Music of the Gods

Lindsay Perigo's picture
Submitted by Lindsay Perigo on Mon, 2008-04-21 06:11

"The emotion involved in art is not an emotion in the ordinary meaning of the term. It is experienced more as a 'sense' or a 'feel,' but it has two characteristics pertaining to emotions: it is automatically immediate and it has an intense, profoundly personal (yet undefined) value-meaning to the individual experiencing it.

"The value involved is life, and the words naming the emotion are: 'This is what life means to me.' Regardless of the nature or content of an artist’s metaphysical views, what an art work expresses, fundamentally, under all of its lesser aspects is: 'This is life as I see it.' The essential meaning of a viewer’s or reader’s response, under all of its lesser elements is, 'This is (or is not) life as I see it.'"

—Ayn Rand, The Romantic Manifesto

Introduction

As often happens, I am in hot water—this time on the "RACH” thread—for fulminating against “headbanging caterwauling” and touting the superiority of Romantic music. I am in hot water with the fans of caterwauling for daring to diss their favoured offal, and with a serious music aficionado who insists “Romanticism” should include sundry post-Romantic meanderers and blowhards. He has ranked some thirty Romantic and post-Romantic works according to merit (according to him) in what looks suspiciously like a J. Evans Pritchard modus operandi.

Here I propose to deal only with the “arguments” of the caterwaulers; the case for or against including the likes of Mahler among the Great Romantics will have to wait ... except to say, paraphrasing Shakespeare: “Brevity is the soul of beauty.”

First, a preliminary question: why does this matter matter? Why do I get so exercised about it? Why can’t I just “live and let live” and leave empty heads and deformed souls alone to wallow in their frightful cacophonies?

My answer: I am perfectly prepared to do that—but they’re not prepared to leave me or any other decent, innocent human being alone. They shove their filth at us at every turn, and I am beyond fed up with it. As Rand might say, "These are the commandos of the haters' army, who crawl out of the sewer of centuries and shake themselves in public, splattering muck over the passers-by. ... The passers-by are the rest of us, who have to live, breathe and work in this atmosphere."

As I said in my RACH editorial:

“They do not rule the world officially but they have taken it over. They have taken over the shopping malls, the shops, the bars and restaurants, the gyms and rugby fields, the interludes between television programmes and even the programmes themselves. Nothing is uncorrupted by these aliens—even opera singers perform with them.

“It’s time to shame these aesthetic thugs into oblivion. Musical masochism is for consenting adults in private; it shouldn’t be sadistically imposed on unconsenting adults in public. Ideally its perpetrators should follow the logic of one of their number, the Slipknot drummer who, when told his was music to commit suicide by, said, ‘We must be doing something right.’ I would certainly encourage that alien and all its fellows to top themselves and leave the earth to human beings.”

Since it’s unlikely that they’ll opt for suicide, unfortunately, it is they who need to be admonished to “live and let live” (if you can call what they do living). They should not be averse to a campaign for the voluntary clearing away of their pollution from places where it’s unsolicited.

Rand said:

"I am not willing to surrender the world to the jerky contortions of self-inducedly brainless bodies with empty eye sockets who perform in stinking basements the immemorial rituals of staving off terror, which are a dime a dozen in any jungle—and to the quavering witch doctors who call it 'art.'"

Well dears, neither am I. When some skunk squirts its filth in my face without my consent, I will punch its snout. And I shall campaign against skunkery in general.

I should say that the reason this essay has taken a while is that it was becoming an academic-style treatise on Romanticism in music. Well, the Internet is replete with such treatises, by people better qualified than I. All I ever intended was an informed layman’s polemic against The Age of Crap as manifest in music, and against the idea that music is somehow exempt from the standard, healthy Objectivist strictures against cultural relativism. Realising I had departed from my brief, I had to start over to get back on course.

I have used Dr. Richard Goode as my foil in this essay because, like Everest, he’s there, and because, in this debate, he is perfect in his immorality (I say this in a caring kind of way). He is delectably quintessential!

Cutting to the chase

So why do I feel entitled to pile on value-judgments such as “sub-human,” “skunks,” “filth” and so on in the realm of music? Didn’t Rand herself say:

“Until a conceptual vocabulary is discovered and defined, no objectively valid criterion of esthetic judgment is possible in the field of music … No one, therefore, can claim the objective superiority of his choices over the choices of others. Where no objective proof is available, it's every man for himself—and only for himself”?

Yes, she did. And, I submit, she was wrong.

Note the practical implication of her dictum: that no one can claim the objective superiority of the Tchaikovsky and Beethoven posted on the Van Cliburn thread over the Slayer posted on the RACH thread. This is absurd on its face—but of course, “on its face” won’t do for those who seize on Rand’s statement as an excuse to remain in the sewer. So let’s keep going.

What did Rand mean by “conceptual vocabulary”?

She tells us. Such a vocabulary would explain how a work evokes the emotions it does. “Why does a succession of sounds produce an emotional reaction? Why does it involve man’s deepest emotions and his crucial, metaphysical values? How can sounds reach man’s emotions directly, in a manner that seems to bypass his intellect? What does a certain combination of sounds do to man’s consciousness to make him identify it as gay or sad?”

Why need we know these things in order to pass objective judgment? What difference would it make? That she doesn’t tell us. But she does reiterate:

“The formulation of a common vocabulary of music would require these answers. It would require: a translation of the musical experience, the inner experience, into conceptual terms; an explanation of why certain sounds strike us a certain way; a definition of the axioms of musical perception, from which the appropriate esthetic principles could be derived, which would serve as a base for the objective validation of esthetic judgments.”

Phew!

This, Rand goes on, means we need to do what we currently cannot do in musical perception--separate subject and object:

“In listening to music, a man cannot tell clearly, neither to himself nor to others—and therefore, cannot prove—which aspects of his experience are inherent in the music and which are contributed by his own consciousness. He experiences it as an indivisible whole, he feels as if the magnificent exaltation were there in the music—and he is helplessly bewildered when he discovers that some men do experience it and some do not. In regard to the nature of music, mankind is still on the perceptual level of awareness.”

Now, it is my contention that Rand has set the bar way too high here—we don’t need to know all that in order to judge—and that furthermore, my contention has her imprimatur:

“The deadly monotony of primitive music—the endless repetition of a few notes and of a rhythmic pattern that beats against the brain with the regularity of the ancient torture of water drops falling on a man’s skull—paralyses cognitive processes, obliterates awareness and disintegrates the mind. ... Primitive music becomes his narcotic [that of a modern man brought up as a 'mentally helpless savage']: it wipes out the groping, it reassures him and reinforces his lethargy, it offers him temporarily the sense of a reality to which his stagnant torpor is appropriate.” (Note, incidentally, what she is describing as primitive music is still a slight advance on rap, which was embryonic in her time: rap has no notes!)

If that’s not passing judgment I don’t know what is! So, is Rand seriously arguing that she would then baulk at the final hurdle and decline to pronounce primitive music inferior to Romantic? She already has so pronounced it!

And with good reason.

Romanticism vs. Headbanging

See, “the endless repetition of a few notes and of a rhythmic pattern that beats against the brain with the regularity of the ancient torture of water drops falling on a man’s skull” is a near-perfect description of, to cite a convenient example, the track, “Rain of Blood” by “thrash metal” band Slayer, linked to on RACH. (Apparently “thrash metal” is a sibling of “death metal.”) The piece is certainly melodically challenged. The rhythm is faster than water drops, to be sure, but the way it beats against the brain is definitely torture (which some clearly enjoy, but I’ll come to that). The description omits, since it wasn’t specifically what Rand had in mind, lyrics that are inaudible (and, on further investigation, unintelligible) rendered by a voice that is unlistenable, the voice of someone being tortured. It omits the seemingly deliberate over-amping of the guitars to effect distortion. It says nothing about harmony—but then, there’s not much to say anyway. Overall, the description could easily be of “Rain of Blood.”

By way of cleansing contrast, let us remind ourselves what makes Romantic music Romantic music, and what we know about music itself that permits us to judge.

We know that the primary components of music are melody, harmony and rhythm—and the greatest of these is melody, the ordering of tones. Melody is fundamental. As plot is to literature, so melody is to music. Whistle a tune, unaccompanied (no harmonies), each note equal in length (no rhythm)—it’s still music. No melody—no music. “It’s the toon, stoopid!”

We know that certain simultaneous combinations of tones (harmony), because of the mathematical relationship of their frequencies, are, as a matter of metaphysical fact, integratable by the human brain (consonant) and others are not (dissonant); that this is true for all human beings apart from the tone-deaf; that the resolution of dissonance into consonance helps give a piece suspense, sophistication and satisfaction, a sense of home-coming; and so we may rightly judge the deliberate refusal to resolve for the sake of refusal to resolve to be an act of sabotage and assassination.

We know that in the Romantic period (nineteenth and early twentieth centuries) composers and performers pushed the boundaries of every musical element, primary and secondary, achieving an unprecedented emotional expressiveness while avoiding the descent into the atonal anarchy that followed. New instruments, bigger orchestras; new forms, and the expansion of old forms; the coming of age of opera and ballet; virtuoso stars, like our modern-day “celebs” only with talent; the cult of the conductor; more inventive melodies using bigger intervals between notes; greater dynamic range—fff (fortississimo: very, very loud) to ppp (pianississimo: very, very soft); more daring harmonies (chromatic and dissonant, without recourse to the sabotage or assassination that became de rigueur later) modulating more frequently into other keys; more rhythmic variety, including greater use of syncopation, rubato (bending of the rhythm), accelerando (speeding up) and ritardando (slowing down), changing of the time signature within movements, etc. They honored but were not straitjacketed by the formalism of classicism, stretching but not eschewing the rules that make music cohere. They knew with their predecessors that coherence was integral to integration, and integration to harmoniousness, and harmoniousness to beauty. They exercised freedom within the rule of law—the perfect mirror of what was going on politically.

Thus did they bring individualism to music—they were each distinguishable from the other; each imposed his distinctive stamp upon the form without going out of it (at least not to the point of disintegration). They united the idiomatic with the idiosyncratic, reason with emotion, Apollo with Dionysus (albeit with a leaning towards the latter, via, it must be admitted, that villain Rousseau). They transformed the “universal language” into an individual language. As one commentary puts it:

“Romantic-era composers kept the forms of Classical music. But the Romantic composer did not feel constrained by form. Breaking through boundaries was now an honorable goal shared by the scientist, the inventor, and the political liberator. Music was no longer universal; it was deeply personal and sometimes nationalistic. The personal sufferings and triumphs of the composer could be reflected in stormy music that might even place a higher value on emotion than on beauty. Music was not just happy or sad; it could be wildly joyous, terrified, despairing, or filled with deep longings.”

We know that, in Objectivist terms, they projected as never before, if not for the first time, man the passionate valuer—their symphonies and concerti were “to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield” set to music and writ large. We know that Rand's description of Richard Halley's Concerto of Deliverance could only have been of a Romantic composition:

"It was a symphony of triumph. The notes flowed up. They spoke of rising and they were the rising itself, they were the essence and form of upward motion, they seemed to embody every human act and thought that had ascent as its motive. It was a sunburst of sound, breaking out of hiding and spreading open. It had the freedom of release and the tension of purpose. It swept space clean and left nothing but the joy of an unobstructed effort. Only a faint echo within the sounds spoke of that from which the music had escaped, but spoke in laughing astonishment at the discovery that there was no ugliness or pain, and there never had had to be. It was the song of an immense deliverance." (Rach 3, anyone—how about the middle section of the second movement?)

