The Dance of Hermes


Thank you for your podcast. I enjoyed listening to you describe your processes, even though they were just small snapshots. I think the ways by which artists arrive at their art is as interesting as the art itself.

Your thoughts represent for me a way of thinking, indicative of the intellectual Left that confuses me to no end. They embrace Continental philosophy and all its post-modern approaches to epistemology; they'll argue that the almost impenetrable obfuscation and equivocation inherent to the ideas of Derrida, Lacan, et al. are in actuality where its complexity of thought and meaning reside, for truth only exists as a reflection of the context of the time and space (and the culture therein) of its conception...

... but where politics is concerned, Rationalism and Empiricism are suddenly redeemed. Out goes the post-modern ambiguity of truth and meaning, out goes Relativism. In comes the arguments that there is most definitely a proper and scientific way of structuring society, and people would realise this universal objectivity if they were just educated enough [...]

Getting somewhat back to the idea of themes for this album rather than discussing politics in general - I'm a fan of your techniques and you incorporation of stylistically Japanese elements to your music, but I'm disappointed that as a resident of Japan you've restricted your perspective to the west and its politics. Shinzo Abe, having just won the upper house elections, is pushing to rewrite Japan's pacifist constitution. What's happening in Japan?

And even if you're too disconnected from Japanese society, because of the language barrier, to have a proper perspective, I'd expect Japan to be a richer source of thematic inspiration for you. You seem to utterly loath England's (as you see it) insular, xenophobic, inward looking spirit. But you've moved to a country arguably even more insular, xenophobic and inward looking, and which was made (arguably) culturally richer for it through the retention of its traditions and unique character -- from the geographical separation being an island provides, to Sakoku of the medieval period, to modern Japan that has fewer foreigners than any other developed country in the globalised first world. How do you reconcile that and explain it to yourself? Do you not see the cognitive dissonance? Do you not see maybe the benefits of being Sakoku?

I might be wasting my time with this line of enquiry because I'm half expecting a thoroughly glib retort of "Whites doing it = bad, foreigners doing it = good". Either way, I'm enjoying your album, despite (and maybe because of) my finding its themes somewhat depressing and ugly at times.

Momus > Heigardt

It's interesting to have some critical points raised, reminds me of the old blogging days. I'll try not to be glib, but I'm sure I'll inevitably leave you dissatisfied.

Basically, opinions (including my own) interest me a lot less these days, particularly when they're supposed to be rational and consistent, part of a large logical worldview which all ties up and is all moral and neat and good. The game of saying that someone is "hypocritical" seems a particularly sterile one: people are living paradoxes, they express vacillating and contradictory points of view, or emotions, or ideas; they're dialectical, the way I describe my songwriting as being (one day's work correcting the perceived flaws of the previous day's work).

This is what interests me these days. I would feel silly singing about the pacifist constitution in Japan. I feel it's not my job, as a precarian "permanent tourist" here, to do that. I do appreciate the ironies (my preferred term) of the lack of immigration here. And actually, when I do encounter enclaves of immigrants in Japan, I like and am drawn to them (except, yes, you guessed it, enclaves of white Westerners here), the same way I am in Europe. But there's certainly something to be said for Sakoku also, in preserving a system of cultural differences.

You seem to expect me to be logical: I would rather say I'm psychoanalytical. Psychoanalysis is good at seeing contradictions as something we live through and live out, something foundational and inherent in us, something basic to our humanity. I find that a lot more interesting than taking the line that it's hypocrisy or a logical flaw in one's worldview. To be human is to play out a series of paradoxes and contradictions (desire, sublimation, guilt, anger, frustration, desire again), and to make art is to turn that into a theatre of personae. You cannot make art with a neat, consistent, watertight worldview. Well, you can, but it's going to be bloody boring art.

Leigh > Momus

Here’s a story:
I’ve found you tremendously frustrating over the years, and yet, in spite of myself, tremendously interesting. I think of you as Peter Pan; your eyes are unusually youthful; as if you’ve studiously avoided something your whole life, something that, to most people, is important. These other people get lines and wrinkles from this thing that they think is important; it ties them to the earth and they get bogged down, become like trees, all weathered and worn and static.

