What We Are Reading Today: The Lost History of Liberalism

Updated 09 September 2018
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What We Are Reading Today: The Lost History of Liberalism

AUTHOR: Helena Rosenblatt

 

The Lost History of Liberalism challenges our most basic assumptions about a political creed that has become a rallying cry — and a term of derision — in today’s increasingly divided public square.

Taking readers from ancient Rome to today, Helena Rosenblatt traces the evolution of the words “liberal” and “liberalism,” revealing the heated debates that have taken place over their meaning.

Rosenblatt debunks the popular myth of liberalism as a uniquely Anglo-American tradition centered on individual rights, says a review on the Princeton University Press website.

She shows that it was the French Revolution that gave birth to liberalism and Germans who transformed it. Only in the mid-20th century did the concept become widely known in the US—and then, as now, its meaning was hotly debated. 

Liberals were originally moralists at heart. They believed in the power of religion to reform society, emphasized the sanctity of the family, and never spoke of rights without speaking of duties. 


Miles Davis and all that jazz

Miles Davis teaches actress Jeanne Moreau to play the trumpet. (AFP)
Updated 19 September 2018
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Miles Davis and all that jazz

  • Thankfully, the tapes were rolling on Dec. 19, 1970 — just one more historic evening when Miles changed music forever, before tearing up the rulebook again in pursuit of that most quixotic muse

ROTTERDAM: Miles Davis once claimed to have “changed music five or six times,” and while a man known for neither understatement nor modesty, some argue that the jazz icon sold himself short — biographer John Szwed once traced at least nine musical subgenres either born or shaped by Davis’ innovations. 

The revolutionary shopping list includes inventing cool-jazz in the 1940s, spawning hard bop, modal jazz and third-stream in the 1950s, and pioneering post-bop in the 1960s. However, the stylistic sea change Davis devoted most blood, sweat and tape toward were the ‘70s adventures in fusion most often epitomized by “B*****s Brew”, the first of ten dense double-LPs (plus two singles) recorded in just five years — which over 44 sides of vinyl explored and/or anticipated jazz-rock, funk, ambient, minimalism, worldbeat, psychedelic, space-jazz and even techno.

Trippy stuff, for sure, but not always easily listenable. Not the case with the misleadingly titled “Live-Evil” (1971) — a part-studio, mostly live set which captures Davis’ increasingly oblique electric permutations at their most fun, and funky. The bulk of the 102-minute runtime documents a one-night encounter with guest guitarist John McLaughlin, whose furious fretwork conceals an unusually ragged looseness and bluesy simplicity.

Such a raw approach suits the thick, squelchy grooves conjured by electric bassist Michael Henderson — recently recruited from Aretha Franklin’s band — grounding the untethered attack of drummer Jack DeJohnette’s crazed rock rhythms.

Recorded at the height of his boxing obsession, there’s a controlled aggression to Davis’ playing — the hurried rhythms of jabs and parries, ducks and dives — his horn harshly amplified through a wah-wah guitar pedal in a wholehearted Hendrix homage.

What little harmony there is comes from Keith Jarrett, whose overdriven organ scurries lend a frazzled energy and cerebral counter-balance. Soon after Jarrett — now the most renowned solo pianist on the planet — would quit and disavow electronic instruments altogether.

Thankfully, the tapes were rolling on Dec. 19, 1970 — just one more historic evening when Miles changed music forever, before tearing up the rulebook again in pursuit of that most quixotic muse.