have been offered (e.g., Wallin et al., 2000; Morley, 2013), nevertheless most current neurocognitive theories of its specifically affective aspects do not posit any specially adapted emotional circuitry (but see Peretz, 2006). Rather, it is assumed that whatever processes are responsible for pleasure and emotion in general—be they subcortical, cortical, or both—are also responsible for the thrills of music. Accordingly, the problem of musical enjoyment is to explain how and why these processes are engaged so effectively by musical stimuli.

While this is a perfectly sensible approach, a major obstacle lies in its path: the paradox of enjoyable sadness in music (Davies, 1994; Levinson, 1997; Garrido and Schubert, 2011; Huron, 2011; Vuoskoski et al., 2011; Kawakami et al., 2013; Taruffi and Koelsch, 2014; Sachs et al., 2015). Music frequently elicits experiences of negative emotions, especially sadness, which we nevertheless find deeply gratifying. For neurocognitive perspectives, the implication of this phenomenon is that normal processes for generating emotional responses are not sufficient to explain musical enjoyment, as something special to music must allow us to enjoy negative emotion. How is musically induced sadness different from “normal” sadness such that the former can be enjoyed while the latter cannot?

To make progress on such questions, in this article we propose a theory of musical enjoyment based on implications of a neurodynamic approach to emotion (Pessoa, 2008; Flaig and Large, 2014), which highlights the role of transient patterns of coordinated neural activity spanning multiple regions of the brain. The key advantage of this perspective is its ability to register the possibility that emotional experiences differ not only in kind (happy vs. sad) but also in “granularity,” complexity, or differentiation (Lindquist and Barrett, 2008). Studies indicate that increased emotional granularity functions as a kind of positivity that can meliorate experiences of negative emotions (Smidt and Sudak, 2015). Accordingly, perhaps we can account for enjoyment of negative emotions in music if we can show that these emotions are more finely differentiated than “normal” negative feelings.

Based on this approach, we also propose a general distinction between pleasure, defined here as bursts of positively categorized feeling, and enjoyment, defined as sustained flows of finely differentiated feeling regardless of emotional categorization (cf. Frederickson, 2002). For this perspective, the categorical meaning of an emotional experience (e.g., happy or sad) is closely related to but separable from its positive or negative affective tone, at least insofar as this tone is influenced by granularity.

Neurodynamics, Emotion, and Music

Here “neurodynamic approach” refers to a family of neurocognitive theories that regard transient, large-scale patterns of rhythmically coordinated neural activity as the main vehicles of cognition/emotion (e.g., Freeman, 1997; Bressler and Kelso, 2001, 2016; Varela et al., 2001; Cosmelli et al., 2007; Breakspear and McIntosh, 2011; Sporns, 2011). An especially pertinent feature of this approach is its divergence from traditional notions of functional specialization and localization (Pessoa, 2008, 2014). Broadly speaking, insofar as neurodynamic theories understand cognitive functions as supported by transient, task-specific coalitions rather than stable processing pathways, they tend to affirm the multifunctionality of neural structures at multiple scales (Anderson et al., 2013; see also Hagoort, 2014; Friederici and Singer, 2015). According to this view, which contrasts with the modular approach commonly adopted by computational theories of neural function, the precise functional role of any given neural structure changes according to the context of coordinated neural activity (McIntosh, 2000, 2004; Bressler and McIntosh, 2007). On the other hand, this approach does not herald a return of “equipotentiality,” as it allows for characterizations of the functional “dispositions” of neural structures (Anderson, 2014).

