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: )

My dear Olivia

jeffrey smith's picture

I would offer you up the Shostakovich below (on Jeffrey's post) as an
excellent example of unmelodious clap-trap on a violin as opposed to
Beethoven's Romance for Violin and Orchestra.

Unmelodious clap-trap! If I weren't a gentleman speaking with a lady, I'd be outraged. It's got quite as much melody as the Beethoven.  It just has an edge to it that's lacking in the Romance.  And given the circumstances in which it was composed, in the wake of Stalin's second ban on his music, it should have had an edge: Shostakovich found the devil dancing all around him so he composed music for the devil to dance to.

Hilton?

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I found it and more, and for those as ignorant of this dazzling creature as I was, may I present Jaqueline Du Pre. Must admit I'm slowly starting to get what Linz is on about.

Last I heard you were value-swooning to Lanza and had already got it.

Did you backslide? Must I have you shot? Eye

Jaqueline Du Pre - OMFG!

HWH's picture

After overseeing a rather listless Cello practise session from my daughter this morning, I trawled youtube in the hope of finding her some inspiration.

I found it and more, and for those as ignorant of this dazzling creature as I was, may I present Jaqueline Du Pre. Must admit I'm slowly starting to get what Linz is on about.

 

I admit that reason is a small and feeble flame, a flickering torch by stumblers carried in the starless night, -- blown and flared by passion's storm, -- and yet, it is the only light. Extinguish that, and nought remains.- - Robert Green Ingersoll

Olivia

sharon's picture

 

 

"...the vast majority of it is Jungle Bunny clap-trap, whether you find it uplifting or not. The sound is intended to be primal."

The need to create and/or experience art is primal.  

 

 

But...

Olivia's picture

the vast majority of it is Jungle Bunny clap-trap, whether you find it uplifting or not. The sound is intended to be primal.

Classical music has a much greater variance - I would offer you up the Shostakovich below (on Jeffrey's post) as an excellent example of unmelodious clap-trap on a violin as opposed to Beethoven's Romance for Violin and Orchestra. One makes me wince, the other makes me go ahhhh. I'm sure Jeremy, even you would notice the difference between these two composers. Eye

"Do not go gentle into that good night
Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

Ha

Matty Orchard's picture

Sugarhill represent! Here's Stevie Wonder:

Music of the Fop

Jeremy's picture

Jeffrey, I can in fact barely distinguish between the composers I mentioned, as I said.  And there's been plenty of creativity in classical music in 300 years.  And the uninitiated ear would judge Mozart and Beethoven to be the same thing,  just as people that simply refuse to accept that non-classical music can indeed be inspiring, or just plain fun (i.e. good) would say that all music made with rapid beats and rhyme schemes is all 'jungle bunny' claptrap.

We agree, I suppose, but sometimes I think the best way to present an argument is with a mirror.

Well, that's just silly. 

jeffrey smith's picture

Well, that's just silly.  You're telling me Cop Killer sounds the same as Rapper's Delight? 

Of course they do, if someone doesn't listen to much rap.  At least I suppose they do, since I've never actually bothered to listen to either one :)  Just like there are important similarities between Mozart and Beethoven, and Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov--for both pairs, time and place overlapped, for one thing--but also important differences, and the more you listen to them the more obvious the differences  are.  But in a sense early Beethoven picked up where Mozart left off, and developed from there.  Same with T. and R. But I bet you can tell the difference between Beethoven and Tchaikovsky.

When's the last time anyone came up with a different sound that a
violin can make?  Been the same damn sound for 300 years, I don't think
I'm missing anything by not listening to it.

Try this:

If it interests you, search Youtube for Shostakovich Violin Concerto No. 1, and you'll hear the complete thing scattered over various clips.

And then this, which was in fact composed a little over three hundred years before the Shostakovich--the Bach Chaconne

Mo' science rapping -- Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, Harris . . .

William Scott Scherk's picture

Here's a hilarious rap video starring the Four Horsemen (and a bikinied Eugenie Scott of the NCSE).

WSS

Rap from the Large Hadron Collider at CERN - MC Hawking

William Scott Scherk's picture

In the 'RACH' (Revolt Against Caterwauling Headbanging) thread, referenced above in the introduction to Music of the Gods, SOLO Principal Lindsay Perigo declares rap music to be the apogee of awfulness:

  In its most blatant, obnoxious and honest form—rap—this
  depravity doesn’t conceal its life- and man-hatred, replete
  as it is with murderous agendas and gratuitous profanity.

[ . . . ]

  Those who perpetrate, perform and enjoy headbanging
  caterwauling are sub-human. They are in rebellion against
  life, against grandeur, against heroism, against beauty ...
  they are at war with that which is the crowning glory of man:
  his mind. They are mindless worshippers of mindlessness.

Here is an example of the sub-humans in rebellion against life, grandeur, heroism and beauty. The rap video was the child of CERN's then press officer, Katy McAlpine. The genesis of this depraved man-hatred is explained in a Telegraph story from last September, "Rap about world's largest science experiment becomes YouTube hit." See a short explanation of how the depravity was accomplished, below.

This is of course not the only example of depraved life-hating jungle boogie being used to promote science's murderous agenda. Livescience.com features a story on urban youth, science enthusiams and rap -- and a host of other intriguing explications of the power of music: highly recommended -- even for those Randians who know evul when they hear it. Livescience.com's music links contain material that both supports and amplifies The Principal's general theses about music** -- it also offers data that undermine his conclusions.

(See also this evul jungle boogie low black culture rap on 'Astrobiology.' This bit of jungle boogie was commissioned by NASA, featured in Astrobiology Magazine European Edition, and performed last August at London's Science Museum. See the story "Astrobiology Rap" for more on this performer/death-worshipper, Jonathan Chase.)

  Will Barras explains how they created the
  soundtrack: "Katie McAlpine wrote the lyrics and
  recorded it 'acapella' into her laptop computer
  while she was working at CERN.

  "I received an MP3 of that vocal recording by
  email with a request to put some music to it, and
  I put the track together around the vocal (which
  is really the reverse of how songs are usually
  recorded, but was quite an enjoyable challenge).

  "Thinking of programmes like Sesame Street, which
  often had educational songs, I deliberately
  created a sort of 1980s-retro-hiphop style for the
  track. I used the distinctive "woo-yeah" sample of
  James Brown, which was frequently used in 80s
  hiphop.

  "I added the computer voice as an irreverent nod
  to MC Hawking."

WSS

____

** by general theses, I mean that music has great effects on the emotions, motivation and physiology, not that Richard Goode is soulless and Matty is a Poomobonker). See especially the story "Babies Know Happy from Sad Songs," and "Amazing Power of Music Revealed," which highlights the science that went into choosing death-worship music for the London half-marathon Run to the Beat (see also the associated story here).

The stories surrounding the Run to the Beat events are encouraging, in that Rand's hope for a conceptual vocabulary may yet be achieved. The work has something to say about the 'spiritual orgasm' or 'value-swoon' enjoyed by The Principal.

From Livescience's take on music's power, via findings of scientists at Germany's Institute for Music Physiology and Musicians’ Medicine:

  Listening to your favorite hits can shift your breathing
  pattern and speed up your heart rate.

  Shivers down the spine even show up in brain scans,
  according to research at McGill University. As chills
  grow in intensity, bloodflow increases between areas of
  the brain associated with euphoria-inducing vices like
  food, sex, and drugs.

Could this be a "capacity for rapture"?

This follows on Joe Maurone's notes regarding theories of musical perception, "Beyond Emotion: The Cognitive Theory of Music" -- which attracted positive attention from The Principal and The Prince.

Of note also are the headline essay's critiques by SOLO's Grace, on preceeding pages of this thread, here (comment 51915) and here (comment 51916). Here (comment 51928). It appears that response to the meats of her matters is/was 'coming' (comment 51927).

Tap, tap, tap.

Sorry

Brant Gaede's picture

I didn't like what little I heard of it. I've never liked rap and hardly even consider it music. Since there's no singing, just jerky loud talking over a soundtrack, everything gets jumbled up in your brain. My brain, at least, cannot process this crap.

--Brant

 Sorry Bro, didn't work

Jeremy's picture

 Sorry Bro, didn't work for me. Just sounds like more Jungle Bunny black-boy-boogie. It honestly all sounds the same! Smiling

Well, that's just silly.  You're telling me Cop Killer sounds the same as Rapper's Delight?  

