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: )

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

Reverse Outing...

Jmaurone's picture

Simpsons did it.

Funny thing about Rob Halford; before him, metal guys wore jeans and t-shirts...he introduced the spikes and leather "heavy metal" look from the gay S&M community, and it took off, since it looked "metal," with the origins being unknown to the straight fans. Iron-y.

Hah

Brant Gaede's picture

I'm still waiting for a gay to be outed as straight!

--Brant

Breaking the Law...

Jmaurone's picture

Hah! Your choice in metal quotations is ironic, since Judas Priest's singer, Rob Halford, turned out to be gay!

JOE!

Brant Gaede's picture

"YOU GOT ANOTHER THING COMING!!!"

--Brant
but I don't listen much for its too much for me Cool

DUH

Jmaurone's picture

I KNEW that someone would get caught up with the Cro-Mag/Neanderthal differences...that's not the point. (DO YOU REALLY THINK METAL BANDS ARE WORRIED ABOUT HISTORICAL ACCURACY OR SCIENTIFIC DIFFERENTIA??? Though I think the school of thought is closer to what Linz said. I dunno or care that much; it's not the point.)
Brant, remember, I'm speaking about the metaphor; I gave you NOTHING to speculate on my personal philosophy of war.
(How many smileys and disclaimers are required? The tone was obviously meant to be over-the-top.)
I'm speaking from the voice of the rock/metal image/mythos. As to the view of war being primitive; the presentation of war in metal is often primitive (at least in the more cartoony cases.) Then again, much of metal was depicted through satanic imagery, with devils and pitchforks and fire and brimstone OH MY!
Brant: "I think you just did a nice piece of powerful, polemical writing but way over-wrought."
Of course it was! It was parody (or a parody of a parody...) But it gets to the core of the matter. You haven't listened to much metal, have you? My style was meant to match the subject at hand, and to highlight the starkness of the subject matter. (If you think I'm being "overwrought," let me assure you, much of what I wrote about was taken verbatim from real-life conversations. And "Eat Fuck Kill" being a particular song example.)
But you do introduce the right word, "ritual." ("Even that "wild" aspect is stylized ritual done for a particular, controlled effect.) Exactly. EXACTLY.

Vivid

Brant Gaede's picture

Very vivid, Joe, but Cro-Mag man is/was the bad ass, Neanderthal the (relative) pussy. My guess is various human types have been exterminating each other since the get-go millions of years ago. Today humans still do that inter-tribal, inter-racial genocide-thing.

Your view of war is somewhat primitive. There's a difference between going into battle armed with spears and automatic rifles. Even that "wild" aspect is stylized ritual done for a particular, controlled effect; if you just rush off to battle crazy in-the-head your head'll be one of the first cut off.

I think you just did a nice piece of powerful, polemical writing but way over-wrought.

--Brant

"So easy, a caveman could do it."

Jmaurone's picture

Brant: "I don't think Lindsay means to be taken literally here, of course."

Metaphors are potent and revealing; what does this one say? The compasion between Neanderthals and heavy metal musicians is not new with Linz (there's are bands call the Cro-Mags and Neanderthal, even.) It's an easy comparison, of course. But there's another part to this... The evolution comparison made me think of something that was broached here before, but not discussed, I don't believe. (I believe it was Jonathan who brought up the topic.) So let's get it out in the open. Even beyond the caveman metaphor, there's the similar usage of Viking imagery. WHY do metal bands draw on that imagery?

Masculinity. The image of the brute, the warrior, the Viking, suggests something primal and urgent, hunters, defenders, conquerers. And chicks dig manly men, right? (Right????) Eye To hell with those Boy-lovin' Athenians, THIS IS SPARTA!