Similarly, with regard to affect and emotion, the neurodynamic perspective can register the importance of distinct structures—e.g., subcortical structures and hedonic “hotspots” (Berridge and Kringelbach, 2015). But it holds that the full range of emotional experience must be understood in terms of continually evolving patterns of globally coordinated neural activity. Thus, while localized structures may have consistent roles in the production of emotional responses, they do not by themselves constitute emotion nor can they be said to govern emotion in any simple way (Flaig and Large, 2014). The point is not just that emotion is the product of the continual interplay of cortical and subcortical dynamics (Panksepp, 2012). Rather the key implication of neurodynamics is that this interplay is constituted by transient patterns of coordinated activity whose dynamic features—especially complexity and continuity—are relevant to the categorization of emotion and affect (cf. Spivey, 2007 on dynamical categorization). Here, we are mainly interested in the possibility that neurodynamic categorizations of emotional content can range in complexity, corresponding to differences of emotional granularity in experience (analogous to the difference between simple and rich color palettes).

It should be noted that this approach encompasses both categorical theories of “basic emotions” (e.g., Panksepp, 1998, 2007) and dimensional theories of “core affect” (Russell, 2003; Barrett et al., 2007). What is essential for present purposes is the way in which the dynamic interplay between subcortical responses and the complex cortical elaboration of emotion (Reybrouck and Eerola, 2017) gives rise to both categorical distinctions (happy vs. sad) and differences of granularity (fine vs. coarse).

Neurodynamic approaches are well-established in the field of music cognition (for reviews see Large, 2010; Flaig and Large, 2014). Among the advantages of a neurodynamic approach is its capacity to register the relationship between bodily movement and music (e.g., Large et al., 2015). This relationship has been indicated by numerous studies of sensorimotor involvement in music perception (e.g., Chen et al., 2008) and must be taken into account by any theory of musical experience, as we briefly indicate below.

However, few attempts have been made to understand musical enjoyment from a neurodynamic perspective (see Chapin et al., 2010; Flaig and Large, 2014). A notable exception is William Benzon's groundbreaking treatise (Benzon, 2001), which anticipates the perspective offered here. One reason for this neglect is the challenge of empirical verification: like neurodynamic theories of consciousness (Seth et al., 2006), neurodynamic theories of musical experience are in need of high temporal-resolution data (e.g., from EEG or MEG) that show how relevant characteristics of neural dynamics change during musical experience (see Garrett et al., 2013). For the current proposal, the key challenge is to find and measure just those variations that correspond to differences of emotional granularity or complexity. Until such methods are developed, studies of emotional differentiation in musical experience must turn to the refinement of self-reporting methods (Juslin and Sloboda, 2010).

more .....

Happy Winter Solstice! from Nina Paley


From Canon/Archive to a REAL REVOLUTION in literary studies

n_1_moretti-shopify_1024x1024

Another working paper, title above, abstract a contents below.
Abstract: Canon/Archive straddles the border between the standard interpretive literary criticism that has been in place since World War II and a new naturalist literary study in which literary texts and phenomena are treated as phenomena of the natural world, like language, without prejudice. This naturalist investigation takes the careful analytic description of texts, considered as strings of word forms, as its starting point. Canon/Archive exemplifies a so-called computational criticism in which computers are tools used for analyzing texts, often taken as a corpus of 10s, 100s, or 1000s of texts. Naturalist investigation also includes a computational approach in which computation is seen as the process linking word forms to semantic structures, expression to meaning. I examine two chapters from Canon/Archive, showing how that work can be supplemented by this other approach in which computation is a model for a mental process.

“Revolution” 2
The real revolution is in attending rigorously to the signifiers in the text 3
       Computational Criticism in Context 3
       Word and Text 6
Moretti and the Stanford Literary Lab: Computational criticism in two senses and the prospect of a new approach to literary studies 9
       The Collaboratory 9
       Topics and paragraphs 13
       The direction of literary history 17
       What are the institutional possibilities of a new criticism, a deeply computational one? 19
Appendix 1: Jakobson’s poetic function and the text taken as a string of word forms 22
Literary Form 22
The poetic function as a computational principle 23
Appendix 2: From distant reading to computational criticism: Canon/Archive 25

Tree and trailer

20171216-_IGP1789

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Four phrases coined by H. G. Wells that endure

Adam Roberts, in a post from September:
I'd say that there are four phrases in particular, out of all the many phrases and ideas Wells coined, that have enjoyed the most widespread and enduring afterlife: time machine, League of Nations, atom bomb and the war to end war.