In short, we know that in every important aspect of it one can name, music—demonstrably, empirically, as a matter of fact—reached its apogee in the Romantic era. Romanticism was the culmination of what preceded it, and the transcending of it; it was the high point of musical evolution to date; it was the “total height”—and it remains so. (What came after was disintegration into vagueness, gratuitous dissonance, ostentation, random plinkety-plonk, silly silences and traffic noise.) Not knowing the physiology of how music evokes the responses that it does in us, not knowing how many parts object and how many part subject are involved, cannot gainsay this fact, the supreme stature of Romantic music, and its superiority over any modern throwback to “primitive music” such as that of Slayer, which it seems ludicrous to mention in the same breath.

This superiority can also be ascribed, I should add, to the myriad forms of what one might call “mini-Romanticism” such as operetta, musical comedy, jazz (the intelligible kind), pre-80s pop, movie scores, Ayn Rand’s “tiddly-wink music” and so on. The standard pop tune of my youth was a veritable miniature sonata with a clear theme, stated, developed then reiterated (A-B-A), value-orientated (usually about love!) with meaningful if unchallenging lyrics, audibly articulated. Any of the foregoing is superior to Slayer and all other headbanging caterwauling.

Romanticism and sense of life

Now at this point someone might object: “All this is very well, but you’re over-emphasizing the technical and structural aspects of the compositions and glossing over the business of one’s emotional response to them. After all, headbangers can be complex and clever too. And the fact is, whether you approve or not, Slayer hits my emotional spot and Rach doesn’t. End of story.”

And of course, it is the end of the story if you want it to be, if you’re content with that. Let’s just not continue to tout the relativist fiction that all music is created equal.

And let’s see what can be observed about the emotional response, since the objector is quite right: that is the whole point of the exercise, and music, like no other art form, gets to the point straight away.

I assume that what the objector and I seek from music is the same thing: what I call value-swoon: “This is life as I see it”—in my case, in the form of a spiritual orgasm born of orgiastic love-making between me, the artist, the composer and life itself. Value-swoon consummated by tears. If there are no tears, I haven’t fully value-swooned. Tears of joy, poignance, worship, “unclouded exaltation” in the presence of gods and the godly, of beauty inexpressible in words. The solemn gaze on Van Cliburn’s face as he looks up at his conductor at the conclusion of the aforementioned Tchaikovsky (Piano Concert #1, Movement Three), having thundered spectacularly up and down the length and breadth of the piano and pressed down the final home-coming tonic chord, says it all. Breathes there the man with soul so dead he cannot behold this and exult: “What a piece of work is man!”? This response, of course, is life-affirming, and so, by Objectivist standards, good. Moreover, it is the response the work and the performance are intended to evoke, so the subject’s reaction is consistent with the content of the object.

Now, it's true that one needn't seek the full monty every time, which would be rather exhausting, and there are less weighty but perfectly legitimate reasons one might listen to some types of music. "Objectively superior," after all, implies an answer to the questions, "Superior to what, in what respect and for what purpose?" Country is best for a good laugh (who can resist the hilarity of some retard yodelling about his wife leaving him for the horse?), for instance, and The Carpenters are great for getting to sleep. But it turns out metal fans do actually seek the full monty. Or at least, at first glance, they claim to. Dr. (PhD in philosophy) Richard Goode, Slayer’s cheerleader on the RACH thread, said there:

“Honestly, if you don't feel glad to be alive after a good pounding by Slayer, the Queens of the Stone Age or even Hayseed Dixie, then there’s something wrong with you.” (Note, there’s something wrong with you. Evidently it’s OK to say there’s something wrong with you if you don’t like Slayer but not OK to say there’s something wrong with you if you do!)

But hang on a minute! Pressed by me to explain just how a “good pounding by Slayer” made him “glad to be alive,” Dr. Goode responded as follows:

“Anger. Energy. Passion. Defiance. Catharsis. Slayer are musical genius.”

So, is it anger, etc., that makes Dr. Goode feel glad to be alive, that gives him his value-swoons? I tried to find out:

“Anger about what? Passion for what? Defiance of what? Given that ‘catharthis’ is the release of pent-up emotions, why are your emotions pent up (I did warn you that pomowanking makes one passionless)? Wherein lies Slayer's ‘musical genius’?”

Alas, my inquiries elicited no further response.

Which entitles us to assume, I think, that the anger is not a justified, discrete anger about some particular injustice or other, else Dr. Goode would have mentioned it; it is a generalised, metaphysical anger at life itself that makes Goode feel good!

Now, remember what Rand said about the way music affects us:

“Psycho-epistemologically, the pattern of the response to music seems to be as follows: one perceives the music, one grasps the suggestion of a certain emotional state and, with one's sense of life serving as the criterion, one appraises this state as enjoyable or painful, desirable or undesirable, significant or negligible, according to whether it corresponds to or contradicts one's fundamental feeling about life.”

In the case of Dr. Goode and Slayer, he perceives their music, grasps the suggestion of anger and defiance and appraises it as enjoyable, desirable and significant, since it corresponds to his fundamental feeling about life. He says, “This is life as I see it.” Which, I respectfully submit, taking it at its own word, is anti-life—and the anti-life, need I point out, is, according to Objectivism, bad! Calling it and what evoked it “inferior” is letting it off lightly!

Inferior Music and Philosophy

None of this occurs in a vacuum. It’s no coincidence, but rather entirely congruent, that among Dr. Goode’s other pin-up boys is the philosopher David Hume, who taught that concepts, the means by which human beings make sense of reality, have no basis in reality; there are just brute facts, and the act of integrating them into concepts is entirely arbitrary.

Here’s Rand on Hume:

“When Hume declared that he saw objects moving about, but never saw such a thing as ‘causality’—it was the voice of Attila that men were hearing. It was Attila’s soul that spoke when Hume declared that he experienced a flow of fleeting states inside his skull, such as sensations, feelings or memories, but had never caught the experience of such a thing as consciousness or self. When Hume declared that the apparent existence of an object did not guarantee that it would not vanish spontaneously next moment, and the sunrise of today did not prove that the sun would rise tomorrow; when he declared that philosophical speculation was like a game, like chess or hunting, of no significance whatever to the practical course of human existence, since reason proved that existence was unintelligible, and only the ignorant maintained the illusion of knowledge—all of this accompanied by vehement opposition to the mysticism of the Witch Doctor and by protestations of loyalty to reason and science—what men were hearing was the manifesto of a philosophical movement that can be designated only as Attila-ism.”

Here’s Goode on the significance or otherwise of philosophy, in a SOLO exchange with James Valliant:

Valliant: As a philosopher, can you tell me what the practical upshot of your work is, i.e., its implications to human life?

Goode: Hahaha. You're kidding, right?

Stretching too long a bow?

Hume was a destroyer. Slayer, whose headbanging has included “songs” sympathetic to the 9/11 terrorists and Joseph Mengele, are destroyers. And all other headbangers. They are Hume’s chickens come home to roost. Richard, who claims there is no basis in reason for freedom, is an enabler of the destroyers (I grant he’d be horrified to think so). All three are archetypes. Hume, the clever/stupid philosopher, for whom logic and facts ne’er will meet; Goode, the modern “cool” sophisticat, monotoned and sardonic, getting his kicks from clever-dick nitpicking and word games; Slayer, the ugly reality behind the philosophers’ pseudo-civilized veneer, like so many “metal” bands of whichever variety—“thrash,” “death” or otherwise. It’s useful and instructive to see them all appropriately aligned—all nihilists together in this post-modern Age of Nihilism.

Conclusion

Nihilism is as objectively bad in esthetics as it is in any other realm—and in music as in any other part of esthetics, Rand notwithstanding. Appraising a positive response to musical nihilists as good, as Goode does, is bad. These animals intend to purvey ugliness and mindless rage and like nothing better in response than the perverted value-swoon of the nihilist, the pomowanker’s snicker of approval, perhaps more accurately called the "anti-value swoon." Again, the subject's response is congruent with the object's content.

We all hear the same thing. We all recognise deliberate ugliness and rage for ugliness’s and rage’s sake, just as surely as we all hear a minor chord as somber and a major chord as cheerful. It’s our responses to the ugliness and rage that differ, and the issue here is: evaluating the responses. It’s a question of values, not physiology. Life-affirming values = good; life-negating values (anti-values) = bad. So, if you respond with approval to deliberate ugliness and gratuitous rage, if you seek out and wallow in the anti-value swoon, then, in Dr. Goode’s immortal words, “There’s something wrong with you.” And that’s a fact.

I’m reminded of a painter friend from years ago who read The Fountainhead. He got it. He understood it as well as I. But he chose to blank it out, because, “If I take it seriously it’ll turn my life upside down” (his life being in thrall to axe-through-head tutors).

In his exceptional SOLO essay, “Something Better than Rage, Pain, Anger and Hurt,” Peter Cresswell exhorts:

“Music is our food of the spirit. So do try to be careful what you eat.”

(This admonition, by the way, doesn’t mean we all have to like the same music any more than we have to like the same food. It means we should eat food rather than feces.)

Musically speaking, we have whole generations eating poo and militantly relishing it. It ill-behoves Objectivists to tell them there’s no objective reason not to do so. Objectivism is nothing if not a command to rise. To those addicted to feces but wanting to rise from the sewer, I commend Mr. Cresswell’s essay. He knows whereof he speaks. He has himself risen!

Just these last few days on SOLO, artist Michael Newberry has recounted the story of someone who presented plastic-wrapped blood from her miscarriages as an artwork, and asked:

“Many of you here are freaked out about the possibility of radical Muslims taking over the world. But what is it that could weaken the West so much that it could fall victim to a primitive anti-modern society? When I see America, I see and experience many great things, lots of freedoms. It's much easier to do what you like here than in the other countries I have lived in. But, I also see the postmodern art world everywhere, with its cynical, disintegrated, anti-conceptual mind-set, and pathetic sense of life. That is America too. What if art plays a major role in the health, flourishing, and spirit of country or a culture? If that is so, aren't we more in trouble from the inside than the outside?”

We’re certainly in trouble from the inside. I quote finally from my inaugural speech at SOLOC 1 in 2001. The "jungle cacophony" alluded to is Eminem—I had just compared Johann Strauss and Eminem as exemplars of two contrasting cultures, antipodal pop icons, one danced to by human beings, the other jerked to by the eyeless-socketed ones:

“ ... get out there in the marketplace and promote good art as zealously as you promote good philosophy, both being necessary for the preservation of freedom. The tide is against us at the moment—wherever we turn our ears are assaulted by jungle cacophony of the kind we've just heard. In the visual realm … well, we've just been reading on the SOLO Forum about the Canadian artist I alluded to earlier who won a prestigious award for ejaculating into vials; there was the Turner Award in Britain, recently bestowed on someone whose ‘artwork’ was a room with an electric light in it. These abominations are a dime a dozen right now; it is, as I often say, the Age of Crap. I want SOLO to wage an intellectual war on it every bit as relentless as the physical War on Terrorism.”

That war should include the unabashed proclamation of Romantic music’s objective superiority.

Romantic music is composed and performed by the heroes in our midst. It speaks and appeals to the best within us. It awakens our capacity for rapture. It is appreciated and adored by the passionately enlightened. It is inspired by and inspires the most intensely life-affirming value-swoons possible to man. If the expression, "total passion for the total height" means anything, it finds that meaning in Romantic music. In terms of what went into it and what can be taken out of it, Romantic music is simply the best.