Okay, just to make things even, I can barely tell the difference between Mozart and Beethoven.  I am dead serious. It all sounds the same. Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky?  Might as well be the same guy.  

When's the last time anyone came up with a different sound that a violin can make?  Been the same damn sound for 300 years, I don't think I'm missing anything by not listening to it.

Is jungle bunny an acceptable thing to call black people where you're from?  Why not just say nigger? Only wondering.

The ABBA of rap

HWH's picture

Pure benevolence..unlike the millitant toxic crap of today.

I was 16 when this came out and I love it mostly for the memories that accompany it, and imho the fact that music is experienced as an emotional package deal (memories and all) is what makes it impossible to judge objectively

Aside from the proposed standards of judgement in Linz's argument, there are some technically brilliant pieces that trigger my gag reflex due to the embedded memories, and then there are bubblegum pop examples like this that I absolutely love for the same reason.

How can one then judge music objectively..your experience of it is going to be subjectively biased by your current mood, your immediate ecology, the memories it envokes etc etc. 

I admit that reason is a small and feeble flame, a flickering torch by stumblers carried in the starless night, -- blown and flared by passion's storm, -- and yet, it is the only light. Extinguish that, and nought remains.- - Robert Green Ingersoll

Dear Jeremy...

Olivia's picture

Sorry Bro, didn't work for me. Just sounds like more Jungle Bunny black-boy-boogie. It honestly all sounds the same! Smiling

"Do not go gentle into that good night
Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

Before I go to work, I'll

Jeremy's picture

Before I go to work, I'll post an example of life-affirming rap.

(I'm no fan of today's glam-thug rhyme-chumps.)

I defy anyone on Earth not to get into the groove of THIS: 

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=diiL9bqvalo&feature=related

Sticking out tongue

 

I've read it several times

jeffrey smith's picture

Please read the sections, Romanticism vs. Headbanging, and Romanticism and sense of life, in my essay.

Please read the whole essay at some point.

I've read it several times, and I still don't get anything approaching a statement of objective factors that make music good or bad.   You seem to be judging music by the emotional states it raises. That is inherent subjectivism. (If you doubt it, just refer to the completely different reactions that you and I have on the subject of Tchaikovsky's Fifth. You think it's the acme; I think it's overblown.)  The only thing I get out of your various statements is that you like to indulge in spiritual wankery  with Van Cliburn and Tchaikovsky, and a helping throat from Mario Lanza.

Nor do you even come close to explaining why rap and heavy metal are of necessity genres which can not produce good music.  You simply rhetoricize agains them.

Mr. Smith ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Please read the sections, Romanticism vs. Headbanging, and Romanticism and sense of life, in my essay.

Please read the whole essay at some point.

I enjoyed the Tallis; thank you. Not my ultimate value-swoon—a tad anal by Romantic standards, as, historically, it had to be—but glorious, and infinitely better than headbanging, for sure. Food, not poo.

Why eat eat poo when you can have food?

Mr. Perigo

jeffrey smith's picture

Ipse dixit:

I'll try the ostensive route again.

Giving examples is not defining your terms or giving a detailed analysis.  In fact, not only have you not defined your terms, you haven't even begun to define them.  After all this, the only determining factor I can see is whether or not you like a piece of music. 

Why is example 1 poo?  Why is example 2 Romantic music?  What objective factors make example 1 poo and example 2 Romantic music?

And meanwhile, I'll give you some music to value swoon by in place of the technical brilliance (which is all example 2 actually is) you offer as your example.

Brant

Lindsay Perigo's picture

You mean my contra-poo? Works fine for me. If you can't get it here, google van Cliburn and Tchaikovsky #1, 3rd movement.

The (romantic) Video

Brant Gaede's picture

is no longer available, but I'm pretty sure I'd like it.

--Brant

Napalm Death

Brant Gaede's picture

is a hoot. Those guys are a bunch of pussies. I really was once napalm death and high explosive death and bullet death.

Finding garbage to illustrate a thesis doesn't prove it.

--Brant

on to the next video

Mr. Perigo

sharon's picture

 

I’ll take that classical piece over NAPALM DEATH anyday of the week.

 

 

Bullshit

Brant Gaede's picture

LP.

--Brant

Excrement vs Exaltation

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Personally, I think value swooning is at best only one possible aim of music, and a fairly inferior aim at that. It's a form of sentimentality (that is to say, artificially induced, and therefore false, emotion) and I try to root out sentimentality from myself whenever I find myself falling into it.

I don't doubt that you try to root it out, Mr. Smith, and that you succeed.

I note the poo-eating swine, in their ongoing panic, are oinking away that I haven't adequately defined my terms, blah, blah, blah.

I'll try the ostensive route again.

Here's some poo:

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

Here's some Romantic music:

http://www.solopassion.com/nod...

Poo-eating swine value-swoon to the former, evolved human beings to the latter.

Nuff said.

Roasting

Brant Gaede's picture

Perigo on a spit. It's all really too much. This isn't so much about objectifying esthetics, yes or no, as getting Lindsay. That's a fact. I'm not here to get him, but I'll stand up to him. I wouldn't have come back except the genocidalists are gone or are at least quiet. Also, SOLOP is much more than LP and I'm willing to defend it if not him, as long as the genocidalists don't come back talking their genocidal yik and yak.

Another reason I'm back is that I no longer care if LP calls me names. That has nothing any longer to do with me. It's all on the name-caller.

--Brant

"O-Liar" and all that (and I don't like LP)

Preferring Victimhood Over Saving The World?

Jonathan's picture

Robert,

 What strange "values" and priorities Pigero must have. He has said that Objectivism and the world are being held back by Rand's views on music (that there are no objective criteria for judging music as art and that we must treat our musical tastes as a subjective matter), yet he refuses to define his terms and identify any objective criteria that would correct Rand's alleged errors. You have to wonder why. I mean, if the issue is as vitally important as Pigero has been frantically claiming it to be over the past decade in rant after tirade after rant on the subject, and if he truly does have some "flesh" to put on the "skeleton" as he keeps claiming -- if he has an actual argument to back up his assertions contra Rand that certain pieces of music are objectively superior -- what is he waiting for? Is he going to let Objectivism and the world perish out of spite because you and a few others opposed his speaking at a TAS function? Is maintaining his victimhood more important to him than rescuing Objectivism and the world?

 Or maybe what I've been saying all along is the truth: Pigero is a windbag who has no substance to back up his vicious attacks on Rand and her Objectivist Esthetics.

 J

Mr. Perigo

jeffrey smith's picture

It's possible to value-swoon to the music of Tchaikovsky.

It's possible to value-swoon to the products of Eminem's pen. (For reasons outline in the Catholicism thread, I hesitate to call them "songs".)

It's possible to value-swoon to songs by Slayer.

Yet according to you, value swooning to the second and third is bad, and only (among the three examples) value swooning to the first is good.

At first blush, it might be the texts.  But there are two objections to that:

First, you seem to approve value swooning to Ave Maria and Kol Nidrei, and (I'm inferring this from your failure to object when Olivia provided it as an example) Rachmaninov's setting of the Orthodox Eucharist service--or at least you think value swooning to those is not nearly as bad as value swooning to Eminem or Slayer.

Second, you categorically deny the possibility that anyone could produce rap or heavy metal which is life affirming and therefore  could be acceptably valued swooned to.  This means that even if lyrics were provided for rap and heavy metal which were life affirming, the entire song would still be objectionable.   

Therefore, it must be in the music itself that you find the objectionable part.  But you give no real indication of what the objectionable features are.  You simply condemn it in toto, and leave everyone in the dark as to what is actually wrong about it.

Personally, I think value swooning is at best only one possible aim of music, and a fairly inferior aim at that.  It's a form of sentimentality (that is to say, artificially induced, and therefore false, emotion) and I try to root out sentimentality from myself  whenever I find myself falling into it.

But I am amused at the picture you give of  the ideal of aesthetics being a spiritual menage a trois,  bhakti yoga straight of the playbook of the Hermetica and Neoplatonic mysticism.  But considering that Rand ends Atlas Shrugged with a magical ceremony--the invocation of Hermes (of whose staff the dollar sign is one form)....