Street Art: Made 514

H. G. Wells and Harvey Weinstein as mama's boys, after a fashion

H. G. Wells and Harvey Weinstein? Two very different guys to be sure. Weinstein is much in the news these days as a sexual predator. He's a very successful movie producer, twice married. I've seen a bunch of his films, including Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill. I'm tempted to say that Wells is all but forgotten, but I don't know if that's true, though he's certainly not in the news. He was a prolific British writer of the late 19th and 20th century perhaps best known for his science fiction. I've read The Island of Doctor Moreau and The War of the Worlds, but not The Time Machine, though I may have thumbed through a copy. I recall seeing The Outline of History among my father's books, but I never read it. That is perhaps one of the books he'd inherited from his father.

Anyhow, my friend Adam Roberts is gearing up to write a literary biography of Wells and so has been reading though his works in chronological order and blogging about them, starting in February of this year. He's just reached The Book of Catherine Wells (1928).
Amy Catherine Robbins, who had become the second Mrs Wells in 1895 (and who had adopted the name ‘Jane’ at Wells's prompting, for reasons that remain opaque) died in October 1927. She had been diagnosed with an inoperable cancer in the spring of that year, and her health declined very rapidly. Wells returned from Europe to be with her and was present at her death.

Wells decided to curate a memorial volume. Back in the mid 1890s Catherine had been his sometime collaborator, nosing out ideas for short articles and newspaper pieces and helping him realise them, and whilst the bulk of the resulting saleable pieces were written by Wells, she herself sometimes sketched out and wrote up these light-hearted pieces herself. Writing wasn't a career she developed any further than these few sketches, instead devoting herself to being Wells's homemaker and companion, turning a blind eye to his many infidelities and often (as with 1920's The Outline of History) acting as secretary, amanuensis and researcher.

The Book of Catherine Wells is a collection of some of her earlier, mostly rather disposable journalistic essays from the 1890s, with a seven-page introduction by Wells himself (the intro was later collected in H G Wells in Love).
Though Wells does not appear to have been a sexual predator, he certainly was a womanizer, having bedded over 200 other women while married to Catherine. I have no idea about Weinstein's sexual activity other than the predation for which he has all of a sudden become something of a poster boy. Catherine knew about her husband's infidelity but nonetheless remained devoted to him, though it seems we don't really know what she thought about it.

Here's one of Adam's many interesting observations about all this:
But there's something diminishing, it seems to me, in the way it actually panned out in his life: not a sexual liberation so much as a kind of semi-licensed serial bigamy, in which Wells found the thrill of sexual novelty with a string of younger women whilst also positioning his wife as a kind of mother confessor, to whom he could always return and unburden himself. What's wrong with this picture? I don't know. I suppose it's the way it suggests the ways in which he wasn't walking the walk as well as talking the talk—the way, in other words, that his own psyche remained striated by a fundamentally Victorian sexual guilt that needed the absolution of a maternal, home-making, dependable woman to clear Wells's conscience, such that could once again range out into the world of sexual dalliance.
In response, I posted the following on his blog:
I can't help but read this material against the backdrop of the appalling sexual predation among the rich and powerful men that's been paraded across the front pages for the last month or so. Wells is certainly no Harvey Weinstein or Leon Wieseltier but still, we certainly are bedeviled by sexuality aren't we – by "we" I mean the race of naked apes.

I can sort of understand penetrating rape, not condone it by any means, not THAT kind of understanding, but understand as something a horny bastard would do (and, yes, I know "it's about power"). What I don't get is these guys, for Weinstein isn't alone in this by any means, forcing women to watch them masturbate. What's up with that?

