Igor Levit deserved his standing ovation; Shostakovich, even more so

Music and politics don’t mix, runs the platitude. Looks a bit tattered now, doesn’t it? For Soviet musicians, of course, it wasn’t a question of whether you were interested in politics. Politics was unambiguously interested in you. Shostakovich wrote his 24 Preludes and Fugues for piano between 1950 and 1951, in the teeth of Stalin’s postwar crackdown, and in adopting the model of Bach, he seems to have been looking for a safe path forward: music that was politically neutral. He dedicated the Preludes and Fugues to the pianist Tatyana Nikolayeva, whose surprise victory at the 1950 Bach competition in Leipzig had been exploited by state propagandists. Bach himself was

Boringly postmodern and an ideological fantasy: Slavoj Žižek reviews Matrix Resurrections

The first thing that strikes the eye in the multitude of reviews of Matrix Resurrections is how easily the movie’s plot (especially its ending) has been interpreted as a metaphor for our socio-economic situation. Leftist pessimists read it as an insight into how, to put it bluntly, there is no hope for humanity: we cannot survive outside the Matrix (the network of corporate capital that controls us), freedom is impossible. Then there are social-democratic pragmatic ‘realists’ who see in the movie a vision of some kind of progressive alliance between humans and machines, sixty years after the destructive Machine Wars. In these wars ‘scarcity among the Machines led to a