So what happens? A reaction against ballads, tender emotions and love songs, in favor of overly-technical music (since men are allowed to be "coldly rational") or a reversion to primitive, primal emotions. "Eat, Fuck, Kill." If there is a song or band that incorporates the technical, the powerful, and the emotional, the tendency is to fast forward past the "faggy" parts. You get "hard rock" and "soft rock" as labels for a reason. John Denver versus Metallica. Simon and Garfunkle versus Slayer. To quote Roy Batty in BLADERUNNER, "You'd better get it up!" And it's not new; compare "fey" or "twee"composers to "heavy composers". "Carnival of the Animals" or "A Night on Bald Mountain?" Mozart versus Mussorgsky? Brahms versus Beethoven? Chopin versus Wagner? (Rachmaninoff? Liberace???? "What the fuck is this queer shit, man?") Who do the metal musicians take from? If they're "technical" they'll play Bach; rational, technical, "cold." Or, like Linz mentioned: "Musically, Neanderthal now rules with Cro-Magnon's technology." If there's emotion, it's not "tender," it's wild and warlike, think "Ride of the Valkyries" blaring in Apocalypse Now. If they're about "power" they go to Beethoven and Wagner. (And not the "Tristan and Isolde" Wagner, the "Ride of the Valkyries" Wagner. None of that pussy shit!) And don't try and mix it, because that ain't gonna fly, either. Fast-forward to the good part, man!

Speaking of war, isn't that what it's all about? Wild, war-like emotions are ok, because that's strength, and power. You don't want to show "tender" feelings, that's a weakness for your enemy to exploit. And let's not forget about class. The "finer feelings" are fine for those rich folk, who have the luxury of time and the time for luxury. But it just leads to a disconnect from hard reality, leads to softness, and decadence, there's no discipline... To hell with those Boy-lovin' Athenians, THIS IS SPARTA! But down here, it's fight or flight. Put away those books and learn how to survive on the streets. This ain't "West Side Story," gangs don't dance. Don't smile, don't laugh, unless you're smiling and laughing as you grind your enemies' head into the ground under your steel-toed boot. Then you grab the women by the hair and drag them away to bang all night.

(You can do a power ballad, because the chicks dig that, and it gets them all wet, and you'll have a hit single, and then you can get laid. But don't mean it, because then you get all wussy, then you're holding her purse and taking the kids out to the park, and you're not rockin' anymore...what happened to you, man? You're pussy-whipped. You should never have done that power ballad, you sold out, man. You changed, man...not me...I'm still wild, man...play "Freebird!!!!")

Why? It's all about power. "Eat, Fuck, Kill."

And not being gay. Or seen as gay. Or feminine. Or artsy-fartsy, or airy-fairy. Or faggy. Or queer. Or pussy. Or powerless.

You get the point. It's a potent metaphor. Potent enough to scare away many men from being seen as impotent.

Nope

Brant Gaede's picture

What Lindsay says is only figuratively true, if at all true, because it is now known there has been no DNA commingling. Apparently our ancestors drove the other guys to complete extinction. Rand did better with her "missing link" hypothesis, albeit also wrong.

Getting "pro-life" into our DNA is, taken literally, Lysenkoism. I don't think Lindsay means to be taken literally here, of course.

--Brant

In evolutionary terms ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

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.

Easy

Brant Gaede's picture

Easy to believe LP(erigo) would turn differences in musical taste into ad hominem assault.

--Brant
avoiding "hard" sarcasm
when he makes his inevitable reply I'll get viciously sophistical

Anal-retentivism in music

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I'm not sure if it was on this thread that the dismissal of Gershwin as "ephemeral" by Allan Blumenthal came up. Wherever it was, I think his even more disdainful dismissal of the Warsaw Concerto came up there (here?) too. I promised Ellen I'd dig out the tapes and quote AB exactly. I haven't found the Gershwin quote yet, and I probably shan't bother, having just unearthed the WC comments. For once I'm constrained to agree with his cousin Nathan—this man is a eunuch. His commentary on WC is actually too stupid to take seriously. This effete forgets that Richard Addinsell's brief was to write a mini-concerto for a movie about the Siege of Warsaw in the style of Rachmaninoff, not to write Rachmaninoff's 5th.

AB blathers on about cliched arpeggios and the like, and goes on to compare the WC unflatteringly to Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 2—a ridiculously inappropriate comparison and ignoring of context. Here's the really funny bit: "Probably the next generation will never hear the Warsaw Concerto." Hahahahahaha! Checked Youtube lately Allan? Here's one performance among scores, from just last year, by a young Romanian lady teeming with passion. Something you'd know nothing about:

While you're about it, type in "Gershwin" and see if he's been forgotten, as you so asininely predicted forty years ago.

