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Ayn Rand and Beethoven

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I like some of his sonatas, quartets and piano concertos, myself, but I'm not that crazy about the rest. Not that they're not impressive, just that I don't enjoy them the way I would enjoy Tchaikovsky for instance.

I'm not sure the entirety of his music can be described as Romantic, by Ayn Rand's definition, but parts of it definitely are.

Sorry, I haven't read anything about why Rand didn't like him, this is the first I hear of it. Where did you read this, and why wouldn't she also mention why she didn't like him? There is a lot of anger and tragedy (or sadness, depression, whatever you wanna call it) in Beethoven's music, maybe that has something to do with it.

I know Leonard Peikoff loves Beethoven, can't stop talking about what a genius he was:)

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http://www.objectivistcenter.org/showconte...ct=257&h=51

http://www.noblesoul.com/orc/bio/biofaq.html (4.8)

See this also: http://www.democraticunderground.com/discu...ress=214x211948

I quote "Rand also said that it's an objective fact that Beethoven's music is malevolent and that it's an objective fact that Rachmaninoff's music is better than Beethoven's music"

Is there really an objective standard to judge music? Or a moral standard to judge music?

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Psycho-epistemologically, the pattern of the response to music seems to be as follows: one perceives the music, one grasps the suggestion of a certain emotional state and, with one’s sense of life serving as the criterion, one appraises this state as enjoyable or painful, desirable or undesirable, significant or negligible, according to whether it corresponds to or contradicts one’s fundamental feeling about life.

------------

Music communicates emotions, which one grasps, but does not actually feel; what one feels is a suggestion, a kind of distant, dissociated, depersonalized emotion—until and unless it unites with one’s own sense of life.

(The Romantic Manifesto, via the Online Lexicon)

So yes, there is a standard that tells you if a piece of music is good or not, it is whether you like the emotions that are the theme of the piece.

Rock music for instance often has a theme of rebellion and adventure, so if you like feeeling that way, you'll love good rock music. (it doesn't matter what you rebel against, you could like Rage against the Machine even if you rebel against something other than the proverbial "machine" of Capitalism. (you could like it if the music itself was any good, that is. it is not)

Things you can definitely judge objectively are whether a piece works at all (whether it suggests emotions rather than just evoke that one emotion: a hatred of the awful noise reaching your ears), also whether it is innovative, original, sophisticated, elegant. Beethoven's works are all those things, whether someone likes them ("agrees" with them) or not.

P.S. I'm having trouble buying those alleged Rand quotes. The Internet is full of nonsense claims about her, I have no reason to think this isn't one of them. I'll stick to actual writings, and credible accounts.

Edited by Jake_Ellison
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Jake, really? REALLY? You've never heard about Rand re Beethoven? I almost envy you for not dealing with the resulting nonsense. :)

But here are a few posts dealing with the issue in depth at my blog, Orpheus Remembered, a site dedictated to the Objectivist-music debates.

http://orpheusremembered.blogspot.com/sear...and%20beethoven

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Thanks, spaceplayer.

With Regards to Beethoven, his music has what I call a malevolent universe...It is the view that has been called Byronic...it is the belief that man must struggle even though he has no chance of winning, and that he must perish heroically...and that is what I hear in practically everything Beethoven has ever written. (Ayn Rand, what she really said on Beethoven)

That doesn't mean she condemened him, or denied his talent. Anyone who dosen't think Beethoven is dark at times is listening to something else. Obviously, it is also heroic and "giant in scope", but filled with darkness and a lot of "highs and lows". (And that I heard confirmed by at least one man, Stanley Kubrick, who used Beethoven to suggest both states of mind, in his movies.)

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Rand: "It is the view that has been called Byronic...it is the belief that man must struggle even though he has no chance of winning, and that he must perish heroically...and that is what I hear in practically everything Beethoven has ever written. "

This is absolute nonsense. If there is any composer who personifies winning struggles, it is Beethoven. See for example his 3rd, 5th and 9th symphony. Sorry, but Rand had here no idea what she was talking about.

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If there is any composer who personifies winning struggles, it is Beethoven.

I'm assuming you're referring to Beethoven's music. There is nothing about music that personifies anything, music reaches people on an emotional level, not through metaphors or concepts.

It is idiotic to suggest that a piece of music personifies a winning struggle. :dough:

If what you're instead trying to say is that Beethoven's music evokes a feeling of triumph, sure, at times it does, in the symphonies you mentioned. But the darkness is far more prevalent.

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I'm assuming you're referring to Beethoven's music. There is nothing about music that personifies anything, music reaches people on an emotional level, not through metaphors or concepts.

Your assumption is wrong. Of course I'm referring to Beethoven and his view of life that is expressed in his music, and that is not a belief that man has no chance of winning, as Rand said, but that struggles can be won.

It is idiotic to suggest that a piece of music personifies a winning struggle. :dough:

If that's idiotic, that's because these are your words, not mine.

If what you're instead trying to say is that Beethoven's music evokes a feeling of triumph, sure, at times it does, in the symphonies you mentioned. But the darkness is far more prevalent.

