Constantine's Roman Basilica in Trier, Germany
The huge Constantine’s Roman Basilica in Trier, Germany, used today as a Protestant church (courtesy of Dulcevisa). Click for source

Spontaneous philosophy

We have said in a previous post that all men are philosophers since everyone in the course of his/her life keeps building a constantly evolving grid of interrelated concepts that shape his/her unique conception of the world.

Therefore ‘philosophy’ is not such a weird thing that pertains only to a specialized category of professionals. It is on the contrary a natural feature of our species, exactly like talking or walking on two legs.

Inner motives help

There is another element I want to point out (since we mentioned it just briefly in the past.)

These concepts and their linking seem (at least to me) related to inner motives each of us keeps inside, unconsciously or not.

Such motives, often of biographical origin, are like filters that highly influence the way we see the world.

Everyone has his/her unique way of going through this thing, the uneducated and the educated alike, the unintellectual and the great pros of thought (traditional philosophers and scientist philosophers.)


Ancient-Rome fiends, for example, may filter out things accordingly. They can look at a Renaissance façade and notice only the Roman elements that were reinvented by Renaissance architects, the semi-circular (or triangular) arches of the windows, for instance, which they can mentally link to Rome’s Pantheon niches which probably hosted the statues of Caesar, Augustus and Agrippa.

I being one of those maniacs, when within the walls of a Roman Basilica I am seldom hit by religious feelings and am rather inclined to imagine business people and magistrates doing their jobs in ancient Rome. What I tend to see is in fact the public building the Romans utilized for business, markets and legal matters, and not the place of Christian religious cult Basilicas were converted into (when they were not created from scratch for this purpose by the followers of the new religion.)

[See above the huge Constantine’s Roman Basilica in German Trier, used today as a Protestant church (courtesy of Dulcevisa)]

Obsessions, themes, leitmotivs

What I mean is that we all have our obsessions, themes, leitmotivs. They not only greatly influence our view of things, on my opinion, but also tend to provide our ideas with some kind of order, thus helping us to become little or great philosophers.

Well, let’s face it, these manias may energize our ideas though this doesn’t automatically translates into real philosophical consistency, something one can reach only through toil (which is the work of the pro.)

These themes are evident in people we know well – close friends, family members, colleagues. We are aware of their fixations, which sometimes bore us to tears. It can be a father (or mother) figure obsession, a pervading mental escapism that comes out in many comments or behaviours, it can be anything.

Such leitmotivs are also present in the works of writers, musicians, scientists etc., although they are more complex to detect and it is the big part of a critic’s job to probe their works in search of elements which make the stylistic imprint of an author.

Had Rachmaninoff
a crush on a Muslim girl?

Just as an example, one reason why a melody by Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff is recognized as his and only his is this bizarre Arabic-scale leaning he had and that may related to some profound experience in his life.

It’s because he had Tartar ancestors? Was he desperately in love with a Muslim girl? I have to check – it might be for both reasons. I read somewhere he was in love with a Muslim girl and that he lost her for some reason. I may be wrong (plus I may sound mushy) but I couldn’t check this information in the books I have or in the Internet.


Let us in any case listen to one of Rachmaninoff’s orientalizing melodies from Piano Concerto N. 2, III, Allegro scherzando.

Capitoline She-Wolf. Rome, Musei Capitolini. Public domain

Related posts:

Sex and the Search for a Method

Books, Multimedia, E-learning
(though outdated in some parts it is much to the point)

Locking Horns with a Young Roman

More recent:

Devouring Passions

14 thoughts on “Obsessive Engines. How Manias Help Us Shape Our Own Worldviews

  1. @Di
    Thank you ‘woman wandering’. I am a wanderer also, which draws me to your blog too.


  2. “one of the reasons why a melody of Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff is recognized as his and only his is this bizarre (to western ears) Arabic-scale obsession he has and that is surely related to some deep experiences in his life.”

    Though I do not know and understand well what obsession he has, the sound of the melody in this music is quite nice. 🙂


  3. @AutumnSnow
    Well, loving the piano so much I cannot but love Rachmaninoff’s music. Good old Rach was the biggest ‘piano’ composer of the last century (at least the most influential). The sounds he created with the piano nobody was capable of producing (or even playing) for a long time. His music is in fact terribly difficult to play.

    Sometimes he is a bit too sentimental, but that is typically Russian. Weirdly enough many of his themes have an Arabic influence, though it is well known that Russia in some way is culturally located between the East and the West.

    You have been nominated for an award here:

    All the best Woman from China!

    Melodies (and generally music) are based on scales, fixed sequences of notes one combines to create melodies and songs. Different cultures use different scales. The Chinese have their own scales. When we Westerners hear, for example, a melody built on *an Arabic* (or Chinese) scale, it sounds exotic, beautiful, weird etc. to our ears.


  4. I just realized that I have been nominated for an award. I thought it’s Ashish did it. I did not understand what Ashish said about he was nominating one of my post for the award at the beginning on the comment. It’s amazing there is a place for bloggers to nominated another bloggers for those awards.I am very surprised and thanks for telling me this, Man of Roma. I have to say thanks to Ashish too lol~ I think it is a kind of encouragement to keep me going on, doing my very best on my blog. 😀

    Besides, i can’t believe that there is nobody could play or create such kind of sounds for a long time….lol….it seems this kind of sound become extinction.


  5. @AutumnSnow
    I do not know if Ashish did something. Surely Dabido did.
    Which sounds …. Rachmaninoff’s?


  6. I think I also detect jazz influences in Rachmaninov’s music. Was he, then, also once in love with an American jazz-loving girl?!!

