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KyaryPamyu

Art and Sense of Life - Explained

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Posted (edited)

5 hours ago, DonAthos said:

And explicit agreement with my conscious convictions does not seem to be any crucial matter for me, with respect to my enjoyment of art;

I don't mind explicit disagreement as long as it does not affect the spirit of the artwork. This reminds me of the fact that Ayn Rand's favorite writer was an avowed socialist - and he didn't hesistate to put that into his novels. But it can be annoying at times - it depends on how much the ideas are mentioned.

5 hours ago, DonAthos said:

It is possible that my sense of life was always suited to my present convictions -- and that, in fact, it was such in part that led me on the path I eventually found.

I don't think it's far-fetched to suspect this. I'm actualy the opposite - my sense of life went through numerous changes. I can actually name three big trends that shaped it across time: mysticism (even though I became an atheist very early in life), bitterness and cynicism.

By mysticism, I mean an avid study of things like Judaism, eastern religions, psychedelia, Eckhart Tolle, the primacy of consciousness, the world as a collective role-play/dream where nothing truly matters. By cynicism I mean flirting with determinism, evolutionary psychology (which I recently dropped entirely thanks to Objectivism - this alone has the power to wreck you inside like no other thing), the Red Pill community, moral relativism, Machiavellianism, even the Kantian idea of phenomenon. My current sense of life is pretty much a mixture of those two trends. The bitter period was during my teens.

Some artworks stood the test of time, others - not at all. Out of the things I used to enjoy but not anymore, I can name (off the top of my head, not an exhaustive list):

  • Some 20th century classical music. The kind that sounds like Jackson Pollock put into sound. I'm a classical musician, so we're exposed to that kind of stuff
  • The Harry Potter series
  • Japanese Heavy Metal
  • Horror movies
  • Certain romance stories - my annoyance stems most strongly from how innacurately they're portrayed from a real-life, psychological standpoint.

The reasons I don't like them anymore pertain to changes of conscious convictions, of values, of knowledge, of technical standards.

I'm in a period in life where various Objectivist ideas start to truly click in my head - and I find myself incessantly rethinking my approach to everything. It remains to be seen if this will have any effect on my sense of life. One thing that I always had in me was individualism - which is what drew me to Objectivism in the first place. 

Edited by KyaryPamyu

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I am wary of saying any particular sense of life is malevolent. Or at least there are malevolent people, but a careful summation is difficult when you don't know a lot about a person's mental habits and routines. One thought I had is that some people go through a lot of adversity, so "dark" elements are familiar to them. Familiarity does bring about preferences, so this is okay. Then, if these people are benevolent, they will likely contemplate and appreciate how growing is still possible. That is all to explain some of my art preferences, and how I still also like extremely triumphant Romantic artwork.

I do not think I'm a mixed bag of a person. What I mean is that there are a number of ways sense of life is benevolent. By merely thinking of thinking about benevolence, we lose sight of major human personality traits or interests, such as novelty, need for cognition, introversion, familiarity, etc. Benevolent people vary to different degrees on all these traits regardless of one's philosophy or ideas.

Anecdotal support that explicit philosophy alters art preferences: Nietzsche used to adore Wagner and his music, then grew to hate it all, that work later on evoking irritated and angry emotions about anti-semitism, nationalism, and exaggerated art that's empty of meaning. I also recall a lot of changes in David Bowie, but these are the people I think of offhand.

As for myself, well:

I had a strangely strong aversion to "emo" music in high school around 2005. It was an emotion I didn't like. I can speculate, but I don't remember the feeling. After definite changes in my philosophy as well as a wider repertoire of music history knowledge, it became a preferred genre. Largely that philosophy was Objectivism, and other thinkers.

I don't recall liking things less over time. Probably FPS video games. I like Harry Potter a tad less. I like how the His Dark Materials series seems better now, so I want to re-read it. I like abstract art more, but not a work like Pollock. Some horror movies are cool like Saw, and my morbid sense of humor is stronger. Roald Dahl stories are more appealing now, and I liked him since I was 9. I also like psychological thrillers more, especially those of people with a confused consciousness.  Yet it's the characters who offer clarity that drives me to take it all in.

