Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Did Ayn Rand bash folk music?

Rate this topic


ironworks soundlabs
 Share

Recommended Posts

On that note, is anybody else here a fan of The Band?  They were the group that performed that great song "The Weight" (y'know, "Take a load off Annie, take a load for free...").  The famous The Last Waltz is a four-star movie-documentary about The Band's final performance, and includes such musical greats as Dylan, Van Morrison, Eric Clapton, and Ringo Starr -- all in the same concert, and directed by Martin Scorcese!  Awesome film for anyone who appreciates that genre of music.

My dad is friends with some of the members of the Band, so I have been exposed to their music all my life. On that note, I have grown rather fond of them, especially for their intense commitment to making music.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 96
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

In The Fountainhead she is describing Toohey's approach to writing his columns & has him quoted as saying:

"The worst folk song is superior to the best symphony."

I view that as a concretization of her concept of the enshrinement of mediocracy in order to destroy genius.  This is merely extrapolation on my part but, I think the symphony (classical, baroque, romantic music in general) as a form has the potential to be objectively superior to folk music because it represents a higher form of achievement than any folk song could.  Obviously, that doesn't mean any given individual should be obligated to like any symphony or dislike any folk song regardless of context.

The Rand analogy I offered in another thread here on music is that an airplane could be considered an "objectively superior" mode of transportation to a car, but that doesn't mean you should use an airplane to ride down the street a couple of miles to the grocery store.

great assesment, and I totally agree.

For the most part, I prefer would prefer acoustic/vocal music. I cannot perform a symphony by myself, and I don't yet have the knowledge to produce a symphony, but that will probably change in the next couple years. I definetely agree that it takes much more technical expertise to create a symphony, although I am generally more concerned with the emotional power put into a song. For some reason I barely get that from symphonies, unless a single person is taking control of the symphony, such as John Mclaughlin's performance with the Munich Philharmonic. In case you haven't heard that particular performance, I think you may appreciate it very much Chris..

http://www.italway.it/morrone/WBTG-videos.htm

Link to comment
Share on other sites

And Bob Dylan is anything but an idiot.  Also remember, in the vast virtuous pursuit of money, Montesquieu, I'm guessing Bob's got a helluva lot more than you  :P

For the majority of his career Bob Dylan was a socialistic dope and now he has turned to evangelical religion, am I missing something, but in my book, and I assumed everyone on this board's book, that makes him an idiot. Saying he doesn't sing that well is an understatement. Had anyone had a modicum of respect for tone and ability he would have been laughed out of the studio when he first started and not been allowed to terrorize the human ear for decades.

Making money through dubious means is no virtuous achievement. Because a schister like Dylan puts crap onto tapes and gets idiots to buy them I should admire him? He can have all the money in the world and that wont change the fact that his music is still no good and that he is an idiot. It just so happens there are many idiots out there with money to support his untalented rump.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

<FC: Guys, let's stick to the thread's subject. The poster asked about the degree to which AR disliked folk music, not the degree to which any particular student of her philosophy dislikes it.

A thread about which music is good or bad can easily occupy 10 pages of posts, and that's with all proper definitions and essentialized statements, something neither of you seems to be willing to provide here. So let's end this pointless bashing of each other's music tastes; even if you believe folk music isn't good, it's not so bad as to demean someone else over it.>

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hmm, Im really into trance music, wonder what she would have thought of that.

What is "trance" music? Can you provide a defenition and some examples?

Of course, the real question is more, "What is my aesthetic evaluation of trance music?" rather than "What is Ayn Rand's?"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In "Art and Cognition", from The Romantic Manifesto, Rand pretty much "bashes" folk music, sometimes explicitly, as in the quote Thoyd Loki provided, and here:

"The products of anti-rational, anti-cognitive "Progressive" education, the hippies, are reverting to the music and the drumbeat of the jungle.",

but she also does it implicitly, throughout that chapter; but let's not forget that in the very same essay she says: "Until a conceptual vocabulary is discovered and defined, no objectively valid criterion of esthetic judgement is possible in the field of music."

