A slight introspective.

There are basic differences between the categories in which this blog is organized. On the one hand, there is maths, often rather technical and detailed, highlighting some certain aspect of a topic that has caught my interest. Usually, those texts are written immediately after I have spent enough time with this particular topic – as I often switch the topics of interest and as I tend to forget the technical details pretty fast. As a matter of fact, this is exactly why there are these mathematical texts: I can get amazed by remembering the details when I re-read the blog, and especially when I have understood fundamental things about something, I wish to keep some record and some hint of how things work.

On the other hand, there are the deeper texts on literature, like book reviews or texts on topics that I have spent a lot of time with (usually a lot more than with the particular math topics: those switch faster). In some respects, I find those texts not only deep and long, but also somewhat more mature. I have taken a lot of time to develop an understanding of these things, and even if someone was to disagree with me, I would feel ready for discussion, even years later. This is why my stack of topics to be covered changes rather slowly. I have a text on Sebastian Haffner in the back of my mind, which still needs to be written, and which can’t be written in just half an hour of leisure time; same goes for a text on the TV-series Sherlock, which itself may be still work in progress, anyway. I was tempted to start a text on ancient Greece and democracy (today compared to the past), but I didn’t feel to have any definite view yet – this topic needs some more maturity. Time and again, texts like the one on The Beatles just drop out of my head and appear here, which then strikes me as a nice event, as I have managed to put down my present view of some aspect that I have spent very much time with.

And then, there are the posts like this one. Somewhat short, lacking the really deep insights, but in some way serving as a blog in the original sense of the word: as my “web-log”. They deal with topics that sparked my immediate interest, they sometimes deal with my lack of putting my insights in writing, they sometimes even focus on my personal situation of sorts. I am quite aware of the problem that this post doesn’t bring any benefit to humanity, and that this kind of self-centration is one of the tombstones of modern media. But, if my deeper insights still have to mature, then so be it. Let us stick to Gauss: Pauca sed matura. And, as the phases come and go, my lack of spare time has returned and makes it harder to actually let my insights mature as much as I want them to. But, on the up-side, new music by Judith Holofernes is about to show up, I encountered the most amazing unplugged music by the wonderfully talented Taylor Swift, I’ve had a look at the 4th season of Sherlock, and I retrieved a great book with short-stories by Andreas Eschbach. All this made my day, several times over.

Maybe, in some way, having thought about the structure of what can be found here, has been quite an insight for myself. Considering where this post started, that’s not nothing.


How does it feel? To be on your own, with no direction home, like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone?

Every October, I get mildly interested in who is going to be Nobel Prize Laureate this year. I don’t get totally excited, since most of the time I don’t understand enough about the physics, the chemistry and (Lord help me) the medicine. I can classify the importance of the Nobel Peace Prize reasonably, and I couldn’t care less about the Non-Nobel Prize for economics. Besides, I was never fond of the Nobel Prize for Literature, since it seems a much more random prize to award, as it is the only one for artists, totally ignoring musicians, sculpturists and whatnot. In particular, if you are not closely familiar with world’s modern literature, you can’t understand the first thing about the Laureates. It depends heavily on where you live, if you are to know the winners and to estimate whether the award is rightful or not. This seems different for the science prizes, as I can at least estimate how important the respective field of research is, and it is quite different for the peace prize, as everyone with an understanding of present-day politics can estimate the importance of the awardee.

This year was different. The Nobel Prize for Literature went to Bob Dylan. This surprised me for two reasons: I knew the winner beforehand, and the winner is not a writer in the classical sense of the word. As far as I know this is the first time that a singer/songwriter wins the Nobel Prize, and this is a fine decision. As a side note, much of the literature of the ancient times used to be presented in the shape of music (since songs and rhymes are easier to memorize, an important thing when you’re without much opportunity for written records), just think of the Iliad and the Odyssey. Today, those are only referred to by their lyrics, as the music has vanished from mankind’s memory, but they are considered classical literature nonetheless. So, a good thing to award the prize for literature to a songwriter.

Now, I haven’t had much time yet to dig deeply into Bob Dylan’s discography, something I urgently need to do in the weeks to come. I had been aware that he was quite an influential writer whose songs have been covered numerous times, like Blowin’ in the Wind and Like a Rolling Stone. But I had not been aware how many songs were originally his: Mr Tambourine Man, Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, Times are a-chaingin’, It ain’t me Babe, … and that list doesn’t start to be exhaustive. In fact, Dylan seems to be the most-covered musician in the past 100 years; I had believed this had been the Beatles, but they “only” have the most-covered song Yesterday (which is not the strongest Beatles-song by far, actually, but that doesn’t matter here). Of those many covers, most are better-known to be interpreted by other singers though they were written by Bob Dylan in the first place. Which is the phenomenon that happened to me, in fact.