No wonder this guy backed away from Ayn. She'd be way too intense for his simpering self.

Can't stand poseurs. Absolutely can't stand 'em.

Yup!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Emotions are automatic value-judgments, therefore the nature of response depends on the listener's implicit philosophy, whatever it may be, his sense of life. The tune deafness is a result of wide-spread implicit nihilism, that is - an absence of any values ( unless one considers death as value) which became trade mark of our times.

Of course, cause and effect interact and mutually reinforce early on. We're in the late stages of that—the barbarian curtain is just a few inches from the floor. Doesn't help that some "Objectivists" are helping pull it right down.

Tune-deafness and philosophy

Leonid's picture

Jefrrey wrote :"More importantly, if you should decide the relative merits of metal and symphonic music based on the emotional response they arouse, then you should also decide the relative merits of any two pieces of symphonic music based on the emotional response they arouse--and take into account that even between two rational people responses will differ."

That's true. Emotions are automatic value-judgments, therefore the nature of response depends on the listener's implicit philosophy,whatever it may be, his sense of life. The tune deafness is a result of wide-spread implicit nihilism, that is -an absence of any values ( unless one considers death as value) which became trade mark of our times. And this is result of demise of philosophy, explicit and implicit, as such.

Of course it is!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

It's well known that Shiraz is your recreational drug of choice.

Of course. I do believe I've penned homage to this nectar of the gods right here. Shiraz is, of course, objectively superior. But I don't understand why you keep bringing it up, or what it has to do with the argument, especially when you know it will be seized upon by the Babs Smear Club.

Good heavens

Richard Goode's picture

Good heavens, Linz.

It's well known that Shiraz is your recreational drug of choice.

It's well known that I approve of recreational drug use.

Please take my comment below in the same spirit I took your comment about saying yes to too many party pills!

Dr. Goode ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Where are you going with all this "Shiraz" stuff? Just spell it out, man. Have you paid your dues to the Babs Smear Club or is this your payment right here?

With apologies to Jack Handey

Richard Goode's picture

If you ever experience the most intensely life-affirming value-swoon possible to man while drinking Shiraz, I bet it makes Shiraz shoot out your nose.

Nice try

Lindsay Perigo's picture

The other day I was discussing music, and Slayer's music in particular, with my girlfriend.
She observed that Slayer's lyrics are, predominantly, about death. She also observed that the mood of Slayer's music is, predominantly, one of protest. And I thought, that's it! - Slayer's sense of life, in three words - protest against death.

Yeah, right.

Just goes to show one should give up girlfriends. Eye

Dr. Evil ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

my response is to the aching beauty and vertiginous grandeur of Slayer's music

I'm glad all that headbanging hasn't yet destroyed your sense of humor. Eye

Slayer's "feel alive" flavour

Richard Goode's picture

What is Slayer's "sense of life"?

The other day I was discussing music, and Slayer's music in particular, with my girlfriend.

She observed that Slayer's lyrics are, predominantly, about death. She also observed that the mood of Slayer's music is, predominantly, one of protest. And I thought, that's it! - Slayer's sense of life, in three words - protest against death.

Slayer's sense-of-life equivalent in poetry is, indubitably, Dylan Thomas's, "Do not go gentle into that good night, ... Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

Cutis anserina

Richard Goode's picture

I think you're pretty much on track. The waters got muddied when Goode suddenly reversed himself on "This is life as I see it," saying music (or rather, his anti-music) didn't embody that for him, having originally touted the cathartic, anger-releasing virtues of a "good pounding" by the Slayer sickos. His original position didn't contradict mine; he got value-swoon from Slayer

I think you're pretty much way off track.

You asked me to try to describe why Slayer's music makes me feel glad to be alive, and I replied, "Anger. Energy. Passion. Defiance. Catharsis. Slayer are musical genius... [and] they know what they're doing with their instruments. In a word, KASS!"