Mr. Perigo

sharon's picture

 

Be generouos of spirit. Provide edification for non-headbanging caterwaulers for whom your essay seeks to address, or at least those who may be converted who are currently headbangers. Speak for their sake. :}

 

 

Prof. Campbell

Lindsay Perigo's picture

It seems both you and that other ignoble-souled O-Lying cheerleader for headbanging caterwauling on whose behalf you post think I exist for your edification, to do your bidding.

If Music of the Gods is unsatisfactory to you, I'd recommend attending my TAS presentation putting flesh on the skeleton.

Oh wait, you got that one banned ...

The Turandot Challenge, one more time

Robert Campbell's picture

Mr. Perigo,

Here is Jonathan's challenge, one more time.

It contains no distortions of your name.

Can you answer it? Or are you going to keep stalling?

Robert Campbell

********

1) Define the concepts "romantic music" and "headbanging caterwauling." Follow the Objectivist tradition of identifying each concept's genus and differentia. Identify which essential characteristics are necessary and which are sufficient for a piece of music to be categorized as either "romantic" or "headbanging caterwauling."

2) Here are Rand's comments on making objective aesthetic judgments:

http://www.aynrandlexicon.com/...

Do you agree with her? If not, explain your differences of opinion, give your own definition of "objective aesthetic judgments," and clearly identify objective standards that would apply equally to all art forms, including music.

3) Give detailed examples of objective aesthetic judgments of music. Choose at least three pieces of music, one which is "romantic" by your definition, one which is "headbanging caterwauling" by your definition, and one which is neither "romantic" nor "headbanging caterwauling" by your definitions. Identify the "artist’s theme, the abstract meaning of his work" of each piece, per Rand's requirements, and demonstrate that you've done so objectively, or, if you disagree with Rand's requirements, apply the objective standards which you've carefully identified in part 2. Analyze the music and its meaning, not any lyrics that might accompany the music. Objectively show how the music means what you've concluded it to mean while making no reference to "outside considerations."

If you're not familiar with much music outside of your preferred genres, here are a few samples from which you might choose to make your objective analyses:

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

(Van Halen's Dreams)

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

(Metallica's Nothing Else Matters - performed with with San Francisco Orchestra)

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

(Eric Johnson's S.R.V.)

Linz

seddon's picture

"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.'”

Brevity. Bervity. Do you think that when reading ATLAS?

Fred

The kid seems sad

gregster's picture

Go elsewhere for your validation Master Jonathan.

I believe you've a few points but they're obscured by your initial and continual misrepresentations.

You're just boring. And a cock.

Jonathan

Matty Orchard's picture

Far as I can tell Linz's stance is that he doesn't need to pay attention to any rebuttal which refuses to call him by his real name. Fair call. Would it hurt to cut out the insults and repost it? I happen to think it makes a pretty compelling case I and would like to hear what Linz has to say to your arguments.

Wishing SOLOPsists

Jonathan's picture

So, SOLOP is now about wishing things out of existence? Does my reply to Pigero's Music of the Gawdz tirade technically not exist if SOLOPsists don't want it to exist, or if I post a link to it instead of posting it here directly, or if someone else posts it for me? Is it not really real if it doesn't include the phrase "Simon says" in certain key locations, or if SOLOPsists cross their fingers while reading it, or if they just believe really hard that it doesn't exist?

Kasper

Matty Orchard's picture

WSS posted it below.

Do me a favour

Kasper's picture

You are blaming the "glitch" for not posting your response because Solo can't handle a post that big. Simply break it up into three parts or so and put them up.
Stop making excuses Johnathan. Either take up the challenge or don't. If you don't then don't expect to be engaged in a discussion about this any further.

Or email Lindsay the post and ask him to put it up.

I am interested in what you have to say and if you really put effort into a big post -I find it odd that you would so easily give up trying to put it up.

SOLOPsist logic at its best

Jonathan's picture

Kasper incoherently blathered:

 "You have some bullshit about not posting because of the size. Then proceed to challenge. Are you going to take Lindsay up on this or not? Post your god damn post."

 So, your advice is that I should post a message that the SOLOP system, for whatever glitchy reason, has rejected every time that I've tried to post it?

Hahaha!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Nice try, Mr. Scherk. But in spite of your editorial interpolations, I'm aware that the faceless one's apologetics for headbanging caterwauling were directed at someone called Pigero and repeatedly quoted someone of that name. Nothing to do with me.

Whisky Tango Foxtrot -- god damn post

William Scott Scherk's picture

Originally posted by the faceless Brandroid spawn of evul at the sister-list, on December 7, 2008.

Over on SOLOP, [Perigo] responded to Matty's statement that there is no objective standard in music:

QUOTE([Perigo])
You'll get no debate, Matty, because just about everyone
here agrees with you. I already laid out the objective basis
for judging music in Music of the Gods. Why don't you go
through that and answer it, point by point? It'll be a first
if you do. The reason folk shy away from the topic is their
emotional investment in crap music—and they're too lazy to
lift themselves out of the gutter. Ooooo, that should induce
a few flouncings. But I do wish that, for once, folk would
debate this stuff. It's important!!

[Perigo] wants a point-by-point response? Okay:

[Perigo]'s "Music of the Gods" (WARNING before you click that link: The SOLOPers have bogged down the "Music of the Gods" thread with embedded youtube clips.):

QUOTE([Perigo])

"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.

So far, [Perigo] has done nothing but express his typical rage and contempt. I'd think that a person attempting to demonstrate the objective superiority of a certain type of music would begin by defining his terms. What does he mean by "romantic music"? Does he have a definition and clear criteria by which we can objectively determine which works of music qualify as "romantic" and which do not? Is he using the same definition of "romantic" that Rand used? Who knows?

[Perigo] continues:

QUOTE([Perigo])

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.

Slipknot's drummer was responding to a recording studio production technician who had been publicly critical of the band's music. The technician had said that if Slipknot was the future of music, then he didn't want to live (the technician would not agree with [Perigo]'s angry evaluations of other, similar heavy metal bands). Slipknot's drummer responded by saying that his band must be doing something right to elicit that response from such an asshole. It's kind of like Churchill being told by Lady Astor that if he were her husband, she would poison his tea, and Churchill responding that if she were his wife, he’d drink it. Only not as clever. [Perigo] likes to leave out the context in order to give the impression that Slipknot writes music for the purpose of encouraging suicide.

QUOTE([Perigo])
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.

I'd agree with [Perigo] that he shouldn't have to listen to music that he doesn't want to hear on his own property. But that's an issue of property rights and intrusive volume levels of sound, and has nothing to do with one type of music being objectively superior to others.

QUOTE([Perigo])
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.

Okay, so [Perigo] has made it very clear that he hates certain types of music. He has outlined his emotional motives for writing his little tirade on the subject. Will he ever get around to moving beyond his emotions and to objectively defining his terms and standards of aesthetic judgement? Does he agree with Rand's comments on objective aesthetic judgments -- that one need not like a work of art, that one must identify the "artist's meaning," and that one must evaluate how well the artist has expressed his vision, regardless of whether or not one agrees with it?

QUOTE([Perigo])
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.

I doubt that. I've never seen anything from [Perigo] that has even come close to hinting at being an academic-style treatise.

Does the clown not realize that if he wishes to demonstrate that one type of music is objectively superior to another, then he must do some actual intellectual work, and not just throw tantrums, poop his diapers, and tell us what he hates?

QUOTE([Perigo])
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.

[Perigo]'s lame-ass "layman's polemic" against the music that he doesn't like was originally billed as a treatise on the "objective superiority" of his favorite music. In other words, as usual, [Perigo] lied. He hyped. He carnival barked. And he didn't deliver. Fizzle. No substance.

QUOTE([Perigo])
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 –

We wouldn't need a conceptual language in order to merely subjectively judge music. But Rand's position was that we would need it in order to objectively judge music. [Perigo] doesn't seem to grasp the difference.

He continues:
QUOTE([Perigo])
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!

Yes, that's an example of Rand passing judgment. The problem is that it is not an objective judgment. In fact, it is one of the most subjective, irrational, baseless and foolish judgments that she ever made. Like [Perigo], Rand was pretending to know the mindsets, emotional responses and aesthetic interpretations of others based on her own. And like [Perigo], she didn't approach the subject with academic seriousness, but simply bloviated. Is [Perigo] so stupid that he thinks that any silly judgment that Rand made about music was "objective"?