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On 5/26/2017 at 5:43 AM, KyaryPamyu said:

While I didn't provide my personal evaluation of the weeping angel sculpture, I agree that it refects a tragic sense of life -

I don't see that. I see how one might say it represents 'tragedy", but I don't see how it shows a tragic sense of life. It really does not show any tragedy though. It shows love and grief. More abstractly, it shows a valuer.

With sculpture and painting -- unlike a novel -- one can represent only a very small snapshot of life. It is unfair say a sculpture says "this is life" in a broad sense of "this is the essence of life". It's more appropriate to think of a sculpture or painting as saying "this too is life". 

Personally, I would not want a sculpture garden filled with just happy sculptures: I could go to Disney for that.

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Posted (edited)

54 minutes ago, softwareNerd said:

With sculpture and painting -- unlike a novel -- one can represent only a very small snapshot of life. It is unfair say a sculpture says "this is life" in a broad sense of "this is the essence of life". It's more appropriate to think of a sculpture or painting as saying "this too is life". 

It depends on your personal interpretation. I can definitely imagine somebody looking at a sculpture and seeing the entire essence of life in it.

By itself, an artwork cannot communicate anything beyond what it actually portrays. For example, Bach wasn't a particularly happy man, but he composed things like the very serene C-major prelude. 

But the fact that he chose to portray a very selective part of life, serenity, in spite of his overall view of life, does not affect the artwork with anything. The C major prelude cannot also convey: 'by the way, serenity is just a small part of life' - because it can't be derived directly from the musical elements.

However, as a listener or viewer, you CAN interpret the C major prelude as 'just one part of life', or the Angel of Grief statue as 'not life as it is, just one part of it'.

Edited by KyaryPamyu
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Posted (edited)

5 hours ago, softwareNerd said:

With sculpture and painting -- unlike a novel -- one can represent only a very small snapshot of life.

This is very much the case.  If a novelist writes a 400 page book of nothing but sadness and loss, or if the entire body of work over the course of his career is about nothing but sadness and loss, then you can draw some conclusions about that artist.  However, his style, plotting, pace, etc., might still qualify his works as "great".  But a novel, unlike painting, sculpture or architecture takes place over time. A novel also uses written language as opposed to a visual language and is much more capable of concisely conveying ideas.  Too, a symphony, and certainly one that is programmatic, can convey a large range of emotions over time.  No one would say that the 2nd movement of Rach's 2nd piano concerto is positive or up beat, but it of course sets up the final movement - and therefore it's somberness and sadness plays a crucial overall role in the piece.

Edited by New Buddha

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Posted (edited)

5 hours ago, KyaryPamyu said:

For example, Bach wasn't a particularly happy man,

I don't really agree with this. I've read several biographies on Bach (and own around 70 or 80 cd's of his music - he's probably my favorite over all composer) and by most accounts, he was a successful, accomplished, respected composer and well loved teacher and father (of over 20 children - 10 of which survived to adulthood - which was not atypical of the time).  He was very much subject to the whims of patronage, as were all artists of his time, but he fared better than most.  

Another important point, and you should know this as a trained musician, is that much of Bach's music is not about conveying any particular emotion, and it's certainly not programmatic as was music in the late 19th Century.  There are the cantatas, masses, motets, passions, etc., which set text (often biblical) to music, and in those works his music is written to support the emotion or tone of the text.  But the sonatas, preludes, fugues, ricercars, passacaglias, fantasies, toccatas,  etc. follow very specific musical forms (such as giga, sarabande, allemanda, etc.) .  Polyphonic music (of which he was the undisputed all time master) is primarily an exploration and exposition of musical forms.  He took these forms to heights never seen before, or since, but it's incorrect to listen to that type of music in the same way that you would programmatic music.  And it's very much wrong to draw an overall conclusion about Bach's "sense of life" from any one prelude.

Edited by New Buddha

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Below is the prelude in C by Bach.  It was one of 48 small pieces collectively known as The Well Tempered Clavier.  The title page of the published manuscript has the following:  "For the use and profit of the musical youth desirous of learning and for the pastime of those already skilled in this study".   This collection of pieces (with 24 preludes and 24 fugues, each written in a key) are not trying to communicate a "theme" or "story".  They are inventions and exercises following the prelude and fugal forms.