I haven't suddenly reversed myself, since I never said that Slayer's music embodies 'This is life as I see it' for me.

I get an emotional response when I listen to Slayer. Sometimes I get goose bumps. Perhaps that's what you mean (partly) by the term 'value-swoon', but my response is to the aching beauty and vertiginous grandeur of Slayer's music, not to Slayer's "sense of life".

Kasper

jeffrey smith's picture

I think when talking about Mahler and Tchaikovsky, both romantic genres, then I would side with the "subjective preferences" side of the arguement. Deliberation would have to be restricted to either party's appreciation of the differing technical aspects of those two pieces of music.

So when examining the differentia of music: romantic vs nihilism. Technicality and emotional response are not only valid but pertinent to the examination. Something the nihilists have avoided addressing at all cost.

To me, that's a contradiction. If you take emotional response as a must have in your aesthetics, then you can't confine it to differing responses to genres. For one thing, you have to deal with the fact that within genres, different emotional responses are possible. Schubert meant to bring about different reactions when he set the poems of Schwangesang than he did when he set the poems of Schone Mullerin--it's quite easy to think of the latter as nihilistic in the same way as anything Slayer has produced. Does that mean that Schone Mullerin is by definition inferior to Schwangesang, even before dealing with questions of technical skill? More importantly, if you should decide the relative merits of metal and symphonic music based on the emotional response they arouse, then you should also decide the relative merits of any two pieces of symphonic music based on the emotional response they arouse--and take into account that even between two rational people responses will differ. In fact, response can differ from one time and place to another even in the same person to the same music, depending on his mood, etc.

To me, this all reason why emotional response shouldn't be utilized in judging music (unless it's a piece of music which the composer wanted to produce a specific response, and then it's certainly valid to ask, "did he succeed?")--it's inherently subjective.
And while good music usually produces an emotional response, it doesn't have to be present for the music to be great. (As an example, I'd proffer the Brandenburg Concertos.)
Nor does the emotional response necessarily signify great music. (Beethoven's Choral Fantasy is the epitome of KASS-but it's actually just a pot boiler, put together for a specific occasion to fill in a hole in the concert program.) To me it's the factor of beauty which is most important--although to define that term, I suppose I would need an entire essay, and not necessarily achieve a satisfactory result.

Jeffery

Kasper's picture

I think when talking about Mahler and Tchaikovsky, both romantic genres, then I would side with the "subjective preferences" side of the arguement. Deliberation would have to be restricted to either party's appreciation of the differing technical aspects of those two pieces of music.

Your point titled 1: I think this is the intrinsicist problem. It is either the technical or emotional response that should judge music. I think that taking context into account: that is, the valuer (concept man) and the actual piece of music, you need to take into account both.

So when examining the differentia of music: romantic vs nihilism. Technicality and emotional response are not only valid but pertinent to the examination. Something the nihilists have avoided addressing at all cost.
"and many times what is beautiful will not produce that emotional response--at least not in any obvious way." This is why people need to become "cultured" about the arts, learn what they are and how to read them. I would like to learn about this more. Insidently these romantic music threads have enabled me to tune my ear and appreciate romantic music more. I'm on the road to enlightenment Jeffery Smiling ....

Perigo

jeffrey smith's picture

You are not a horse's ass. You're what comes out of the horse's ass and gets left on the meadow grass.

You apparently have no idea of what you are talking about, and certainly no idea of what I'm talking about. You assert, and then claim that you've proven. But the only thing you've proven is your own mental poverty and ignorance. It's telling that most of your Kass examples involved performers who are DEAD! And your reaction to them is no more informed and no more based on real musical greatness than those moronic teenagers you rage against who rock out to Slayer. You just choose to get off on a different set of songs.

For instance: I never said that "value swoon" was a disqualifier. I said that if it comes about, it's a side effect of something greater, and sometimes that something greater is present even when the value swooning is not. Therefore to judge music you look not for the value swooning; you look for the something greater. One sign of that something greater is technical skill; but the most obvious sign is what can only be called beauty. So I look for the beauty, and not for the value swooning.

