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Listening to Music that is not Art

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I've been thinking a lot lately about the music I listen to. I still don't completely understand Ayn Rand's ideas on art, but I just orderd the Romantic Manifesto and intend to understand it. And I want to make it clear that this is NOT a discussion of what constitutes art.

I'll start with an example. I listen to Tim McGraw. I don't really think this would be considered art, let alone good art, but I listen to it anyway . And I've come to find that most of the music I listen to is like this, and even the movies I watch, which I find odd considering my love of film (Plumbing's great and all, but what I really want to do is direct! :thumbsup: ).

The two main reasons I listen to most of the music that I do are nostalgia and melody. A lot of it I listened to in my childhood. A lot of it has a good melody. Some songs are really well sung, some are really well played. I almost never find lyrics that I like, although I do sometimes, and I treasure these. Also, if I only listen to music that I thought was exceptional my options would be very limited.

So, if you like listening to music and watching movies that you don't consider to be art, why do you listen or watch? I think it's just recreation. You enjoy it, even if it's not very artistic.

Do you listen to music that isn't what you would call "art?" Is my conclusion of it being a recreational enjoyment a rationalization, so that I can continue to listen to music that I like, but don't love? Did I make myelf clear at all, or does it seem like I'm rambling aimlessly?

Although, upon rereading my post, I don't see how listening to bad music can take anything away from you. Except maybe the time you could've spent looking for good music.

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Although, upon rereading my post, I don't see how listening to bad music can take anything away from you. Except maybe the time you could've spent looking for good music.

It sounds to me as if you have taste and do use it in choosing your art. I think you have the wrong opinion of fine art.

But, if it is good to listen to, etc., then it is good. (I'm crazy about a good melody, too.)

When it comes to broadening your tastes, you just try out various things, especially those that are closest to what you already enjoy. It takes some time for tastes to evolve, but they do it on their own, if the exposure is there.

Happy listening,

Mindy

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Do you listen to music that isn't what you would call "art?" Is my conclusion of it being a recreational enjoyment a rationalization, so that I can continue to listen to music that I like, but don't love? Did I make myelf clear at all, or does it seem like I'm rambling aimlessly?

Just to mention real quick, "not art" isn't just a matter of being very bad, but of possessing none of the characteristics of art.

If the music provides enjoyment, then that is sufficient reason to listen to it. Now that's not a good reason, I think, to avoid listening to music that's new to you, but there is no harm in listening to music you enjoy. "Shoot 'Em Up" is one movie I liked a lot that I think is really poor quality art, but it was quite an entertaining movie. There is no reason to watch that movie other than recreation, it does not provide really anything to contemplate. Maybe listening to "bad music" means you have bad taste, but so what, that usually doesn't mean anything other than music that a lot of people don't like. The standard for enjoyment is not necessarily quality, either.

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I don't know Tim McGraw, but from the more general stuff you wrote I'll assume you appreciate music for the right reasons. With that assumption in mind, I would like to point out that there is in fact a huge amount of good music out there (both new and old), it's just that most of the new stuff is only moderately popular.

I think you should put more energy into finding whatever it is that you consider good music, instead of settling for what you consider mediocre. And give those random indie bands (or famous composers, wherever your search takes you) more than one chance. If one composition contains anything even remotely interesting, search out a few more, you might stumble upon a gold mine.

So, if you like listening to music and watching movies that you don't consider to be art, why do you listen or watch? I think it's just recreation. You enjoy it, even if it's not very artistic.

I do sometimes (less and less, though) watch an average movie (even though I know it's not that good ahead of time), simply because there are so few good new movies, and I've seen the old ones. But that's not the case with music at all. I of course try to listen to all sorts of stuff once, but would never settle into listening to a musician I'm not impressed with. There's just too much great stuff out there, to do that.

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:)

"Shoot 'Em Up" is one movie I liked a lot that I think is really poor quality art, but it was quite an entertaining movie. There is no reason to watch that movie other than recreation, it does not provide really anything to contemplate. Maybe listening to "bad music" means you have bad taste, but so what, that usually doesn't mean anything other than music that a lot of people don't like. The standard for enjoyment is not necessarily quality, either.

I think the distinction you make here between "quality" art and art that is "just" entertaining is incorrect. Art is not something to teach you things or somehow to learn from, to improve your mind through, etc. (Which is not to say that it cannot do that also.)

Art is like dessert. Get what you want. What you want is what you enjoy, what pleases you. If "Shoot 'Em Up" is entertaining, if it is recreational, it IS art.

I think it is only people who unabashedly watch/view/listen to what they enjoy who get anything out of art. Also, it is that genuine, seflish enjoyment that leads them to look for more, and even better art to enjoy.