And that’s a fact.


( categories: )

Astounding!

Richard Wiig's picture

All hail the mellotron

ding_an_sich's picture

I've been on a huge prog rock kick for about a year now, with Genesis and King Crimson at the top. These two bands, and a couple others, are in my mind the best things to come out in over the past 50-60 years. Everything else is just unpalatable. Here's a couple songs from each.

Genesis

I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)

Watcher of the Skies

King Crimson

One More Red Nightmare

Ladies of the Road

And we'll throw in some Bach too, just for the heck of it. Good ol' BMV 1068.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Cloud Atlas!

Marcus's picture

Just reading this delightful book by David Mitchell made up of various linked short stories in different times and places.

It was just made into a film with Tom Hanks and Halle Berry, probably quite badly.

The second story is about a young musician in the 1930's who goes to live with the very elderly genius British composer Vyvyan Ayrs, now living in Belgium. The tale is written as a series of letters from the young musician to a friend. I think you would love it Linz.

Here is a very funny extract:

"At breakfast, he has me read from The Times.

Old, blind, and sick as Ayrs is, he could hold his own in a college debating society, though I notice he rarely proposes alternatives for the systems he ridicules.

“Liberality? Timidity in the rich!”

“Socialism? The younger brother of a decrepit despotism, which it wants to succeed.”

“Conservatives? Adventitious liars, whose doctrine of free will is their greatest deception.”

What sort of state does he want? “None! The better organized the state, the duller its humanity.”

The first story is about an American shipwrecked on the Chatham Islands in 1849. He recounts in a journal how the Maori are a bunch of blood thirsty savages who enslave the Moriori.

If the film stuck to the book it must have caused a minor scandal in New Zealand.

Sorry Olivia,

Kyle Jacob Biodrowski's picture

I'm unable to understand what you wrote, but my savage senses have gleaned your displeasure.

Hold on...hold on...I've just divined a part of your message. The smoke and dice tell me that you have...just called...the vocalist a neanderthal. Is that correct? Don't bother answering, these rituals are difficult to perform.

Well, I wouldn't quite call someone who uses modern technology to create music a neanderthal, but to each his own. It would be more appropriate to call people who rub sticks on string to create a whiny sound, neanderthals.

Unholy shit!

Olivia's picture

.... I clicked on that Kyle, suddenly got blasted by steel bash. I don't care to hear some basher's primal call for freedom when he sends it out through that brain-dead medium. Ugh.
Seriously, you've got to put up a warning when you present something like that.
That was felt by me as if some stranger did a rotten fart in my bedroom.

This is Music of the Gods not Music of the Gimps!

Linz - Music and Character/Morality

Rosie's picture

Boethius - one of my favourite philosophers - writes on the subject of the apparent ability of music to affect character. (He also writes about the faculty of Reason and its being necessary to appreciate music which is also very interesting.) His discussion records his knowledge of the ancient Greek philosophers and their beliefs about music (as your post quoting Peikoff also records briefly and which was what reminded me of this).

In Boethius' review of this subject it is particularly interesting that he clearly separates music from the other “sciences” of the liberal arts in assigning to music alone an influence on morality.

It is also fascinating that he uses the expression, “that we ourselves are put together in its likeness,” for one of the latest discoveries in physics, in research conducted in England, is that all organs of the body vibrate to specific pitches. (When I was paralysed at one point in my life and had absolutely no skin sensory perception whatsoever, I attended a live performance of Bruch's Violin Concerto and I could literally feel the insides of my body vibrating!) One of these physicists has stated that we have evolved to look as we do, due to the combination of these harmonies and gravity. Amazing idea, isn't it?

Anyway, I am digressing (as usual!).

In the excerpt below Boethius discusses the effect of music on morality and character (second and third paragraphs most relevant to Peikoff) and is taken from De Institutione Musica (a link to a small section of the whole book but which contains more detail than I have written below; it is also a slightly different translation).

"There happen to be four mathematical disciplines [arithmetic, music, geometry, and astronomy], the other three share with music the task of searching for truth; but music is associated not only with speculation but with morality as well. For nothing is more characteristic of human nature than to be soothed by pleasant modes or disturbed by their opposites. This is not peculiar to people in particular endeavors or of particular ages. Indeed, music extends to every endeavor; moreover, youths, as well as the aged are so naturally attuned to musical modes by a kind of voluntary affection that no age at all is excluded from the charm of sweet song. What Plato rightfully said can likewise be understood: the soul of the universe was joined together according to musical concord. For when we hear what is properly and harmoniously united in sound in conjunction with that which is harmoniously coupled and joined together within us and are attracted to it, then we recognize that we ourselves are put together in its likeness. For likeness attracts, whereas unlikeness disgusts and repels.

"From this cause, radical transformations in character also arise. A lascivious disposition takes pleasure in more lascivious modes or is often made soft and corrupted upon hearing them. On the other hand, a rougher spirit finds pleasure in more exciting modes or becomes aroused when it hears them. This is the reason why musical modes were named after certain peoples, such as “Lydian” mode and “Phrygian,” for in whatever a particular people finds pleasure, by that same name the mode itself is designated. A people finds pleasure in modes because of likeness to its own character, for it is not possible for gentle things to be joined with or find pleasure in rough things, nor rough things in gentle. Rather, as has been said, similitude brings about love and pleasure. Thus Plato holds that the greatest care should be exercised lest something be altered in music of good character. He states that there is no greater ruin of morals in a republic than the gradual perversion of chaste and temperate music, for the minds of those listening at first acquiesce. Then they gradually submit, preserving no trace of honesty or justice -- whether lascivious modes bring something immodest into the dispositions of the people or rougher ones implant something warlike and savage.

"Indeed no path to the mind is as open for instruction as the sense of hearing. Thus, when rhythms and modes reach an intellect through the ears, they doubtless affect and reshape that mind according to their particular character."

He adds that this is exactly what has happened in his own time.

"Since the human race has become lascivious and impressionable, it is taken up totally by representational and theatrical modes. Music was indeed chaste and modest when it was performed on simpler instruments. But since it has been squandered in various, promiscuous ways, it has lost its measure of dignity and virtue; and, having almost fallen into a state of disgrace, it preserves nothing of its ancient splendor."

Freedom calls, Linz

Kyle Jacob Biodrowski's picture

Warning: may frighten the horses.

When Greeks were godlike ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

" ... the Greeks held that arete in character does not derive primarily from reading or lectures. The teacher's primary moral tool here is music--not music in the broad sense of the fields covered by the Muses, but in the narrower sense of auditory art. Based on their experience, the Athenians, including both Plato and Aristotle, believed that music has a great effect on character, that certain melodies and rhythms tend to uplift the listener and make him a better person, whereas others tend to coarsen and debase him. (We might think today of a child raised on Brahms or Chopin versus one raised on grunge rock or death metal.) ... "

-- Leonard Peikoff, The Dim Hypothesis, p 199

Yes they did

Jules Troy's picture

Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner

https://www.google.ca/url?q=http://www.youtube.com/watch%3Fv%3DWfNAiPpApx4&sa=U&ei=7obrUJn_DYHwiwLn5oHABg&ved=0CDMQtwIwAA&usg=AFQjCNEMrr4mdxg7_jtLJ4l0Yvw_Q8fiZQ

I grew up listening to this much to my mothers chagrin. Smiling

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=w...

Valentina Lisitsa playing Rachmaninoff Concerto#2Mov2

She is sublime.

A Fountainhead-banger?

Don E. Klein's picture

http://online.wsj.com/article/...

It seems a lengthy career in “headbanging” didn’t cause sufficient brain damage to prevent Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden from becoming an entrepreneur and even an industrialist. I like his attitude:

"The retort that lower taxes would fund less government is unlikely to go far with Mr. Dickinson, who says he 'would cheerfully pay the amount of tax I do at the moment if I didn't pay it to the government.'"

When I was a teenager I liked this stuff. Now, I’d rather do without, nevertheless this was my first exposure to Tennyson. They had another one based on Coleridge.

Schubert and Goethe, with a little posthumous help from Berlioz, can fill whatever void is left nicely. Just look at Maestro Abbado's cranium, particularly towards the end, is that "headbanging"? I wouldn't for a minute call Von Otter's most dramatic lines "caterwauling", but someone who doesn't care for this music just might.

Not a fan of Killswitch

Kyle Jacob Biodrowski's picture

Not a fan of Killswitch Engaged, I enjoy some of their songs, but I find the shouting/screaming unappealing

I'm more of a Blind Guardian fan.

You know, I enjoy a good

Cornell's picture

You know, I enjoy a good performance of Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto as much as the next guy (the piece actually had a very profound effect on me growing up), and certainly there are nihilistic elements in many metal songs. But you can't tell me that this song is about nihilism:

This music is just as life-affirming, in its own way, as anything by Brahms, or Schubert, or Wagner, or even Beethoven, for that matter. Whereas, Chopin? Bizet? Berlioz? Those people were total nihilists.

L: "It was 100% sarcasm

Newberry's picture

L: "It was 100% sarcasm Michael, as I'm sure you realize."

Sarcasm doesn't work very well for me. Does it mean the opposite when you use it? Which would then mean that you are a gentle aesthete? Realistically, you are a fanatical advocate of your aesthetic taste.

"I laud the great and call filth filth. I didn't realize there was a law against that or that expressing one's opinions made one a fascist. If a bunch of precious Californian therapy-addled Babsian petticoats take it all personally, ain't my fault."

Lol.

Genuine passion, beauty, and love in art are some of the most difficult emotions to express successfully - romanticism. They require mastery on many technical levels, so much so that the technique doesn't show, only the essence of the expression. The difficult part is that an unsuccessful attempt at romanticism ends with works that register as propaganda, cheesy.

Ugliness, rage, cynicism, sarcasm, etc. are a lot easier to do because they don't take any skill to express. Make ugly people, draw them without figurative knowledge--anyone can do it. Rage, just fling shit around, and etc.

The same goes for art commentary.

Michael
www.michaelnewberry.com

BS!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

You are only half joking.

It was 100% sarcasm Michael, as I'm sure you realize.

Online you of course browbeat people's choices in art. It's your nature.

I laud the great and call filth filth. I didn't realize there was a law against that or that expressing one's opinions made one a fascist. If a bunch of precious Californian therapy-addled Babsian petticoats take it all personally, ain't my fault.

Coming Around

Newberry's picture

"But then, I'm an intimidatory monster and esthetic fascist. ;)" http://www.solopassion.com/nod...

You are only half joking. Online you of course browbeat people's choices in art. It's your nature.

A collector and student of mine has a collection of abstract paintings and various tribal crafts in her modern home. She is a professional designer. A few months ago at a party she commented that abstract painting doesn't have light. It took her six intense months of seeing and drawing/painting light on objects to make that connection. But once she made it she was hooked for life. The issue of light on objects, as well as many art issues, is obvious to me and I am surprised that is not obvious to everyone, but it can take very intelligent, creative, and art savvy people a long time to come around.

Michael
www.michaelnewberry.com

Michael

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Somewhere you have written that you are an aesthetic fascist.

I have not, and I am not.

I do not advocate force or browbeating. Just glorifying that which deserves it.

Aesthetic WMD's

Newberry's picture

Lindsay: "This has had the effect of our not using the best music there is as a weapon in our amoury because we daren't call it the best music there is. "

Somewhere you have written that you are an aesthetic fascist. The above can be taken that way, though you might mean something like romanticism is a symbol of individual values or freedom.

