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  • Birthday 11/06/1986

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    In my spare time, I read nonfiction, write poetry, and play the tenor recorder.

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    I'm studying Classics and English lit at the University of Tennessee. I'm studying with an eye toward creating a workable cultural theory for the academy, one that rejects postmodernism and uses the modernist authors as a neoclassical canon.
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  1. In other words, no. Consider my laziness duly exposed and me, personally, duly chastened.
  2. I started a thread because of the very narrow constraint of the question. It's not unlikely the same issue has been touched on--but I'm curious about the specific application of principle with the particular circumstance, rather than about the broader issues and circumstances. If the discussion won't stand to be renewed, though, by all means clear my clutter.
  3. I realize that filesharing discussions must be thick on the ground, but this is a very close-hemmed question in applied ethics. Is it ethical to transfer a copy of a piece of music you own to someone else, electronically, in order that he might listen to it for purposes of exposure or explanation? Presuming he deletes it after lending it his attention for the purposes of your discussion, what has transpired is functionally equivalent to playing the piece for a friend; on the empirical level, however, a copy has been made and released from your personal oversight, at which point its integrity may be abused. Is this scenario ethical anyway? If this has already been discussed, I apologize for resurrecting a finished issue.
  4. Full disclosure: I only read the essays; RM is on my reading list, but aside from its quotations in the essays and lectures, I am not familiar with it. I think the central idea from which my line of questioning extends is the notion that an art object has a concrete identity of its own: When you say that "art can represent formal concepts in the abstract without necessarily making any sort of referent, in its execution, to reality or concrete things," I would contend that the art object itself, being a concrete thing, can concretize the formal and abstract concepts in its own body, to the extent that the formal principles which allow it to exist qua itself do not allow for the expression of any other principle, q.v. Mondriaan: You simply cannot construe his De Stijl compositions as representing non-orderly formal principles; it's not possible. There's more room for a reading like the one you suggested, that his orderliness is a repressive and malevolent view of the world; on the other hand, notice that the recognition of order as a central principle inescapable in either case. It's qualities like this--formal elements of a work which cannot be misconstrued--which I think refer strictly to the art object itself; that is to say, I think the statement is to the form of "This composition exists in a meaningful sense because it is orderly," rather than "This composition refers to ORDER." I realize that it sounds as though I'm invoking a platonic solid, but I really don't mean to; I do think, however, that the set of qualities which are identifiably orderly--especially in the constructed neoclassical sense of what proportion, harmony, etc. represent to man--have a meaningful and consistent presence which carries moral connotations. This is to say that, yes, order as a concept has meaning only with reference to things in reality; and a Mondriaan is a thing in reality. I mean this beyond the sense that "my furniture is a thing, I can walk into it and hurt myself;" but that the pictoral elements of the work become concretized in a manner that makes an object out of an idea, that solidifies the abstract into the tangible. This is to say not only "This painting exists" but "what is painted on the painting exists, ideally as well as physically." The reason I keep gesturing toward idealism is because I think we need to, if we are going to apprehend music or literature. Non-idealist readings of the material visual arts works fine, but they begin to break down when you no longer have something you can hang on your wall: Where does a poem exist when there are three copies of it? No copies? Where is the choreography when it's not being performed? What is a piece of music made of when it's not being performed, and what does it refer to when it is? I see why you would call my reading of Mondriaan and Pollock "psychologizing," but I mean them as statements of principle, in that I think that you simply cannot compose in the manner of either painter without operating on the positive or negative principles I suggested--whether or not the artist thinks he's operating along those lines, the moral content is the same. No sane person would paint in the manner of De Stijl unless he were celebrating orderliness; to celebrate order is to make all of the assertions that I put in Mondriaan's mouth. Thanks for your thoughtful attention! This is rapidly becoming more a discussion about the visual arts than about music, but I think the digression is justified. If I'm making any egregious mistakes in reasoning, please tell me--this line of argument is a work in progress for me.