And that you've never heard the beauty is certain, because you wouldn't write the way you write if you had heard it. Everything you swoon over is merely an echo of the song the universe sings exulting and exalting in its own being; all that glory you talk about is only a reflection of the real glory that shoots through and through all things, just because they are. But you--instead of opening your ears to hear and your eyes to see, you shut them firmly. You're content to let the deaf lead the deaf. I've noticed that whenever an example of life breaking out is presented to you, you run shrieking away crying "No!", all the while claiming you're affirming life. No doubt that is how you'll spend eternity, shrieking No! as you try to escape yourself through all the corridors of Hell.

And for the rest--you're too unimportant to rate being the object of anyone's derangement syndrome. What you are is a pompous ass, and you're dangerous because you claim to know and teach even though you don't know anything. If there was ever a nattering nabob of negativity, you're it.

Kas

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I think you're pretty much on track. The waters got muddied when Goode suddenly reversed himself on "This is life as I see it," saying music (or rather, his anti-music) didn't embody that for him, having originally touted the cathartic, anger-releasing virtues of a "good pounding" by the Slayer sickos. His original position didn't contradict mine; he got value-swoon from Slayer—only it would more accurately be described as anti-value swoon, since the "values" involved are: incoherent rage against life in general for unspecified reasons expressed in the ugliest manner possible; hearing loss; psychopathy; ejaculating over the corpses of one's murder victims; etc. Now, since life is the standard of value in the Objectivist ethics, for an Objectivist to say that Romantic music is, at minimum superior morally to thrash metal or whatever category it is to which Slayer filth belongs should, quite uncontroversially, be an horrendous understatement. And the technical side is a cakewalk.

It's difficult to have the debate when Goode refuses to answer my questions, anger about what, release from what, etc., and then when he suddenly, after months have gone by, announces that these responses have nothing to do with, "This is life as I see it."

His new position actually is akin to Sister Jeffrina's. "No emotion please, we're anal-retentives." Emotional enjoyment, in this view, is a disqualifying element in judging music as great! Because one gets value-swoon from it, it's out of contention. There's a post somewhere from Sister Jeffrina where she proudly touts her zeal in ruthlessly setting aside emotional inclination when assessing music. This is pure Kantianism, and they don't come more intrinsicist than Kant!

Note that Sister Jeffrina, LDS, tries to drive a wedge between the technical and the emotional. Another hoary old dichotomy. And she evades the fact that my essay covers both. Romantic is not just morally the best, in its appeal to life-affirming emotions; morally and technically it's the apogee of all music to date.

Note, too, that Sister Jeffrina and Goode are an illustration of a truth I tumbled to early on in this debate: the anal-retentives (Sister) are the flip side of the anally-incontinent (Goode). And they each flip sides with ease: Goode flips to the anal-retentive side in his latest guise, and Jeffrina straddled both sides early on: bring on Romantic rap, and similar bilge.

Don't be deflected by faux issues such as Rach "vs" Mahler. One doesn't have to account for *that* kind of diversity; sufficient to embrace it.

taking a stab back

jeffrey smith's picture

Okay, let's see where we go with this. Someone actually stating Perigo's case without the Perigoian histrionics.

Romantic music as has been clearly stated by Linz, appeals to the greatness, self-esteem, hero, love and warmth in man. This particular value is one that lifts the valuer into a glorious and reverent emotional state. In other words it appeals to the good and noble in man.

You're premising two things here that are not necessarily valid.
1) That music should be judged by the emotional response it sparks--as opposed to other factors, such as technical skill and what, for lack of a better term, I call beauty. I'm not going to give a precise definition of that term, but for purposes of reference you can think of what I mean by beauty as the factor that makes romantic music life affirming. However, it produces the affirmation of life as a side effect; and many times what is beautiful will not produce that emotional response--at least not in any obvious way.
2) Not every piece of music will produce the same emotional response among its hearers. Just to take an example I've used before: Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony produces that response you talk about in Mr. Perigo, but for me (and many other people who are at least as equally attuned to the beauties of Romantic music as myself and Mr. Perigo), it's a mawkish, oversentimental diabetic coma inducing piece. Or at least every rendition of it I've ever listened to makes it that way. It might be an idiosyncratic reaction on my part (but I'm far from alone in reacting this way to it)--but that variety of response has to be accounted for. Of course, it's very true that if faced by a choice between listening to Tchaikovsky's Fifth or a CD by Nirvana or Slayer, I'll choose the Tchaikovsky every time without a second's hesitation--but still I find it that symphony inferior to anything Mahler wrote--an opinion that Mr. Perigo doesn't seem to share. How do you handle that diversity?

