A Beethovian Analogy
The fourth movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony begins with an apocalyptic outburst, and continues with dramatic statements by the cellos and basses (“the cellos” for short).
And then Beethoven does something very unusual. He softly quotes the theme from the first movement of the Ninth symphony. It’s just a brief, nostalgic glimpse. And the cellos react by strongly rejecting this orchestral restatement of the melody from the earlier movement.
Then the orchestra offers a phrase from the second movement of the same symphony, very briefly. And the cellos reject that as well.
And similarly with the third movement, which is quoted twice, again with only brief excerpts. And these references to the previous movement are angrily dismissed by the cellos.
And then, having rejected the reminiscences from the earlier movements, the cellos come up with something new. They create their own melody, and play the main theme of the fourth movement. This is the famous melody that everyone is familiar with as the "theme from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony," which will become a song with Goethe's words, "Allen menschen verden bruder," etc.
After this beautiful first expression of the melody by the cellos, the rest of the orchestra begins to follow. Three times in a row, the entire orchestra plays the famous melody. But each time there is a particular focus within the orchestra, first the woodwinds (subtly understated), then the strings (exquisitely beautiful), and then the brass (blazingly triumphant). Thus the entire orchestra has embraced the cello’s melody.
Suddenly there is an eruption of the opening apocalyptic outburst that began this movement of the symphony.
Then Beethoven proceeds to do something revolutionary. A male vocalist, and then an entire chorus, enters into an orchestral symphony and sings the main theme for the very first time in Western musical history.
Now what does all this have to do with blogging?
A listener can enjoy Beethoven's Ninth or any symphony without knowing what the composer is really doing. But the composer himself knows that the impact of his work depends on using a certain structure, a certain form. And maybe he stays within the form, or maybe he expands it, or even revolutionizes it. But there is the need for a structure on which to build his work. There is a structure to each movement, and there is a structure to the symphony as a whole.
If you liken one single blog post to a movement within a symphony, then a blog can do something unusual. It can quote itself, and then reject itself. A blog can cite to an earlier post (an earlier movement), and then decide to reject the earlier analysis or conclusions. And this need only take a brief moment of time.
Such quotations can come from other sources as well. Musical composers occasionally quote each other as a measure of respect. A blog can quote another blog, and then put that quote in a new context, and develop it further. An opinion can be restated, and then dismissed or expanded.
A blog can express a theme, and reiterate it, and develop it, and expound upon it. A blogger can state his "melody," and leave it out there for awhile, and then come back to it and give it new meaning, new substance, or a new form of expression.
There are many ways to play with this analogy, and it isn’t a perfect one. But at the present time, for better or worse, the blogosphere lacks structure. It lacks form. And eventually some forms within individual blogs, and within the blogosphere as a whole, will develop. Perhaps this will be in the realm of what Hayek termed “spontaneous order.”
We are not yet at the Beethovian (early Romantic) stage of structuring the blogosphere. We are not even at the stage of Haydn or Mozart (classical). When it comes to a system of organization, for individual blogs and for the blogosphere, we are still at a pre-classical stage of development. The blogosphere is still at the stage of early childhood. It has barely begun to be organized into a system that can be readily ascertained, whether on a micro or macro level. Eventually the online world of blogs will have clear and discernable forms. And many years from now people will challenge and expand these forms, rendering the earlier versions outdated and obsolete.
But it is possible that certain aspects of legal pedagogy will remain stuck in the Baroque era for a very long time.
Paradoxical Movie Analogy
I would like to analogize metablogging (i.e. blogging about blogging) to a brilliant scene in an otherwise lousy movie.
The movie was “Spaceballs,” a Mel Brooks parody of Star Wars. It’s really not worth watching. But there was a particular scene that struck me (and others) as kind of ingenious.
In that scene, a couple of the characters (one of them is a pseudo-Vader) are in trouble and deciding what they should do next. They are in some kind of crisis and need to make a quick decision. But they have reached an impasse and don’t know how to proceed.
Then it occurs to one of them that they have a movie video collection, and one of the videos is “Spaceballs.” That is, they have a copy of the very movie in which they are appearing. So they decide to insert the video, and fast-forward to a place later in the movie where they can see what decision they made and what the consequences were. (If the consequences were bad, they could always change their decision, but of course that would mean the copy of the movie they were watching would be changed.)
So one of the characters fast-forwards the movie, stops it randomly, and presses play. And it turns out that they have started the movie at exactly the same scene in which they are looking at the movie. The two characters look at the screen, and are watching themselves look at the screen, watching themselves looking at the screen, etc. You see an endless series of video screens, with the characters watching themselves. Then the characters look at the camera, and you see all the smaller versions of their characters looking at the camera. And they look back and forth, from the video screen, back to the camera, temporarily paralyzed by the existential ramifications.
It’s only a brief scene, and perhaps you had to be there, but it was the only memorable moment of an otherwise forgettable film. And there is something about that paradox, of watching yourself watch yourself, that applies to blogging.
At this instant right now I am blogging, and of course I am blogging about blogging (about blogging, etc). I’m not trying to be clever, and I’m not a philosopher, but I think there is something metaphysical and transcendental about this. Yet the paradox has practical applications.
If the essence of that one fleeting scene, with all of the profound implications it entails, can be even briefly captured by this blog, then I believe that 3LEpiphany will have served a useful purpose.
How is this analogy practically applicable? I’ll explain soon.