The spirit of Hermes is in you Momus; you’re quicksilver, dancing from here to there and never staying put. You seem to refuse form, and all of its analogs: commitment, devotion, and so on. And yet, you are devoted, or so it seems, to art. A paradox.

People think they have you pinned down, they call you a hypocrite, but you slip out from under, greased and nimble. You thought I was that, but I never was; never am; never will be. As soon as you pin me down I will shape shift, become something else. Even age can’t catch you.

Cognitive dissonance is no problem, because it assumes consistency, shape, form. Cognitive dissonance doesn’t trouble old Hermes, his merry dance leaves it standing. Hypocrisy likewise. Sterility is what happens when things stand still, when the sediments gather. Yours never do.

People are living paradoxes; people are everything and nothing. But some, in becoming a ‘person,’ feel it important to dig a flagpole into the ground and say ‘here,’ ‘this,’ ‘now.’ They repress, ignore, cut-off and pare-down; and this is part of the sacrifice they make. Some go too far, and believe in the fiction that they’e created. Some are able to see through it; I’ve built this castle, but its made of sand. And some never build a structure at all; they dance around other people’s … oh, but what a lovely dance it is … ; )

Momus > Leigh

Thank you, that was delightful! So much more substantive than a social media "like".

I do appreciate people who can think and write and know their psychoanalysis and their Greek myths, especially when they're defending my cognitive dissonance with such admirable... cognitive consonance!

(By the way, I posted this having checked the box that says "I'd rather post as a guest". On my own blog! I think that rather confirms what you're saying.

Comments from this blogpost on MrsTsk

Connotations proliferate like a cancer and at every step the previous sign is forgotten, obliterated, since the pleasure of the [Hermetic] drift is given by the shifting from sign to sign and there is no purpose outside the enjoyment of travel through the labyrinth of signs or of things.

[Umberto Eco]
The Limits of Interpretation, p. 31

The romantic withdraws from reality. He does this ironically, however, and in a spirit of intrigue.

Irony and intrigue do not constitute the state of mind of a person in flight, but rather the activity of a person who, instead of creating new realities, plays one reality off against another in order to paralyse the reality that is actually present and limited.

He ironically avoids the constraints of objectivity and guards himself against becoming committed to anything. The reservation of all infinite possibilities lies in irony. In this way he preserves his own inner, genial freedom, which consists in not giving up any possibility.

He regards being taken seriously as a violation because he does not want the actual present confused with his infinite freedom.

Irony is not, however, supposed to destroy reality. On the contrary, retaining the quality of real being, it is supposed to make reality available to the subject as an expedient and make it possible for him to avoid any definitive position.

[Carl Schmitt]
Political Romanticism, p. 71-3

It is inherent in romanticism that it perhaps claims to be incomprehensible and more than human words can intimate. 

This need not mislead us, for in general the logical tactics of its claim are thoroughly wretched. We need only take note of the way the romantic attempts to define everything in terms of himself and avoids every definition of himself in terms of something else. 

It is romantic to identify myself with everything, and yet not permit anyone to identify me with the romantic.

[Carl Schmitt]
Political Romanticism, p. 7


We should not overlook, however, the point that for the romantic subject every form of art that is used was also merely an occasion, just like every concrete point of reality, which served as a point of departure for the romantic interest.

The mood of the subject was the focal point of this kind of productivity. It remained both the terminus a quo and the terminus ad quem, regardless of whether a lyrical poem, literary criticism, or a philosophical argument was at stake. 

The object was always nothing more than an occasion.

In this state, it is by no means the case that the external world is negated. Every concrete point of the external world can be the “elastic point”: in other words, the beginning of the romantic novel, the occasio for the adventure, the point of departure for the fanciful game.

Thus the "sensuous coloration" of the romantic, in opposition to the mystic. The romantic, who has no interest in really changing the world, regards it as good if it does not disturb him in his illusion. Irony and intrigue provide him with enough weapons to secure his subjectivistic autarchy and to hold out in the domain of the occasional.

[Carl Schmitt]
Political Romanticism, p. 97-8 

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