  5. I read these lectures, and see what the basic issue here is. I retract my earlier speculation that Objectivist aesthetics are on the wrong track; this isn't quite the case. Objectivist aesthetics are resting wholly one one rail of the right track. I think I can preach the whole homily from one verse: (Peter Saint-Andre, "Psycho-Epistemology of Art") That point of connexion between the concrete and the abstract is both absolutely necessary to our understanding of art as well as an incomplete point. It's necessary because it explains how we can recognize value statements in non-linguistic objects--a picture can describe a discourse only because it represents abstracts by the means of a concrete--and is incomplete because it is being applied only to representational art, and as far as I can tell, almost inevitably to art of the human figure. I think that Rand's conception that "Art is a selective re-creation of reality according to an artist's metaphysical value-judgments" is an important one, but its manifestation so far implies that the artist can only do so by representing reality on a pictorially mimetic level. This is especially problematic when one moves away from the visual arts and into music, and by considering the problems of applying Objectivist aesthetics to music, it is becoming clearer that we are missing an apparatus for apprehending the arts on a formal level qua metaphysical judgment. When I call a work of art a "focus," I do so in the same sense that Rand writes, in "Art and Cognition," that "The sensory-perceptual awareness of an adult ... [consists] .. of integrations that combine sense data with a vast context of conceptual knowledge. The visual arts refine and direct the sensory elements of these integrations." The refinement and direction of the sensory elements in the work of art demands the refinement and direction of the perception; art at its core level is a call to concentrated attention on a concretized frame of reference. This frame, however, can be non-figurative, because we really are apprehending an abstract: That's why we're able to approach a Mondriaan; it's a concrete realization of abstract ideas of order, balance, and the interrelation of visual objects on the most nonfigurative level--the art is acting mimetically to itself, to the province of the ideal, not to the concrete world. I think that we can extend the idea of the metaphysical value-judgment away from works with a clear figurative narrative; because when Mondriaan makes an abstract painting he is demonstrating, by formal means, salubrious concepts: That man can order the world on abstract levels, that the world reflects an ideal order, that man himself can be a structured and balanced audience to structured and balanced art. Conversely, when Pollock makes an abstract painting, he is demonstrating by formal means a worldview that may not be malevolent, but is certainly destructive: That the artist's feelings and impulses are more important than his concepts, that a mood is more important than an analysis, that personality is more important than precision, etc. Because I can only conceive of music as purely formal, I think that distinctions like these are paramount. It can only make statements on formal, not narrative, grounds; as it stands, Objectivist aesthetics are only equipped to evaluate art objects where figurative or linguistic representation produces a narrative. When art is a point of connexion between the abstract and the concrete, the formal qualities of the concrete should give us information about the abstracts, particularly when no figurative content is available to us. This is the basis on which I ask whether the abstract formal principles of minimalist music can be considered salubrious or not. As to the electric ball analogy, I mean the core to be the intellect and the focus to be the object of aesthetic apprehension; i.e. the music is not creating the concentrated electricity of the emotional response, it's giving the intellectual core a point to direct its emotional response toward.
  6. I think I'm contesting the idea that "the intellectual and emotional significance of music are of equal importance," because I think that the one must inevitably proceed from the other or be mis-applied. What I mean by this is that ideally, one's emotional response to a piece of art should be the heartfelt response to the representation of one's values. When we respond emotionally to AS or a picture of a cute kitten, we are saying quite a lot about our value systems--but the emotion generated is internal. You know those vacuum balls with the electrified cores, that focus the charge in a lightning tendril when you touch them? It looks as though your finger is electrifying the core, but the core is actually responding to a focus. I'd say that music and the emotions work the same way. Because music has to operate as a focus, its intellectuality becomes particularly important: I would definitely say that elevator music is not intellectual, because it lacks complexity and focus. If anything, it's the opposite of intellectual art, because it diffuses intellectual and emotional focus. I really do need to read RM. It would be nice to have citations to argue against--I think that Objectivist aesthetic theory may be on the wrong track right now inasmuch as it seems (as far as I can tell) to deal strictly with content, without having an apparatus to deal with form-as-content. This is of course only the most impressionistic of sentiments at this point. Don't think that I'm trying to provoke you into further discussion if you'd like to bow out--I'm trying to contextualize my earlier ideas in order to make my position clearer to anyone else who might happen along.
  7. Point taken about the capitalization. I'll be more careful. Now, as for apprehending the aesthetics of music qua music's effect on the brain--that isn't what we do when we apprehend visual art, for instance, so I would posit that we should be able to make the same kind of claims about the ontological basis for music as for literature or visual art. I realize this is a counterintuitive idea, because a fugue and a mosaic are such radically different objects; on the other hand, I think one has the best of reasons to try to identify the ontological root of art. Plato's idea that beautiful things are beautiful through the agency of Beauty as a form is similar to what I'm looking for here--the "idea" of art, the qualitative template by which an object becomes an art object. This is of course not to propose that "art" is a platonic idea, or that platonic ideas are a useful or stable component to today's philosophy; but I do think that intellectual rigor requires one to seek out the core principles of any concept, as it relates to man's intellectual "discourse" with the world and the world's properties. That's why I say that the aesthetics of music should be kept in the theoretical, rather than neurological, realm. Science will inevitably display the chemical-biological basis for our