And, btw, [Perigo] is not correct that "rap has no notes."

QUOTE([Perigo])
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!

Again, Rand didn't make an objective pronouncement. She simply threw a subjective fit. Unlike [Perigo], though, she seems to have at least recognized that some of her subjective judgments were subjective.

QUOTE([Perigo])
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).

Torture to whom? To [Perigo], and, since [Perigo] has "objectively" identified himself as the epitome of virtue and psychological health, the possessor of the perfect "sense of life," and as the ideally sensitive and knowledgeable critic of all forms of music, then the music that he dislikes should also be torture to anyone else who is as fine a specimen of humanity as he is?

QUOTE([Perigo])
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.

So, one rock song had lyrics that were inaudible to [Perigo] (who hated the song before he had heard it anyway), it was unintelligible and unlistenable to [Perigo], therefore all rock music is unlistenable and unintelligible to everyone? And this allegedly "objectively" demonstrates that all romantic music is superior to all non-romantic music?

QUOTE([Perigo])
It omits the seemingly deliberate over-amping of the guitars
to effect distortion.

Is there some objective reason that distortion in music, or any other art form, is unacceptable or inherently bad?

QUOTE([Perigo])
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.

That seems to be the real issue here: [Perigo] can't hear melody and harmony in the musical styles that he dislikes, and he assumes that others can't either. Heavy rock music relies on the same mathematical relationships of frequencies as the music that [Perigo] likes, but apparently the electronic distortion of guitars and voices results in timbres to which he doesn't emotionally respond, and he refuses to recognize that these aural effects are "integratable" by people other than him. It seems to be yet another case of an arrogant Objectivist mediocrity trying to define universal aesthetic standards by his own limitations.

QUOTE([Perigo])
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.

Is "unprecedented emotional expressiveness" an objective term? Is there any chance that [Perigo] will be defining and identifying objective standards by which to judge the emotional expressiveness of music, or will he continue to do nothing but give his subjective opinions and hope that no one will notice that they're not objective?

QUOTE([Perigo])
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 rhthmic 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.

Not knowing "how many parts object and how many parts subject are involved" is precisely the reason that one type of music cannot be judged as objectively superior to others.

QUOTE([Perigo])
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.

All of it? Every romantic (a term yet to be objectively defined by [Perigo]) piece of music is superior to every piece of non-romantic music, based on [Perigo]'s disliking one Slayer song?

Isn't it possible that some rock songs might also qualify as "romantic" (if we were to ever hear [Perigo]'s definition)? What then?

If a romantic song includes use of instruments or effects that [Perigo] hates, is it "objectively" inferior to a non-romantic song played on instruments that [Perigo] loves?

What about a romantic song that was quickly thrown together by a novice, versus a non-romantic song carefully composed by a very experienced and successful professional composer? Wouldn't we have to conclude that, by [Perigo]'s undefined yet allegedly objective standards, the novice's work would necessarily be aesthetically superior to the professional's? We wouldn't even have to hear the two pieces of music before "objectively" concluding that the rookie romanticism was superior to the expert non-romanticism. Pretty idiotic.

QUOTE([Perigo])
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.

Including the music that was inspired by and intended to inspire further mindless devotion to God?

QUOTE([Perigo])
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?),

Not all country music is about the same subject. Some of it is intended to project values that are quite consistent with Objectivism, and are even reminiscent of some of [Perigo]'s views, with their religious-like zeal and lack of intellectual sophistication.

QUOTE([Perigo])
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.

So, Goode answers [Perigo]'s questions, and [Perigo] then mischaracterizes the answers while going on the attack and pretending to know others' thoughts, and he wonders why he received no further responses? Would it matter if anyone went into greater detail for [Perigo]? It hasn't mattered in the past. Any time that anyone explains to him what they feel and why they enjoy their favorite music, [Perigo] ignores what they've said or twists their words around. Clearly he's anything but objective.

QUOTE([Perigo])
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!

Goode mentions responding to one song with anger, as well as with energy, passion and defiance, yet [Perigo] focuses only on the anger, arbitrarily decides that it's not specific enough of a type of anger, and then jumps to the conclusion that it is an unjustified anger at life in general. What an asshole.

QUOTE([Perigo])
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!

Again, what an asshole. Someone else's feelings of anger, energy, passion and defiance are not anti-life just because [Perigo] wants them to be. And even if we could somehow objectively establish that Goode's response to a single song was indeed unjustifiably angry and representative of his general view of existence, and that it was also representative of the "sense of life" of the band who created the music, it wouldn't follow that all fans of the song respond to it for the same reasons (just as it doesn't follow that [Perigo] loves certain songs about loving God because he loves God).

QUOTE([Perigo])
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.

Wow. We all hear music exactly as [Perigo] does. If you like something that he thinks is ugly, then you must like ugliness. It doesn't matter if you think it's beautiful or in some other way positive.

QUOTE([Perigo])
It’s a question of values, not physiology. Life-affirming
values = good; life-negating values (anti-values) = bad.

Here [Perigo] is making moral judgments when the subject at hand is aesthetic judgments. Did he think that no one would notice? Or does he not grasp the difference?

QUOTE([Perigo])
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!

[Perigo] is referring here to the same Mr. Cresswell whose essay "objectively" identified AC/DC's You Shook Me All Night Long as being about rage.

QUOTE([Perigo])
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?”

Michael Newberry isn't a very reliable source of aesthetic criticism. He thinks he's being fair, reasonable and "objective" when writing a review of a work of art after seeing only one fifth of it. He often knows little about what he's talking about, and can be rather intellectually careless in presenting his opinions.

QUOTE([Perigo])
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.

I see, The idea isn't to actually demonstrate the objective superiority of romantic music with a solid, intelligent argument, but to simply proclaim its superiority.

QUOTE([Perigo])
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
thats a fact.

Again, nothing objective here. [Perigo] has droned on and on about his personal subjective responses to music and asserted that "we" respond exactly as he does. He offers no objective definition of "romantic music," and he proposes no standards, other than his own personal emotions, by which to judge which works qualify as romantic, or as good or bad. And he also seems to confuse aesthetic judgments with moral ones. He offers nothing of substance to back up his subjective opinions.

J

____________

WSS

Next?

Brant Gaede's picture

Next?

--Brant

MY GOD!

Brant Gaede's picture

Why would anybody post a "god damn post"? Not me. Who--him? Jesus Christ in the Mountain!

--Brant

WTF You have some bullshit

Kasper's picture

WTF

You have some bullshit about not posting because of the size. Then proceed to challenge.
Are you going to take Lindsay up on this or not? Post your god damn post.

Still Waiting...

Jonathan's picture

I tried to directly post my response here a few times to your little Music of the Gods tirade, but your site's software was apparently too glitchy to accept such a large post. I'm not interested in wasting my time trying to post it again, especially considering the fact that you're not going to address its substance anyway. No matter how directly I address you, and no matter which user-photo I would use when doing so, you're still going to cowardly refuse to define your terms or identify any objective criteria for judging music as art.

 Speaking of which, here's my unanswered Turandot Challenge once again:

 1) Define the concepts "romantic music" and "headbanging caterwauling." Follow the Objectivist tradition of identifying each concept's genus and differentia. Identify which essential characteristics are necessary and which are sufficient for a piece of music to be categorized as either "romantic" or "headbanging caterwauling."

 2) Here are Rand's comments on making objective aesthetic judgments:

 http://www.aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/estheticjudgment.html

 Do you agree with her? If not, explain your differences of opinion, give your own definition of "objective aesthetic judgments," and clearly identify objective standards that would apply equally to all art forms, including music.

 3) Give detailed examples of objective aesthetic judgments of music. Choose at least three pieces of music, one which is "romantic" by your definition, one which is "headbanging caterwauling" by your definition, and one which is neither "romantic" nor "headbanging caterwauling" by your definitions. Identify the "artist’s theme, the abstract meaning of his work" of each piece, per Rand's requirements, and demonstrate that you've done so objectively, or, if you disagree with Rand's requirements, apply the objective standards which you've carefully identified in part 2. Analyze the music and its meaning, not any lyrics that might accompany the music. Objectively show how the music means what you've concluded it to mean while making no reference to "outside considerations."

