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classical?

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  • elaine upton
    Again, dear John, I am writing you a second brief post today. I ve already written one, where i respond briefly to your post to me on the American soil
    Message 1 of 2 , Feb 9, 2000
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      Again, dear John,

      I am writing you a second brief post today. I've already written one, where
      i respond briefly to your post to me on the "American soil" thread...

      I neglected to respond to what you say about "classicism" or "classical".
      Classical has several denotations and connotations, not only the ones you
      use. Neither you nor Thomas Jefferson nor any other individual can get away
      with colonizing the term, but rather, since communication takes place among
      various souls, i will use the term in the variety of ways that have come to
      be understood among us. Your limited definition of the term, your
      accusations of "misreading" of the term, and your paean to Mozart as the
      highest example of "classicism" all notwithstanding, for me, and for many,
      Bob Marley or Bessie Smith or the Lakota Blackfoot Singers or Willie Nelson
      remain "classic American." (Note, I am not using your capitalized "C".)--So,
      enjoy your Mozart! I will enjoy him, too, and I will enjoy these others as
      well. And if you enjoy them, good.

      A p.s.--perhaps something gets lost here in this virtual mode of
      communicating. If we were to see each other face to face, perhaps we would
      be gentle with each other and might even smile. Our exchange might become a
      delifhtful repartee (to use one of your European terms--smile) or a
      wonderful call and response in the African tradition (smile).

      Well, you talked about archetypes. Is that the anthroposophic link here
      (since this is an anthroposophic list...smile)?

      Smiling (yes, yeah, Moh-Zart meks me smile, almost as much as Otis
      Redding...laugh out loud...)
      elaine


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    • John Massengale
      ... Ms. Upton, I assure you that my intent was not to insult you. But I did think you were throwing out the baby with the bathwater, and in this telegraphic
      Message 2 of 2 , Feb 9, 2000
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        > I neglected to respond to what you say about "classicism" or "classical".
        > Classical has several denotations and connotations, not only the ones you
        > use. Neither you nor Thomas Jefferson nor any other individual can get away
        > with colonizing the term, but rather, since communication takes place among
        > various souls, i will use the term in the variety of ways that have come to
        > be understood among us. Your limited definition of the term, your

        Ms. Upton,

        I assure you that my intent was not to insult you. But I did think you were
        throwing out the baby with the bathwater, and in this telegraphic medium, I
        perhaps too cryptically said why.

        Classical, with a capital "c," does have a precise meaning, which the
        materialistic Modernists of the twentieth century intentionally subverted.
        After 1940 or so, even the sympathetic theorists and historians reduced
        Classicism to a materialistic style. But that really is not accurate.

        When you use "classic" as an adjective, it is ambiguous whether or not it
        refers to Classical principles. And "classical" with a small "c" is even
        more ambiguous. But in the end, an anthroposophist should keep in mind that
        Classicism refers to the earthly expression of divine archetypes. I don't
        know what Steiner's term for those archetypes was.

        Langston Hughes was a great writer who was not a Classicist. The first part
        of that sentence is a qualitative judgement, but the second part is a
        quantitative one. I think you have been taking some of my quantitative
        statements as qualitative judgements.

        If you go again to look at Monticello, I think you will find that its
        Eurocentric Classical architecture has an undeniable power and energy,
        resulting from the FACT that it is an earthly rendition of divine energy. Or
        as Jefferson would have said, an expression of Nature.

        Romantic Classicism, a la Goethe and Schinkel, is one step removed from the
        archetype. Romanticism is a further step removed. BUT, a Romantic genius
        will produce greater works of art than an average Classicist. Goethe and
        Schinkel were geniuses, and it is not pejorative to call them Romantic
        Classicists. At the same time, we understand their work better when we
        understand what they were.

        The quotation by you that I repeated, whether intentionally or not, included
        Classical principles in the ideas that you call soul-deadening, and that is
        where we strongly disagree. The Romantic tradition says that many of the
        principles of Monticello are wrong, and perhaps soul-deadening. But I am not
        a Romantic, and I don't believe that Romanticism ever produced a house as
        great as Monticello. And many of the American small towns that I and many
        others find the most beautiful and invigorating have simple grids.

        Many other Americans still live in a Romantic reaction to the industrialism
        of the 19th century. You see it in an extremely debased form in modern
        suburbia, which often confuses kitsch with art. Kitsch is always Romantic.

        America's greatest landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted, was somewhere
        between a Romantic and a Romantic Classicist. He illustrates my point,
        because he is the greatest landscape architect we have produced, and many of
        our cities would suffer tremendously without his creations. Central Park, in
        my opinion, is the greatest place in New York City, and I can only live in
        New York by living near it.

        Olmsted produced some great Romantic suburbs, like Riverside, near Chicago.
        But a great deal of what followed in his tradition in the twentieth century
        is comparable, at best, to Muzak. It is pleasant but completely unmemorable.
        More often, as in the exurbia all over America, it is soul deadening and
        anti-social. It is not a coincidence that all of the high-school shootings
        have taken place in exurban settings like Littleton, Colorado and Conyers,
        Georgia. These are very difficult places for children to learn about the
        world.

        If you look at my rather skimpy website (http://www.massengale.com), you
        will see that I am involved in something called New Urbanism. Many New
        Urbanists would not agree with some of the things I have said above: quite a
        few, for example, are Modernist architects. But all agree about the
        importance of communities, neighborhoods, the Public Realm and the Common
        Good. New Urbanists believe that we have to get out of our cars and parking
        lots and have some public interaction in places other than the mall. New
        Urbanists reject the Romantic, 19th century idea that the man-made city is
        inferior to the natural world. Or to put it another way, sprawl is not
        enough to sustain civilization.

        You can find the New Urban Charter at http://www.cnu.org.

        An important issue right now, you and I agree, is recognition of the fact
        that we are all connected and that East and West must learn to get along.
        That is not the same as saying, as anthroposophists know, that spiritual
        Westerners should abandon Christ for Buddha. Nor does it mean that the
        Chinese principles of chi and Feng Shui are better for the West than the
        principles of Feng Shui.

        This is longer but still somewhat telegraphic, because you catch me on the
        eve of a trip. First to Florida for the founding of something called the
        Institute for Traditional Architecture, and then to Italy for a conference
        called The Other Moderns, about twentieth century architects who were NOT
        Modernists (there were many, like McKim, Mead & White at the beginning of
        the century, and more and more at the end). One thing these have in common
        is the idea that the time has come for the end of the Modernist disconnect
        from the past.

        If that didn't make any sense, or if you would like to know more, you might
        look at a book called The Geography of Nowhere, by James Howard Kunstler.

        Sincerely yours,

        John Massengale


        http://www.massengale.com

        John Montague Massengale AIA
        Architects & Town Planners

        Commoditas o Firmitas o Venustas
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