Though I admire Ayn Rand intensely, I don't agree with some of her ideas about music. I know for a fact, for instance, (and to go in the opposite direction from folk music, for a moment) that some of the most complex music ever recorded sounds like random noise to the untrained ear, in the very same manner that a complex mathematical equation will look like gibberish to someone who doesn't know what it means, and in the very same manner that a foreign language will sound like gibberish to someone who doesn't understand it.

I am fairly certain that Ayn Rand wasn't an expert on musical theory, and I'd say that there are excellent odds that certain types of experimental or avant garde music probably sounded like incoherent noise to her. On the one hand, she could denounce folk music because of its redundant, repetitive simplicity, and feel, perhaps justifiably, that such music was beneath her since it offered no challenge to her intellectually, and caused in her a purely negative emotional response; but on the other hand, due to the fact that she was not an expert in musical theory, she ought to have (and very well may have) recognized the possibility that certain types of music might actually be beyond her in the same sense that certain types of music were beneath her. At one point she seems to concede this, during a discussion of the similarities and differences between language and music:

"Western man can understand and enjoy Oriental painting; but Oriental music is unintelligible to him, it evokes nothing, it sounds like noise." (Art and Cognition, Romantic Manifesto.)

I would suggest that it sounds like noise to him because of his ignorance primarily, and only secondarily because of the difference in culture and environment; and Rand's statement is only very generally true, as I'm sure many Western people can and do enjoy Oriental music. (I might not be able to appreciate Oriental music until I had some sense of their musical philosophy and, more importantly, their formal and technical approach to musical theory and composition. Once I learn something about that, I am in a much greater position to appreciate and enjoy the music. Of course, I can still dislike it. How we respond to music emotionally is still in the realms of the subjective. I'm entitled to my opinion, but I'd rather have an educated opinion than one which is arrived at by way of ignorance.)

But later on, Ayn emphatically denounces what she calls "modern music", and says that she is objectively certain that such music is NOT music. There is a reference to "non-periodic vibrations", and as examples of these she cites sounds like traffic, coughs, sneezes. There are no other examples, so what she seems to be denouncing under the umbrella of "modern music" are compositions which include these non-musical sounds, or noises. I agree, noises, in themselves, do not constitute music; but non-musical sounds can often be incorporated into musical compositions with great effect. Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture is a prime example, which uses cannon-fire to augment the power of the music; Mahler's Sixth Symphony has the famous (or infamous) "hammer-blows". I wish she had gone into greater detail about what she labels "modern music". As it stands, the term as she used it is lamentably vague, and one can only speculate as to what she might have thought of the various different kinds of experimental music, whether it be orchestral, electronic, or what.

Ayn says (and I'm paraphrasing because it's difficult to hold a paperback open in your lap and type at the same time) that if any sort of noise is introduced into what is supposed to be a musical composition, that removes said composition from any consideration as a work of art. I have to respectfully disagree. I know of one chuckle, for instance, that I would absolutely hate to see removed from the piece it is included in. I'm refering to Robert Plant's giggle, chuckle, or guffaw, which opens up "Whole Lotta Love", on Led Zeppelin's second album. I suppose the sound itself doesn't constitute a musical sound, but it's incorporation into the song is priceless. Just my opinion, of course, but I think it would be daft to suggest that we should be such purists as to disallow the creative use of non-musical sounds in otherwise musical compositions.

Back to folk music. Folk music can often be life-affirming, joyful, and a sheer pleasure to listen to. I was raised listening to Simon & Garfunkel, Peter Paul & Mary, John Denver, and the like. It was my father who played this music in the house, and it was my father who first introduced me to the philosophy of Ayn Rand. My father played us a lot of folk music, but he was nothing like a hippie himself. In fact, he couldn't stand the whole hippie movement, even though he was a member of their generation. He was in the Air Force, was patriotic, was an advocate of capitalism, was an atheist to the marrow of his bones, never used drugs except for the occasional beer, and was interested in philosophy. He's changed a bit since those days, but he's still nothing like a hippie. I'm nothing like a hippie either. Folk music, in a variety of forms, has existed since ancient times, and folk artists should be judged as individuals, one artist at a time, not just lumped into a single category and dismissed out of hand. To do that is to make an error of prejudice, plain and simple.