apprehension of music's meaning--how we apprehend music--but I think the task remains to us to determine the intellectual basis for that apprehension, i.e., why we apprehend it and what the value of that apprehension is. I am primarily a theorist of literature, specifically of poetry--I'm a New Critic trying to revise and expand John Crowe Ransom's critical work--so this will of course inform my take on music. I don't have a stance I'm willing to put forth in completion, yet, but I do think that we have good reason not to apprehend music as a primarily emotional genre, for these reasons: First, I think that what we usually mean when we say that music is emotional in nature is that it suggests or raises emotional states in its audience. But of course this is to say that an audience will respond to music in an emotional way, rather than to say that music is itself emotional: For, after all, nothing inorganic can have an emotion of any kind, and certainly nothing nonhuman can have an emotion in a meaningful sense. Though music originates with a human composer and terminates in an audience, the phase it actually exists in--the phase in which we apprehend it--is immediately divorced from its human roots and must be reapprehended on human terms in order to be meaningful. If a Martian windmill squeaks in perfect fifths, it takes a listener to lend that musical consonance meaning. Second, much of our great music is emotionally ineffective. A great deal of Baroque music simply does not carry an emotional burden: Consider Bach's organ fugues. There is a certain tension to this music, which makes it stirring--but to take the famous example, I would posit that without its accumulated patina of the Gothic, the Toccata and Fugue in Dm would arouse nothing like foreboding in the listener. To take another stirring example that many people have heard, consider the Little Fugue in Gm: If one were to try to identify its emotional content, he would be hard pressed. The effect is strictly intellectual, and the pleasure it arouses, I would argue, is the pleasure of apprehending great order on human terms. I realize that you didn't in any way posit that music is emotion: These arguments are intended primarily to contend that emotional impact should be a secondary consideration in our apprehension of music, if at all. This means that the philosophical implications of music as a genre are particularly important: It's true that all people have the same emotional states, but an evilly induced intellectual state should proceed from an evil intellectual model, it would stand to reason. If music is primarily intellectual, then it stands to reason that the intellectual model of a genre--cf. the question at hand--will produce music either pernicious or healthful, depending on its own nature. For instance, the basic implications of an organ fugue run along lines like "Music is a massive system; music follows the development and conclusion of thought; music mirrors the intellect of its creator; music inherently makes sense," and so forth. These premises seem necessary to obey the genre in its classical form; you can't (or wouldn't) produce a fugue if you think that man's intellect is essentially impotent and that his apprehension of order is an illusion. Is this clarifying the intellectual problems I'm working toward at all? I'm in a difficult position, because I have a number of propositions but no clear conclusion or working system. The reason I bring this issue to the Objectivist board is that my goal here is to examine an essentially moralistic view of music and musical aesthetics. Salubrious music? Gad! I hate sounding like a neoplatonist.
  8. I thought it was interesting that the things you included on your own part--variation in line thickness, changes in angle in what would otherwise be (I presume) a grid--both decrease the "machined" quality of what would have otherwise been produced, and that both elements are essentially irrelevant to the mathematical process at work--but also not really under your control; they were produced mechanically. It puts you in a strange position as the creator of the object, and raises questions about the extent to which you really are in control of the end product--taken another level out, it makes one consider questions like "who owns mathematics?" and "what happens to information when it is used to generate essentially non-informative objects, i.e., objects which operate in a different mode of cognition (visual and aesthetic rather than mathematical and descriptive) than the one the new object represents?" I think you might find the De Stijl movement interesting, which appeals to mathematical and geometrical principles on the level of pure compositional logic. The artists of de Stijl made art that looked like math, but wasn't; you're trying to make art that looks like math, and is math.
  9. This is an issue that touches close to heart for me; I listen almost exclusively to early, baroque and 21st century minimalist classical music. In browsing through the discussions on here I've noticed that taste on in classical music on these boards almost never runs far into the 21st century. Further, from what I've read by and about the major composers of the movement--Glass comes to mind, and to a lesser extent, Cage--the composers themselves openly and cheerfully identify with eastern mysticism and All the Issues. Philip Glass is a buddhist, or something of that nature. My personal favorite, Michael Nyman, doesn't seem as interested in intellectual toxins of this kind, but I have no clear idea of what his stated principles are. On the other hand, every time I hear his second string quartet I think of Halley. I have two related questions, then. Is it possible from an objectivist standpoint to produce art operating on valid principles, although one intends the art to work on different principles entirely? Case in point: Glass suggests that minimalist music is a vehicle for breaking down western ideas about structure, form and meaning in classical music, and that it puts the audience into an eastern meditative state which ideally overwhelms and undermines the personality. Dreadful stuff. On the other hand, I personally find that the structure of other minimalist music--like Adams', or Cage's--puts me into a very clarified, analytical, primarily intellectual (rather than emotional) state, which is quite the opposite of Glass's program but very congenial to my needs. N.B., I do not feel this way about Glass's music--I think it's very messy, lowbrow stuff, his toxic ideas about life aside. The second question is more general. What kind of moral and cultural ideas do you think are implied or supported by the best of minimalist music--Michael Nyman and Joby Talbot's lyric minimalism, for instance, or John Cage's pieces for the prepared piano, or Adams' orchestral "Walls of Sound" compositions? I'm new here and still formulating my own ideas on the subject, and I'd like to see what others think.
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