It's like a three year-old finds himself with a "stiffy" and is both enormously pleased ("my aren't we standing proud!") and a bit terrified ("what if it won't go away!?"). So he does what any good three year old would do, he shows it to his mommy. Maybe she'll kiss it and make it go away, maybe not. But surely she'll do something!

Catherine Wells as mother confessor seems in the same ballpark. To be sure, a different location in the park, but the same park nonetheless.
I'm tempted to quote Rodney King as this point, "Can we all get along?" Well there, I gave in to temptation, didn't I? It seems that Wells did get along. Weinstein not so much.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Monk says... Thelonious that is

Construction at the north end of town

20171203-P1140543

20171203-P1140542

Reflections on entering my eighth decade and why it portends to be the most productive one of my life

KK in Arches 70
In destinies sad or merry, true men can but try.
– Sir Gawain and the Green Knight 
In scientific prognostication we have a condition analogous to a fact of archery—the farther back you draw your longbow, the farther ahead you can shoot.
– Buckminster Fuller
Birthdays are generally just that, even “major” birthdays, like my most recent one, my 70th. They are an occasion for a celebration, perhaps a modest one, perhaps not quite so modest – our house was crowded with dinner guests for my father’s 50th birthday – perhaps even extravagant. I’ve never been to an extravagant birthday party. Birthdays may also be a time for reflection, but by no means necessarily so.

But in my experience birthdays rarely correspond to major life events. What’s a major life event? Getting married, whether at a small civil ceremony before a judge or an elaborate wedding with 100s of guests into the church and out to the reception where a great band – like me and my colleagues in The Out of Control Rhythm and Blues Band – performs for hours of dancing, that’s a major life event. Climbing a mountain you’ve trained for over a period of years, that’s a different kind of major life event. Graduating from school, or completing basic training in the military, passing the bar exam, all major.

Years ago, in my early 20s, I was in a rock band called “St. Matthew Passion.” It was our last gig, the sax player and I were jamming a whacked out intro to “She’s Not There” and suddenly it all disappeared, me, the musicians, the room, the world, all into a brilliant, but soft, white light. Only the light and the music. It lasted what, half a second, a second, two seconds? Whatever. Those few moments challenged me for years, changing my sense of myself and the world.

Major life events come in all forms and durations, but they rarely coincide with a birthday. Birthdays simply mark the passage of time.

And so it set out to be on Thursday, December 7, 2017, when I turned 70. I woke up, cruised the web, made four posts to New Savanna, had breakfast and then, and then I decided to go out and take some photos, including some of that green platform pump I’ve been having so much fun photographing.

20171207-_IGP1519

That was a bit unusual because I generally write in the morning, and perhaps I was motivated by my birthday to do something a bit different. But that’s all it was, a change in routine. It’s no big deal; I do it all the time.

But then I realized, sometime in the afternoon, that this birthday IS a big deal, and that I really can make it a big deal. How? By finishing my working paper, Calculating meaning in “Kubla Khan” – a rough cut. Why is that important, major milestone important? Because I’ve been working on it almost 50 years, all my adult life.

Calculating Kubla Khan 3
Teaser: Calculating meaning in “Kubla Khan”, 2017
This image likely makes little sense. Don’t worry about it. There are two more images that won’t make much sense. Don’t worry about them either. Just look at them as you would displays in a museum or gallery and move on.
Not that paper, no, not that. It’s the poem, “Kubla Khan”, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, that I’ve been tracking all my adult life. I’ve been working on it since the spring of 1969 when I read it in Earl Wasserman’s class in my senior year at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore – where my father had gone to school. To have completed a project that framed one’s adult life, that is indeed a major event. Not completed, not in the sense that it’s all over and done with – for it isn’t, but in some deep and fundamental sense, things have changed. I’ve got a new understanding, and new obligations to go with it.

The first five lines:
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
          Down to a sunless sea.
There are 49 more.

Let me explain. Perhaps then you will understand why I expect the next decade to be the most productive one of my life. And not just my intellectual life. There is the Bergen Arches Project as well. And who knows what else? I wonder if Rita Moreno is available for salsa lessons?