I don't think that any real connection can be made between people who enjoy folk music and a lack of intellectual caliber. It may be true that in general, the common herd has responded more readily to more accessible types of music, but of these types we can include certain kinds of chamber music, dance music (including symphonic dances and waltzes), operetta, show-tunes, gospel, hymns and masses, dixieland jazz, blues, rock, rap, what have you, as well as folk, which includes country and western music, whose fans are often the polar opposites of hippes insofar as their sense of life, their philosophy, their moral and political beliefs; but at the same time, it's a plain fact that some of the best and brightest people in the world have enjoyed these accessible forms of music as well. I'd even go so far as to say that there might not be any definite correlation between musical preferences and levels of intelligence. Musical tastes seem to be more dependent on cultural and ethnic backgrounds (as well as the respective knowledge or lack of knowledge in regard to musical theory) than on intelligence, sense-of-life, or worldview. Of course, I could be wrong, and I would happily be corrected.

The idea that certain types of music can be psychologically damaging (an idea which Rand seems to espouse), is interesting, and might warrant some investigation, but in just looking over a few threads here at this forum we can see that rational people can and do enjoy all different kinds of music, from rock and heavy metal to alternative, to classical.

I remember reading somewhere that Ayn Rand disliked Beethoven's music, calling it "malevolent", or something; this has always bothered me. It bothers me because it's weirdly evocative of a popular extreme-feminist belief that Beethoven's Ninth Symphony is a depiction of the mindset of a male in the act of rape. Not only is this a belief, but there are people teaching this very idea in certain universities. This kind of nonsense is frightening, folks. For myself, I find nothing but great beauty and benevolent power in the symphony mentioned: joy, and hope, and exquisite, life-affirming passion. I have nothing against a person taking something wholly different than I do away from music, any music. It's natural and normal; but I suggest that it's unwise and even dangerous to foist one's own subjective response to music on others by way of some sort of presumed intellectual authority. Not that Rand did that, necessarily, but I'd be dishonest to say I didn't think she came somewhat close.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am fairly certain that Ayn Rand wasn't an expert on musical theory,

In fact, she was familiar with some of the major work:

The nature of musical perception has not been discovered because the key to the secret of music is physiological- it lies in the nature of the process by which man perceives sounds—and the answer would require the joint effort of a physiologist, a psychologist and a philosopher (an esthetician).

The start of a scientific approach to this problem and the lead to an answer were provided by Helmholtz, the great physiologist of the nineteenth century. He concludes his book, On the Sensations of Tone as a Physiological Basis for the Theory of Music, with the following statement: "Here I close my work. It appears to me that I have carried it as far as the physiological properties of the sensation of hearing exercise a direct influence on the construction of a musical system, that is, as far as the work especially belongs to natural philosophy .... The real difficulty would lie in the development of the psychical motives which here [in the esthetics of music] assert themselves. Certainly this is the point where the more interesting part of musical esthetics begins, the aim being to explain the wonders of great works of art, and to learn the utterances and actions of the various affections of the mind. But, however alluring such an aim may be, I prefer leaving others to carry out such investigations, in which I should feel myself too much of an amateur, while I myself remain on the safe ground of natural philosophy, in which I am at home." (New York, Dover Publications, 1954, p. 371.)

On the one hand, she could denounce folk music because of its redundant, repetitive simplicity,

Where did she do that?

and feel, perhaps justifiably, that such music was beneath her since it offered no challenge to her intellectually, and caused in her a purely negative emotional response; but on the other hand, due to the fact that she was not an expert in musical theory, she ought to have (and very well may have) recognized the possibility that certain types of music might actually be beyond her in the same sense that certain types of music were beneath her.