 

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NB, while the baroque esthetic makes it tricky to say anything about a composer based on his music, it's equally tricky to do so for Romantic composers. For instance, Schumann could write collections of pieces like Kinderszenen, where he masterfully portrayed a vast range of human experience: outbursts of joy, melancholic longing, hopefulness, daydreaming, serenity, silent suffering. The unifying theme of the collection is very broad: "Scenes from childhood" - and the titles of the pieces are merely light performance indications. Quite strikingly, Richard Wagner followed Tristan and Isolde with a comedy, which is pretty much the last thing you'd ever expect from him chronology-wise.

You've echoed what I said in my previous post, that individual artworks cannot be used to pinpoint an artist's sense of life - unless, as you stated, an artist's entire corpus consists of tragic or exalted works. This is why an objective evaluation does not take into account the rest of the artist's works - or his alleged happiness or unhappiness. An artwork's objective meaning is derived exclusively from its contents.

As for Bach, well, it could be argued whether he was truly a happy man or not. But even that C major prelude, regardless of its surrounding context (of it being an exercise etc.) can be treated as a universe in microcosm. So can a statue or a painting. Of course, if we're talking about a large scale work like a Symphony or Concerto, you must judge it as a whole - but the point is that this is equaly true for smaller scale works. 

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23 hours ago, KyaryPamyu said:

I don't mind explicit disagreement as long as it does not affect the spirit of the artwork. This reminds me of the fact that Ayn Rand's favorite writer was an avowed socialist - and he didn't hesistate to put that into his novels. But it can be annoying at times - it depends on how much the ideas are mentioned.

You mean Victor Hugo?  Where do you find that in his novels? 

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Posted (edited)

50 minutes ago, KyaryPamyu said:

....can be treated as a universe in microcosm.

But what does this mean?   A microcosm of what?  a composer's overall sense of life?  You are the one who introduced Bach as unhappy and then related to it his capacity to produce a "serene" prelude.  And the C major is just one of 48 pieces collected under the title The Well Tempered Clavier.  The other 47 pieces are not all "serene".

Edit: I would add that to judge a prelude of Bach's by the criteria of how well it conveys any emotion, such as serenity, is to misunderstand music - especially his and the work of his period.

Edit 2:  Somewhere Rand described the work of Bach as "pre-music" (maybe someone on the forum knows where the quote came from).  By this, I take it to mean that Rand believed that programmatic music was the be-all and end-all of music.  For the most part, programmatic music bores me.

Edit 3:  I found the reference to Bach.

https://books.google.com/books?id=wBT3a_GXE90C&pg=PA299&lpg=PA299&dq=ayn+rand+bach+pre+music&source=bl&ots=u-_9J9Ls4D&sig=TXpOwF-CCt-l5o81Pbb1KXRS17o&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjBsJne85XUAhVDlVQKHVobDUYQ6AEILzAB#v=onepage&q=ayn rand bach pre music&f=false

Edited by New Buddha
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9 hours ago, KyaryPamyu said:

For example, Bach wasn't a particularly happy man, but he composed things like the very serene C-major prelude.

As far as judging meaning, you could say that a song is serene or not based on the tropes and musical vocabulary of Western music. I don't know what makes C-major and C-minor different, except that minor is used when a composer intends something not-so-happy. Eastern music as in Chinese will probably be different for all that. It ends up like words, like how there is no metaphysical fact that the concept dog had to sound like "dog. But, no judgment is possible about meaning unless you know the language.

Wondering what aspect of one's sense of life is reflected by C-major isn't like a language, as we're speaking of emotional reactions and sensations. It's deeper and more personal to an individual. For what reason would either of us say this prelude is serene? This gets into how I was saying personality traits are a factor into both how it feels and how one's mind is able to process music. Even if we agree on serenity in general, not all serenity is equal.

I suppose my point is that the only real uniting aspect for "healthy" senses of life is how one is inclined to think or not to think, and how one is able to process related emotions.

Possibly related:

The initial bit is awesome to hear. But this becomes irritating and repetitive, and I'm left wondering if Wagner has a drop of real artistry. I am pushed to think less, and this rubs me wrong on an emotional level. The sounds are all triumphant to me, except it's like a Michael Bay movie: exaggerated and decadent.