 If you're not familiar with much music outside of your preferred genres, here are a few samples from which you might choose to make your objective analyses:

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

 (Van Halen's Dreams)

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ziThYl6B2vw

 (Metallica's Nothing Else Matters - performed with with San Francisco Orchestra)

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKYKxXc2D4I

 (Eric Johnson's S.R.V.) 

Still waiting ... :-)

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Interesting how the poo-eaters tout their "rebuttals" on other sites that they're not brave enough to post here, just as one of them won't even show his face.

Sense of Perception

Liz's picture

During this recent xmas season, my 6 yr. old daughter and I were driving and I tuned to a radio station playing only holiday music. A James Taylor version of some classic xmas song came on and within the first verse she SCREAMS :

"Mommy turn this off, it sounds like a wounded animal!"

I don't know for sure but, I think we might have to 'bring over to one's interest'
a taste for poo. She certainly knows when something tastes off too.

Responses to Music of the Gods

Jonathan's picture

I think it should be noted on this thread that Joe Maurone has offered a rebuttal to Pigero's Music of the Gods:

 http://orpheusremembered.blogspot.com/search/label/music%20of%20the%20gods

 And that I had responded as well on OL:

 http://www.objectivistliving.com/forums/index.php?s=&showtopic=5620&view=findpost&p=60407

A funny thing happened on my way to this forum

Ptgymatic's picture

I think they called it "Access denied." The preceding two paragraphs are a part of a draft of a long post that was lost during editing. Odd that they were pulled out and posted--but they aren't a coherent post.

Lost over an hour's worth of writing about the pre-melodic forms of music and about expectation in music--can't face re-writing it now, besides, I expect it might again slip-slide away...

= Mindy

Ptgymatic

Leonid's picture

"Music can consist entirely of rhythm, and probably did in earliest times."

We all exposed to the rhythm of maternal heart beats during our prenatal life since second trimester of the pregnancy. Different people have different perception of melody-we have Oriental scale, Semitic scale, Western scale, Indian scale and so on which must probably depends on prosodial characteristics of language." The musical aspect of language emphasizes the way that all communication has an irreducibly particular aspect, which cannot be subtracted from it" (Aesthetics and Subjectivity Bowie 1990, 174-75).

Melody isn't essential

Ptgymatic's picture

Music can consist entirely of rhythm, and probably did in earliest times. The perception of a beat evokes a physical, bodily response (maybe related to the importance of constant vigilance in an animal's immediate environment--the startle reflex, the need to begin to fly or fight immediately on hearing an intrusive event) the point being that a pattern of beats, alone, evokes a perception of pattern, of the combination of temporally single elements into a whole. Drum beats are musical. Is it even possible to listen to a good beat without some bodily participation? Dancing is very deeply engrained as a mode of musical enjoyment.

Besides this, tones can be enjoyed singularly, or in series too simple to be called a melody. Particularly from the inside, from the perceptual experience of the performer, rhythm itself, and simple tone-production have musical dimensions that don't depend on melody. Not every sound, not every vocal sound, even, is a tone. A tone has a purity that is relatively rare in nature. Just perceiving tone is an aesthetic, a musical, experience.

I agree, Landon

Ptgymatic's picture

...that there are gaps in Linz's presentation. What amazes me is that music theory has long possessed the base for just this sort of conceptual bridging, but nobody is aware or, perhaps, appreciative of it.

The standard exposition goes like this: our perceptual apparatus allows us to distinguish tones with a certain refinement. A tone of twice or half the frequency of another bears a special perceptual relation to it, what we call its octave. Tones an octave apart are perceived as being the same tone, though higher or lower. Tones an octave apart are, perceptually, variants on one another. Hearing octaves is, in this sense, a special way of hearing a single tone. 

If that isn't too imprecise to accept, the next part is just that the series of whole and half steps that make up the scale are a perceptually comfortable path from a tone to its octave. Begin a series of ascending or decending tones, and it will seem finished when you reach the octave. You can play an arpeggio, 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 8th tones, and that is a different way to play the octave, or you can play a chromatic scale, and that is still another way to play the same octave. The scale is just a "way" to play an octave, as an octave is a "way" to play a single tone.

Then, a melody is traditionally analyzed in terms of how it traverses the scale. It goes up a few steps, stops a while, goes back down, etc., but eventually returns to the original tone, or its "cognate," the octave, and ends there. A melody is a way to play a scale, which is a way to play an octave, which is a way to play a tone, which is a single musical datum. 

This gives a conceptual structure for analyzing music. Music needs to be tonal because our perceptual capacities are. It is well-formed if it has a melody. The melody is "good" if it plays the scale in a perceptually definite (and yet interesting) way. The chief point is that music explores perceptual identities--a tone that is an octave, an octave that is a scale, a scale that is a melody (or should that be written the other way around?)

Harmony and counterpoint are elaborations on the same structural principles as above. Counterpoint is a different way to play the same melody. Harmony is. similarly, an elaboration on a single tone based on its position in the scale...

The degree of our automatic integration of the structure of music can be very great. Myself, I love counterpoint, undoubtedly because that's the line the bassoon, my instrument, usually plays. Once you play counterpoint, you come to feel that melody is only a hanger for the sumptuous garment that is counterpoint, is only an excuse for counterpoint! But violinists, flutists and oboists (who largely play the melody line) would die before agreeing. To them, counterpoint is just a backdrop, mostly and bestly ignored, against which the bird's flight of melody can be enjoyed, etc. When I play counterpoint to a melody, I play tone, scale, melody, and counterpoint all at once. Perceptually, they are one and the same. It's something like observing that you sing a song, rather than saying you sing a series of notes that could, taken together, constitue a song. You don't pronounce each letter in a word, you pronounce the word, you perform, or hear the perceptual whole of a piece of music. 

If you stop a melody just before its end, it feels unfinished, and leaves you hurting for its completion, because in hearing part of the melody, you have heard a whole thing, you just haven't finished hearing it, so to speak. The structural levels of tone, octave, scale, and melody are integrated at the perceptual level (perhaps this only happens after a minimum of experience.)  

So music has a complex structure based on our perceptual capabilities. We can put together sounds that defeat or confuse or "bore" perception, or ones that suit and fulfill it.  The structures we create are "meaningful" in their relation to a larger or smaller scale of structure. A given tone has a perceptual significance based on where it falls in the the perceived melody or scale being played, etc. Such structural characteristics as interruption or alienation or misplacement, unfulfilled expectations, surprise, etc., are possible because of the structure of music, its tonality sets expectations that can be violated, the general gestalt principles of completion, etc., can be manipulated, etc. Where does the meaningfulness of music come in?  It is, I believe, derived just from these structural features.

It seems to me that these commonplace music-theory concepts provide us with a way to understand music in the same way as we understand visual art, and for setting up criteria for defending claims of objective well-formedness and value in musical compositions.

= Mindy 

(This was written in some rush, and not edited carefully.) 

Aesthetic Libertarianism and Showing your work

Landon Erp's picture

There's a principle in the grading of higher mathmatics of showing your work. It doesn't matter if you get the correct answer on your test or assignment unless you used proper methodology to get there, in fact an incorrect answer with proper methodology would be even be preferable.

My problem with this piece is that it reminds me of Libertarianism or more specifically the Objectivist objections to it. The biggest problem with it is that it acts as if the Objectivist political ideas are so strong that they don't need the foundation of Objectivist metaphysics, epistemology and ethics. The idea of freedom is important only in that greater context and it took a lot of work to develop such a strong justification for human freedom.

Libertarianism often dismisses this as unnecessary. It doesn't have the foundation it needs and it virtually always falls flat.

Rand put an exceptional amount of thought and work into everything she wrote for the Romantic Manifesto. I don't take her statement on music lightly.

She spoke with a stong authority on subjects such as literature (even when applied to stage productions, television and film), sculpture, painting, and even dance. She not only stated what had made the works of the past so great, but she pointed out the flaws in those works. She didn't do this as a way of "taking great works down a peg." Her reasons for doing this were to give anyone who read those essay's an insight into what made art work.

You can read the Romantic manifesto and as an artist you can have a much better insight into the principles which you need to apply to create great work. There have been a number of great painters, sculptors and literary artists who've already taken up the challenge of the RM.

In the RM Rand basically undertook the task of redefining Romanticism itself to the point where there were a number of artists who would consider themselves romantic whom she would staunchly object to classifying as such.