Remarkable mind-reading -- and psychologizing!

The idea that certain types of music can be psychologically damaging (an idea which Rand seems to espouse)

Where, pray tell?

I remember reading somewhere that Ayn Rand disliked Beethoven's music, calling it "malevolent", or something; this has always bothered me. It bothers me because it's weirdly similar to a popular extreme-feminist belief that Beethoven's Ninth Symphony is a depiction of the mindset of a male in the act of rape. Not only is this a belief, but there are people teaching this very idea in certain universities. This kind of nonsense is frightening, folks. For myself, I find nothing but great beauty and benevolent power in the symphony mentioned: joy, and hope, and exquisite, life-affirming passion. I have nothing against a person taking something wholly  different than I do away from music, any music.

It's natural and normal; but I suggest that it's unwise and even dangerous to foist one's own subjective response to music on others by way of some sort of presumed intellectual authority. Not that Rand did that, necessarily, but I'd be dishonest to say I didn't think she came somewhat close.

Ayn Rand did no such thing! It is one of the lies being spread about her by people whom Ayn Rand DID reject, but not because they liked the "wrong" works of art.

Leonard Peikoff was asked about this in a live radio interview conducted by reporters for a local newspaper while he was doing his daily radio show. Here's what he had to say, transcribed verbatim, from my tape of the interview:

If it were true that Ayn Rand kicked out of her circle or denounced or would not tolerate anyone who disagreed with her on things like music and painting, I'd like you to account for my continued existence as a close friend of hers for over thirty years plus being designated as heir.

I loved Beethoven.  I have a vast Mozart collection of which she knew perfectly well.  I love Somerset Maugham whom she hated. [ ...]

She knew in great detail of the conflicts -- such conflicts or disagreements as there were -- and as long as you could specify what you liked in terms that were understandable in reason (and that were not an assault on reason, as I indicated to you before) there's no such thing.  It's a complete, total lie.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Remarkable mind-reading -- and psychologizing!

I'm not seeing what the issue is here. Lets go through the paragraph bit by bit shall we?

Statement 1: "I am fairly certain that Ayn Rand wasn't an expert on musical theory, and I'd say that there are excellent odds that certain types of experimental or avant garde music probably sounded like incoherent noise to her. "

That sounds reasonable. All the guy is saying here is that

- Ayn Rand probably wasn't a musical expert

-given that you need to be a musical expert to properly "hear" or understand or "get" certain types of complext music, Ayn Rand probably saw certain music as incoherant noise.

That doesn't sound like mind reading, it sounds like creating a hypothesis based on some generally accepted facts like

- Ayn Rand didn't play instruments

- Ayn Rand didn't study musical theory for any length of time

- being profecient or having an expertise in music isn't a subjective thing. Having expertise generally requires lots of study or a remarkably gifted ear. Even with a natural ear for music, it takes study to understand what you are hearing

I'm not seeing what the problem is or how he is psychologizing/mind reading. I'm also aware that you didn't quote this statment above, but I am analyzing it because it is part of the overall statment and excerpting like you did takes what was said out of context (and I think that will become pretty obvious the farther we go).

2) Statement 2 :" On the one hand, she could denounce folk music because of its redundant, repetitive simplicity, and feel, perhaps justifiably, that such music was beneath her since it offered no challenge to her intellectually, and caused in her a purely negative emotional response;"

That seems pretty reasonable considering we have a body of empirical evidence before us proving WHERE Ayn Rand denounces folk music and for the very reasons this guy tells us...because it is "simple, repetitive, redundant".

If I (Evan Sanchez) labeled music as simple, repetitive, and redundant, is it a huge logical leap to say that such music doesn't challenge me intellectually and is (at least in my own opinion) beneath me?

