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Posts posted by T-Doc

  1. Also, to say “I don’t know I don’t know” is a stupid superficiality, when “I don’t know” is all you need to say. Nothing is nothing, and it can't be discussed. Your question doesn’t mean anything, so I don’t know what kind of answer you are after.

    Not to speak for someone else, but I think he was talking about things the existence of which we don't yet (and may never) have the tools or knowledge to discover, but which nevertheless exist. For example, Newton didn't know that he didn't know about relativity.

  2. This could be the underlying reason, but she isn't spinning it that way.

    Well, yeah, the reasons she actually gave were incoherent. She declares she's not running for re-election, and since that would make her a lame duck, she doesn't want to do what other lame ducks have done (travel, have fun, etc.), and she must therefore resign immediately. QED!

    Faced with such nonsense, we must look at the most reasonable explanations if we're going to join in the speculative game.

  3. There seems to be an obvoius explanation that many are overlooking: Sarah Palin is a mother acting according to her rational self-interest as such.

    Her oldest son is in increasingly hostile Afganistan, her older daughter is a young unwed mother, her younger daughter was perceived by many to have been defamed on national television, and her baby son is afflicted with Down's. She has had umpteen ethics charges successfully defended at her own expense ($500,000 last I heard), but there's no sign of these coming to an end. The media have been relentless in their attacks on her and her family. In resigning, she is perhaps acting according to her own hierarchy of values, putting her family's welfare ahead of her political career, and even ahead of "the state of Alaska", whatever that might mean. If so, it's extraordinarily courageous and I applaud her.

    (I suppose this corresponds to #4 above.)

  4. "What piece of music/composer do you folks think would best represent Objectivism?"

    I prefer music that not only makes an impact on first hearing, but that rewards repeated listenings and close study, revealing not just "inspiration" but also the competence and craftsmanship of the composer. As a musicologist (currently writing my PhD diss, which I should be doing now instead of posting this) I like to get under the hood and see how pieces "work" - indeed, that's why I got into musicology, which is the study of music, after all.

    That said, number 1 on my list has to be Beethoven. My god, do I feel powerful when I listen to Beethoven! And the more closely I study his music (which, thankfully, one still does a lot of in school), the more I feel that way. No one depicted human struggle and triumph more forcefully, and he achieved this compositionally in part by pushing and stretching the constraints of the strict Classical forms of Mozart and Haydn, without which he simply would not have been Beethoven. To break the mold you first need a mold, thus it's impossible to fully appreciate his music without an intimate knowledge of the mold itself - the Classical style he inherited - which takes time and effort and some fundamental musical-theoretical knowledge (perhaps partially explaining Rand's apparent undervaluation).

    "As a side, who here is familiar with Mussorgsky?"

    Mussorgsky was one of the first Russian nationalist composers, part of a group of five often referred to as "The Mighty Handful". Previously, Russian composers were trained in Western Europe (Paris, usually), and composed in Western styles. The nationalists felt it their duty to create a Russian musical tradition based on folk music and the Russian language - a bit of a return to the primitive, if you will. They were largely self-taught, and their music, while capturing some of the uniquely Russian spirit, lacked the polish and craftsmanship of their Western-trained colleagues.

    Consequently, Mussorgsky wasn't much of an orchestrator, and "Pictures at an Exhibition" was composed for piano. Much of the majesty of the work's finale, "The Great Gates of Kiev", as well as most of the interest of the work as a whole (imho), is due to the later orchestration by Ravel. That said, he's fun to listen to, very exciting and affecting music. He just doesn't blow me away with the mastery of his work.

  5. "the English language has been pushed to its limits, that it's an artificial construct and a compromise, so in order not to devolve into grunts, I'm going to devise a new system of language...not Chinese, not German, not Spanish, they've been pushed as well, and are also artificial. No, I'm going to liberate the word from the paragraph, and the letter from the word, so that every letter is as important as the next. We have WAR AND PEACE, there is no where left to go with the language."

    Excellent point. The only response that comes to mind is "But music is different", which is admittedly lame. The fact is that musical style changes quickly over time in ways that language does not. Perhaps the semantic content in language gives it stability while musical expectations are continually reset by new works, which must slightly deviate from existing expectations in order to be interesting. The medium and the content are intermingled in music.