Further

Kasper's picture

The two different genres, romantic vs nihilistic, bring about emotional responses.
What are these emotional responses?
Nihilistic - anger, letting off steam, melancholy etc etc. This has already been identified. If that is ones art form of choice then why does one become energized by it? Possibly because it appeals to that within..... Does that not raise alarm bells as to the degree of melancholy and anger in ones subconscious state of affairs? I think more questions that seek to investigate the lure of dark art for people would quickly identify that there might be a problem.

To stimulate debate about Intrinsicism regarding this topic

Kasper's picture

I am taking a stab at this. I hope to develop more talk about it rather than get into stabbing contest Smiling

Having read Joseph Rowland’s article on Intrinsicism I have understood a little more about it and happen to think that Linz is correct in his observation that people are looking at this music thing from an intrinsic point of view.

Music when produced is of a particular nature and art form. Classical, rock, jazz, melancholic, cathartic, angry. This thread has discussed at length the differing techniques and complexities involved. However, conclusion has still been that music is ultimately equal and dependent on musical tastes. (Granted some have not agreed with this).

Rowlands states: “Intrinsicism is the belief that value is a non-relational characteristic of an object. This means that an object can be valuable or not, good or bad, without reference to who it is good or bad for, and without reference to the reason it is good or bad.” "By attempting to say the object has value regardless of context, it undercuts how we decide if an object is of value. Value is relational. To exist, it needs a valuer and a goal"

So when discussing the value of music let’s think about the question, valuable to whom and to what? What is the music appealing to within the human spirit (Sense of life)?

Romantic music as has been clearly stated by Linz, appeals to the greatness, self-esteem, hero, love and warmth in man. This particular value is one that lifts the valuer into a glorious and reverent emotional state. In other words it appeals to the good and noble in man.

Slayer music on the other hand appeals to the dark, angry and cathartic nature of man. The value in this music according to what Goode’s sentiments are, and I will add to them, is an emotional release of a built up anger triggering an energy response as this persons sense of powerlessness and hopelessness drains away. It appeals to the repressed rage and the hopelessness that a person feels in life. However, hopelessness and repressed anger are the opposite values to freedom and benevolent serenity. It is a human spirit trapped in a straight jacket.

So when talking about the ‘greatness or brilliance’ of music ask the following: Greatness to what and to whom?

I think romantic music trumps other forms of music when talking about value. It appeals to good values and the emotional response that one has towards it are the type of emotions that endorse human life.

This is not to say that slayer is shit. It is an art form opposite of that which is romantic. Everyone needs a release. However I don’t think it is an irrational opinion to say Slayer is inferior form of music to Rach.

http://www.importanceofphiloso...

Music that moves you does.

Richard Wiig's picture

Music that moves you does. If it had no value-meaning then you wouldn't be moved.

"Music has no "value-meaning" to me."

Um ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I did! Eye

You seem to have forgotten your own Bell Tea apologia for Slayer: "I don't feel alive till I've had my cathartic pounding."

God listens to Slayer

Richard Goode's picture

Well, why not argue the point seriously? Eye

How would you know?

Lindsay Perigo's picture

You don't listen to music. Eye

Check your premises

Richard Goode's picture

Music has no "value-meaning" to me.

Of the emotions I feel when I listen to music, none is named 'This is what life means to me'.

My response to music doesn't have an "essential meaning".

Nor does the music I listen to, or my listening to it, express 'This is life as I see it'.

What Rand says in the passage you quote from The Romantic Manifesto is absurd, and so, too, is Music of the Gods, since it is premised on it.

So

Brant Gaede's picture

Jonathan gets banned and the discussion ends.