Not at all. Unless I'm half-witted, simple stuff like the Barney and Friend's theme song isn't going to intellectually exicte or elicit positive emotional responses in comparison to the work of a master. By the time I'm 10 I'm probably going to have moved on and such crappy musicianship is probably going to be beneath me in reality as well as by my own standards and value orientation.

We already have the fact that Ayn Rand disliked folk music and we know why. Is it such a bad thing to put two and two together and get four?

3) Statement Three : "but on the other hand, due to the fact that she was not an expert in musical theory, she ought to have (and very well may have) recognized the possibility that certain types of music might actually be beyond her in the same sense that certain types of music were beneath her."

Once again, given that Ayn Rand ISN'T an expert, this person tells us that the smart thing to do is acknowledge that while some things are going to be obviously beneath Ayn Rand's massive intellect...others are going to be beyond it. Not due to some flaw in Ayn Rand or lackof intellect , but due to a lack of musical training or knowledge about musical theory. Is that such an insult? Is that a bad thing? Of course not.

I know many brilliant people who can't carry a tune. That doesn't make them bad. I know many people who can do advanced calculus, but couldn't tell you OBJECTIVELY what makes Beethoven's 9th better than the theme song to Seinfeld other than the fact that it uses more instruments and is "seems" harder to play.

Most important about this third statment is the fact that this person doesn't assume that Ayn Rand didn't realize that some music was going to be beyond her. He leaves open the possibility that she herself might have acknowledged this very fact when he quotes the passage where she talks about Eastern music.

He made a value statment (ought instead of is) saying "This is what Ayn Rand should have done." Is that a bad thing? He even concedes that she might have indeed done what he thinks is proper.

So what is the problem? Do you think that he is in some way fundamentally wrong? Do you disagree with what HE thinks should Ayn Rand should have done in that situation or his evaluation of what would be right in that situation?

Given that Ayn Rand wasn't a musical expert, yet STILL persisted in making music related value judgements is it wrong to maintain that while some things are going to obviously be at or below Miss Rand's level that some things are going to be above it? If you DO think that is wrong, please tell us why you think it is wrong.

Is it wrong to say that the right thing to do in that instance is aquire more knowledge or withold judgment until one gets a greater grasp in material?

Ayn Rand was all about getting the facts, learning, studying, and understanding the world around her. She was definitely not one to encourage whim or snap judgments. Thus, I honestly do see how William B's suggestion could be off the mark at all.

If you don't take this paragraph out of context or excerpt it as you did, I think it is pretty clear that this guy wasn't "mind reading" at all. He wasn't saying "Ayn Rand felt X or thought Y" without any empirical evidence whatsoever.

He cites why he thinks Ayn Rand felt that folk music was beneath her and simple logic tells us that people don't think that simple, repetitve, boring music is at their level unless they themsleves are simple, repetitive, and boring people. Unless you are implying that Ayn Rand is as simple as the music she labeled "simple" then why is it a bad thing to take a logical statment and derive a conclusion from it that lines up with observable reality?

How is that "psychologizing" or "mind reading?"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

He wasn't saying "Ayn Rand felt X" [...]

He [was saying] Ayn Rand felt that folk music was beneath her

Ah, contradictions, what a pesky thing. :P Besides, by that last point you've proven Betsy's point about psychologizing.

The post was yet another one of those posts that are filled with deductions piling up on top of one another, with hardly any inductive claim based on observation and experience.

For example, you say:

If I labeled music as simple, repetitive, and redundant, is it a huge logical leap to say that such music doesn't challenge me intellectually and is beneath me?
It isn't, if your theory of music is that it is supposed to be intellectually challenging (whatever that means!). Objectivist theory of aesthetics says that music, and all art, has practically nothing at all to do with the intellect.

Instead of relying on deductions too much, placing one's trust on inductive reasoning about reality will show that the level of complexity in a piece of art has nothing to do with whether it is good art or not. Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata is a simple piano melody; you don't even necessarily need two hands to play it, because the left hand merely accompanies the right hand's melody; Bach's Badinerie, yet another example, is a very simple flute melody.