That shows that you know nothing about Beethoven's music, it's completely nonsense. A composer that would fit that description is Tchaikovsky, now there you have a composer whose music reflects a malevolent universe.

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If that's idiotic, that's because these are your words, not mine.

Ayn Rand is talking about music in your quote. I'm talking about music too. If you're instead talking about what you claim are Beethoven's personal beliefs, then we're done here.

I thought you were describing Beethoven's music.

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Ellison, look up "Fidelio" and Beethoven's 9th. I'm afraid that you're going to have to come face to face with the fact that you cannot claim that there is absolutely nothing presented here except emotional levels. "Fidelio" is an ode to the individual, freedom, and the overthrow of tyranny. The 9th symphony is a triumph of joy over struggle. And that's just two. Let's talk about The Consecration of the House, the Ruins of Athens, The Emperor Concerto, his cantata "Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage", his song cycle "To the distant beloved (An Die Ferne Geliebte)", his triple concerto for piano violin and cello, all of which have triumph and majesty woven throughout. Let's talk about his collection of Scottish songs, or even Wellington's Victory, or his Fantasia for piano, chorus and Orchestra, which was his preparatory sketch for the 9th symphony and a work of art by itself, whose theme is:

Graceful, charming and sweet is the sound

Of life’s harmonies,

And the sense of beauty engenders

Flowers which eternally bloom.

Peace and joy advance in perfect concord,

Like the rhythm of the waves;

All harsh and hostile elements

Are vanquished by sublime delight.

When the magic sounds reign

And the sacred word is spoken,

Magnificence takes form,

The night and the tempest turns to light:

In outward peace and inward bliss

Reign the fortunate ones.

Meanwhile art, and the spring sun,

Floods them, and the others, with light.

Something great in the heart

Then blooms anew in all its beauty.

As the spirit is taking flight,

A choir of spirits resounds in response.

Accept then, O you beautiful spirits,

Joyously the gifts of high Art.

When love and strength are united,

Grace is bestowed upon Man.

Darkness? Indeed. You can name me the selections that usually appear in the "Classical Top Ten" albums, which are full of sturm und drang, and I can name you hundreds of other selections that outnumber and outweigh those.

Honestly, Ellison, one should do one's research. The image of Beethoven as a brooding, dark and misanthropic cankered old man can be forgiven when you're 10 and all you've seen is "Eternal Beloved" and the Animaniacs' spoof on Beethoven. But really, one would expect more from an adult.

Edited by kainscalia
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"Honestly, Ellison, one should do one's research. The image of Beethoven as a brooding, dark and misanthropic cankered old man can be forgiven when you're 10 and all you've seen is "Eternal Beloved" and the Animaniacs' spoof on Beethoven. But really, one would expect more from an adult."

Now, to be fair to Jake, it't not just 10 year old cartoon watchers who make that claim; Beethoven himself had to answer such claims from his contemporaries:

"O ye men who accuse me of being malevolent, stubborn and
misanthropical, how ye wrong me! Ye know not the secret
cause. Ever since childhood my heart and mind were disposed
toward feelings of gentleness and goodwill, and I was eager
to accomplish great deeds; but consider this: for six years
I have been hopelessly ill, aggravated and cheated by quacks in
the hope of improvement but finally compelled to face a lasting
malady ... I was forced to isolate myself. I was misunderstood
and rudely repulsed because I was as yet unable to say to people,
"Speak louder, shout, for I am deaf" ... With joy I hasten to meet
death. Despite my hard fate ... I shall wish that it had come later;
but I am content, for he shall free me of constant suffering. Come
then, Death, and I shall face thee with courage." Heiglnstadt (sic)
6 October, 1802.

Whether or not the charge is justified, when the composer himself has to answer this common charge, well...he may be right, but then one has to ask WHY the consistent charge from then to now? Was Beethoven simply passionate, or was he blind about his excess? By his own admission, he did exhibit traits of malevolence. He doesn't deny the effect, only the judgement of its cause.

Edited by spaceplayer
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Whether or not the charge is justified, when the composer himself has to answer this common charge, well...he may be right, but then one has to ask WHY the consistent charge from then to now? Was Beethoven simply passionate, or was he blind about his excess? By his own admission, he did exhibit traits of malevolence. He doesn't deny the effect, only the judgement of its cause.

His attitude was towards the kind of society that tittered and laughed at him for losing his hearing, which also mocked his music calling it "savage" and "indecent."

Incidentally, the same kind of society that pirated his music through unauthorized publishers, and whose justice system gave him no means for him to recoup the sizable amount of money which he lost to them. He was uncompromising in his approach to his musical ideals and he could not bear to see them debased or insulted, and over everything he loathed the idea that a composer was nothing more than the monkey on a string of the aristocracy, eternally beholden to them in a perpetual genuflection.

Are you going to call Ayn Rand malevolent because she expressed anger and rage towards looters and those who sought to demean and deface her publicly?