To Mars, because we can, really

Because right now, we think we can't, build for a future, that is, we're sticking our collective heads in the sand and saying "Oh, noes!"

IMGP4383
The Red Planet
I don’t support going to Mars for practical reasons at all. I think we should plan to go to Mars because it would be a healthy sign that we, as a civilization, are still planning for a future — that we intend to live. Because right now, frankly, we’re not acting as though we do. We’re acting more the way a friend of mine did in the last year of his life: letting the mail pile up unopened, heaping garbage in the house, littering the floor with detritus, no longer bothering to turn over the calendar pages. He’d clearly decided, on some level, to die.

We’re mostly hiding from the horrifying facts mounting ever more unavoidably around us, keeping ourselves zonked out on anything from Xanax to Oxy, immersed in the worlds of Warcraft or Westeros while the actual world is burning. Billionaires are building sumptuous bunkers instead of doing anything that would forestall the deluge or revolution they’re barricading against. Mounting a mission to Mars would be bold and hopeful, a gesture of faith, like planning a vacation to Bali next year when you’re battling cancer.

Ray Bradbury, author of another famous Mars book, called space travel our modern version of cathedral building: a vast, ambitious, multigenerational undertaking, a shared vision to work toward together as a culture. Right now, we don’t have such a vision, or even a culture, for that matter — just a degrading, every-man-for-himself scramble for the last scraps of cash the 1 percent have overlooked, like one of those parking-lot contests where you have to keep your hand on a truck until everyone faints from exhaustion. We could use a worthier project.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

From yesterday's shoot in Hoboken

20171216-_IGP1779

20171216-_IGP1770

20171216-_IGP1817

Mind or Machine?

I have, in various posts, expressed skepticism about the long-standing conversation about whether or not the mind is computational. I pay attention to the debate because I have a professional obligation to know something about it. But those discussions don’t tell me anything I can use in my intellectual work, whether it’s analyzing literary texts and movies, or thinking more generally about mind and culture. Those discussions rarely engage the with ideas and observations that one uses is more “practical” – as if analyzing “Kubla Khan” or King Kong were practical! – intellectual work.

It seems to me that those discussions are fundamentally metaphysical – well, duh! it’s philosophy of mind, no? – but likely ideological and even theological as well. We’ve got thinkers butting heads over fundamental assumptions, but not actually trying to figure anything out. In a way, machine is a proxy for man and all his works while mind is a proxy for God and mystery, or perhaps crass commerce vs. aristocratic noblesse oblige. Maybe both.

It’s not a problem that’s going to be solved. Perhaps, though, it will simply disappear. Spontaneous combustion.

I hope so.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

My practice studio is in there somewhere

20171215-P1140786

20171215-P1140799

20171215-P1140790

Emotional intelligence for artificial beings? With a potential application to Shakespeare

2AI Labs, Tim Barber and Mark Changizi, has announced a model of emotion: VICTOR Socio-Emotional AI.
We at 2ai Labs have spent the last decade deciphering the hidden language of emotions, and have developed a unifying theory of emotions, of their meaning and the machinery underlying emotional reasoning. The theory emanates from a first-principles approach to the fundamental issues pre-linguistic animals face in communicating so as to settle disagreements. It has two key pillars.

I. Comprehension of emotions: The technology understands the specific meanings of emotional signals, including (a) what I want, (b) how compromising I feel I am being, (c) my hand strength in a situation, (d) my opinion about my opponent’s hand strength, and (e) my confirmation receipt of my opponent’s signals.