On the other hand, there are few things more difficult for conceptual processing than serious post-modern writing.

As a wise lady said once, check your premises. B)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Would I be out of bounds by suggesting that Objectivism is not a religon and Ayn Rand not its prophet. I think that a person could do damage by following AR's life as though it were the Messiah's. Her philosophy has so much to offer but it does not lay out "Objectivist "guidelines for matters of personal taste.

She may herself had held opinions about art and music that tied back into her own philosophy, but that does mean that an individual should not like something because she didn't. One should remember how much the era in which an individual was raised effects their personal opinions on art and music. Most people her age hated folk music and alot of them probably didn't hold anything near Objectivist views.

She also made allusions in AS that she didn't like the countryside and prefered the city. I love being in the countryside that does not make me an alltruist or a non-Objectivist. She also LOVED hollywood movies, I imagine alot of us out there don't care much for hollywood movies of today or of her time. These types of personal preferences should not be cast in with the information she gives on personal and political philosophy. A person stands to make a religon out of an atheist philosophy when doing so.

On the topic of Bob Dylan or other similar folk musicians, I for one like much of the music. I would never defend however much of the socialist setiment that was prevalent at the time, but still enjoy hearing a really good Dylan song. But those are my own feelings that do not affect anybody elses.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

One does not need a degree in music to know that Schoenberg and Cage are just plain awful and corrupt no matter how "complex" their arrangements may be.

And as a sort of corollary to this, one might argue that a degree is required to actually believe that such noise is anything but corrupt. (I say this with all deference to the many fine institutions that actually do teach music.)

Afterall, how is is possible to keep a straight face and treat the following with any degree of seriousness: A man sits down at the piano and lifts the lid, closing it after some time has elapsed without playing a single note. He repeats the same. Such is a "performance" of a "musical" piece, John Cage's 4' 33". Ironically, in a way, this may be preferrable to the noise introduced in other works.

Believe it or not, a couple of years ago Mike Batt was sued by the estate of John Cage for his "One Minute of Silence" cut on an album. The Cage estate claimed violation of copyright for the sound of silence! Batt settled out of court. :P

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Would I be out of bounds by suggesting that Objectivism is not a religon and Ayn Rand not its prophet.

Yes, it would be "out of bounds" if in doing so you indirectly imply, without naming names and addressing quotes, that someone(s) on this thread is in need of such a reminder. The charge of Objectivists blindly following the gospel of Ayn Rand is an old slur used by its enemies, and typically used by those who want to embrace the philosophy along with their several modifications to it; having their Objectivism and eating it too. So instead of lecturing a group of Objectivists about treating Objectivism as a religion and Ayn Rand as its prophet, directly address the facts that inspired your lecture.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ah, contradictions, what a pesky thing.
Are you trying to imply with the two statments you quoted that I am contradicting myself?

If so, you are wrong amigo.

What I said in the first statement was that he didn't say that Ayn Rand thought or felt something without pointing to the large work of quotes in her various books showing that she did indeed think and feel that way. He didn't "mind read" by any stretch of the imagination.

He didn't say "Ayn Rand thought X [thought green cheese was good for your health for example] or felt Y [felt that poodles were better than German shepards]" without any empirical evidence at all.

If you cut out the bolded part, it looks like I contradict myself as you took what I said and sort of ignored the context in which it was said. Is this like a trend on this board or am I just missing something?

If WilliamB would have posited to know Ayn Rand's thoughts or feelings without having any evidence to back it up...I would call it an unwarranted assertion and throw it out. In that case "mind reading" works just fine at describing what would have gone down. The fact of the matter is, he DOESN'T say things like that.

It isn't, if your theory of music is that it is supposed to be intellectually challenging (whatever that means!). Objectivist theory of aesthetics says that music, and all art, has practically nothing at all to do with the intellect.

If I was unclear, that is my fault and I apologize.

