Well, this is it. Two mysterious packages appeared today, courtesy of the bot I wrote to buy me things at random on Amazon.
The first package contained a book, Noam Chomsky’s Cartesian Linguistics:
According to Wikipedia:
Cartesian linguistics refers to a form of linguistics developed during the time of René Descartes, a prominent 17th century philosopher whose ideas continue to influence modern philosophy. Chomsky’s book, Cartesian Linguistics, manages to trace the development of linguistic theory from Descartes himself to Wilhelm von Humboldt, or in other words, directly from the period of the Enlightenment up to Romanticism. The central doctrine of Cartesian linguistics maintains that the general features of grammatical structure are common to all languages and reflect certain fundamental properties of the mind.
Chomsky’s book received mostly unfavorable reviews and critics pointed that “cartesian linguistics” fails both as a methodological conception and a historical phenomenon
Considering that during my test runs (where it was selecting but not purchasing items), I was getting books like The chattel principle the abhorrence of Jesus Christ and the apostles; or, No refuge for American slavery in the New Testament, I’m pretty happy to have gotten a book that I might have wanted to read anyway. Also: kind of shocking to have my bot purchase me a book written by a man who is often credited with the advancement of our understanding of human cognition to the point where we could start theorizing how to model it in a computer.
And now we get to the second package:
This was really cool to receive. Upon opening the package, it was obviously a CD but… of what?? There’s not much to go on. Something foreign, probably? From the back of the CD cover I could tell it was from Sweden and printed in 1999. But what kind of music? I had no way of knowing, so I popped it in a CD player in my car.
Let me tell you: the tension was palpable. It is not often that I get a CD where I have no idea what’s on it, and can’t even make good inferences from the cover.
I pressed play and was delighted to hear what seemed to be a modern avant-garde composer working with dissonant electronic sounds. This is some seriously good shit. It’s fantastic, like nothing I’ve ever heard — specifically it makes my car sound like it’s falling apart, and actually startles me at times.
Turns out Ákos Rózmann (b. 1939, d. 2005) was a Hungarian avant-garde electro-acoustic composer who worked in Sweden most of his life. According to this article:
“As a true modernist, he didn’t compose with an audience or the critics in mind. His mission was to compose for the future. It was his conviction that the mystical energy for compositional work should derive straight from God.”
This particular CD collects two of his works: Impulsioni (1973-74) and De två, med tre instrument (1996-97). I’ve uploaded my favorite track of the album here.
You can listen to samples of the entire album here, as well.
All in all, this was a sort of creepy shipment. It sent me a book by someone who’s known for charting and modeling the human mind, and sent me some music that is extremely mechanical and almost random.