II. Emotional reasoning machinery: The technology consists of an “emotion engine,” and allows the construction of AI personalities to suit one’s needs. The machinery allows personalities to vary along socio-emotionally sensible dimensions, and so one can, for example, vary their level of aggression, willingness to compromise, and degree of hospitality. Social intelligence also requires understanding social currency, or cool, and that a person’s emotions, and an AI’s emotional response, are bets; this is part of VICTOR’s machinery.
This lab note is accompanied by some interesting emoji-type diagrams, which you can see in this tweet from Changizi:

Color me intrigued. I know little about Tim Barber beyond the snippets available in his CV and the fact that he's smart enough to team up with Changizi. I regard Changizi as one of the best psychological theorists we have, and was happy to blurb his book, Harnessed: How Language and Music Mimicked Nature and Transformed Ape to Man (Benbella, 2011).

I'm wondering what their theory would tell me about Shakespeare, in particular, what it would tell me about Much Ado About Nothing, a comedy, Othello, a tragedy, and The Winter's Tale, a romance. With these plays Shakespeare has, in effect, presented us with something of an experiment. We have something we can call a Drama Engine. This Drama Engine has a variety of knobs and sliders we can use to set values for the parameters which will determine the matrix, the donnée, for our little play. One of these knobs operates at a very high level, simultaneously determining various aspects of the nascent drama. It is the position of this knob that seems to determine whether the play will be a comedy, a tragedy, or a romance. For the sake of argument let us call it G, for genre.

In each of these plays a man wrongly suspects his beloved of betraying him with another man. The following table shows some of the effects of G as they "trickle down" to the initial situation for each of our plays:

Shakespeare Triad

Along the left I've listed five dramatic functions which some character must play. In the columns for each play I've indicated the character that takes these functions. The point of the diagram as the we move from one genre to the next (in this order) one function seems to disappear. Othello has no mentor, but he has a deceiver; and Leontes has neither a mentor nor a deceiver. What I think is going on is that functions are, in effect, being absorbed into the protagonist. At the play's opening, Othello is senior enough in the world that he has no need of a mentor. Leontes is king in his world, so there is no one higher. As for being deceived about his wife, he does that to himself, no external agent required.

There's more. In the comedy the deception happens between betrothal and the marriage ceremony. In the tragedy the deception happens between the marriage ceremony (which apparently has been a secret one) and the consummation of the marriage. In the romance the marriage has been produced a six year old boy and, at the beginning of the play, the wife is pregnant with another child – who turns out to be a girl. There are others things in this complex as well, but this is enough to give you a feel for what's going on.

But how does our Drama Engine work? What parameters does it have, and how is G related to the others? I set out to answer that question some years ago and got no more than part way there: At the Edge of the Modern, or Why is Prospero Shakespeare's Greatest Creation? Part way is better than no way, and at least the issue is on the table. But it's unsatisfying.

Can VICTOR take us further along the path, perhaps even to its end? I note that "other awareness" is at the center of the model and our protagonists are deficient in the obverse of other awareness, self awareness.

Something else. The first chapter, "Quantitative Formalism", of Moretti et al., Canon/Archive: Studies in Quantitative Formalism, suggests that Shakespeare's genre space varies on two dimensions, not the one I've indicated in that table. I'd wanted to say a few words about that in my already too long review, but I ran out of time.

However, I do have an idea of where to look for that other dimension. Both the comedy and the romance, but not the tragedy, have two plots. The two plots run simultaneously in the comedy and successively in the tragedy. The Claudio/Hero plot in Much Ado About Nothing runs in parallel to the Beatrice/Benedick plot. The Beatrice/Benedick plot is very different in character from the Claudio/Hero plot, and that difference derives from the characters themselves, their temperaments. But I believe that the same psycho-socio dynamic drives both plots. In The Winter's Tale the tragic Leontes/Hermione plot is followed by the comic Perdita/Florizel plot, and that comedy redeems the apparent tragedy, transforming it into a romance.

