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Rand's Request

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From Orpheus Remembered:

Ayn Rand made this public request during a Q&A session, as presented in AYN RAND ANSWERS:

"Speaking of one’s ability to know another’s sense of life, now might be a good time to make a request: Please don’t send me records or recommend music. You have no way of knowing my sense of life, although you have a better way of knowing mine than I have of knowing yours, since you’ve read my books, and my sense of life is on every page. You would have some grasp of it-but I hate to think how little. I hate the painful embarrassment I feel when somebody sends me music they know I’d love-and my reaction is the opposite: It’s impossible music. I feel completely misunderstood, yet the person’s intentions were good. Nobody but my husband can give me works of art and know infallibly, as he does, that I’ll like them. So please don’t try it. It’s no reflection on you or on me. It’s simply that sense of life is very private."

This is interesting in light of the many debates I've seen on Objectivist forums about music. A pattern that emerges is that when someone wants to defend or convince another about the greatness of a certain song or performer, they post a video or mp3 file. It's almost as if this is done in a "Roarkian" manner, i.e. , throw some pictures on the table and say "the defense rests." This rarely seems to lead to that "Eureka!" moment, which often leads to disappointment and confusion (and, on occasion, a moral denunciation of those who "don't get it." The irony is that Rand and Objectivism are evoked as justification for this "superiority," yet here we have Rand asking people NOT to do this to her!

Food for thought.

Edited by spaceplayer

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In an ironic moment, what exactly do you think I should think about this? What makes you think I would view this idea as any sort of "food"?

Edited by JMeganSnow
removed quote

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Make of it what you will, Kendall. :lol:

Well that's interesting. I was not trying to blast you of course. But it does raise an intersting discussion. What makes such an action (sending the music to Rand) impolite? Do we think that is the fact that one presumed to tell her what she'd think? Could you see Rand saying that instead sending her music and (unpresumptuously) attaching a note that said "make of it what you will..." that that would make the attempt palattable?

Beyond that, I don't think the failure to make an argument and to over rely on "ostensive" proof is unique to music (although one could argue that a rational form of argumentation is less available due to the unconfirmed action of music) or to Objectivism. One will always stand behind the ideas one thinks one is espousing in such an attempt.

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I don't see where Rand says it is impolite...

Agreed. :lol: Looks just like a snippet of life when you're more in the public eye. People feel like they connect with you, like they understand. Still, one might not like asparagus when another does even though they share a value system.

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I don't see where Rand says it is impolite...

Fair enough. What do you see Rand saying about it? She casts it in a negative light does she not? "I hate the painful embarrassment I feel..." Why would this be so? Would the comparator I presented relieve the situation?

You obviously meant to draw a negative comparison with Objectivists discussing music. What aspect of what is done in the first example is parallel with what you are claiming in the second example? I'm curious, especially when people draw generalizations about Objectvists in some way.

Or did I read you figuratively when you said "food for thought" and I should have taken you literally, as in you wanted us to think about it, and not discuss it?

Edited by KendallJ

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btw, I'm really not trying to pounce on you. I fail to see the connection between your two cases, and I'm not sure what you mean. I think it's an interesting topic to discuss.

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What kind of music did she like? I would think Opera.

She liked Rachmoninov and she liked so called "tiddly wink" music. I'm not sure what else.

Do a google search for Dismuke for examples of Ayn Rand's "tiddly wink" music.

And here is a link to Dismuke's website on some of Ayn Rand's favorite music: http://dismuke.org/aynrand/

Edit: Added Dismuke Link

Edited by Thales

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btw, I'm really not trying to pounce on you. I fail to see the connection between your two cases, and I'm not sure what you mean. I think it's an interesting topic to discuss.

Kendall, I'll take you at your word that you're not trying to pounce. :P That said, I don't know how to make it any plainer.

My own assessment of Rand's comment, in intself, is simply a "request." As someone in the public eye, she probably received many letters and correspondence from people trying to give her gifts, etc. The embarressment? The way I interpret it is personal, I remember, in high school, playing a song for a friend, a song that gave me goosebumps. My friend simply shrugged. Ever since then, I was mystified and fascinated by this, but at the time, I was embarrassed myself for getting worked up and sharing something that met with a shrug, so I don't take Rand to mean this in a disrespectful way Just like Rand says, that it's "It’s no reflection on you or on me. It’s simply that sense of life is very private." Since then, I wanted to know WHY this was, why one person feels one way, since music was said to be a "universal language."

