Michelle Boulous Walker on the difficulty of practicing philosophy in modern institutions, and an alternative approach that might encourage a more careful and attentive relation with the world
Could you tell me a little bit about yourself, and what inspired you to write Slow Philosophy?
I’m a philosopher who works in the European tradition. I have a background in political theory and an ongoing commitment to feminist politics. I’ve been teaching for some years now, and this has provided me with the opportunity to re-read key texts with my students.
For example, I’ve read Plato’s Symposium and Phaedrus countless times with both undergraduate and graduate students. The joy of re-reading is what first alerted me to the power of slow reading because for me slow philosophy is partly about the quality of attention that comes through repeated engagements with a work or text. Each time I’d return to Plato’s dialogues I’d uncover new possibilities – new meanings that were possible partly because of the new frames I was bringing to his work.Read More
Welsh playwright and script-writer discusses his motivations as an artist, and the debut performance of his new play, Quiet Hands
How did you become a writer?
I have always loved making up stories and voices for as long as I can remember. But my desire to write for theatre came from acting and directing in University while I was supposed to be studying Psychology—and then through acting in fringe profit-share productions in London and Bristol. My first full-length play Dead Man’s Fall was written with a friend of mine, Peter Jones. We had a lot of fun writing anarchic stage comedies together, which we initially produced ourselves. This led to a radio series for Radio Wales and works like Dead Man’s Fall and The Ghost of Morgan Morris, which were well received. From there, I went on to work independently with a host of theatre companies, and with the BBC on stage and radio plays, TV drama concepts and now film.Read More
On leaving an academic career to pursue a vocation in art, writing, and simple living
The reasons for my decision
Back in June, I attended a cardiology appointment that had a profound impact on me. My meeting with the cardiologist was routine and I did not receive any alarming news, but I became aware of the fragility of my own body in a new way. As an infant I was diagnosed with a congenital heart condition, and my life had been saved by the UK’s National Health Service and the surgeons at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London. I have always felt grateful for the life-saving help that I received, and could talk superficially about my condition with friends and loved ones, but now I see that I was also prone to a form of denial. Throughout my adolescence and early adulthood I placed my heart condition to one side as I tried to establish an identity for myself. My routine appointments continued from year to year, but in my conscious mind and my behaviour I aimed to suppress what they represented with denial and distraction. This year marks the first time that I am fully and consciously aware that I have a congenital heart condition. And while there is no reason why I cannot live a full and happy life, I am now awake to the fact that I nearly didn’t survive infancy.Read More
John Corbett on a new pocket-sized field guide to free and spontaneous music
What led you to write A Listener’s Guide to Free Improvisation?
I’ve been involved with improvised music from several different standpoints over the last 35 years, as a listener, as a critic, as a teacher, as a presenter, and as a producer. In the process of moving around in the music’s netherworlds, I noticed that many potential listeners were curious about it but just had no way to enter, no accessible points of reference. It’s sometimes seen as “difficult” or “complex,” and it can be both, but approaching free music is very different from listening to music composed using mathematical algorithms or with elaborate preconceived harmonic inventions. To listen to it you basically need to be attentive. That’s it. But that’s also not easy. Having some historical framework can help, and the more experience you have as a listener the better. But it’s really open to new listeners, and I wanted to find a way, in as down to earth a way as possible, to suggest that openness. To invite new listeners from other walks of music and to give a few tips on listening, things that might help get over the initial hump. Read More