As to what intellectually challenging means, I think it means just what it says. Something that isn't absorbed passively. Something that DEMANDS your full attention to comprehend, understand, or fully enjoy. Something that challenges the intellectual process.

As to the Objectivist theory of aesthetics, that is fine and dandy. If it doesn't have to do with the intellect what does it have to do with? It clearly elicits a response which if not intellectual would have to be emotional or "value oriented" in nature. Emotions are automatic responses to your intellectually chosen values. On some level of the chain, intellect is involved indeed. Maybe in a secondary or tertiary way, sure. Was that ever really in question though? I don't know about you, but when I hear a piece of music that I really really love...I don't just brush it off and say "whatever." I think "What is it in this piece that makes my heart sing with delight? What do I love here? Is it something in the melody? Something in the lyrics? What is it?"

To me that process of evaluating music on a cereberal level can be every bit as rewarding as your first listen. It is like eating a good cake, you know? It is fun and enjoyable. To me it is can be just as fun to go back to the kitchen and watch how the chef does it so you get a better appreciation of the culinary arts. Something like culinary arts doesn't interest me to the degree that music does (as working in the music industry is going to be my future career). So to me, I would probably just be content with eating my cake and moving on. Food is fine, but if I had to make a list of what I hold dear...it probably wouldn't be anywhere near music.

Intellectually understanding music is important to me.

I see music and art as being detached from intellect when it comes to the initial viewing. After that, I start thinking and observing. I pick up more and more details and really try to get a grip on what I'm seeing. Then I might take the knowledge, store it away, and then look again.

Maybe I'm wrong or I have my head on backwards? I dunno. I wonder how I fit in with the Objectivist theory of aesthetics?

Instead of relying on deductions too much, placing one's trust on inductive reasoning about reality will show that the level of complexity in a piece of art has nothing to do with whether it is good art or not. Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata is a simple piano melody; you don't even necessarily need two hands to play it, because the left hand merely accompanies the right hand's melody; Bach's Badinerie, yet another example, is a very simple flute melody.

On the other hand, there are few things more difficult for conceptual processing than serious post-modern writing.

As a wise lady said once, check your premises.

GAH!!!

*tears hair out in frustration*.

Check yours, amigo. I just spent around 2 pages of discussion under the Objectivist bands thread agreeing with that statment and solidifying it.

I agree 100% that simple stuff can have great depth and complexity should never alone be your criteria for judging music or art.

I have NO problem with acknowledging that fact.

You mention The Moonlight Sonata (TMS). That is fine as an example goes. You realize that when people learn to play piano that TMS is something most people learn to play fairly early on. I'm sure you understand that a pianist who has studied at Juliard and is now a professional pianist has spent hours and hours of time understanding musical theory and the pieces themselves. Thus, if he was going to sit down and discuss a piece that was more complext than an intro level piece like The Moonlight Sonata, he would probably be able to say something more meaninful about it on a technical and in depth level. He might come to the same conclusion as Miss Rand (that piece A was a good piece of music), but the way he came to that conclusion is just as important because there are definitely more advanced ways of thinking (musically speaking) and understanding music. Does anyone really disagree with this?

Afterall, how is is possible to keep a straight face and treat the following with any degree of seriousness: A man sits down at the piano and lifts the lid, closing it after some time has elapsed without playing a single note. He repeats the same. Such is a "performance" of a "musical" piece, John Cage's 4' 33". Ironically, in a way, this may be preferrable to the noise introduced in other works.

That is definitely NOT music.

I don't recall WilliamB, myself, or ANYONE defending that kind of crapola on any level whatsoever. One doesn't need a degree to denounce such tripe as tripe.

Do you think that the only bad music is that which is so obviously NOT even music that a simple glance at the definition of music would tell you that we were getting into the realm of the non-topical?

One does not need a degree in music to know that Schoenberg and Cage are just plain awful and corrupt no matter how "complex" their arrangements may be.