Something's rotten or at least wrong in the State of Denmark.

--Brant

Ellen

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Someone should tell the LDS folk at O-Lying to get a life.

For the record, Ellen's account of events is 100% correct. In no way, shape or form did she even suggest to me that I boot Jonathan, and my booting him was in no way, shape or form a response to her private note. I booted him because I got tired of his nastiness and bad faith.

Re the substantive matter at hand: Ellen, if I'm trying to persuade someone of my case I know I have to do more than simply state that I'm right and expect my audience to "sense" the "usefulness" of a "clue." Again this approach smacks of intrinsicism. Actual arguments are better.

Whispering Campaigns

Ellen Stuttle's picture

"It has been pointed out to me that" (see the note below for the text I'm mimicking)...we have one of those cute little distorted list-tales in the making.

On OL, Jonathan writes:

~~~

Link

It has been pointed out to me that Pigero has revealed here * that there was a behind-the-scenes whispering campaign waged against me which led to a lynch-mob getting me banned from SOLOP:
QUOTE (Pigero)
"In the private note to which you refer you said you didn't want to continue the discussion publicly while a certain third party was getting in the way. That's no longer the case, so I'm up for it if you are."

* He linked to Linz's comment-70007, which is 10 posts down the queue.

~~~

 

Before the OL whispering and tongue-clicking gets well underway, here is the exact full text of the private note I sent to Linz; Linz did not reply to the note:

~~~
4/15/2009, 10:15 pm edt

Subject: "Tonal drama" is what makes your case. ; -)
I'll write -- off-list -- with some details in the next few days. I want to do it off-list because (1) I don't want it to look adversarial: I'm not trying to argue with you; I'm trying to help with the musical features; (2) I don't want Jonathan in the way.
Ellen

~~~

 

I had no thought of getting Jonathan banned -- although I will say that I think Linz was justified in banning him. Issues (1) and (2) were separate issues; issue (1) still pertains. I am still not desirous of discussing the issue with Linz on-list, and at this point I'm not desirous of discussing it off-list either.

Linz -- I'll switch to addressing you directly -- here's why not:

In your post from which Jonathan quoted, you show that what I've been trying to tell you has not been clicking. I grant that I haven't gone into details, but I wonder if you've even read posts of mine, most of them addressed to Jonathan, in which I talked about the central idea which enabled the Romantic period musical outburst -- said central idea being that of making the production of tonal drama the guiding organizational principle. It is this feature of Romantic period music which provides a basis for analogizing to Rand's views on the nature of Romantic literature.

Now, I repeat, I don't subscribe to Rand's theories regarding moral superiority; I have important differences with Rand on aesthetics. (Neither do I subscribe to your views that one can do a sort of "profile" of the psychological characteristics of those who enjoy what you call headbanging caterwauling. I do agree that there's a compositional slough at the present time; I even agree that there are philosophic factors operative, though I think that there are also strictly musical factors which you overlook.)

What I'm trying to point out is how someone who ~accepts~ Rand's framework could make the best-possible case for the moral superiority of the Romantic impetus in music. (I include as examples of that impetus certain late Romantics, especially Rachmaninoff, who lived from 1873-1943, thus well into the 20th century.) What I've been offering you is an editorial clue -- a hint as to how to revise your essay (or do a whole new essay).

Your responses indicate, however, that you aren't in the market for revising. And certainly you aren't experiencing a "click" such that you realize, oh, yeah, sure, that's how Rand herself should have argued it to begin with (instead of her bad attempt in "Art and Cognition"). I have no wish to be pushing advice on someone who isn't sensing the usefulness of the clue. And I have no time for arguing about whether I'm right or not. I'm right. I've known since way back in '67 how Rand could have made a case. She had almost no musical knowledge, however, and I don't think she'd have understood my letter if she'd read it. Unfortunate.

Ellen

Ellen: Modes and Melodic form

Jmaurone's picture

Thanks, Ellen.