Understanding, feeling, and respecting great art is a individual path that can't be forced. Education and exposure can help or backfire depending on the individual and context. Agatha Christie lamented that she was forced to appreciate paintings in museums, and it wasn't till her later years that she felt the wonder of Rembrandt - she mentioned the waste of many years, if they had just left her to discover him on her own.

Shakespeare's art was something I came to appreciate after about 25 years of periodically trying it on.

Objectivists are a mixed bag when it comes to their taste, understanding, and respect in the arts. There are objectivists that don't understand that Atlas Shrugged is an artwork. Sure you can try or succeed in getting them to agree that romanticism (actually neo-romanticism: Rachmaninoff, Puccini), is the best. But you will mostly succeed in achieving a chorus of lip synchers.

The best aesthetic approach is to try to inspire people through their feelings, smarts, and authenticity. Forget aesthetic WMD's.

Michael
www.michaelnewberry.com

Ah!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Oh, as to whether I agree with the thesis of Linz's post, yes I do. Perhaps not in every detail, but the idea that Romantic music is the best music there is, I cannot but agree.

That's all I ask folk to concede. When we're agreed on that we can have those other debates about Mahler et al till the cows come home. The problem I was addressing in the essay was that Objectivists, or at least those among us who are Objectivists first and thinkers second, had been paralyzed by unquestioning acceptance of Rand's saying we couldn't yet judge music objectively. The hell we can't! This has had the effect of our not using the best music there is as a weapon in our amoury because we daren't call it the best music there is. Not the only music (which some attacked me as though I were arguing) but the best, music's apogee. And we've been even slower to call filth "filth": death-worshipping cacophonous sub-excrement of the kind beloved of would-be Goblian, Witch-Doctor Baade, admirer of sundry death/trash/thrash-metallers, currently balking at bin Laden's being called "filth" on another thread (more entirely predictable synergy). A Randroidian fear of disagreeing with St. Ayn has emasculated and disarmed too many Objectivists in the War on Filth.

Sibelius 2 conducted by Von

Newberry's picture

Sibelius 2 conducted by Von Karajan, I think '61, is expansive, intense, noble and it climaxes with a glorious theme. It definitely suits some of the voices in my head: the general, the stoic, the egotist. There is nothing light or shimmering about it. It matches my mood when I feel lonely and would like to see the existence of an authentic, gruff, and great person doing his or her thing.

Von Karajan conducts it with the tension of momentum. Five out of five stars. About #100-125 on my favorite list of symphonic and opera works.

Michael
www.michaelnewberry.com

Romanticism, KASS/KAF, etc.

Chris Cathcart's picture

Re: Sibelius 2 - yeah, I think I get what Linz's issue with it is, but it is Romanticism. Not all Romantic music will be to every Romantic-music enthusiast's liking. I do regard it as a masterpiece of composition, but it is also Sibelius in development; he reaches full maturity roughly during the period beginning with Night Ride and Sunrise (ca. 1909) and ending with Tapiola (1926). As for the large "buildup" to the finale of Sibelius 2, I think it's pretty clear that Mahler 3 does it better (and did it first).

Speaking of Mahler, the KAF-music enthusiasts here should be plenty aware that the later Bernstein's Mahler is the most critically-reputed Mahler cycle out there. I wouldn't claim to know what is the best Mahler interpretation, but I do think the slow tempos work with Mahler 2:

I haven't heard Linz comment much, if at all, on Mahler; my suspicion is that he lumps Mahler in with "post-Romantic blowhards." But earlier Mahler is still situated well within the Romantic tradition, and his 2nd - quite accessible and quite accomplished compositionally - fits right in with the best of the Romantic tradition. Did you know that you can get the complete Bernstein Mahler cycles quite inexpensively?

Also, I've updated my list of favorite classical works to reflect my recent listening of Mahler 2. (I'm such a perfectivist, though, that even Mahler 2 falls a bit short of completely satisfying; there are moments there where Mahler gets off-putting, most likely on purpose. But it is surely the epitome of Music of the Gods. Oh, also, Sibelius 2 isn't on the list, either. I think I ended up outgrowing it. But I definitely like it more than Linz does.)

Oh, as to whether I agree with the thesis of Linz's post, yes I do. Perhaps not in every detail, but the idea that Romantic music is the best music there is, I cannot but agree. There are other musics out there that carry plenty of appeal in their own ways, but little really compares to listening to Mahler's 2nd. That's just a fact of the matter. But - and I don't think Linz would really disagree here - this is not to denigrate other music. Recently I've come to appreciate classic jazz of the Miles/Coltrane/Mingus era. I'm still a big Steely Dan fan. I still do relate to some of the heavy metal I listened to in my teens (not much of it, though). I think Toby Driver, the man behind the avant-garde/experimental band Kayo Dot (formerly maudlin of the Well - yes, that's a small "m") is a genius, though I doubt he'd be much to Linz's liking since he doesn't sound all that interested in avant-garde music. (Neither am I for the most part. I find Kayo Dot/motW a marvelous exception.) And there are many others I connect with.

But Slayer in comparison with Mahler? Is there even a comparison?

Smiling

OK. Nah.

Lindsay Perigo's picture

This thing will never give me value-swoon. It just irritates the hell out of me. It is not Romanticism; it is a series of jagged edges. Them as likes it: knock yourselves out. Give up on trying to convert me. I have too much love of sustained melody, lyricism, nobleness (the quality most lacking here) and coherence.

Complete mess?

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Isn't that just a feature of the work itself? Eye

I did note that the thing is supposed to take around 45' 00" (on my Colin Davis CD it tales 43' 30"). Lenny takes 54' 00", so I assumed some naughty elongating was going on. Mind you I quite like the sound of "grotesque hedonism." Eye

Late Bernstein

Jason Quintana's picture

That video is an example of why one should generally avoid late Bernstein. He does in this video to Sibelius (and in the DG CD, which I think is the exact same performance) what he did to Tchaikovsky during this same time period. When he was with Columbia doing records in the 60s and early 70s with the NYP he did outstanding recordings of these two composers. Top notch all the way through. Those contain all of the intensity (and more) you see here without giving in to this kind of grotesque hedonism, which results in a complete lack of concern about the unity of the piece. The old LB had this obsession with disgustingly drawn out tempos in all of the wrong places, and the result is usually a complete mess as it is here.

Chris's Blisses

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I noted there had been a new post on Music of the Gods after a very long lull and rushed to establish by whom and about what. Lo! 'Twas Mr. Cathcart and his friend Jean again.

Re the thread being KAF ("KASS as fuck")—do I take it, Mr. C., you now agree with my thesis?

Re Sibelius 2: you're certainly going the right way about converting me, putting up Bernstein and all. I still have the impression the thing would be better used in bits, as parts of movie soundtracks, and that taken as a totality it remains much sound and fury signifying nothing. I'll give it several repeats though. I'd hate to miss out on a new source of value-swoon.

Here btw is the rest of it:

Blissing out

Chris Cathcart's picture

I'm blissing out right now to Bernstein conducting Sibelius and browsing this thread. Linz and I might have some (essentially unimportant) differences in taste when it comes to Romantic music, but this thread is just awesome. Smiling Smile Smiling

Linz, shouldn't this thread be pinned forever to the front page?

Edit: Oops, never mind, it is. KASS as fuck, Linz. KASS as fuck. Crown

Might I recommend Bernstein in Sibelius 2, in hopes that it might change your mind on this opus?

(currently listening: the opening of the 4th movement)

(next up: Bernstein conducting the 5th and the 7th - fuckloads of KASS there)

(Edit: Sibelius: "God is opening his doors for a moment, and his orchestra is playing the fifth symphony.")

Enjoy

Leonid's picture

Brant " Thanks for posting the Schoenberg link Leonid."

Not to mention. Enjoy it, if you can.

Lindsay

Leonid's picture

Lindsay "What came after was disintegration into vagueness, gratuitous dissonance, ostentation, random plinkety-plonk, silly silences and traffic noise.That's all the attention they're worth."

If the topic worth any attention, then only in order to understand why and how such disintegration happened. Without it there is nothing else to discuss.

Linz

Rosie's picture

Is that supposed to be an argument?

No. Just a gentle tease!

Slayer and the Nazis would have been a perfect match, their anti-music the perfect accompaniment to a Brownshirts rampage.

Yes I can see/hear that very clearly! But what music could then be used to accompany the Night of the Long Knives - a more evil and sinister rampage, with cunning and subtle political undertones? Eye

(Such a good joke, Linz - could you not think of music below Slayer for this? What about Slipknot?!)

Goode

Lindsay Perigo's picture

The worshipper of goblins, Slayer and naked emperors offers:

It's amazing!
Exiting performance!
my god, Schoenberg was a genius
amazing piece
I love Schoenberg so much, he was incredible.
Paired with the Vienna Philharmonic and Daniel Barenboim conducting, it's like God.
It is awesome.
But my goodness, what a stunning performance this is! ... This really is music with atitude.
This is an aboslutely wonderful piece of music. ... Bravo!
Very good performance - musically very satisfying
Stunning! Superb! Brilliant!

These comments are culled from the YouTube page you link to. How do you explain them?

By the fact that the world is full of naked emperors and their avid, silly subjects.

Rosie

Lindsay Perigo's picture

You say:

Hitler called serialism Entartete musik - Nazi term for all music they disapproved of; Linz calls Slayer filth - a Linzism for all music he disapproves of!

Is that supposed to be an argument?

The fact that the Nazis recognised filth as filth (and might well have recognised Slayer as such) doesn't mean it isn't filth, nor that I am like them. "Disapproves of" does not mean "seeks to ban." And the glory of Romantic music, I should add, is not diminished by the fact that totalitarians recognised it and tried to co-opt it for their filthy ends.

In point of fact, of course, Slayer and the Nazis would have been a perfect match, their anti-music the perfect accompaniment to a Brownshirts rampage.

Leonid ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

You ask:

I wonder whether it's worth to spend so much time and energy on Slayer, when we have Arnold Schoenberg, who is according to the some leading experts, one of the most important composers in history.

I dealt with the serial serialists and other such filth in a sentence in parenthesis in Music of the Gods:

In short, we know that in every important aspect of it one can name, music—demonstrably, empirically, as a matter of fact—reached its apogee in the Romantic era. Romanticism was the culmination of what preceded it, and the transcending of it; it was the high point of musical evolution to date; it was the “total height”—and it remains so. (What came after was disintegration into vagueness, gratuitous dissonance, ostentation, random plinkety-plonk, silly silences and traffic noise.)

That's all the attention they're worth.

Thanks

Brant Gaede's picture

Thanks for posting the Schoenberg link Leonid. I had time to listen to the first two minutes. Powerful stuff. I'll listen to the rest later. I'll have to listen to a lot more of him for a general evaluation.

