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Music,Memory, and Assault

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avampirist
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More and more I am realizing the implications of Rand's ideas on the psycho-epistemology of music.

Not only does a song either integrate or disintegrate your mind, so long as you are in the same room while it's playing, but I think it continues to do so for a period of time afterwards. I don't have a great understanding of how memory functions, but what I've noticed is that, after I listen to a song, it stays in my head for a period of time, occasionally recurring in my conscious -and most like subconscious - thought. I notice it when I tap my foot, or fingers, to the rhythm of the song. The song appears to stay in my memory, until I hear a new song, or until such a period of time has passed that I've simply forgotten. I find similarities between this and drinking. It will depress your consciousness for a period of time, until you replace the intrusion on your body.

The implications of this are enormous, as I'm sure many of you already know. Your thought pattern conforms to the math of the music. If the math behind the pitch and rhythm of the song of the music is 2+2=4, your thoughts will run in that pattern. It literally makes you dumber or smarter, to the extent to which you focus on it. If you focus more intensely on it, the affects will be even greater. In the same way that everyone has no choice but to solve the problems of their visual surroundings, to at least a minimal degree, audio perception must affect us in a similar way, probably more-so than any of us realize. I think you can literally gain a sense of life by being exposed to music, like any form of art. Out of every form of art, music is more easily inflicted upon others. Visual art can affect up by means of billboards and such, but you won't see a man running down the street flashing a giant poster depicting death. Music can be more vulgar, or perhaps I'm overlooking the affects of visual art. That is another discussion.

For these reasons,and in all seriousness, I've come to resent public music as a form of assault, not just a nuisance. If someone neglects to put salt on an ice patch outside a store, I may or may not slip on it. But I will not slip on it repeatedly all day! I can see this being an issue in an Objectivist society. This must be one of the most overlooked attacks on the mind. Car alarms are just the instances you notice most. Think of all the hidden attacks you're not aware of.

Consider those drivers who blast their tunes, almost in some desperate plea for self-validation. It is no less than fear mongering. Subconsciously, they know they are attacking you, and they want to inflict pain upon you. They are saying, "This is the tune of my tribe". It is meant to be a call to arms, simultaneously seeking comraderie and inciting fear in the enemy. Note that I've never pulled up to a red light and had J.S. Bach blasted in my ear.

Edited by avampirist
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More and more I am realizing the implications of Rand's ideas on the psycho-epistemology of music.
Are these really her implications, or your insinuations?
"At present, our understanding of music is confined to the gathering of material, i.e., to the level of descriptive observations. Until it is brought to the stage of conceptualization, we have to treat musical tastes or preferences as a subjective matter--not in the metaphysical, but in the epistemological sense; i.e., not in the sense that these preferences are, in fact, causeless and arbitrary, but in the sense that we do not know their cause. 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."
For these reasons,and in all seriousness, I've come to resent public music as a form of assault, not just a nuisance. If someone neglects to put salt on an ice patch outside a store, I may or may not slip on it. But I will not slip on it repeatedly all day! I can see this being an issue in an Objectivist society.
I disagree. I think there might be a case against "noise pollution" on a certain extreme level, but the idea of charging some guy in the next apartment with assault because he was practicing his piano and you don't like chopsticks is quite frightening to me!
Note that I've never pulled up to a red light and had J.S. Bach blasted in my ear.
I have heard people playing classical music loud in their cars. But, one reason you're less likely to hear Back in the next car than someone playing rap or heavy metal music is that classical music tends to be recorded more in the midrange, as opposed to the other styles which have more bass frequencies, which carry much further. Most instruments used in classical music, with the exception of the big bass drums which might hit only a few times at climactic parts of a song are no match for much of the highly rhythmical, drum and bass oriented music that is popular today. Of course, classical music is much less popular than those other styles in our culture, but even if it were being listened to at high volumes it might not seem as loud to someone in the next car.
Where can I find out about Rand's ideas on the psycho-epistemology of music?
She wrote about it in The Romantic Manifesto, but was very careful to point out that her ideas were only hypotheses, and that more scientific research into how music effects people is needed before any objective conclusions about the artistic value of particular pieces can be reached.
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In the chapter "Art and Cognition" in The Romantic Manifesto I found 123 hits with for the word "music", so that is a great place, Ragtime, for more information.