Edited by spaceplayer

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..... Since then, I wanted to know WHY this was, why one person feels one way, since music was said to be a "universal language."

Well, for starters, musical evaluation and sense-of-life both involve cumulative interpretations, but those evaluations don't necessarily reflect each other in obvious ways (among other things.)

This is a vast subject, but you asked, and I'm giving a terse response in order to offer an honest lead.

Try thinking about where your focus of attention is when you think about music versus when you think about life in general... Do those evaluations fall lockstep with each other?

---------------------------------------------------

I think that the "universal language" claim often involves context dropping or context missing... not unlike what AR indicated in the referenced quote actually.

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TPS,

thanks for the response, and I've been blessed with the writings of not only Rand but many others on the subject. Rand being my favorite, but I'm particularly in thrall to Robert Jourdain's MUSIC, THE BRAIN, AND ECSTASY.

Well, for starters, musical evaluation and sense-of-life both involve cumulative interpretations, but those evaluations don't necessarily reflect each other in obvious ways (among other things.)

This is a vast subject, but you asked, and I'm giving a terse response in order to offer an honest lead.

Try thinking about where your focus of attention is when you think about music versus when you think about life in general... Do those evaluations fall lockstep with each other?

---------------------------------------------------

I think that the "universal language" claim often involves context dropping or context missing... not unlike what AR indicated in the referenced quote actually.

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Philosophy of Objectivism, Lecture 11, '76

Q: Who are your favorite poets?

A: Generally, I'm not an admirer of poetry, and find it impossible to discuss. My reaction is based solely on sense of life. I have few theories about it. My favorite poets are Alexander Blok, an untranslatable Russian whose sense of life is ghastly, but who is a magnificent poet, and Swinburne, who is also a magnificent poet with a malevolent sense of life. I like a few Rudyard Kipling poems very much, both in form and content. Strangely enough, I truly love "If." The moderns have made a bromide out of it. I've seen it framed and sold in the five-and-ten. If a poem can survive that, it's great. "If" has helped me sometimes in depressed moments, and I hope it does the same for you. I also like "When Earth's Lat Picture Is Painted," which is a magnificent poem qua poetry.

-----------------------

I'm not musical at all, but from the little I understand it cannot be judged rationally for the reasons discussed in the Romantic Manifesto. So yes, Sense of Life is the only standard for the layman--what sounds in which combination express the idea of man's happiness on earth, man's free will, man's basic goodness, man's ability to know the world, etc.? Hence, only her husband would know what sounds move her in the right way. It makes sense to me.

Judging poetry is much more rational because it is literature, but still, it is related to music because the sounds of words are essential to poetry's power. I know of one modern poet who wrote a book about how certain words starting with certain letters have innate moods associated with them, and so the book is compiled of a series of unintelligible poems. Needless to say, this guy is wrong. But he's sort of on the right track. First, one has to challenge the various types of poems of the ages, from sonnets to odes, and to explain why, objectively, do they stand and should stand and why the various forms possess the power that they do. Yes, one should look closely at words, their meaning, and their sounds, and their relation to mood. But there's so much more involved, and in my research, I don't think anyone has come close to accomplishing such an enterprise. So I believe that one has a better chance of sharing with Ayn Rand a poem that she will like, than with music, but still the chances are still slim because, at this point, sense of life is primarily involved in evaluating a poem as good or bad. Just because a poem fits the classical rules does not mean Ayn Rand will like it.

So I believe that if one wrote a novel, or discovered an obscure novel that Ayn Rand never heard about, and one had studied it, and identified it as Romantic with a good plot and a profound theme, one could be much more certain that she would appreciate the gift, because thanks to her, the objectivie standard is now available, and one knows what her likes and dislikes specifically are.

I recently read a great Canadian novel, Barometer Rising, which Ayn Rand said was: the best first novel she had ever read. It was only after knowing this that I could see why she would love it. But I doubt I would have seen this, had she not said so of this novel. The clue would have been in the characters of the hero and heroine, and in what it seems to say about man's fate and happiness, but seeing it in the plot would have been difficult. Well, I still haven't studied the plot. Yes, it was engaging, but I have not tracked the logical sequence of events. I save that task for much later.