--Brant

Richard

Leonid's picture

Arnold Schoenberg was a representative of the culture of Expressionism which was flourishing in Weimar Republic. His method was quite simple-Rosie's quotation notwithstanding-he eliminated from the music everything which could distinguish it from the noise: tonality, rhythm, harmony, that is-its identity.
"The new music, said Schoenberg "treats dissonances like consonances." "I cannot be understood," wrote Schoenberg in a 1924 letter, “and I content myself with respect." " In this world", said Paul Klee, leading Expressionist painter, " I am altogether incomprehensible." (OP)
Observe the common pattern of this thread: they didn't strive to achieve values but to destroy them. They worshiped "Das Nicht", The Nill.
"Kant is the first major philosopher to turn against reality, reason, values, and man as such, not in the name of something allegedly higher, but in the name of pure destruction...He is the father of nihilism. The German intellectuals translated Kant's system into cultural terms in the only way it could be done. They created a culture in which the new consists of negation and obliteration." (OP)

The Number of the Beast

Richard Goode's picture

Entartete musik

Rosie's picture

"The politics of Nazi Germany intruded into the development of the musical idea [serialism]. With the rise to power of Adolf Hitler and the implmentation of "race laws" with regard to ownership, culture and employment, many of the main composers of 12 music were placed on a list of Entartete musik ('Degenerate Music'), the Nazi term for all music that they disapproved of. There were two reasons, one was simply the nature of the composers as "jewish", the other was the Nazi ideas of art as part of the propaganda arm of the state. Avant-garde forms of art were thus banned, even if the artist was a political adherent of Nazism. With this regime's rise, Arnold Schoenberg was obliged to emigrate, eventually to America in 1933, and his works and those of his students Alban Berg and Anton Webern were banned." http://www.spiritus-temporis.c...

Hitler called serialism Entartete musik - Nazi term for all music they disapproved of; Linz calls Slayer filth - a Linzism for all music he disapproves of! Big smile

Richard

Rosie's picture

These comments are culled from the YouTube page you link to. How do you explain them?

This, from library.thinkquest.org, explains the "rationale" behind the music. I would say it would appeal to idiot savants and the other few who can decipher the pattern! The method is quite interesting though.

"The term "serialism" is sometimes used synonymously with "twelve tone music". The truth is, however, that the 12-tone method is just one of several kinds of serialism. The reasoning behind total serialism is simple enough: if Schoenberg could compose notes according to numerical patterns (or serialize them), then why couldn't you do the same thing with other aspects of music? Going down this train of thought, composers quickly came up with ways to serialize all kinds of musical elements: note length, silence, texture, volume, and so on.

"This could be done in several different ways. A serial composer could have several different series to govern several different elements of the music (for example, one series for the notes, one for the note lengths, another for volume, etc...). Another way of doing things would be to have everything be derived in one way or another from a single numerical series. Either way, the composer would be close to having "total control" over every little detail of his piece by way of the series he came up with.

"Of course, this doesn't mean that composers could just pick a few random numbers and try to turn them into music. The real challenge to writing "good" serial music is to somehow arrange the series so that the resulting music at least makes some degree of sense; otherwise, the whole thing can easily wind up sounding like total randomness (see indeterminism if you want total randomness.) Even in the most carefully constructed serial works, however, the unaccustomed listener will probably get the impression of randomness.

"Serial music is almost completely detatched from "traditional" music, in terms of melody, rhythm, and harmony. Ever since the days of Bach or Haydn, music had been written so that the listener could follow its development from beginning to end. This was done through "logical" harmonic progressions, melodic lines, and a sense of pulse or rhythm. In serial music, the listener is only aware of unrepeated and unpredictable musical "events" which dissolve in and out of each other in an apparently random fashion. The end result: it's usually very complex and is usually understood only after many listenings (if ever)."

Leonid

Richard Goode's picture

In order to explain them in full I'll have to write a book...

Would you be able to summarise Peikoff's explanation in a paragraph or two? I doubt I'll be reading The Ominous Parallels any time soon.

Richard

Leonid's picture

"These comments are culled from the YouTube page you link to. How do you explain them?"
In order to explain them in full I'll have to write a book about how 250 years of philosophical assault on the man's mind cognitive ability caused that people admire Schoenberg, Kandinsky Kafka. Fortunately such a book has been already written. It is "Ominous Parallels" by Peikoff.

Leonid

Richard Goode's picture

It's amazing!

Exiting performance!

my god, Schoenberg was a genius

amazing piece

I love Schoenberg so much, he was incredible.
Paired with the Vienna Philharmonic and Daniel Barenboim conducting, it's like God.

It is awesome.

But my goodness, what a stunning performance this is! ... This really is music with atitude.

This is an aboslutely wonderful piece of music. ... Bravo!

Very good performance - musically very satisfying

Stunning! Superb! Brilliant!

These comments are culled from the YouTube page you link to. How do you explain them?

Slayer versus Shoenberg

Leonid's picture

I wonder whether it's worth to spend so much time and energy on Slayer, when we have Arnold Schoenberg, who is according to the some leading experts, one of the most important composers in history. Listen to his music and tell what does he represent? I think, he represents assault on the law of identity in music, as his contemporary, Heisenberg did in physics, Gödel in mathematics and Freud in psychology. He is the commander-in chief. Slayer is only small insignificant field soldier. Slayer at least preserves some semblance of tonality.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

An important afterthought...

Rosie's picture

And as for evaluating and judging, speaking one's mind and recognizing that right in others....

... well, they are all useful tools in the discourse and exchange of ideas. Big smile

(But perhaps are so taken for granted that they are often left out of the discussion.) Eye

How interesting...

Robert's picture

that you left out the bits about evaluating and judging, speaking one's mind and recognizing that right in others. If I was a Freudian I would probably read something into that.

Curt

Rosie's picture

They do represent the ugliness of human existence.

Yes, that is right. Represent it, not are it.

R: “It would miss the point to express the mood of the evil people they represent in sweet dulcet tones.”
C: Is someone here asking for this? I may have missed it.

There is an implied request for sweeter sounding music in the express criticism of the sound of their music (e.g., Robert's comparison of Slayer to the sound of walruses mating lol) but it would be quite wrong, in terms of what they are portraying, to have the music played any other way. It would be as a lullaby played by a brass band.

Of course they celebrate it. [wrongdoing]

No they don't. For example, as Richard says on another thread, Tom Araya, Slayer's vocalist, who co-authored the lyrics for the song Jihad, has this to say about the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center: "the mentality of fanaticism is pure evil. Those were just innocent people. It was just fucking evil."
This is not a comment that celebrates the subject of their music.

And their fans don’t enjoy the expression, of course. Most of them see it as representation of what needs to be eradicated, don’t you know.
Some may understand it for what it is. I think most fans may simply like the energy in the music since the lyrics are not readily discernible. I don't know how all people approach this (or any other) type of music. I speak for myself only. I like to try to understand what is presented to me. Slayer was new to me and I made an effort to find out what it was about. The thing that interests me most is if they are writing from the view of the wrongdoer (and the music portrays the excitement/emotion of the wrongdoer) why does that kind of excitement/energy appeal? Is the feeling of excitement the same whether it is reaching the top of a mountain or killing? Or is the excitement of wrongdoing different? I think it is different - but not dramatically so. I remember when I killed my first duck with a gun. I experienced the thrill of bloodlust. It was frightening. I remember I burst in to tears. People thought it was because I had killed a duck (and I must be so very sensitive) but the truth was that I was frightened by my reaction to killing the duck - overwhelming excitement. (I accidentally killed another duck playing golf but did not feel any excitement at all - just remorse.) On reaching the top of a very difficult and high mountain I also felt enormous excitement but was not frightened by it. So is the frenzied excitement in Slayer's music what appeals to their fans? and, if so, have they captured mere excitement in their music or that different kind of excitement of wrongdoing? I may be reading too much in to it of course!

R: “Just as the link contains a powerful expression of an ugly reality in a visual way.”
C: Yes, I wish I could have watched that dog die of starvation. When is the "artist" coming to town?

A powerful expression, as I said. Again you miss the point (or maybe you just pretend you do). That sarcastic comment isn't really relevant here, is it?

If you are inspired by life-affirming visionaries, e.g., Rand and Rachmaninov, you are probably not moved to create solutions to the ugliness in the world. But if you revel in the ugliness of the world and wear it as your own skin, greatness is to be expected from you.

Greatness is to be expected of you? No, I didn't say that. I can perhaps understand how you may have thought this was what I was meaning.

I said that there are some folk who do not wish to think about horrible things and turn away from it. These are the sofa dwellers, predominantly listening and choosing only to think of beauty and what you call "life affirming" things. Then there are some who do think about the horrors and act to let the world know about them in an effort to stimulate an emotional response - at least to shock, maybe to record, or, at most, to raise awareness; presumably with varying degrees of hope that positive action will be provoked.

I finished the Dali & I book by the way. He was arrested, released on bail, escaped to his pregnant girlfriend in Spain, ended up quite by chance living next door to an elderly Dali, met more of Dali's friends and acquaintances (Amanda Lear, Ultra Violet etc.,) was caught by Interpol, went to prison for a very short time but was released by the Judge after the hearing as to whether there was or was not a case to be tried. Was his experience destructive to his life? You still haven't told me your reasons why it was.

Representing

Curt Holmes's picture

“I thought he voiced his criticism in a form very similar to Slayer's lyrics.”

I was referring to Robert’s criticism of Slayer. I believe you are referring to Robert’s criticism of you. It’s best not to confuse the two.

“The difference between what I said, as opposed to what you, Robert and others say, is that where I am explaining how they are representing the ugly reality you are criticising their representation, having missed the point of it.”

You seem so certain that I, and others, have missed something, but I’m not sure why. They do represent the ugliness of human existence.

“I used the link to explain the point using an analogy of visual art. (I dare say no one looked at it.)”

If you did say it, you would be wrong once more.

“It would miss the point to express the mood of the evil people they represent in sweet dulcet tones.”

Is someone here asking for this? I may have missed it.

“And Slayer do not celebrate that ugly reality. They represent it. Anyone who celebrated, for example, a serial killer, would be pretty evil wouldn't he?”

Of course they celebrate it.

“Anyway. It doesn't really matter to me whether you like it or not.”

Oh, but my life hangs on your likes and dislikes.

“Most people would not 'like' it.”

The troubling part is that so many do. It almost seems as if you are missing some of the points here.

“But it cannot be denied that it is a powerful expression.”

It can be, but I won’t do it. The power of their expression has created quite a following. And their fans don’t enjoy the expression, of course. Most of them see it as representation of what needs to be eradicated, don’t you know.

“Just as the link contains a powerful expression of an ugly reality in a visual way.”

Yes, I wish I could have watched that dog die of starvation. When is the "artist" coming to town?

And this, from an earlier post:

But, if you want to lie back on your sofa and listen to representations of how beautiful and fine the world is, or how you wish it were, do so. Chopin, Rachmaninov, Mario Lanza et al await you. You are probably not a visionary moved to create solutions to the sorts of world problems depicted in these representations of ugliness.

Quite a claim, Rosie. If you are inspired by life-affirming visionaries, e.g., Rand and Rachmaninov, you are probably not moved to create solutions to the ugliness in the world. But if you revel in the ugliness of the world and wear it as your own skin, greatness is to be expected from you.

Curt and others

Rosie's picture

Perhaps if you voiced your criticism "in a form that is symbolic of all that," it would be met with approval.

I thought he voiced his criticism in a form very similar to Slayer's lyrics. Eye

The difference between what I said, as opposed to what you, Robert and others say, is that where I am explaining how they are representing the ugly reality you are criticising their representation, having missed the point of it. I used the link to explain the point using an analogy of visual art. (I dare say no one looked at it.) It would miss the point to express the mood of the evil people they represent in sweet dulcet tones. And Slayer do not celebrate that ugly reality. They represent it. Anyone who celebrated, for example, a serial killer, would be pretty evil wouldn't he?

Anyway. It doesn't really matter to me whether you like it or not. Most people would not "like" it. But it cannot be denied that it is a powerful expression. Just as the link contains a powerful expression of an ugly reality in a visual way.