The Heiligenstadt testament (6 October 1802) is considered a turning point in Beethoven's life. He was considering suicide due to his growing affliction- something which he thought would destroy his career as a composer. Instead, after battling his depression he instead went on to conquer his malady by refining his grasp on theory to the level of very few musicians in history - all any knowledgeable person needs to do is look at a significant score of Beethoven's post-Heiligenstadt years to recognize not only the genius of his thematic and melodic development, but also a master orchestrator of incredible finesse.

So, we have a man who underwent a period of terrible depression and despondency during his early life (He was 25 years old) but who eventually overcame it and went on to write some of the most revolutionary music of his time, and immortal pieces - among them a symphony that is a paean to joy composed when he was completely deaf, as well as his only opera, Fidelio (written in 1805, only three years after he penned the testament), which is a triumphant rescue opera whose central themes are the tenacity of the individual (Leonora undergoing a maskerade and infiltrating the prison where her husband is a political prisoner), a fidelity to one's values (Florestan's feelings towards Leonora and his uncompromising attitude towards tyrannical Pizarro, despite suffering from thirst and starvation) and the overthrowing of tyranny (Leonora, a courageous housewife, is portrayed not only as more worthy than the tyrannical Pizarro, she is the one who draws the weapon that stops him). Beethoven himself had the audacity not to cancel the premiere of the opera when the city was invaded, but instead allowed the opera to go onto its opening night with a house full of invading soldiers who booed the opera all the way through.

This man was irascible and it is very probable that he may have been bipolar. To add to this, he suffered from irritability brought on by chronic abdominal pain that started in his twenties and which accompanied him to his grave. For all his temper, he commanded the devotion of a large circle of friends. By the time he was ill and dying these friends would outdo each other trying to find ways in which they could help the maestro.

The kind of man who had the courage to say to a prince “What you are, you are by accident of birth; what I am, I am by myself. There are and will be a thousand princes; there is only one Beethoven.” or "The barriers are not erected which can say to aspiring talents and industry, 'Thus far and no farther.'"

Please. There is more of the hero in Beethoven- even with his faults and his failures- than in most composers before or since.

Edited by kainscalia
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Beethoven believed there was something wrong with him, and he made a request that this be figured out for posterity. Well, in 2005 Argonne National Laboratory determined that lead poisoning was the cause of Beethoven's life long illness and death. They discovered this by testing bone fragments.

Beethoven had a favorite wine goblet that he would drink from, which happened to be lead lined. Lead poisoning affects the mind.

http://www.anl.gov/Media_Center/News/2005/news051206.html

excerpt:

The half life of lead in the human body is about 22 years, with 95 percent of “old” lead residing in the skeletal structure. Beethoven experienced a change of personality and abdominal illness in his late teens and early 20s that persisted throughout his adult life. His abdominal symptoms and autopsy findings are both consistent with lead poisoning, Walsh said.

Anyway, despite all of that, I love a great many of Beethoven's works. His violin concerto is my favorite violin piece.

Edited by Thales
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Kainscalia, "please" yourself. Your lengthy response here ignores the crucial part of Beethoven's own words:

"With joy I hasten to meet
death. Despite my hard fate ... I shall wish that it had come later;
but I am content, for he shall free me of constant suffering. Come
then, Death, and I shall face thee with courage." THIS alone is enough, to get back to the original point of the original question, is enough to qualify Rand's identifying Beethoven as a "Byronic" tragic composer (within the context of her philosophy and sense of life) and rebuke your snarky comment about 10 year olds and cartoons. Great or not, let's not pretend the tragic wasn't there.

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Please yourself, et encore, spaceplayer.

Your short response here ignores the crucial part of Beethoven's own life, both before and after the Heiligestadt Testament. You're going to hold the words that one man wrote down during his worst period of depression in his life over the things he achieved and the things he believed in, which resonate throughout history over his low point in the Heiligestadt Testament? How foolish of you. Specially since I think someone of your sort would probably have been crushed when faced with the difficulties that Beethoven had to surmount. You are pretending that, should you ever face that tragedy, you will not ever experience a dark night of the soul? I honestly have to laugh in your face.

If you believe that what a Beethoven of 25 and in deep depression wrote must mark the whole of his life, then I feel truly sorry for your ignorance on the subject. It is obvious you at most have done a thorough Wikisearch on the Heiligestadt Testament. Those who have actually studied the man and his music know that the actual words that encapsulate Beethoven's ideals read:

Freude, schöner Götterfunken

Tochter aus Elysium,

Wir betreten feuertrunken,

Himmlische, dein Heiligtum!

Deine Zauber binden wieder

Was die Mode streng geteilt;

Alle Menschen werden Brüder,

Wo dein sanfter Flügel weilt.

Froh, wie seine Sonnen fliegen

Durch des Himmels prächt'gen Plan,

Laufet, Brüder, eure Bahn,

Freudig, wie ein Held zum Siegen!

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What's the difference in my speculating over you over one text, but somehow when you do it over one document (as opposed to the content of a whole life) it is perfectly acceptable?

Your tone of voice leaves me not wishing to discuss further with you, that's how it's different. I didn't come for a personal attack. Moving on.

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