We ought to be able to trust our minds enough to believe in our choices, believe they will lead us to what is good. Each person has a full measure of the capacity to reason, to think and judge. Don't be intimidated if you don't like classical music. If you enjoy music, you'll keep seeking more music and more enjoyment, and you'll get as much from art that way as is possible.

To fake one's tastes is to lose all the benefits of art.

Mindy

p.s. I enjoy the Kill Bill movies, to the disdain of everybody I know. :)

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Just to mention real quick, "not art" isn't just a matter of being very bad, but of possessing none of the characteristics of art.

That is exactly what I meant to say. See? I knew I wan't making myself very clear.

Art is like dessert. Get what you want. What you want is what you enjoy, what pleases you. If "Shoot 'Em Up" is entertaining, if it is recreational, it IS art.

Correct me if I'm wrong but, according to Objectivism, just because you like something and enjoy it does not mean it's art. As I said before, I haven't read the Romantic Manifesto yet (and, alarmingly, is still hasn't arrived), but I thought there were, as Eiuol pointed out, certain characteristics that make something art. For instance, I may enjoy looking at the water color my three-year-old neice painted in pre-school, but I would not consider it art. And really, the majority of the music I listen to is on the same level as that. However, I don't give it as much value as music that I would call art.

My question, which seems kind of silly to me now since I believe the answer is obvious, is if you listen to music that you don't consider "art" because you still enjoy it, is it just a recreation? Well, yes. That's what recreation is, isn't it?

Now see, I've answered my own question. Unless of course it's just a rationalization, as the title of the topic was supposed to suggest, except that I forgot the question mark.

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Correct me if I'm wrong but, according to Objectivism, just because you like something and enjoy it does not mean it's art.

You are correct. Art is a concretization of metaphysics. Concretization requires selectivity. Then further, in order to serve it's epistemological role it has to be intelligible/representational.

That is the only criteria. As long at it does say something intelligible about some part of metaphysics - it is art. If it is not communicable then it is not art.

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That is the only criteria. As long at it does say something intelligible about some part of metaphysics - it is art. If it is not communicable then it is not art.

I agree with you to large extent with reservations... does this defintion not need refining?

Communicable to whom? Deranged persons communicate amongst themselves.

I've been called into question for finding the cinema genre known as "torture porn" to be capable of valid statements.

Intelligible is subjective.. what do you suggest from there?

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... I believe the answer is... ... you listen to music that you don't consider "art" because you still enjoy it, is it just a recreation? Well, yes. That's what recreation is, isn't it?
I don't think you've quite answered it, even if you accept that there's a distinction between listening to music that is art and listening to music for recreation. You haven't answered your original question about the "why?"

You've answered the "why" by saying you enjoy it. This is a situation where "I enjoy it" seems to be a good enough stopping point for analysis if one is deciding whether to do it: to listen or not to listen. However, if you're not just deciding whether to listen or no, then this is too early a stopping point. If you want to take the introspection further to understand more, the next question would be "why do I enjoy it?" You've provided the next level of detail: you enjoy it because of the melody and because of nostalgia. So, I guess the next question would be: "why do I enjoy melody? what value does it provide me?" and the same for "nostalgia". I don't know if one would get very far with those queries, but that seems to be the direction in which more details lie.

As for art, why would someone consume art unless they enjoy it in some sense ... i.e. unless it gave them some type of value (art critics excepted). So, the distinction between things we consume because they're art and things we consume because we enjoy them is fuzzy. It leads to the question: why to we consume art? Rand has an answer in RM, so I won't put any spoilers into this post. I'd be curious if you view this topic any differently after reading RM.

Edited by softwareNerd
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I'll start with an example. I listen to Tim McGraw. I don't really think this would be considered art,

I would have to disagree. With art being a "selective recreation of reality based on one's metaphysical value-judgements", I think at least some of McGraw's songs fit quite neatly with that definition (setting aside particular agreement with the espoused values). For instance, "Something Like That" is a song that describes those small moments in life that turn out to be big and leave indelible marks on our hearts. While plain, the imagery he presents in the song is honest and relatable. With this as an example, i would even go so far as to say some of his work is good art. The sense of life in this song is very positive and represents a romantic burgeoning of love. The fact that it is country just lends to the idea that it is less complex and more obvious in relaying the artist's message.

Another song of his songs that I would offer as good art would be "Live Like You Were Dying". In fact, I would even argue that this song represents (even if unintentionally) good objective values that everyone should pursue. Its a song about strongly pursuing your values without fear, and making sure that you put most of your effort into those values that are most important to you. That song definitely captures the very heart of why life can be so valuable, because it is fleeting. Again, the imagery is simple, but it relates specifically to his worldview.

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So, I guess the next question would be: "why do I enjoy melody? what value does it provide me?" and the same for "nostalgia". I don't know if one would get very far with those queries, but that seems to be the direction in which more details lie.