I'm sure

Brant Gaede's picture

I'm sure glad I didn't click on what Rosie tells us we probably wouldn't like before I got to dogs and India. Some like it?

Great art can depict horrible things: Guernica by Picasso. The Taggart Tunnel disaster in Atlas. Rosie is on another horse. Let her ride.

--Brant

Slayer Can't stand - The way

PhilipD's picture

Slayer

Can't stand -
The way you look
The way you talk
The way you act
Can't stand you

Do I think -
You're a dick Yeah
You're a fuck Yeah
We'll fight Yeah

Do I think you'll win No

Do I think you're stupid Yeah
Do I think you're lame Yeah
Am I stressing
You're the one to blame

(Repeat intro.)

I open my mouth at the wrong time
Always ranking on somebody
I'm drunk all the time
Throwing beer bottles and spitting in your face
Checking through the purse
Of the slut in our place

She'll never notice if her money is gone
Piss in her jacket
And just send her along

(Repeat intro.)

Fine stuff. True art. Deep. And not a word should be said against any of it.

Ugliness

Curt Holmes's picture

Rosie cautions us: "But don't criticise the artist who is moved to inform the world about the ugliness and the immoral and the evil in the world and who does it in a form that is symbolic of all that."

My reaction was similar to yours, Robert. She showers these sewer-dwellers with praise as they "inform the world" about the ugliness that exists, but you or I are precluded from simply commenting on their ugliness. Perhaps if you voiced your criticism "in a form that is symbolic of all that," it would be met with approval.

Robert

Rosie's picture

Here I say: Fuck off!

Don't even pretend to tell me what I can and cannot say... And if you don't like it, don't read my words, don't listen to my speech nor pay me any mind. Those are your ONLY choices.

Hmmm. I am sure Slayer could use those lyrics in a new song. Eye

"Is it mental retardation to enjoy listening..."

Robert's picture

... to folk challenging traditions in a challenging-to-traditions kind-of-way?"

Oh, so Slayer are a trio of traveling philosophers then. Funny, I thought they were experts in producing mind-numbing white-noise punctuated by growling and screaming.

"But don't criticise the artist..."

Here I say: Fuck off!

Don't even pretend to tell me what I can and cannot say. For the time being I have the freedom to speak my mind, and I shall. And I recognize, celebrate and will protect with my very life, Slayer's and your right to do the same.

But I WILL continue to evaluate and judge and criticize what I find to be abhorrent whether you like it or not. And if you don't like it, don't read my words, don't listen to my speech nor pay me any mind. Those are your ONLY choices.

Attempting to abridge my speech by tut-tutting or by invoking Christian tolerance (ie moral equivalence) is only going to piss me off mightily.

Linz

Rosie's picture

"Music was not just happy or sad; it could be wildly joyous, terrified, despairing, or filled with deep longings."
Despairing - but why is despairing only "acceptable" if expressed in a melancholic, romantic way? Slayer represent despairing in the way that some people are truly despairing: loveless, cruel, fanatical, amoral, evil. And often without hope. That is truly despairing.

"Romantic art = life as it might be, ought to be, and often, in spite of the sick fucks, is."
The point here is Romantic art is life as it ought to be (and often is).
But my point is that some modern art includes life as it is (not as it ought to be) in the form of evil and wrongdoing.
And modern artists express this in the same way as some artists want to express life as it ought to be. You don't comment about the link I provided. Did you read that? To me, that is the visual equivalent of Slayer's music. I don't like it but it has a profound emotional response.

"You like the very worst of life as it is, as glorified by scum?"
No, I do not like the very worst of life. I am not saying that at all. I am quite simply saying that this kind of art represents the worst of life. And Slayer is not glorifying evil - in the same way that the art in the link does not glorify cruelty to animals. I think you are wrong about this. I think that it would be rather pathetic and inappropriate to write music about the evil Slayer sings about in dulcet tones. The 60s protest songs do that but they are songs of protest not representations of the evil itself.

And why do you call Slayer "scum"?
Your analogy of Slayer to the child molesters is wholly inaccurate. Slayer have not murdered, stolen, committed wrong, etc. They do not claim empathy as far as I am aware. Where do you get that from? They portray an ugly aspect of life in a musically approriate way.

That is my understanding of Slayer. I don't actually own any Slayer. I prefer Romantic music!

Rosie

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Nice try. Saw it the first time. Doesn't wash. Slayer's claim that their fixation on serial murderers, Mengele, Islamofascists and other such filth merely reflects their sociological "interest" in sick fucks rather than empathy for them is on a par with sundry child-molesters' claims that their porn collection is merely for "research." Slayer are sick fucks, as their hideous noise makes unambiguously clear.

Romantic art = life as it might be, ought to be, and often, in spite of the sick fucks, is. You like the very worst of life as it is, as glorified by scum? Knock yourself out. I just wish you goblin-worshippers would confine your hell to the hereafter instead of deifying those who embody it here and now.

Linz, Robert , Don E Klein

Rosie's picture

Linz: "Slayer, whose headbanging has included “songs” sympathetic to the 9/11 terrorists and Joseph Mengele, are destroyers.
Robert: liking Slayer is a symptom of mental retardation given the existence of a vast library of musical art that is morally, stylistically and aesthetically superior to Slayer.

But those "morally, stylistically and aesthetically superior" pieces do not challenge traditions. Is it mental retardation to enjoy listening to folk challenging traditions in a challenging-to-traditions kind-of-way?
The most controversial aspect of the modern movement was, and remains, its rejection of tradition. Modernism's stress on freedom of expression, experimentation, radicalism, and primitivism disregards conventional expectations. In many art forms this often meant startling and alienating audiences with bizarre and unpredictable effects.

Look at this for example. Moral or immoral? Challenging to tradition? You probably won't like what you see. You will say it isn't art. It is not traditional art. But it does what art does. It portrays a reality. A horrible reality, an immoral reality. It sends a message. Cruelty to animals is rampant. E.g., the treatment of dogs in India. Is it disturbing? Does it compel you to do something?

Slayer is anti-Romantic. It stares reality - not the pretty sort - in the face. It portrays the evil and the immoral from a different perspective. E.g. the exhilarated, frenetic song about the twin towers written from the perspective of the terrorists. Not to sympathise. To inform and express what we are up against. The serial killer song. Frightening. They satirise religion and challenge the existence of God. Rather than the traditional love song, they sing hate songs. There are people who hate and they inform us what is out there. And its loud, sometimes unharmonious music is necessarily the expression of this. It is not a celebration of these subjects any more than the art depicted in the link is a celebration of cruelty to animals. It is information. Scary but true information. Is the listener compelled to do something about this? What is the solution?

But, if you want to lie back on your sofa and listen to representations of how beautiful and fine the world is, or how you wish it were, do so. Chopin, Rachmaninov, Mario Lanza et al await you. You are probably not a visionary moved to create solutions to the sorts of world problems depicted in these representations of ugliness. Which is why they disturb you and you find them distasteful. That is not a criticism - your talents will be needed elsewhere.

But don't criticise the artist who is moved to inform the world about the ugliness and the immoral and the evil in the world and who does it in a form that is symbolic of all that.

And don't tell the listener who hears the message that he or she is mentally retarded or that Slayer are destroyers.

You simply do not understand what you are listening to.

Just like the folk who criticised D H Lawrence, Virginia Woolf et al because they could not understand what wasn't traditional literature.

All headbangers?

Don E. Klein's picture

Lindsay Perigo wrote Mon, 2008-04-21 02:11 "Slayer, whose headbanging has included “songs” sympathetic to the 9/11 terrorists and Joseph Mengele, are destroyers. And all other headbangers. They are Hume’s chickens come home to roost."

This made me think of an old metal band that’s certainly an exception:

We see the light of those who find
A world has passed them by
Too late to save a dream that's growing cold
We realize that fate must hide its face
From those who try
To see the distant signs of unforetold
Oh... oh, take hold

From a haze came a rage of thunder
Distant signs of darkness on the way
Fading cries scream of pain and hunger
But in the night the light will guide your way

So take hold of the flame
Don't you see life's a game
So take hold of the flame
You've got nothing to lose, but everything to gain

Ride, to a place beyond our time
Reach, for the edges of your mind, and you are there
See, that the light will find its way
Back to a place where it will stay, make it stay

Throw down the chains of oppression that bind you
With the air of freedom the flame grows bright
We are the strong, the youth united
We are one, we are children of the light

So take hold of the flame
Don't you see life's a game
So take hold of the flame
You've got nothing to lose, but everything to gain
...

This singer could have been a Rubini or a Nourrit, what a range!

The Great Caruso - Starring Mario Lanza

Kasper's picture

I've been discussing the reason/passion dichotomy in private with Lindsay recently and we got talking about how rife it is in society today. Upon discussing the whole passion thing in writing and speaking he had suggested we watch The Great Caruso. Now, I'm no opera fan and the music is not one I would listen to on a daily basis. However, I still enjoyed it immensely. Watching such huge passion, heart and emotion being mastered in such a disciplined and beautiful way left me elated and surprised. Mario's line: "I sing every word as though it were my last" is very clearly noticeable if you put him next to someone like Hayley Westenra who doesn't think about every word she sings but simply the notes. The film is fascinating to see when thinking about the whole reason/passion thing. Don't get me wrong. Hayley is a lovely singer too I simply want to give the demonstration of how something comes to life when passion is integrated with reason (discipline - in this case).

Here are the examples to show the contrast

Hayley

Mario

Today's Value-Swoon:

Lindsay Perigo's picture

See KASS Music Gem of the Day:

Jmaaurone

Leonid's picture

The Industrial Revolution and Musical Forms

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

This is good example how Industrial Revolution reflected in musical forms. It's difficult not to hear the rhythm of speading train in this piece. And this is the same piece translated to the literary form:

" The green-blue rails run to meet them, like two jets shot out of a single point beyond the curve of the earth. The green plans stretched past. At the end of the sky, a long wave of mountains reversed the movement and seemed to follow the train. Dagny is sitting in the fireman’s chair and looking across at Logan, his hand resting lightly on the throttle as if by chance. The speedometer stays at one hundred. Rearden stands in the middle of the cab, watching the rail. Dagny smiles, her eyes closed, the wind streaming through her hair. When she opens her eyes she sees that Rearden is looking at her with the same glance he had looked at the rail than looked away. They are passing Denver at a hundred miles an hour and were out again, traveling through the mountains. Dagny looks down and sees the silver side of the engine hanging over empty space. The nose of the engine was aiming straight to the sky. Than they are flying downward and she sees the bridge growing to meet them-a small tunnel of metal lace work, struck by a long ray of sunset light. Dagny hears the rising, accelerating sound of the wheels- and some theme of music: the Fifth Concerto by Richard Halley. The diagonals of the bridge went smearing across the windows, the sweep of their downward plunge was carrying them up a hill; the derricks of Wyatt Oil are reeling before them-Pat Logan turns and says “ that’s that” The train came to stop." (AS)

Coming late the party. This

John Donohue's picture

Coming late to the party. This is the only thing I have to say so far:

Wotta shame!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Evidently the main perpetrator of this:

... has just died of natural causes (yeah, right) at the age of 28. Wotta shame.

Why eat shit when you can have food?

Ah

Jmaurone's picture

Well, that's closer, anyway...you made it sound like some Studio 54 anthem! Laughing out loud

Bob Dylan...

Marcus's picture

...moved to New York in the 1960's, because Woody Guthrie was there.

