Spinoza’s Dream

by Harry on September 7, 2016

My friend (and former student) Dave Nachmanoff, has just released a philosophy themed folk-concept album called Spinoza’s Dream. I love it. The concept is pretty cerebral I suppose — each song is inspired by some philosophical idea or theory — but, as usual, Dave’s songs are nevertheless affecting and often personal. And the musicianship is fantastic: Dave himself is one of those musicians who somehow manages to make a single guitar sound like a whole band, and he is joined by various Al Stewart personnel (Dave has been Al Stewart’s lead guitarist for many years; the cover is designed by Colin Elgie, who designed the cover for Year of the Cat!), and Al himself on supporting vocals on one track. Here’s the great title track:



oldster 09.07.16 at 4:04 pm

Wow! That’s a very sweet piece of acoustic folk, and a beautiful video.

It’s also, I say with some confidence, the finest pop-music tribute to an Early Modern Rationalist* philosopher that I have ever encountered. I don’t entirely agree with the suggestion that BS wanted to celebrate the oneness of it all, but folks can disagree about how to sum up his views in lyric-form while still thinking this is a damn fine performance.

Thanks for pointing me to it!

(If we expand beyond the Rationalists, then I probably still prefer “I woke up in a Soho doorway/a policeman knew my name. He said: “you can go sleep at home tonight/ if you can get up and walk the way,”” from the song “Hume are you”.)


Doug K 09.07.16 at 4:24 pm

thank you, that is wonderful.. always was a big fan of the guitar solos on Al Stewart songs, did not realize that was Dave..


Bob Zannelli 09.07.16 at 6:04 pm

Thank you very much for posting this. I am a YUGE Spinoza fan.


Chris Grant 09.07.16 at 7:45 pm

A lot of the great guitar work you hear on classic Al Stewart songs is actually Peter White.


JakeB 09.07.16 at 8:14 pm

I’ve seen Dave perform with Al three times and never cease to be amazed by how much of the tone of the original songs he manages to capture.


Harry 09.07.16 at 10:44 pm

Yes, on the albums from the 70s a lot is Peter White (that dreamy bit from On The Border). Then Lawrence Juber. Then more recently Dave. I love the live performances with Dave — you can get a good sense on Uncorked — a live album from 2009.


Raven Onthill 09.07.16 at 11:34 pm

Also available at CD Baby (http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/davenachmanoff3), which probably pays better. The band is most of the original band from Al Stewart’s Year of the Cat.


TheSophist 09.08.16 at 12:42 am

And all this time I thought it was “Year of the Kant”.


harry b 09.08.16 at 2:46 am

Very good!


Alan White 09.08.16 at 3:43 am

Harry–thanks for this post on true musical talent and philosophy.

As for false such, I don’t know if you know that I have done parodies for over three decades, some of which have been used here and there (Roy Sorensen in his Brief History of the Paradox; Laurence Goldstein in an article in the Monist on humor and philosophy).




Jim Buck 09.10.16 at 7:42 am

Biosongs should always be sang by men in flat caps:


Tom 09.12.16 at 5:44 pm

I saw Dave Nachmanoff perform couple years ago at a neighbor’s house — a treat that included a song on Spinoza’s dualist foil, Descartes in Amsterdam.


Jim Buck 09.12.16 at 9:15 pm


Doug K 09.14.16 at 4:53 am

came back remembering a Borges poem on Spinoza,

The Jew’s hands, translucent in the dusk,
polish the lenses time and again.
The dying afternoon is fear, is
cold, and all afternoons are the same.
The hands and the hyacinth-blue air
that whitens at the Ghetto edges
do not quite exist for this silent
man who conjures up a clear labyrinth—
undisturbed by fame, that reflection
of dreams in the dream of another
mirror, nor by maidens’ timid love.
Free of metaphor and myth, he grinds
a stubborn crystal: the infinite
map of the One who is all His stars.

(translated by Richard Howard, César Rennert)

and found another that I did not know,

A haze of gold, the Occident lights up
The window. Now, the assiduous manuscript
Is waiting, weighed down with the infinite.
Someone is building God in a dark cup.
A man engenders God. He is a Jew
With saddened eyes and lemon-colored skin;
Time carries him the way a leaf, dropped in
A river, is borne off by waters to
Its end. No matter. The magician moved
Carves out his God with fine geometry;
From his disease, from nothing, he’s begun
To construct God, using the word. No one
Is granted such prodigious love as he:
The love that has no hope of being loved.

[Translated into English by Willis Barnstone]

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