As a result I don't think that "Romantic Music" can be spoken of in the same manner as "Romantic literature" or "Romantic painting" until the requisite work has been done to actually define it. You Linz did not do that work.

---Landon

Never mistake contempt for compassion, or power lust for ambition.

http://www.myspace.com/wickedlakes

Super Hero Babylon

Jason

Chris Cathcart's picture

Then there's the better Pie Jesu, from Durufle's Requiem:

http://www.last.fm/music/Mauri...

Eye

Some favorites finally available for free sampling

Chris Cathcart's picture

Looks like free and legal full-track samples are on their way in. Check out some samples of great stuff that just hasn't made it to YouTube yet:

http://www.last.fm/music/Osmo+...

(The second half of this piece is the obvious hook. A slower tempo in this performance than I prefer for this piece -- performances range from 14 to over 17 minutes -- but you can get the idea and hey, it's free. For $2.90, I'd say go for this version of "Nightride" at Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/produ... )

[Edit: Oh wait, here we go, one with a quicker tempo:
http://www.last.fm/music/Gothe...
and others linked from this search: http://www.last.fm/music?q=nig... ]

http://www.last.fm/music/Ralph...

http://www.last.fm/music/Ralph...

http://www.last.fm/music/Samue...

For examples of what I regard these days as great pop music songwriting:
http://www.last.fm/music/Elton...

Check out tracks 1-3 and 6-7 on -Madman Across the Water- and tracks 2, 7, 8 and 10 on -Tumbleweed Connection-.

Whole bunch of stuff by Radiohead available to check out there now, too, though a lot of their stuff was already up on YouTube. I especially like the first 10 tracks from -The Bends-:
http://www.last.fm/music/Radio...
plus a few tracks off each of their other big albums (e.g. tracks 2-3 on -OK Computer- and 3-9 on -Kid A-)

I've probably linked all my other favorites from YouTube by now. Eye

On the Morricone recording...

Ptgymatic's picture

As soon as the brass comes in, I'm sure hoping it's for a film!

Faure's Requiem

Jason Quintana's picture

Faure's Requiem middle movements. Pie Jesus along with the Agnus Dei movement.

- Jason

Suma

Olivia's picture

I love that piece too! Thanks for posting it.

I listened to Rachmaninov himself play the Rach 3 concerto today and was very surprised at how fast he played it. I'm most familiar with the version of Andre Previn conducting Alicia de Larrocha which is slower in pace - makes it last longer!

Oh ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

It's not any kind of potshot on my part, sugartits (ok, THAT was a potshot. Sticking out tongue )

That's the kind of potshot I like—Vinegartits. Sticking out tongue

It's not any kind of potshot

Jmaurone's picture

It's not any kind of potshot on my part, sugartits (ok, THAT was a potshot. Sticking out tongue)

 I mean I don't have the time and patience to slow down and do this right. But I've been meaning to bring up the idea of the "gordion knot" tactic, since no one else has mentioned it. 

 (And yes, I don't have time for the protracted arguments that these threads usually devolve into, unfortunately. But I am sincerely interested in the question of whether Rand set the bar too high...). 

Oy!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Suma and Joe—what the hell kind of discussion tactic is this? Take an indistinct pot shot then beg off on the grounds of being too busy or too impatient to linger?

Suma, if Rand was right to set the bar too high, why did she also blithely walk right under it?

If we can't say the Rach Prelude you post (which I'm delirious to have Rach himself playing) is objectively superior to Goode's Slayer trash, then we're in deep doo-doo.

Gordian Knot (not)

Jmaurone's picture

Suma: " I sympathize with the premise, but I don't find the essay convincing - Rand was right to "set the bar too high"."

 I agree, but want to add that it's not so much Linz's conclusion I have a problem with, but the methodology. I don't have time to get into this proper, or the patience right now...but what's been bugging me is the "cutting of the Gordian knot" of Rand's challenge. 

The Gordian Knot is a legend associated with Alexander the Great. It is often used as a metaphor for an intractable problem, solved by a bold stroke ("cutting the Gordian knot").

 The question is, was Rand truly presenting such an intractable problem? The Alexandrian method is appropriate in such a case, I'm just not convinced that this was such a case, and I don't think a strong enough argument was presented to justify it; rather, more questions than answers are implied. 

However, it it certainly is fair to ask the question of Rand. If i'm not convinced yet, I do think it's open to debate. I'd love to hear more.  

  

Thanks Linz

Suma's picture

Thanks for the essay Linz. Immediate response: I sympathize with the premise, but I don't find the essay convincing - Rand was right to "set the bar too high". I want to chew on it more though, and read all the other responses too before I say more...and it will be a while as I am super-busy.

For Olivia and others: Here is a piece I love - Rachmaninoff's Prelude in G-minor Op.23 No.5
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... (by Emil Gilels)

"... last two phrases of the Widmung."

Jameson's picture

Schumann's 'Dedication' lifts to express "for which I float" then descends to "O my grave."

The Etude

Olivia's picture

In listening more and more to the Liszt Etude, it's definitely grown on me. Love its steady climb toward fullness. Beautiful.

Delius, "The Walk to the Paradise Garden"

Chris Cathcart's picture

http://youtube.com/watch?v=9Zv...

Also, even for those that don't go much for Delius's music, there is a nice little gem of a movie I just saw for the first time, "A Song of Summer," now up on YouTube (at least for now), which dramatizes the relationship between Delius and fan/collaborator Eric Fenby for the last 5 years of the composer's life:
http://youtube.com/watch?v=4Vy...
(Some information from the IMDB on this: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt00... )

And, btw ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I dusted off an old LP in my shelves after spotting the name Lanza on the spine. "The Student Prince" and other musical comedies. My new Citronic turntable thankfully cuts right through the crackle and pop. Some good lyrics, great voice. 'Drink drink drink' is one for parties. I'll track down one of his better LPs one day.

Open up, man! Serenade, I'll Walk with God, Romance, I'll See You Again, If I Loved You, I'll Be Seeing You ... you'll NEVER hear singing like that by anyone living in this lifetime.

Nope.

Lindsay Perigo's picture

The end of Widmung sounds similar to a melody in Wunderlich's song before.
http://www.solopassion.com/node/4585#comment-51955

But thanks for playing. Smiling

Today

gregster's picture

I dusted off an old LP in my shelves after spotting the name Lanza on the spine. "The Student Prince" and other musical comedies. My new Citronic turntable thankfully cuts right through the crackle and pop.

Some good lyrics, great voice. 'Drink drink drink' is one for parties. I'll track down one of his better LPs one day.

The end of Widmung sounds similar to a melody in Wunderlich's song before.
http://www.solopassion.com/nod...

Erm ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

As for the Etude... even though it's the virtuosity of Liszt I find more often than not Etudes to be a little harsh on my ear. I seldom ever seek them out to listen to, not even Rach's or Chopin's. Am I missing anything terribly important?

Yes. And you should try actually listening to this one. Anything less harsh on the ear I can't imagine.

BTW, there'll be a prize for who identifies to what Schumann is alluding in the last two phrases of the Widmung.

Delightful.

Olivia's picture

The Widmung is just lovely. The melody is sensuously sweet - reminds me of playful, loving intimacy. I am not familar with it until now. I love it!

As for the Etude... even though it's the virtuosity of Liszt I find more often than not Etudes to be a little harsh on my ear. I seldom ever seek them out to listen to, not even Rach's or Chopin's. Am I missing anything terribly important? Smiling

Lady S

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Links are there. Smiling

For some very annoying reason...

Olivia's picture

these embedded versions sometimes do not show up on my screen.

Linz, do you mind posting just the link to these and I'll go straight to YouTube and hear them that way.

Thanks in advance my Lord Baron.

More objectively superior music of the gods

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Stanislav Richter plays Harmonies du Soir by Franz Liszt (from Transcendental Etudes):

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

Van Cliburn plays Liszt's transcription of Schumann's Widmung:

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

A sample of Giorgio Battistelli

Marcus's picture

From a piece called "Experimentum Mundi" about the sounds of hand-workers. If there was ever someone who fit Linz's description of "Pistons and Jackhammers" modern music, it's this guy.