VICTOR, it's your move.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Group identity

From an essay, The age of white guilt: and the disappearance of the black individual (Harper's, November 1999), by Shelby Steele:
The greatest problem in coming from an oppressed group is the power the oppressor has over your group. The second greatest problem is the power your group has over you. Group identity in oppressed groups is always very strategic, always a calculation of advantage. The humble black identity of the Booker T. Washington era–“a little education spoiled many a good plow hand”–allowed blacks to function as tradesmen, laborers, and farmers during the rise of Jim Crow, when hundreds of blacks were being lynched yearly. Likewise, the black militancy of the late sixties strategically aimed for advantage in an America suddenly contrite over its long indulgence in racism.

One’s group identity is always a mask–a mask replete with a politics. When a teenager in East Los Angeles says he is Hispanic, he is thinking of himself within a group strategy pitched at larger America. His identity is related far more to America than to Mexico or Guatemala, where he would not often think of himself as Hispanic. In fact, “Hispanic” is much more a political concept than a cultural one, and its first purpose is to win power within the fray of American identity politics. So this teenager must wear the mask that serves his group’s ambitions in these politics.
H/t Nina Paley.

Identity in this sense is differential, not intrinsic.

Structuralists behaving badly at Johns Hopkins

The Quarterly Conversation has just published an essay excerpted from Cynthia L. Haven, Evolution of Desire: A Life of René Girard (Michigan St. U. Press 2018). Here's an passage from the excerpt about the response to Lacan's mysterious send-up of Freud, “Of structure as an inmixing of an otherness prerequisite to any subject whatsoever.”:
[Angus] Fletcher called him out in his first comment: “Freud was really a very simple man,” he explained. “He didn’t try to float on the surface of words. What you’re doing is like a spider: you’re making a very delicate web without any human reality in it . . . All this metaphysics is not necessary. The diagram was very interesting, but it doesn’t seem to have any connection with the reality of our actions, with eating, sexual intercourse, and so on.” At least, those are the heavily edited words from The Structuralist Controversy, which don’t capture the hysteria and pandemonium (Donato’s careful hand would rework this section).

At the event itself, rather than Donato’s diplomatic recreation of it, Fletcher’s voice had taken on an accusatory tone—“Vous, vous monsieur . . .” He attacked in a British-inflected French, while Lacan insisted on replying in his inadequate English. “Lacan was enjoying every bit of this. He was like a Cheshire cat,” said Macksey. “Angus just went ballistic.”

“I should have been aware, and wasn’t, the state that Angus was in. Angus is a very bright guy.” Elsewhere in the room, Girard was “trying to climb under the chair, it was so embarrassing,” he said. “René felt we owed something to the Ford Foundation, from whom all blessings flow . . . I would watch him. He was the senior member of the troika—at moments, he seemed to be thinking that the wheels had come off and we were rolling downhill.” Girard’s concern regarding the Ford Foundation was understandable, since “Lacan particularly set Peter [Caw]’s teeth on edge”—perhaps from the moment of the big bear hug.

Macksey felt that the microphone had to be kept from Wilden at all costs. Someone passed the mic to Wilden nevertheless. “At that point Tony lit into Lacan, saying this was your great opportunity, this was your first exposure in the United States. All you had to do was just talk your language and you don’t know diddly squat about the English language.” Goldmann jumped into the melée, attacking Lacan on procedural grounds as well.

The Structuralist Controversy gives little indication of this discord—remarks were toned down later to reduce the decibel level, and much of the action was between the lines, anyway. According to Macksey, “It got to be about midnight and things were just going on wildly and Rosolato says, ‘Oh, he always does this to me. He schedules me to talk right after him and then there’s no time.’ So Nicolas Ruwet, who is a Belgian linguist, read a paper that I thought was more exact and applied overt structuralism more than most of the people who were participating had done. But nobody paid attention to that paper. Alas.”

Back at the Belvedere, Lacan started calling everyone in Paris—Lévi-Strauss and Malraux among them—giving his version of the events. Eventually, he would run up a $900 phone bill from the hotel. “People in Paris thought a small revolution had occurred,” said Macksey. But the revolution would take place the next day.
The last day of the symposium, when Derrida delivered the paper that "deconstructed" structuralism. 

H/t 3QD.