Thank you for this. I will definitely spend time looking into these questions.

I would have to disagree. With art being a "selective recreation of reality based on one's metaphysical value-judgements", I think at least some of McGraw's songs fit quite neatly with that definition (setting aside particular agreement with the espoused values). For instance, "Something Like That" is a song that describes those small moments in life that turn out to be big and leave indelible marks on our hearts

Noted, especially after Sophia's definition of art, which is not what I was using. I was actually using Ayn Rand's concept of 'good art' as the defintion for 'art,' which wasn't helping me any.

Another song of his songs that I would offer as good art would be "Live Like You Were Dying". In fact, I would even argue that this song represents (even if unintentionally) good objective values that everyone should pursue. Its a song about strongly pursuing your values without fear, and making sure that you put most of your effort into those values that are most important to you. That song definitely captures the very heart of why life can be so valuable, because it is fleeting

This is interesting. I've never seen it put quite like this. I usually can't stand the people who tell me "Live every day like tomorrow will never come, don't think about tomorrow, who cares about tomorrow? Have fun now, you can worry about tomorrow later." Those people seem very Hedonistsic. I answer them "I don't live my life like tomorrow will never come. I live as though it might. I will take steps to ensure that, should my tomorrow come, it will be as enjoyable as today."

However, your interpretation is much different than the interpretations of the majority of people who've heard this song, myself included. It's much closer to "Live life to the fullest" than "Live like there's no tomorrow." I like it much better.

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I agree with you to large extent with reservations... does this defintion not need refining?

Communicable to whom? Deranged persons communicate amongst themselves.

I've been called into question for finding the cinema genre known as "torture porn" to be capable of valid statements.

Intelligible is subjective.. what do you suggest from there?

Good question. I think rational standard is assumed. You may not like the message but as long as it objectively has one.... as part of its identity - not in a way "whatever it means to you".

I think the better the art the less this is an issue, even across cultures. The more profound the message, the greater the precision with which it is translated into the art form (and thus well communicated) - the better the art.

The point you bring up, could be a bigger issue when it comes to bad art (regardless of the nature of its message). When you get to the point in which you can't tell, I personally find it of little importance whether it is or it is not art - because even if it is art - it is so bad that it is of little value. I am satisfied with "could be" and I just move on. (I am not suggesting that others similarly should not care - just that because I don't I have not spend much time thinking about how to distinguish very bad art from non art).

There is this notion (implicit) that just identifying something as art carries a hint of positive value. It does not. It is just an identification of an existent. Value comes after "bad" vs "good' evaluation.

Edited by ~Sophia~
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  • 9 months later...

My choice of recreation depends on my mood and energy. For example, if I'm in a good mood and/or I'm not tired, I'll read a book/watch a movie/listen to music that could be considered art; my mind is operating at full speed (or near enough), so I can properly appreciate it. Also, it'll stimulate my mind, making it easier to focus on (and hopefully enjoy) whatever I have to do afterwards, like studying or writing.

On the other hand, if I'm in a bad mood, or if I'm too tired to do anything but not tired enough to sleep, I'll put my feet up, drink a few beers and watch pro-wrestling. Is pro-wrestling art? Of course not, but it doesn't require me to think too hard about it, so it entertains me and cheers me up when I'm too tired to think.

I don't think there's anything wrong with enjoying something that isn't art. In my opinion, people who reject all low-brow entertainment in an effort to be "cultured" are just pretentious. I haven't read Rand's writings on art (yet) so I don't know what she had to say on the subject, but I believe that art enlightens, entertainment entertains, and there's nothing wrong with either.

EDIT: I just noticed how old this thread is... oh well.

Edited by ConorJames
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To be honest, I'm inclined to think both 'art' and 'entertainment', talked about in opposition or alone, are floating abstractions and nobody seems to have formulated them into useful concepts. 'Entertainment' at least seems a shallow enough idea that one can use it usefully sometimes, mostly in the same sense as 'liesure' vs. 'work'.

Talking about how some sources of amusement/entertainment like music or fiction or tv are not 'art' seems to almost always involve a lot of dubious premises about one's motivation for seeking them, or premises about the value derived from 'real art' that are poorly explained or rather presumptious.

Anyway sometimes I listen to things which have very little complexity or intellectual rigour to them, just to affect my mood or shut out other noises. Sometimes i literally just play 'white noise' through my speakers to help me think, or sounds of running water or rainfall, or very slow 'ambient' music. Sometimes I might even listen to the ambient music in the capacity of examining counsciously how well it's constructed in service of relaxing the listener.

Other times I play a symphony and focus on every note. Or play songs whose melodies/riffs I like, mostly ignoring the lyrics and instrumental details.

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