Experimentum Mundi

Barry Lyndon

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Just watched it, as if for the first time since I still remembered almost nothing of it. Amazing movie! Yes, the ADDs wouldn't last five minutes with it, but how refreshing to find a well-crafted movie so unrushed, with clear, crisp, economical dialogue, superbly matched music scoring, great acting (the scene where Barry's mother dismisses Reverend Runt [!!] is a side-splitter; the scene where his young son is paralysed and dying after the horse accident is almost unwatchably intense) and of course a decent plot. I think Lyndon's comeuppance was about right, and needless to say his gold-digging opportunism put me in mind of a certain twosome we've been discussing here a lot lately. Barry has endearing, redeeming virtues those two lack, though.

Age of crap?

Marcus's picture

More like the "age of exploding green diarrhoea"!

"The legendary La Scala opera house in Milan has commissioned a full-length work to be based on his book, An Inconvenient Truth, and the Oscar-winning documentary of the same title.

La Scala's artistic director, Stephane Lissner, told a press conference the new opera had been commissioned from an Italian composer, Giorgio Battistelli. He said it would be staged in 2011.

"Lissner has had this idea in mind for some time," said a spokesman for the theatre. "Since before the award of Al Gore's Nobel, I believe."

http://www.solopassion.com/nod...

Linz -

jriggenbach's picture

"And will Mr. R. debate at all, or just flounce, as he did last time?"

It all depends on his mood. (He's a range-of-the-moment whim-worshipper, you know.) Also on his context. At the moment, he has time on his hands. He's sitting in a hotel room killing time with a laptop while his wife does some business.

Try him.

JR

Chris -

jriggenbach's picture

"The idea that (is there a composer we can all agree upon here?) -- okay, whether you care for it much or not -- a Beethoven symphony is so much superior in any number of ways to, say, punk rock (maybe the genre that reviles me the most), seems too obvious to be even worth arguing."

I'm no great admirer of Beethoven, but sure - that's obviously true.

"It's like the whole idea of punk is to be mired in the mediocre, the irritating, the obnoxious, rebellion for the sake of rebellion, pissing all over anything resembling technique or structure, back beating with pots, front-beating with pans, lousy melody, deliberately bad production values, not a single iota of effort put into making something of aspiring beauty . . . just aural shit by talentless shitheads. It's like the idea of punk is to react to safe, boring, lily-livered, almost-muzak mainstream pop by taking a trash can, dumping it out, and proceeding to beat on the trash can with a stick."

Quite so. The problem here is that, to Linz, *all* rock music fits your description of punk rock. And this is utterly absurd.

"Given an expansive enough definition of 'music,' this utterly talentless trash-can-beating would qualify as music."

Of course it's music. It's bad music, but it's music.

"JR, please don't tell me that you became a classical music connoisseur without having taken into account that it tends to result in music much more like what music ought to sound like, than the oodles of trashier and lesser genres out there."

I'd accept that statement up to a point. I suspect, however, that I draw the genre line a bit differently from either you or Linz. There's lots of jazz I'd rather listen to than anything by Chopin or Schumann. There's lots of "classic rock" I'd rather listen to than most of the works of Beethoven or Brahms. There's lots of traditional American pop (Frank Sinatra, Eydie Gorme, the instrumentals of the big band era) that I'd rather listen to than the complete works of Berlioz. There's even some electronica and country/western I'd rather listen to than the complete works of Alexander Glazunov.

JR

The Best Within Us

Newberry's picture

“Since this is all about aesthetics, IMO, I think it's of central importance to ask whether a piece of music aspires to project beauty (or beauty-truth, as in those music theorists who inform us that ugliness in Mahler can be beautiful, in the sense that ugliness conveys some truth about the human condition -- but not ugliness for the sake of ugliness). Even if Mozart bores you, beauty was an object of his composing. Heck, even some non-Romanticist modernist composers have that as an object, even if expressed in a much more abstract, less accessible way. Gutter music doesn't even give a shit about such things.”

Chris hits upon an important issue: beauty vs. shit.

Beauty is a tough concept to nail down without being subjective. Surprisingly, one of the greatest treatises on beauty comes from Kant. He discusses that it is essentially a composite of form, theme, resolution, sensual (appeal to the senses), and consequently it brings pleasure of the “languid type,” (“value swoon” in other quarters.) He does state that the judgment is not cognitive, rather it is a matter of universal taste. Hence why my mother thinks her taste, without qualifications or explanation, is equally valid. Eye

I have mentioned this in other places but the incredibly clever manipulation of Kant is that he does a super job in identifying the nature of beauty in art than turns it on its ear. For example he rejects the “languid” pleasure in art in favor of the sublimity of strenuous shitting:

“Every affection of the STRENUOUS TYPE (such, that is, as excites the consciousness of our power of overcoming every resistance [animusstrenuus]) is aesthetically sublime, e.g., anger, even desperation(the rage of forlorn hope but not faint-hearted despair). On the other hand, affection of the LANGUID TYPE (which converts the very effort of resistance into an object of displeasure [animus languidus] has nothing noble about it, though it may take its rank as possessing beauty of the sensuous order.”

Translation: there is nothing noble in your joyful experience of beautiful art, nobility is reserved only for those willing to submit to brutal “aesthetic” experiences. (Richard Goode anyone?)

In Kant's Critique of Pure Judgment, he goes on to dismantle the values of theme, resolution, a comprehensive unit, and integration of the total form–all to be superceded by a painful turn on the toilet, i.e. his concepts of the sublime: anti-theme, anti-beginning/middle/end, disintegration, and anti-form.

What we need to do is re-flip Kant’s pathetically sick inversion by reclaiming that the proper view of sublimity is that it represents the best within us.

 

www.michaelnewberry.com

Oy!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

For Linz, it's not Mahler or Sibelius, but Tchaik and Rach. These are minor quibbles in the grand scheme of things. He regards the last movement of Rach 2 as a leading exemplar of the total passion for the total height, while you might choose the finale to Mahler 3 as a better example.

It's the third movement, if you mean the symphony, the second if you mean the concerto. Smiling

As far as I'm concerned these are not quibbles at all, let alone "minor" ones. Of course you can find "total passion for the total height" in Mahler and Sibelius. My point all along is that with them, you have to go looking for it in the midst of all the portentous blowhardery. With the full-blown Romantics, it's routine. And there are scores of others apart from Tchaik and Rach. Chris, it's your hang-up and delusion that I listen to no one else. I fear every time I furnish an example of great music it's treated as my saying this composer is the only worthwhile one and everyone should sound just like him. For fuck's sake!!

I seem to recall saying right at the top of my essay that the argument as to who is and who isn't a Romantic will have to keep. My concern here is Rand's claim, which I have come to see as Emperor's New Clothes territory within Objectivism, that we cannot pronounce Romantic music (or any kind of music) objectively superior to any other kind. How the pomowankers have seized upon that! Time it was debunked. We have all the information we need for an adequate conceptual vocabulary.

Why doesn't someone debate what I did say, not what I didn't?! (And will Mr. R. debate at all, or just flounce, as he did last time? The world's first flounce over Sibelius!)

"I like what Linz is trying to do, just his execution is not getting it quite right. I don't know how at this point I'd do it myself so as to get it right, but it's something I've been giving some thought to. The idea that (is there a composer we can all agree upon here?) -- okay, whether you care for it much or not -- a Beethoven symphony is so much superior in any number of ways to, say, punk rock (maybe the genre that reviles me the most), seems too obvious to be even worth arguing. It's like the whole idea of punk is to be mired in the mediocre, the irritating, the obnoxious, rebellion for the sake of rebellion, pissing all over anything resembling technique or structure, back beating with pots, front-beating with pans, lousy melody, deliberately bad production values, not a single iota of effort put into making something of aspiring beauty . . . just aural shit by talentless shitheads. It's like the idea of punk is to react to safe, boring, lily-livered, almost-muzak mainstream pop by taking a trash can, dumping it out, and proceeding to beat on the trash can with a stick."

Precisely. Very KASSly put! So what's the problem?

To repair to Mr. Cresswell's "shit" analogy: there's food and there's shit. Lots of stuff qualifies as "food" (not vegetables, of course). Food is objectively superior to shit. Modernity is addicted to shit. One of SOLO's missions is to promote food.

I would agree, but . . .

Chris Cathcart's picture

If the cookie-cutter standard were so narrowly defined that it kept Tchaik, Rach, Chopin and Beethoven on the "approved" list while keeping out Sibelius, Nielsen, Barber, Hanson, Mahler, Vaughan Williams and Delius, just to name a few, then that's obvious prima facie evidence that it's a fucked-up standard.

