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No Wave and Noise Rock

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No Wave and Noise Rock music are probably not what Ayn Rand would have liked. I reason this based on the fact that I think I remember Dagny Taggart saying that atonal music is bad in Atlas Shrugged.

Now I have not read The Romantic Manifesto so bear with me. From what I understand, Rand believes that the best kind of art is art that is uplifting. Noise Rock and No Wave music are not really uplifting, and for a reference you can listen to just about any song by the Swans.

The general feeling one will probably get from these genres is confusion, but with a band like Sonic Youth that confusion is mixed with a punk song. The lyrics and the artists are influenced by post-modernists, something I dread, but I still have a liking for this music.

Basically, I want to understand why Ayn Rand's position on art is that the best is the kind that lifts one's self-esteem. Wouldn't the best art be the art that is the best means to one's own end? I mean, I love No Wave because it helps me enter a state of deep thought, kind of like when I am playing chess. Minimalist post-rock music generally gives me the same feeling, such as Godspeed You! Black Emperor. All these artists are all anarchists and post-modernists who deny reason and such, yet there music is more appealing to me than any "romantic" artist I have ever heard. Am I listening wrong?

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Rand said that "Until a conceptual vocabulary is discovered and defined, no objectively valid criterion of esthetic judgment is possible in the field of music". Of course, this does not mean you shouldn't actually try to objectively judge music. Even still, you should at least judge your emotional response to music. But I do think here is one way to tell if music is any good that works in some cases. If a piece of music is essentially just noise, as in sounds are made with no rational or planned order, then it is not good. I don't mean that ANY noise used means music is bad, only if that's ALL it is. You should link some music that you're trying to evaluate.

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Hi, Focus. You might want to check out my blog, orpheusremembered.blogspot.com. There, I address Rand's theory of music in-depth, and I do talk about the psychology of how music evokes emotions. I invite you to read the blog first, before venturing out into forum-land; in the spirit of understanding better WHY you like what you do. While music discussions on O'ists forums have a history of veering off-course and devolve into personal arguments, agendas, and vendettas, Orpheus Remembered is a bit more restrained, even-handed and calmer, so you're not on trial, and can make up your own mind. You should probably read THE ROMANTIC MANIFESTO first, just to be familiar with Rand's arguments and ideas on the subject, which I address at length.

Incidentally, while I'm not a fan of most "noise rock" or "atonal" pieces of the Edgard Varese variety, I am a big fan of Pink Floyd's early music, which contains many "noise" passages; unlike most of the noise stuff that I've heard and didn't like, their stuff seems to have a certain "musicality" to it that is due, in part, to their applying their architectural training to composition. I always thought that interesting, given the description in THE FOUNTAINHEAD of architecture as "music frozen in stone."

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Unlike writing, where proper grammar and punctuation aids in the communication of the meaning of the words written on the page, music does not possess any type of formality used to help "understand" what is being expressed. Of course, music uniquely surpasses this requirement because sound is such a personal and non-structured entity, which does not serve any purpose other than art. Paintings and literature and film can all objectively project not merely art, but facts, information, and things of this nature as well. Music cannot portray things of this nature, and thus its only purpose for humanity, thus far, is to make art. We do not use it to communicate or mate like birds do. It is only for our enjoyment and expression of abstract ideas.

That's why I think that in order to apply an Objectivist context to music, we need to examine it not by trying to make a standardized system for objectively analyzing music, because that would be simply absurd. Music doesn't have anything objective to portray outside of very culturally-defined and composer-defined aspects, so it would be senseless to assign objective values to it other than descriptions of the notational type.

That being said, what we also need to remember about Ayn Rand's personal views on music is the context of time. When she formed these views, electronics did not exist in music as they do today.

The contemporary experimentation and innovation occurring among musicians who utilize electronics in their works is necessitating a revision on conventional wisdom regarding music. It is quite clear that music does not have to be tonal for it to be good, nor for it to be romantic realist as Ayn Rand regards the best art as being.

The noise music being made today (particularly in the aesthetic style of the Swans) does display a great amount of romanticism to it, though it needs to be examined through the lens of their aesthetic instead of traditional orchestral or acoustic instrument lens. Simply put, it's foolish to consider music being made mostly with foot pedals through the eyes of a string quartet musician. The manipulation of timbres in the music of the Swans is incredibly telling to those who understand what's going on. It's just as heroic and romantic as Mahler; it just takes a far different approach to achieving this sound.

Bands like this, in fact, make me think we need to really start to appreciate and understand the role that timbre has in contemporary music. I'm not talking about bullshit pop music, but rather musicians like Alva Noto, Rioji Ikeda, and Tim Hecker. So much of what the modern sound architect uses to make music is derived from his/her feelings of sounds, rather than notes. Listen to Tim Hecker's "100 Years Ago" from the record "An Imaginary Country" if you need proof that beautiful, romantic music can be made by largely synthesized "noisy" music.

While I feel I could argue against the concept that Edgar Varese's music doesn't fit the category of "good" art as defined by Ayn Rand, I could understand the point of view because the music was made by traditional instrumentation utilizing a lot of extended technique. Anyway, I'm tired, maybe I'll post about that tomorrow.

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