  6. "You say the "tonal system was disintegrating." How does a tonal system disintegrate? Does the sound decay? No, it was not the tonal system, it was the minds using the tonal system that could be said to be in decay...if that's even the case."

    That was sloppy shorthand on my part. Composers work within stylistic constraints that evolve over time, and this evolution is guided by the cumulative choices of composers. In order for composers and their works to have an impact, they must "push the envelope" of listener expectations by stretching these inherited constraints.

    The style inherited by Schoenberg had had its constraints stretched to the point that its lynchpin--the association of dissonance with tension and consonance with resolution--finally gave out. Schoenberg could have chosen to work within an older style in which these associations were still intact, but it would have been impossible to avoid a sense of second-handedness as those "envelopes" had already been pushed by others. Also, audiences expectations had moved beyond the old constraints.

    "There was dissatisfaction with the diatonic scale and the tonal system. But was the solution to construct a complex system without heirarchy, i.e., the tonal row?"

    It was A solution, yes. Not ideal, though, as I explained.

    "There's also the matter of the political implications of the 12-tone row. Schoenberg, Adorno, Varese, et. al spoke of "liberation" and freedom of sound from heirarchy...because heirarchy was "unnatural." This is an endorsement of anarchy, or communism."

    I never said I agreed with his politics. I admire what he did, not what he said.

    "You suggest that man-made scales cannot have an emotional impact?"

    I suggest no such thing. The even-tempered scale is a rather arbitrary compromise that renders certain intervals out of tune in order to accommodate key changes on instruments of fixed pitch. Basing the system on these de-tunings rather than on pure frequency ratios guaranteed that the brain would not perceive the music in the same, emotionally immediate way.

    "Or, in Schoenberg's own words, "In this music, the only thing that still matters is the particular, the now and here of the musical events, their own inner logic." "

    Sounds like something Roark would say!

  7. Schoenberg the hero

    Intellectually, I view Schoenberg as probably the most heroic—and perhaps tragic—figure in 20th-century music. Had Rand been as well-versed in music as she was in the other arts, I think she would have agreed.

    To get an idea of Schoenberg’s sense of life, listen to his early work, Verklarte Nacht, composed in more of a late-Romantic idiom. As Schoenberg came of age, the tonal system on which Western music had been based for centuries was disintegrating. What was emerging was a much more primitive language largely influenced by dadaist principles that was utterly incapable of the sophisticated expressive range of the music that came before—and this was just fine with many composers of the day. To the superior intellect that Schoenberg indisputably possessed, however, it was a nightmare. Imagine, as some already have in this thread, if Shakespeare (or Hugo, or Rand herself) lived in a culture with a primitive language with only 500 words, or if Michelangelo had only mud and clay to work with.

    Schoenberg agonized over this situation, although he didn’t put it in those terms. What he did was to single-handedly construct a sophisticated musical language in which he (and most importantly, others) could once again create complex, expressive works. The 12-tone system he devised enabled him to apply his intellect to his craft without self-consciously adopting a style that had such strong associations with the previous generation, a style that had been exhaustively mined at any rate.

    Other composers who felt caught in the same trap adopted his compositional technique to suit their own purposes, creating radically different and stylistically coherent works of their own, truly qualifying Schoenberg’s system as a “language” in its own right. The 12-tone system soon became the standard musical language for academic music for most of the remainder of the century.

    Unfortunately, the 12-tone system was based on an artifact of the even-tempered Western scale rather than on nature, resulting in music that failed to have the same direct emotional impact as earlier music, which relied on the brain’s perception of natural harmonies (i.e. closely associated frequency ratios) to achieve its effects. Also, the language was not easily mastered, and many subsequent composers corrupted the system by introducing randomness and other anti-rational elements until most listeners—and many composers—could not tell the difference, just as the uninitiated cannot tell the difference between a complex computer language and gibberish made to look as such.

    Schoenberg’s heroicism lies in his refusal to accept the constraints of the primitive post-tonal language on his intellect, and in his largely successful efforts to forge from the chaos a language in which to once again express profound musical thoughts. His tragedy lies in the doomed condition of a language that does not correspond to nature, and in the failure of audiences and subsequent composers to appreciate what he managed to achieve.

    In other words, Schoenberg was much closer to Howard Roark than to Lois Cook, though the same cannot be said of his successors.

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