Joe: Modes and Melodic form

Ellen Stuttle's picture

Joe, I'd say that the modes are forms; they're systems of organizing tones. Greek music was organized according to modes. We don't really know what it sounded like. People have made attempts to reconstruct it, but, given the lack of notation in Greek times, we can't be sure if the reconstructions are correct. We still have modes in the diatonic system, the major and minor (several variants of minor mode, each with its own rules); also the chromatic scale of half-tones is used for coloration in diatonic music. Quarter-tones aren't used, however (in most Western music); they are used in the systems of Eastern music.

Consider this question: How do you know if you ~have~ a melody? Only by reference to a systematic set of tones which provide the compositional basis. Would you classify bird song as having musical line (whether melody, motif, or figuration, such as a broken chord or a rhythmic figuration using notes of a system of notes)? I would not, since there is no system of notes to bird song. That we can identify the tones doesn't mean the birds are singing a song. They are simply producing an instinctual call, a signal of identification to other birds (and incidentally to other creatures which can distinguish the call).

Ellen

Groan

Michael Moeller's picture

Ellen,

First of all, is it by accident that Linz and I seemed to independently come to the same conclusion/implication re your point about "musical nitty grittys"? I have tried to respond to your points as you wrote them, and by all means correct me with some clarity if there is a misunderstanding.

You see, Ellen, my problem since engaging you online through the years is that you make some basic point (like "musical nitty grittys"), and then intimate that there is some wider revelation or bigger criticism, yet this grand finale never seems to materialize. Instead, your wider point or criticism becomes more and more vague. Any attempt to understand where you are going is met with "I didn't say that" or "You misunderstand me" in the Phil Coates mold. Trying to pin you down on where you are going is like going on a wild goose chase. Cut to the chase already with some clarity, please.

In any event, I will let others try to decipher your code on that point as it will end in frustration for both of us. Lesson learned, again.

Michael

The horse gets to ride?

Ptgymatic's picture

I don't think so.

You've got it right, now. Those contrapuntal possibilities are melody-on-melody, i.e., counterpoint! The horizontal element is not to be denied, Jeffrey.

Mindy

the horse goes with the cart, not before and not behind it

jeffrey smith's picture

The increased acceptance was due to the desire for increased *contrapuntal* possibilities. Composers got tired of putting altus, soprano and bass through vocal hoops just so they would avoid the dreaded interval between themselves and the tenor. (Tenor being the lead voice, who "held" the melodic line--and remember that melody derives from a word that means "singing"--while altus, or mean, went "higher" and soprano, or treble, went "above" him and bass stayed below him.) So they allowed tritones in passing, and realized eventually that it wasn't so bad after all, so they allowed tritones to linger--but still expected them to resolve. Tritones came in the middle, but the ending always resolved to the tonic, or at least the dominant.

So the breakthrough came from an increased tolerance for dissonance in the name of increased contrapuntal--meaning harmonic--flexibility.

And it was the awareness of increased harmonic possibilities that allowed composers to realize the increased melodic possibilities.

Give that poor horse a break!

Ptgymatic's picture

...his nose belongs in front. What was the factor, in your scenario, Jeffrey, that brought about this acceptance, the inconvenience it was to avoid melodic possibilities that required the dissonance, or some out-of-thin-air appetite for that dissonance?

Mindy

Melody

jeffrey smith's picture

Evolution of harmony allowed evolution of melody. Purcell wouldn't have written a Puccini melody because the harmonic vocabulary of 1690 was smaller than that of 1890. Therefore the allowable intervals between notes in a melody was less in 1690 than it was in 1890.

Consider the very beginning of the Western musical tradition: composers avoided tritones like the devil. In fact it was called "the devil's note". It was the incarnation of dissonance, and they went to great pains to avoid it. (In fact, the techniques they used to avoid it played a substantial part in developing our basic harmonic vocabulary and theory.) Gradually they came to accept it as a transitory note, to be put up with for the sake of musical logic, and then it became a more or less normal, albeit mildy dissonant, interval. (You still didn't end on a tritone, but you didn't avoid it in the middle.) Melodies started out avoiding the interval of the tritone; by the beginning of the baroque they were no longer doing so, and thus melody evolved in step with harmonic development.

Thus expansion of harmony allowed for expansion of melody.

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