That's where he met up with Joan Baez.

A young Paul Simon liked to hang out in these folk-music clubs too, I believe.

WHAT????

Jmaurone's picture

What song are you referring to????

See wiki:

"We Shall Overcome" is a protest song that became a key anthem of the US civil rights movement. The lyrics of the song are derived from the refrain of a gospel song by Charles Albert Tindley. The song was published in 1947 as "We Will Overcome" in the People's Songs Bulletin (a publication of People's Songs, an organization of which Pete Seeger was the director and guiding spirit). It appeared in the bulletin as a contribution of and with an introduction by Zilphia Horton, then music director of the Highlander Folk School of Monteagle, Tennessee, a school that trained union organizers. It was her favorite song and she taught it to Pete Seeger,[1] who included it in his repertoire, as did many other activist singers, such as Frank Hamilton and Joe Glazer, who recorded it in 1950. The song became associated with the Civil Rights movement from 1959, when Guy Carawan stepped in as song leader at Highlander, and the school was the focus of student non-violent activism. It quickly became the movement's unofficial anthem. Seeger and other famous folksingers in the early 1960s, such as Joan Baez, sang the song at rallies, folk festivals, and concerts in the North and helped make it widely known. Since its rise to prominence, the song, and songs based on it, have been used in a variety of protests worldwide.

Pete Seeger/Woody Guthrie "We Shall Overcome"

Marcus's picture

What makes you think that came from the 'country'?

Didn't it originate more from sweaty nightclubs in New York?

Subversion

Jmaurone's picture

Good connection, Marcus, but not "false." I have a book called FAIRY TALES AND THE ART OF SUBVERSION that documents the history and use of fairy tales and folk stories for subversive means, and folk music certainly is a cousin. So, yes, storytelling subversion is not inherently leftist throughout history. But for our purposes, I was thinking of the Pete Seeger/Woody Guthrie "We Shall Overcome" type of folk that was picked up by Dylan and spread to the hippies and the modern-day likes of Springsteen, which are all the rage among today's leftees. With respect to variations (for example, Jeff Riggenbach's IN PRAISE OF DECADENCE details the variations in the New Left of the sixties, revealing that the hippies were not monolithically leftist, but had strains of libertarianism, a thesis also explored by Burn's Rand biography), there certainly is a virulent strain of socialist folk music, with connections to anti-industrial pastoralism, so I stand by what I said.

Folk music...

Marcus's picture

...has its origins in story-telling.

It used to be common place to spread news that way wherever one lived.

It was of course possible to disguise political dissent or criticism in these songs too, usually to the king.

Nursery Rhymes, pantomimes and plays were also sometimes used in this manner.

Therefore it was naturally on the 'left' because it was on the wrong side of the King (or at least it could be indirectly).

It is a new phenomenon for the folk song to be used as a direct 'protest' against a person, an ideology or a war.

However, being on the left in this instance does not necessarily mean pro-Marxist, but can simply be 'anti-authoritarian' or 'utopian'.

Therefore it is false to equate folk music = pastoral = left wing.

Avatar

Jmaurone's picture

Incidentally, the irony of rock bands using technology to denigrate technology and praise pastoralism (BRAIN SALAD SURGERY), mirrored in movies like THE MATRIX, is repeated in James Cameron's new movie, AVATAR. Caveat Emptor...

Country Mouse/City Mouse

Jmaurone's picture

Thanks Marcus.

Re: your theory about cities versus rural areas, there's been a lot of theories about that, but there's also the danger of oversimplification. But it is a popular conception, and there is truth to it, moreso at one time (mass media in the later 20th century complicates things), and especially among the English. But if drawn in essentials, the basic idea is industrialization versus the pastoral lifestyle, and it's not limited to music; you find it in literature and art, think the Romantic poets. The favorite example you're probably familiar with, being British, is Blake's "Jerusalem," with its talk of "dark Satanic mills" versus "England's green and pleasant land." The theme figures into classical music, and more recently, progressive rock; bands like Pink Floyd and ELP alternate between an "industrial" rock sound and the pastoral folk-ballad style of England, and often the lyrical themes consciously reflect this duality. BRAIN SALAD SURGERY opens with a version of "Jerusalem" and ends with "Karn Evil 9," whose story is an early precursor to THE MATRIX. Pink Floyd's WISH YOU WERE HERE features "Welcome to the Machine," VERY industrialized and ominous, but is followed later by "Wish You Were Here," which is primarily acoustic and almost "country."

Yes is well-known for the same themes, and "Machine Messiah" quotes "Jerusalam" while yearning for the English countryside:

Cables that carry the life
To the cities we build/
Threads that link diamonds of life
To the satanic mills /

To support your theory, look at how the American audience reacted to English progressive rock. The English variety was a synthesis of classical, folk, rock, jazz, and at times avant-garde (it usually begins with the Beatles), full of balladry and at other times complicated, played with technical proficiency, and lyrically and artistically integrated to the music in a Wagnerian way, in the art music tradition, and was something of a take on post-sixties radicalism. But the American audience didn't care so much about that, there was a weariness from Vietnam and civil war at home. Mostly the American audiences latched on to the heavier rock parts, or the technical virtuosity, and ignored the lyrics or the ballady parts, which were too "gay." And the demographic was mostly Northern American cities, like Philadelphia, New York, Midwestern middle class suburbs. The audience in those areas didn't care about English pastoralism or philosophy or classical music...As the prog influence waned, rock in America either went towards metal, arena rock like Journey or Reo Speedwagon...some bands took the prog elements of virtuosity and bombast and got rid of the philosophical elements, and English romantic poetry gave way to "power ballads" to lure woman backstage.

A major exception, however, was the band Kansas, which was an AMERICAN version of the English pastoralism, with lyrics about Native Americans, acoustic instruments like the violin that recalled the fiddle in country music, and so on. There biggest hit was "Dust in the Wind." But it wasn't an English SOUND, it was an AMERICAN sound, more Appalachian than Middle Earth.

As to the politics, I don't know if you're referring to American or English politics, but in both there seems to be a Dickensian element to the city/country approach. But we do associate "Proud to Be an American" music with the "redneck" south, and the north with more liberal music. But the complication comes into play via folk music, introducing the left-leaning element to more rural areas (not simply "Southern"), especially the "Dust Bowl" demographic. Again, that explains part of Kansas's song, and the phenomenon of the Dust Bowl played a part in seeding the New Deal. Folk music was a part of the scene during the Great Depression, and mostly associated with the left, and a precursor to Lilith Fair and all the ecological talk today. Those folks are probably not inclined to listen to "machine music..."

(btw...no book, just a blog.)

OK, sorry Linz...

Marcus's picture

...for being presumptuous.

But I would have thought that if you dislike them being considered as "music", you must dislike the sound in general?

It was just an idea. No offence intended.

For fuck's sake!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I am *not* incensed by the sound of jackhammers and machines. I *am* incensed at the claim that they are music.

My musical preferences have nothing to do with my being raised in the country, and I do not "long for the dawn chorus." What crap is this, Marcus?

Fascinating read Joe...

Marcus's picture

...ever thought of writing a book on the topic?

It's important to note that Linz grew up in the country, on a farm. Perhaps it is not surprising he would be so incensed by the sound of jackhammers and machines - and still longs for the 'dawn chorus'.

To take the theory further into politics. It is well-known that people who live in more rural locations tend to vote conservative, whereas those in the city vote for the Liberal left-wing parties. As has been often mentioned, the American founding fathers were mostly farmers too.

I would not be surprised if it did not turn out that the bulk of members who belong to unions, Greenpeace, PETA, friends of the earth and such-like grew up in cities.

The increase in city-living tends towards the increase in collectivist, anti-industrial, anti-life ideologies.

What do you think?

The Industrial Revolution and Musical Forms

Jmaurone's picture

I discussed this before, Gershwin included, here.

And the main issue, which you touch on, comes down to strict tempo versus a more organic approach to rhythm. Strict tempo has gained prominence in the industrial age, but even composers like Beethoven had their struggles with "metronome mania." If you want to read more about your theory, check out Jourdain's MUSIC, THE BRAIN, AND ECSTASY:

"Significantly, most physical motions also begin and end relatively slowly. Watch yourself as you walk around your home. There's nothing at all metronomic about your motions. As you cross a room and exit, your pace increases and then slows as you pass through the door, perhaps with a moment's hesitation before regaining velocity along the hallway. You pick up speed as you approach a flight of stairs, pumping out higher energy as you strain harder toward the top, then discreetly relax a bit before regaining your stride across the landing.

"Musicians rightly call such motion 'organic' because it characterizes the movements of living organisms. Only machines make abrupt starts and stops, motions we call 'robotic.' Such motions not only feel wrong when we perform them, but also look wrong when we observe them. A pianist that plays metronomically moves metronomically. Just the sight is enough to warn that your ears would be happier elsewhere."

And so on...

Jeep Techno...

Marcus's picture

This goes to show that modern music is the result of its surroundings, like cars, for example.

Most classical music was inspired by nature.

Very few good classical composers were inspired by machines or industry. Gerschwin is perhaps the exception (although he may have borrowed from agrarian cultured Prokofiev).

"Barbara Nissman reflected on two of the Twentieth-Century pianist-composers she knows best, Gershwin and Prokofiev. Constantly moving between the floor and the piano, she commented and highlighted specific aspects of Prokofiev's music which she (in a "leap of faith") recognises in many of Gershwin's works. A very compelling example was what she called her "musical joke" - the celebrated opening slide of the Rhapsody in Blue happens to be a near-repeat of the trill and rising scale with which the piano enters in the second movement of Prokofiev's Third Piano Concerto (written earlier); an argument all the more convincing as we discovered that the score of Prokofiev's concerto accompanied Gershwin in all his travels."

http://www.sprkfv.net/journal/...

Anyway, that's one theory I have to explain the trend of popular music today.

It's probably true...

Jmaurone's picture

that "if Michelangelo had been straight, the Sistine chapel would have been painted white with a roller." -Rita Mae Brown

Leonid

Jmaurone's picture

I don't have any definitive answer and I haven't done any extensive study, so my previous post is mostly speculation, but I speculate on your question there.

Jmaurone

Leonid's picture

And how do you explain that gays constitute unproportionally high amount among talented people-from Tchaikovsky to Freddy Mercury?

Homosexuality, Romanticism, Sensitivity

Jmaurone's picture

Linz: "... how did Romantic music get as far as it did in the first place? Was there a sudden epidemic of homosexuality in the 19th and early 20th centuries? (Always knew I was born in the wrong era.) Is more homosexuality the solution to headbanging caterwauling? "

My guess is that gays were no more accepted then as they were now...probably less...Hey! Here's an article on the subject. From the intro:

"Since homosexuality was severely persecuted during the Romantic period, writers who treated the subject more or less positively were forced to encode it or leave it unpublished and were themselves frequently forced into exile.

In the popular imagination, the term romanticism conjures up notions of intense, free-wheeling emotionality, forceful individualism, and unrestrained lyrical expression, usually centered in love as an ultimate human value. The reality of the age (1785-1825) was rather different."

Maybe Oscar Wilde is a good case study here; I'm not an expert on his, but wasn't DORIAN GRAY a veiled hint at his "unmentionable crimes?"

Anyway, I don't believe that it's necessary to be gay to be an artist, but the common denominator is the issue of sensitivity. Gay guys are put down for being sensitive, while "real men" are expected to bottle up their feelings. Romantic art, however, REQUIRES an outpouring of feelings. Think of the straight guy encouraged towards poetry by the guys in the garage...right. ("There once was a man from Nantucket...")