    While there are melancholic oriental/Arabic influences in Rachmaninov’s music, these influences may also have affected other Russian composers, like Rimsky-Korsakov (Scherezade) and Tschaikovsky (4th movement, 6th symphony). I think also of Borodin………..


    1. I also detect jazz influences in Rachmaninov. Was he, then, also once in love with an American … girl?

      He was. And the girl was black. Which brings to mind Bach and his clear penchant for black boys (not over the age of twelve though!). It explains why his music is so ‘dancing’.

      … melancholic oriental/Arabic influences … in Rachmaninov … Rimsky-Korsakov ….Tschaikovsky

      Right, Rachmaninov was just Russian, and Russia is partly (or mostly?) Asiatic.
      You seem to like Russian music, Cristo. I do too (Shostakovich, Prokofiev) but most of the time I need Bach, Rossini or Busoni.

      Sentimental music like Rachmaninov’s (his pianism though, wow!) or Tschaikovsky’s … enough.

      Russian Sokolov is my favourite Bach performer now though your compatriot, Gould, has opened the path. He btw went to Moscow in the 50’s and made communist Russians ‘encounter’ Bach (until then neglected as ‘religious’.)

      You might enjoy Gould’s Russian journey and its consequences on the Russians.

      And, some Bach dancing by Sokolov (‘dance’ lol starts at 2:20).


      1. I watched these videos – particularly the Glenn Gould Russia one – with much interest.

        Gould’s youth, pianistic brilliance, and his coming into their midst suddenly and from so far, Russians, from their awed reception of him, may have seen him as a Redeemer, the One who would lead them away, who would transport them to a Paradise, far, far removed from the drab Socialist Realism from which they could bodily never flee.

        Was Gould deserving of all this reverence, not just in Russia but everywhere? This is explored in this *provocative piece* written some twenty years ago by another concert pianist, a fellow Canadian, who knew Gould well.

        When I read of the extremely eccentric Gould I think of the extremely eccentric Bobby Fischer – equally a genius, albeit in another skill entirely. Both appeared to reside somewhere within the continuum of Autism.

        In the matter of Bach, while I appreciate his brilliance, and surmise he would be the preferred musical taste for mathematicians, I have always found him as a result, cold.

        Far more my cup of tea is the warmth and sunniness of Bach’s contemporary (and your fellow countryman) Antonio Vivaldi.


  7. @Christopher

    Awesome, Christopher.

    [The Russians] may have seen [Gould] as a Redeemer, the One who would … transport them to a Paradise, far, far removed from the drab Socialist Realism from which they could bodily never flee.

    I agree. Generally, a good knowledge of Bach is important, as far as my music comprehension, to any professional musician and possibly to the Russians of that time even more.

    Olaf Stapledon, your great English philosopher (*Last and First Men*, 3, rephrased):

    The Russian mode of art is blended with a passion of iconoclasm, sensuousness and a remarkable, mystical, intuitive power that can profit a lot from German discipline and rational mind

    Adapted here, they need(ed) Bach like bread (who doesn’t need bits of German discipline btw? We do.]

    Metaphorically – I’m getting confused – Bach is like a gym where one works out up to sheer power – made more (mystically) vigorous by doses of Ashtanga (excruciating lol) Yoga. Playing Bach well can be learned though with toil.

    Italian music (plus Mozart, Haydn, Schubert etc) instead (since you’ve mentioned Vivaldi) reaches beauty through the alternative paths of pureness, clarity and proportion – things from a certain heritage (the Classical) not easily learned.

    I may dig Bach more than Rossini or Italian opera, although yes, it takes some training to appreciate Bach’s music (I studied it at the Conservatory.) An exotic thing, probably: like German stations so full of Bel Canto (see *NDR Kultur Belcanto*)

    I read your article. Indeed, an Elvis-type cult has grown up around Glenn Gould. But I don’t quite agree with the article points. Gould operated two miracles imo: 1) made a large number of people appreciate Bach (no small feat) and 2) he taught pianists to squeeze Bach beauty out of a piano. Now much-better-than-Gould Bach pianists exist (Sokolov etc) but it was Gould who opened a path. Sokolov himself said he was heavily influenced by GG.

    So Canadian Gould was in my view a genius.


    1. My Transgender Ex, back in high school days, played Bach obsessively — the Goldberg Variations and the Well Tempered Klavier. He (I guess it is now she though I am not sure of the stage of progression) could neck seamlessly while playing the Inventions. A person of Russian Jewish provenance as it happens. It left me with a lifelong impression of Bach’s keyboard work as an almost violent synthesis of erotic and cerebral energy, as if someone had forced orgone through the structures of a cathedral.

      I always sensed it, nonetheless, as a sort of Tantric energy that never actually grounded itself. The classical idioms, Mozart and Schubert cases in point, touch the earth in a way that reaches my heart. Did Protestant Bach, with his two wives and twenty children, represent a kind of creative energy that had to keep climbing to heaven because the ground seemed like the wrong place to be? Not cold, but ruthlessly contained, scooped up at every level and taken to a higher one. It says Come Find Me If You Have The Chops. Schubert’s lieder or the Mozart Clarinet Quintet hold out a gift instead.

      As for Vivaldi, I fear I cannot bear him. My late and ex once spoke sighingly to me of “deedle music,” meaning Vivaldi and his ilk, and it was one of the reasons I fell in love with him. Repeated minor seconds or octaves in OCD splendor. Auditory equivalent of a handwashing fetish.

      Both that and Bach would speak to an autistic type of exponent. I’m glad that Gould pumped for Bach.


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