One reason for this is Dylan’s voice which can’t actually be called melodic. In fact, he’s not much of a fantastic singer, as far as my taste is concerned. But his arrangements and his lyrics have been an inspiration for the entire modern popular music ever since the 1960’s. There is a virtually un-ending list of movies that feature a Dylan song in their score, which is why I know so very much of his work – though rather unaware.

Another fact that amazed me was part of the video clip for Homesick Subterranean Blues that was shown in the news after the Nobel Prize was announced: it was the inspiration to the beautiful video clip for Nur ein Wort by Wir sind Helden with their lead-singer Judith Holofernes. I had always given them the credit for the idea with the lyrics cards that they drop as the lyrics come – but again, it was Dylan’s idea. Wir sind Helden evolved this further to use little video tricks of slow-motion, playing backwards and gestures. But the basic is purely due to Dylan. Now, that is influencing new generations of artists. Mesmerizing.

I guess there’s much more down the rabbit hole. There’s a lot to discover in the oeuvre of Bob Dylan. And the few things that I have discovered already tell me he’s a worthy Laureate of the Nobel Prize for Literature.


As I said… there was no way of not getting my own CD of Judith Holofernes’ new longplayer:


And I have all reason to be glad about this purchase: There’s a lot of good music in it, with all the pretty things I talked about in my previous post about her. There are highs and lows of course, I haven’t seen any music CD that contains nothing but great songs. But my highest recommendations are the songs Nichtsnutz, Hasenherz and Brennende Brücken. Mostly because of their lyrics, which I find amazing. Musically, it’s the classic Judith Holofernes style again, which is great. And by now, even the two songs I mentioned earlier on, Ein leichtes Schwert and Liebe Teil 2 have raised in my opinionated listing.

Judith Holofernes’ new lyrics – and music

I have always been admiring the song of the German singer/songwriter Judith Holofernes. She used to be the front girl of Wir sind Helden until the group ended their project some time ago. Her musical style is pretty much standard guitar pop – but the big deal is about her lyrics. She can build up images in your head by using very much non-standard metaphores for her songs. And in doing so, she can not only deliver her message, but she can do it in a way that fits the music and doesn’t come with a weird metric.

The most prominent examples of this are the songs Denkmal and Kamikazefliege. In my opinion, Denkmal should become a standard topic in every German lesson. When you hear the lyrics for the first time, you won’t think of it as a love song. But it is a love song, with very unusual images in it. Kamikazefliege is most obviously a love song, but with very strong lines that contrast the very slow, very silent guitar chords heavily. Just let me google the lyrics for you. And just let me emphasize the line:

“Wer will nicht lieber aus Liebe als gar nicht zugrunde gehn?”

(“Who wouldn’t prefer to perish because of love, rather than not to perish at all?”). The question is – is there someone who actually lives a life that romantic?

But of course, Judith has quite an unusual voice. She’s a fine and talented singer with a voice that will stick to your mind in a way that I can’t properly describe. Her cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah is the most beautiful version of this song I ever heard. She can deliver the slow, sensual songs in a way that makes her sound sad, hurt and silent (if anyone ever could sing a song “silently”… there was no pun intended). Go to Außer dir or Bring mich nach Hause for nice, but not exclusive examples of this. Then again, she has up-tempo songs like Aurélie or Was uns beiden gehört that range from perfect fun to songs full of pure energy that easily transmits to the listener.

Of course, everyone’s taste in music is highly different, especially different from mine. But I encourage everybody to try out and find your own favourite Holofernes-song. You’ll enjoy them for their fine music and the poem-like rhythms if you don’t speak German, and you’ll encounter many highly unusual images and metaphores if you do speak German. There’s much to find, deep down inside those lyrics.

Now, Judith finished a solo-work of which the first two songs have been released on youtube:

Maybe, I haven’t had the opportunity to get used to this new music. In some way, these songs don’t click with me yet (and I’m still not sure what to think of the videos – but all of her music videos have been somewhat strange, or “inventive”). On the one hand, there’s everything I loved and liked about her “classical” songs of the mid past decade. On the other hand, the songs are… different. Obviously, this is one way of showing her evolution. She is older, she’s a mother, she’s working without her band, she’s the boss of how the songs are recorded and mixed etc etc. And maybe, I haven’t grown accustomed yet to this evolution of hers that shows in her music.

I am going to give her new songs a chance, and most probably I’ll be one of the loyal customers who will buy the new record no matter what. Just realizing that there’s new Judith-Holofernes-music out there – this makes my day again and again 🙂