She wrote about it in The Romantic Manifesto, but was very careful to point out that her ideas were only hypotheses, and that more scientific research into how music effects people is needed before any objective conclusions about the artistic value of particular pieces can be reached.

Yes, she also wrote:

Until a conceptual vocabulary is discovered and defined, no objectively valid criterion of esthetic judgment is possible in the field of music.

Keep in mind that we have *just* been talking about musical pieces - but - when lyrics come into the music...also come the judgments which can (at times) be done objectively. We certainly can judge the lyrics of say, "Gangsta Rap", the lyrics of Death Metal bands, which in my opinion both can have some of the most morally repulsive lyrics in all of music, not to mention all the mysticism that can be present in lyrics, etc. But importantly *any* lyrics, ideas, thoughts put into the music...or even the titles of the pieces themselves too can all at times be judged objectively.

Edited by intellectualammo
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Note that I've never pulled up to a red light and had J.S. Bach blasted in my ear.

Most classical music is not well suited for listening to in the car. Or at least not my car. I try from time to time, but even with the volume cranked up all the way, I have trouble hearing most of it over the road noise, wind, my exhaust, etc. :D

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Bold Standard + Ender: I know that Rand was very explicit in stating that it's hypothetical, but what did she say about the other arts? Is there a criterion of judgment for the other forms of art? Can we currently claim objective superiority of painting over another?

Here's an experiment for you: Sit subject A in a room for 24 hours, with a car alarm playing in the background . Sit subject B in a room, with Bach playing, for 24 hours.

Observe their emotional states afterwards.

Art integrates or disintegrates the mind, according to Rand. If music doesn't have these affects, then doesn't it cease to be art?

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Bold Standard + Ender: I know that Rand was very explicit in stating that it's hypothetical, but what did she say about the other arts? Is there a criterion of judgment for the other forms of art? Can we currently claim objective superiority of painting over another?

I'm not really qualified to answer this since I haven't read much on Objectivist interpretation of art.

Here's an experiment for you: Sit subject A in a room for 24 hours, with a car alarm playing in the background . Sit subject B in a room, with Bach playing, for 24 hours.

Observe their emotional states afterwards.

Who is making the claim that a car alarm is "art" or "music"? It's obvious that the person forced to listen to a car alarm will be in a worse emotional state than the person who listened to Bach, but what exactly is that meant to prove?

Edited by Ender
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Bold Standard + Ender: I know that Rand was very explicit in stating that it's hypothetical, but what did she say about the other arts? Is there a criterion of judgment for the other forms of art? Can we currently claim objective superiority of painting over another?

Here's an experiment for you: Sit subject A in a room for 24 hours, with a car alarm playing in the background . Sit subject B in a room, with Bach playing, for 24 hours.

Observe their emotional states afterwards.

Art integrates or disintegrates the mind, according to Rand. If music doesn't have these affects, then doesn't it cease to be art?

I don't believe anyone is claiming that music is not art and cannot be judged--Ayn Rand was stating, bascially, that she hadn't worked it out fully enough to be able to state the Objectivist position on how to do so.

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  • 7 months later...
Bold Standard + Ender: I know that Rand was very explicit in stating that it's hypothetical, but what did she say about the other arts? Is there a criterion of judgment for the other forms of art? Can we currently claim objective superiority of painting over another?

Here's an experiment for you: Sit subject A in a room for 24 hours, with a car alarm playing in the background . Sit subject B in a room, with Bach playing, for 24 hours.

Observe their emotional states afterwards.

Art integrates or disintegrates the mind, according to Rand. If music doesn't have these affects, then doesn't it cease to be art?

Bach for 24 hours straight? I'd be stark raving mad.

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