But no, I don't think MORE homosexuality is the answer (besides, the "gay community" has a tribalism factor of its own to contend with), but identifying the issues surrounding sensitivity are. Consider this bit from LETTERS OF AYN RAND. A letter from Ayn to the head of the Hollywood studio where she lived:

"That idea that hardships being good for character and of a talent always being able to break through is an old fallacy. Talent alone is helpless today....Talent does not survive all obstacles. In fact, in the face of hardships, talent is the first one to perish; the rarest plants are usually the most fragile. Our present-day struggle for existence is the coarsest and ugliest phenomenon that has ever appeared on earth. It takes a tough skin to face it, a very tough one. Are talented people born with tough skins? Hardly. In fact, the more talent one possesses the more sensitive one is, as a rule."

Her comments on homosexuality as immoral aside, what better description of the struggle gays had (have) to endure? And how does this square with Rand's idea about talent NOT always being able to break through? Why should a fag be strong enough to become an artist while a straight guy gives in to the crowd? Is it true that the toughest survive? Maybe the difference is that by being persecuted for being gay often required or requires gays to move from small towns to congregate in the liberal cities and the gay ghettos. There, they find their support systems, their "soil" where they may grow, around like-minded people. Many are drawn to the theater and the arts.

Only in that atmosphere, where the sensitivity required to be a romantic artist is nurtured, can the toughest survive and thrive. And with little competition from the rugged straight guys back on the farm, or in the garage, or wherever, it's no surprise then, that their should be a statistical correlation.

I don't have a copy anymore, but I'm sure all of this was addressed in the Solo "homonograph," no? I certainly remember Christ covering the Rattigan Society.

Lindsay

Leonid's picture

"Objective" simply means something which pertains to reality. Metaphysically objectivity means that reality is independent from consciousness. Epistemologically it's a cognitive process to know reality. Every sensation including sounds integrated into percepts automatically and into concepts by using volitional mind. Without such a process you wouldn't even know if any given piece of music is dissonant or not.
I was joking about homosexuality and Romanism.

Leonid ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Two things.

First, let me know when you're done editing your post, and I'll respond to it at greater length than here.

Second, your definition of objective is 100% wrong. Objectivity pertains to interaction between object and subject.

Third, the fact that sub-humans enjoy dissonant music doesn't mean it can be integrated. It means they enjoy it *because* it *can't* be.

Fourth, you're completely misunderstanding what I said re homosexuality. Read the post of Joe's to which I was responding. And do read the essay at the head of this thread.

OK, that's four things.

You shouldn't come in on discussions and simply respond to the most recent post with no idea what went on before. English as third language excuses some things, but not that. Mark Hubbard and Marcus Bachler do the same, and English is their *first* language. Eye

Lindsay

Leonid's picture

The basic fallacy of your argument is that you failed to recognize the difference between implicit sense-of-life based evaluation and objective evaluation of music. Objective as opposite to subjective means independent of mind and related to reality. Where is in your argument any reference to independent evaluation of music? Can you show by using any objective means which exclude your own feelings and preferences that one piece of music is better than another? Rand maintains that this could be done only if you have proper tools to analyze it. Since music directly invokes emotions and emotions are automatic value judgment mechanism, emotions it invokes depends on the listener's preset of integrated values, his sense of life. You may evaluate listener's values and his character in accordance to his musical preferences, but so far you don't have any means for objective esthetic evaluation of the music itself. If you have, you never revealed them in your essay. For example, on what objective basis you claim that tonal music is better that atonal?
"We know that certain simultaneous combinations of tones (harmony), because of the mathematical relationship of their frequencies, are, as a matter of metaphysical fact, Integratable by the human brain (consonant) and others are not (dissonant)"-First, this claim has to be proved. Do you have any neurophysiological evidence to support your claim? As a matter of fact many people listen and enjoy dissonant music and that means they are able to integrate it. Moreover, the integratibility of music is mind-depended, subjective feature. Rand was an Objectivist and her approach to the music was based on the ability to evaluate it objectively. You are substituting this approach with the stream of emotions, rightful anger which could be justified but doesn't replace objectivity.
""how did Romantic music get as far as it did in the first place? Was there a sudden epidemic of homosexuality in the 19th and early 20th centuries?"-this is quite amazing theory. In ancient Greece homosexuality used to be commonplace. Does it mean that all its music was Romantic? I think I should remind you that Romantic means value, not sexual preference based art.

Leonid ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Rather than mindlessly parrot Rand's position you should note that I already quoted it in the essay that heads this thread. I noted that she herself proceeded to violate that position. And I spent the rest of the essay demonstrating why she was wrong. Perhaps you should read it.

Rand's position

Leonid's picture

Lindsay" "Objectivists who say you can't tell are worse than useless. Except Objectivism's founder, of course. But what a terrible, terrible mistake she made."

I'd like to clarify Rand's position. She never denied the possibility of objective esthetic evaluation of music. She simply stated that we don't have means to do it as yet.

"The formulation of a common vocabulary of music . . . would require: a translation of the musical experience, the inner experience, into conceptual terms; an explanation of why certain sounds strike us a certain way; a definition of the axioms of musical perception, from which the appropriate esthetic principles could be derived, which would serve as a base for the objective validation of esthetic judgments . . . .

UNTIL A CONCEPTUAL VOCABULARY IS DISCOVERD AND DEFINED no objectively valid criterion of esthetic judgment is possible in the field of music . . .

No one, therefore, can claim the objective superiority of his choices over the choices of others. Where no objective proof is available, it’s every man for himself—and only for himself." (“Art and Cognition,” The Romantic Manifesto, 55.)

If Lindsay thinks he discovered a conceptual vocabulary of music then his claim is justified. But maybe he also can share this great discovery in the field of esthetics with us, the readers of his thread. Anthropological metaphors are poor substitute for objectively valid criterion.

So ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

... how did Romantic music get as far as it did in the first place? Was there a sudden epidemic of homosexuality in the 19th and early 20th centuries? (Always knew I was born in the wrong era.) Is more homosexuality the solution to headbanging caterwauling? I've no objection to giving it a whirl, but I don't think the outcome will be the desired one. Neanderthal is resurgent 'cos he's in the genes AND is enjoying unprecedented reinforcement from the culture. Neanderthal is gay and straight. Headbanging and pomowanking are the contemporary forms of his original grunting. In fairness to Neanderthal, though, he was better than headbangers and pomowankers in this respect: he sought survival rather than destruction.

The point?

Jmaurone's picture

Really? REALLY? I thought it was quite clear: guys are afraid to listen to "romantic" music or swoon or whatever because they're afraid of being called gay or sissies, but can listen to "rawk" because it's hard and masculine.

Joe

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I'd love for Chris to join in here. Of course he'd tackle it with gusto. Equally, of course, he'd never reach a conclusion, but it would be fun getting to his non-point. Eye

Come to that, I'm buggered if I know what *your* point is! Eye

Cro-mag versus sissy man

Jmaurone's picture

But back to the elephant in the room:

"Some folk have just too much Neanderthal in them ever to "get" music's apogee, Romanticism. They will never be able to "value-swoon" to it, never have their eyes well with tears in response to it any more than a pig's will. They will only ever respond, and not with tears of sentiment (which is beyond them), to brute noise. They are very much to be pitied, but not condemned. (They should also be encouraged to stay at home.)"

Again, working with the caveman metaphor (I don't know how much of this is truly genetic, but it certainly is cultural), there's the "real man" versus "sissy girl" dynamic to contend with. What's interesting is how this dynamic is inverted here ("real men cry and value swoon," "the cavemen are the real sissies," etc.).

But then, there's there's SHANE (why is it ok for "real men" to cry at the end of SHANE or OLD YELLER?) Then there's James Cagny, who played tough-guy mobsters AND danced and sang in musicals. I don't know how different it was in his heyday (I suspect musicals and Broadway were STILL the domain of gays), but it seemed back then that military men could dance and sing or listen to that kind of music without stigma; but then, there was no "rock" music. What was the equivalent of "manly music?" Sea shanties? Bawdy folk songs? Wagon-train country music? Either way, I suspect that the music "real men" listened to back then would be "sissy music" to today's tough guys.

This is the kind of thing I find fascinating about Linz's approach, and makes me miss Chris Sciabarra; he'd tackle this with gusto. (But then, he's gay, too.)

Physiology and full context.

Jmaurone's picture

"What this means is that I've come part way to agreeing with Maurone and his "it's the physiology, stupid," apologetics for headbanging filth."

That's NOT my argument. Anyone who cares can find my full context here.

Further thoughts

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Haven't checked in on this for a week or so. Folk have said I was speaking metaphorically here:

I think I've figured out what's happened. Cro-Magnon man culminated esthetically in Romantic Music; Neanderthal fought a rearguard action and succeeded, even as Cro-Magnon pressed ahead technologically. Musically, Neanderthal now rules with Cro-Magnon's technology.
The problem is not just mixed premises; it's mixed DNA.
How to make the next leap, to pure Cro-Magnon? Rational identification of the pro-life has to enter our DNA. Slayer, Kurt Cobain, Sun Ra and the like have to be not only seen but atavistically experienced as the anti-life.
Objectivists who say you can't tell are worse than useless. Except Objectivism's founder, of course. But what a terrible, terrible mistake she made.

Cro-Magnon vs. Neanderthal is an excellent metaphor, to be sure, but the whole point of my post was that this distinction is literally true. I'm not an anthropologist, but I've seen enough to be absolutely sure that the two interbred. The electric guitar is contemporary Neanderthal's tool, made possible, of course, by Cro-Mag. "Musically, Neanderthal now rules with Cro-Magnon's technology."

What this means is that I've come part way to agreeing with Maurone and his "it's the physiology, stupid," apologetics for headbanging filth. Some folk have just too much Neanderthal in them ever to "get" music's apogee, Romanticism. They will never be able to "value-swoon" to it, never have their eyes well with tears in response to it any more than a pig's will. They will only ever respond, and not with tears of sentiment (which is beyond them), to brute noise. They are very much to be pitied, but not condemned. (They should also be encouraged to stay at home.)

They who have Cro-Mag's sensibilities, however, and uphold Neanderthal out of laziness or a desire to be "cool"—or because Ayn said we can't tell yet—are, of course, on the lowest rung of hell. In the context of them all the strictures of MoG continue to apply absolutely.

Romantic Music is objectively the best music.

Ayn knew this, but lacked the courage of it in the end. Just read her first remarks about Halley, let alone her last.

Why eat shit when you can have food?

DNA

Brant Gaede's picture

I believe this is a DNA question.

--Brant

Brant

Leonid's picture

"Apparently our ancestors drove the other guys to complete extinction."

Apparently not. Some anthropologists (Erik Trinkaus, Loring Brace) suggest that humans and Neanderthals were interbreeding. It is quite possible that in the “"Eat Fuck Kill" dictum emphasis was on “fuck”, not “kill”
http://www.terradaily.com/repo...
So, may be even Rach and definitely Wagner had some Neanderthal genes.
I don’t think that one should evaluate music in accordance to its style. For me there are only two styles of music-crap and music of gods. Maybe heavy metal music is still waiting for its Beethoven, while in the contemporary classical music Beethoven is replaced by Arnold Schoenberg, John Milton Cage Jr. and many others of this kind.

Heh...

Ross Elliot's picture

...and metal-urgy.

Eye

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