Those are my thoughts.

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I'm not musical at all, but from the little I understand it cannot be judged rationally for the reasons discussed in the Romantic Manifesto.

It's right here in the book (Page 50, Signet's paperback).

The pattern for all art forms except music is:

Perceptual --> Conceptual Understanding --> Appraisal --> Emotion.

For music it is:

Perceptual --> Emotion --> Appraisal --> Conceptual

I suppose you could say "it's not rational" in the sense that emotions are directly stimulated, but you can and should judge the process rationally.

What is interesting about music is that it doesn't invoke particular entities. It gives general feelings for which the listener can fill in particulars. The same musical piece can supply a proper background for endless scenes. A sad piece can supply the background music for endless sad scenes in movies, for example.

From my studies of music, it is the *general* moods and feelings that composers go for. Lyrics, of course, add particular concretes that are backed by the music. So, I'm judging music apart from lyrics.

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It's right here in the book (Page 50, Signet's paperback).

The pattern for all art forms except music is:

Perceptual --> Conceptual Understanding --> Appraisal --> Emotion.

For music it is:

Perceptual --> Emotion --> Appraisal --> Conceptual

I suppose you could say "it's not rational" in the sense that emotions are directly stimulated, but you can and should judge the process rationally.

What is interesting about music is that it doesn't invoke particular entities. It gives general feelings for which the listener can fill in particulars. The same musical piece can supply a proper background for endless scenes. A sad piece can supply the background music for endless sad scenes in movies, for example.

From my studies of music, it is the *general* moods and feelings that composers go for. Lyrics, of course, add particular concretes that are backed by the music. So, I'm judging music apart from lyrics.

Thanks. "Rational" is too broad a term. I suppose I mean objective versus relative, because there are so many particulars one can fill in for the general feeling. So how do we know what Ayn Rand will fill in? Who's right? Is it possible for any one to feel joy, for example in Albinoni's Adagio, as opposed to the inescapable deep sadness that I feel?

Just to reiterate and clarify, my main point was simply that the standards available for art are much more objective in novel writing, even poetry, than in music, so that it is very hard to judge what Ayn Rand would like because of the nature of music, and our knowledge of its power, physiologically, psychologically, etc.

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Wow, I really liked "If". It reminded me a lot of the relationship between Dominique and Roark in The Fountainhead.

Kipling's IF draws one's imagination to those times when life gets very difficult, when one loses alot, and when one triumphs by surpassing against bad odds. It covers the psychological realms, the material or financial realms, the physical realm of simple action--it says that one can be happy even if you are Roark in a quarry, and you can be deserving of pride, joy, and admiration--even like that, the earth is awesome, even in its greatest pains.

Yes, I could see Roark giving this to Dominique, and telling her how wrong she is. I think a poem like this given to Dominique very early, would have killed the novel; she would not be able to resist. If Roark were a poet! No, but more realistically, how would Dominique react to such a gesture from Roark? How about if he gave it to her at Kiki Holcombe's party, some time after the first sex scene? She would have thrown it in his face. It would have merely reinforced what he already knew: that it would be a long struggle, that she would fight him with all her might, that she did not believe him, that the world would tempt him to betray his convictions--and win. She would have thrown it in his face, but she would have taken the comfort, and be encouraged by the thought that he knew what they were about to endure--and he still wanted her.

And so in the last verse it prescribes the following: To be heroic among the masses, to seeing men for their true worth, if you can withstand malice, if you can always be happy alone, if you don't waste your time and do what is worthy--the implication is selfishness, to the point that by this prescription you own the entire earth and its meaning, and you embody the ideal of being man, you define man. Your are released into manhood, my son, or my girl.

Dominique, you are still immature. To what extent is this true? Yes, Dominique is not ready for Roark, and Roark is already a complete man--yes, she has to grow. But look at that, more than ten years, of a life that is driven by dealing with the act of loving Roark for the first time.

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TPS,

thanks for the response, and I've been blessed with the writings of not only Rand but many others on the subject. Rand being my favorite, but I'm particularly in thrall to Robert Jourdain's MUSIC, THE BRAIN, AND ECSTASY.

Thanks for recommending this book. It looks very very interesting and approachable.

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