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Posted (edited)

4 hours ago, Eiuol said:

....and I'm left wondering if Wagner has a drop of real artistry.

Lordy.

Keep in mind that this was written for an Opera, and it actually has an libertto.  See the following:

In many ways, it was "movie" music before there were movies.

 

Edited by New Buddha

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1 hour ago, New Buddha said:

Keep in mind that this was written for an Opera, and it actually has an libertto.  See the following:

That line was exaggerated on purpose. :P

I don't like Wagner a lot as it is, and he does "feel" bombastic to me.

1 hour ago, New Buddha said:

In many ways, it was "movie" music before there were movies.

That's my point. It's fine for 3ish minutes. Not for 10 minutes. But do remember I have no opera experience. That does affect how I feel.

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17 hours ago, Ninth Doctor said:

You mean Victor Hugo?  Where do you find that in his novels? 

Les Miserables

17 hours ago, New Buddha said:

A microcosm of what?  a composer's overall sense of life?

No. Of nothing less and nothing more than what is in the artwork.

17 hours ago, New Buddha said:

The other 47 pieces are not all "serene"

Yes. And?

17 hours ago, New Buddha said:

Edit: I would add that to judge a prelude of Bach's by the criteria of how well it conveys any emotion, such as serenity, is to misunderstand music - especially his and the work of his period.

No.

Doctrine of the affections

How did Baroque composers relate to human emotions?

Listen to the monumental Chaccone for solo violin, and tell me that what makes it great is the addherence to the Chaccone form, its counterpoint, its variational ideas. Those mean absolutely nothing if they do not serve the primary: human experience.

I get it. Bach wrote exercises, preludes, fugues, minuets, riceracs, passacaglias. The particular mood he choose for each of them was not his primary, or only consideration. He was a masterful technician.

I know many advocates of absolute music, of music being about "its abstract form" and so on. It is a big fraud. It attempts to divorce human beings from music, a form of the art for art's sake doctrine. Mind versus body. 

Art is for man's sake, and music that does not convey human experience is not music, period.

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Posted (edited)

2 hours ago, KyaryPamyu said:

I know many advocates of absolute music, of music being about "its abstract form" and so on. It is a big fraud. It attempts to divorce human beings from music, a form of the art for art's sake doctrine. Mind versus body. 

To be clear, I'm not advocating Art for Art's sake, nor am I suggesting that this is how one should approach Bach's (or any Baroque composer's) music.  Bach could not have written program music if he had wanted too.  It would take the contribution of the ideas and inventions/discoveries of many composers before  that would be possible.

Thanks for the link to the Doctrine of Affections.  That's interesting.

In another post, I wrote about the rise in the 20th Century of the doctrine of "Art for Art's Sake".  The idea had a huge (negative) impact on Architecture and arose from the dominate Positivist ideas (of Ernst Mach) in the late 19th Century and Logical Positivism of the 20th Century.

 

Edited by New Buddha

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9 hours ago, KyaryPamyu said:

I find that Rand's liking of Dostoyevsky is one of the essential examples to use, to understand her concept of Roantic art.

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9 hours ago, softwareNerd said:

I find that Rand's liking of Dostoyevsky is one of the essential examples to use, to understand her concept of Roantic art.

According to the Q&A in this transcript, she didn't particulalry enjoy reading Dostoyevsky. She said that she mostly read him 'for information or knowledge'.

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59 minutes ago, KyaryPamyu said:

According to the Q&A in this transcript, she didn't particulalry enjoy reading Dostoyevsky. She said that she mostly read him 'for information or knowledge'.

My point was about Rand's concept of "Romanticism". Dostoyevski is a Romantic author.

Thanks for the link to the transcript. I guess I should add Byron to the example too: since she calls him a Romantic writer while also saying he has a malevolent world view.

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On 5/30/2017 at 9:42 AM, KyaryPamyu said:

Thanks for the link, good job isolating that section.  I don't this is the place (the thread) to get into a debate on whether Hugo was a socialist; we'd have to go into the political context in which he was writing etc.  Let it suffice that the line: “democratise property, not by abolishing it, but by universalising it, in such a way that every citizen without exception may be a proprietor” marks Hugo as a 19th century liberal; very far from a modern day socialist.  Recall that Valjean was a very successful businessman before unmasking himself as a former convict.

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