I like what Linz is trying to do, just his execution is not getting it quite right. I don't know how at this point I'd do it myself so as to get it right, but it's something I've been giving some thought to. The idea that (is there a composer we can all agree upon here?) -- okay, whether you care for it much or not -- a Beethoven symphony is so much superior in any number of ways to, say, punk rock (maybe the genre that reviles me the most), seems too obvious to be even worth arguing. It's like the whole idea of punk is to be mired in the mediocre, the irritating, the obnoxious, rebellion for the sake of rebellion, pissing all over anything resembling technique or structure, back beating with pots, front-beating with pans, lousy melody, deliberately bad production values, not a single iota of effort put into making something of aspiring beauty . . . just aural shit by talentless shitheads. It's like the idea of punk is to react to safe, boring, lily-livered, almost-muzak mainstream pop by taking a trash can, dumping it out, and proceeding to beat on the trash can with a stick.

(Rap, while a lot of it is also shit, can be more creative with lyrics, beats, samples, etc. I used to listen for a year or so as a mid-teen and could still manage listening to some of it now. Metal quite often requires technicality and actually often has a point -- stereotypically to project aggression. At least it has a point. And I could manage to listen to some of what I listened to as a teen, realizing that while there are aspects of it that are good, it's not a especially impressive genre once you're aware of what classical offers. The point of punk? The point there seems to be shit for shit's sake. Seems to me that the poor souls who are into it are seriously aesthetically stunted. I don't see anything of serious redeeming value in it. It's beneath safe and lame. Safe and lame is street-level; this stuff is the aesthetic sewer.)

Given an expansive enough definition of "music," this utterly talentless trash-can-beating would qualify as music. Even accepting such an expansive definition, we'd have to break it down further into the music worth listening to, and the music that's garbage. Linz is doing perfectly legitimate work in arguing that there is an area we can carve out in this vast expanse that is the music world, and say that it's worthy music.

JR, please don't tell me that you became a classical music connoisseur without having taken into account that it tends to result in music much more like what music ought to sound like, than the oodles of trashier and lesser genres out there.

As long as we can agree on that, how far exactly to narrow down the standard is secondary. You've commented on how Mozart is "nice" but overrated and lame compared to Bach, Mahler and Sibelius. For Linz, it's not Mahler or Sibelius, but Tchaik and Rach. These are minor quibbles in the grand scheme of things. He regards the last movement of Rach 2 as a leading exemplar of the total passion for the total height, while you might choose the finale to Mahler 3 as a better example. And we could at least listen to those pieces and see how someone could reach their respective assessments. And we could see how each are so far removed from gutter music that it's pointless to make any serious comparison on criteria beyond that they each produce a succession of sounds.

Since this is all about aesthetics, IMO, I think it's of central importance to ask whether a piece of music aspires to project beauty (or beauty-truth, as in those music theorists who inform us that ugliness in Mahler can be beautiful, in the sense that ugliness conveys some truth about the human condition -- but not ugliness for the sake of ugliness). Even if Mozart bores you, beauty was an object of his composing. Heck, even some non-Romanticist modernist composers have that as an object, even if expressed in a much more abstract, less accessible way. Gutter music doesn't even give a shit about such things.

Classical and jazz are often labeled "high-brow" genres, which strikes me as a way of saying that it's for elites, and elitism is a bad thing. That's roughly akin, in my view, to anti-reason anti-intellectualists rampaging around in our culture (the neanderthals on the right, for instance) gleefully lambasting intellectuals as elitists, as an excuse to wallow in their mindless crap. The conflation of intellectuality with elitism is a means of trying to level the good and the bad. No classical or jazz afficionados that I know of ever said that little to nothing of value comes out of other genres, either. But the good stuff that comes out of these genres tends to be the things that jazz and classical composition make it a point, qua genre, to try to aspire to. (I'll exempt "free jazz" from that claim for the time being; my hunch is that Rand's comments about free verse apply here.) The other genres seem to only incidentally include these things as just a few amongst many other possible aims.

Well, that's what I've got for now; me's tired.

Actually Cutting to the Chase

jriggenbach's picture

Judging all music by the same cookie-cutter "standard," expecting it all to sound alike and proceed according to the same principles - this is as good a definition of musical ignorance as I can come up with on the fly.

JR

Barry Lyndon

jriggenbach's picture

Barry Lyndon is undeniably Kubrick's finest film - and one of the best ever made.

JR

Jason's clips

Lindsay Perigo's picture

The first is Rach's Paganini Rhapsody from the famous 18th Variation to the end. The second and third are the final movement of the Rach 3, somewhat truncated. Watch, and you'll better appreciate why I said in my essay:

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.

Byron Janis

Jason Quintana's picture

Edit : I was watching/listening to these earlier today. Byron Janis is one of the great American piano virtuosos, and his REAL recording of Rachmaninoff's 3rd Piano concerto is (in my not humble opinion) the very best. Here are some excellent samples (with a few sour notes) that I think fit perfectly with the spirit of this thread.



Barry Lyndon

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I saw it when it first came out and remember absolutely nothing about it. I've just ordered it from amazon.

Barry Lyndon

Chris Cathcart's picture

Having seen that movie numerous times I have to say my favorite music is the adagio from that one cello sonata in E, RV40 (orchestrated with strings in the film) by Vivaldi, used during the "I'm sorry" kiss scene in Lady Lyndon's washroom. It's about the most interesting Vivaldi I've encountered. And not having really caught onto Bach, the Bach piece used in the "Don't you think he fits my shoes well, your ladyship?" scene.

While it may not have overt indications of being a work of Romantic art aside from the never-ending magic-hour visuals, Barry Lyndon is my favorite film to this day. It captures Kubrick's vision of the human condition at least as truthfully as any of his other works. The philistines with ADD (that's attention deficit disorder, not analog-digital-digital Smiling ) usually complain about the pacing and/or the alleged dry detachment.

The way the Schubert trio is actually used in the movie:

The Bach:

Strangely I don't find a clip with the Vivaldi.

A brief intro-part to one of Schubert's late impromptus is also used right at the end of Part I, but wasn't put onto the soundtrack album.

This piece always hits me in *that* place

Jameson's picture

Schubert's Trio in E flat, Opus 100

Well then ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

To skirt the issue of Cage vs. Lanza, neither are role models or have significance for me.

'Twere better not to have mentioned them in the first place!

To Skirt the Issue

Newberry's picture

Searching "artistic integrity" via google and online dictionary sources, I was surprised to learn there isn't a definition for it. I did find this book, Integrity and the Fragile Self, by Cox, La Caze, and Levine. You can read it but not copy and paste, http://books.google.com/books?...

Around page 132, they have a good discussion about the difference between artistic integrity and moral integrity, citing the differences between Gauguin the man and the artist.

To find Rand's view of artistic integrity, her quote Lindsay stated does not apply, rather we would have to glean the definition from her short story, The Simplest Thing, and from Roark's choices in The Fountainhead. Not a simple project.

A little over 500 years ago, Michelangelo wrote a ruthless satirical letter to the Pope in response to the Pope's request that Michelangelo build a colossus from blocks of marble. Michelangelo described what the project would be if he forewent his artistic integrity, the concept being true to the single block of marble, and increased the size, and practicality of the project. Turning it into a gigantic, sculpted man, smoking a pipe, and big enough to house a real smoke shop inside the base, at storefront level, and even hollow out the marble to have real smoke, like a chimney, to escape the marble pipe. The Pope would even make profits on rents.

To skirt the issue of Cage vs. Lanza, neither are role models or have significance for me. Michelangelo, on the other hand, does.

www.michaelnewberry.com

Michael (N)

Lindsay Perigo's picture

"Integrity does not consist of loyalty to one's subjective whims, but of loyalty to rational principles" is a verbatim quote from "Doesn't Life Require Compromise?" written for The Objectivist Newsletter in July 1962.

You say:

Rand's idea was that the men of ability left the field of art to them, and that to reclaim it there needs to be artists that have the whole caboodle, i.e. talent and artistic integrity. Search me how anyone here could have problem with that opinion.

Of course not, when you put it that way. It's when you make unwarranted attacks on the artistic integrity of my heroes, and compare their integrity unfavourably with that of a maggot like Cage, that you'll get into trouble with me.

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