Once again, I buy that. Not all bad philosophy clearly has a sign saying "Caution, this philosophy is BAD BAD BAD! Avoid at all costs!" That is why Ayn Rand's work in the field of all branches of philosophy is so darn important. It gives one the tools to understand good philosophy (Objectivism) and bad philosophy in their complete forms. There are many snake oil salesmen out there in the world as well as bad philosophers. They don't all necessarily have the same pitch or even the same product! Look at TOC for example. Many people were quite obviously swindled into believing that TOC was a legitimate organization (like Diana Hsiah for example). I think it takes a lot of hard study to really grasp philosophy and integrate it with your actions. Remember Andre from We The Living or Hank Rearden from Atlas Shrugged? Were they 100% Kantian evil in the flesh? Of course not. Andre and Rearden weren't 100% philosophically integrated. They aren't simple cases. Neither is all art or music.

On the same level, not all music is equally crappy or obviously crappy. It isn't ALL Beethoven on one side of the spectrum and Cage on the other side of the spectrum. There are subtle levels of goodness in mixed pieces and often subtle levels of crappiness.

One might not need a degree in music to tell you that Cage and Shoenberg are crap. One might need a degree in music to tell you why Rachmaninov's pieces were so brilliant or why certain pieces are mixed bags.

After all, remember Henry Cameron? He was an expert architect. One didn't need to have him around to point out the obvious flaws in worms like Keating. However, one DID need him around to point out the flaws in Roark's work which ultimately made him a better architect. He was also needed to truly understand where genius manifests itself because he alone knew what exactly made Roark's buildings genius in nature. Austen Heller, Wynand, and the boy on the bicycle understood in a simplistic way why Roark's buildings were important. They didn't understand fully, though.

Is it that off the mark to say that Ayn Rand herself might not have understood something completely (such as high level music theory)? Is it so off the mark to insist that higher level understanding is indeed important to pass judgment on higher level works of art or music? Is it off the mark to say that some works of art aren't understandable tin a meaninful way o the average untrained eye or listener?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes, it would be "out of bounds" if in doing so you indirectly imply, without naming names and addressing quotes, that someone(s) on this thread is in need of such a reminder. The charge of Objectivists blindly following the gospel of Ayn Rand is an old slur used by its enemies, and typically used by those who want to embrace the philosophy along with their several modifications to it; having their Objectivism and eating it too. So instead of lecturing a group of Objectivists about treating Objectivism as a religion and Ayn Rand as its prophet, directly address the facts that inspired your lecture.

Geeze, I am really sorry if what I said upset you. It wasn't intended to. I have just seen a large amount of people throughout the world who do change the philosophy into something they follow almost religously. I wasn't adressing anyone here specifically if you noticed, I don't think anything was said that directly related to my thoughts. After reading the thread I did however see an overall tone to this thread as well as others and I thoughtmy post would have been an intresting discussion.

I am not an enemy and I said nothing of blind faith. I don't think what I said was rude by any means. I will now mention that your tone in responce to my post is more specifically what I was talking about, you seem to tie your identity to your beliefs rather than the other way around. You seem to feel the need to to talk in terms of "us versus them." I have heard few people other than the very religous use words like "enemy" for people who don't follow or find truth in thier own belief system.

As For "having my objectivism and eating it too(?)" I can't think where I said anything that exhibited such behavior. I think it would be wise for you to reconsider your reactions, you may find that they upset not because they were wrong but because of just the opposite.

As for lecturing, if that was how my post was interpretted, I don't find that it was in anyway out of place. I see much of that around here, what was so upsetting to you about my remarks?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks to all for responding to my maiden post.

Also, to the member who requested that I not use his name in a post such as the one I made previously, I apologize. I would remove it, if I could now edit that post. I have no objections if a moderator would like to edit that post and remove the mention of that member's name.

And thank you, Tryptonique, for your response in particular.

Onwards,

WilliamB: On the one hand, she could denounce folk music because of its redundant, repetitive simplicity...

Betsy: Where did she do that?

This quote was already provided by another member, and I think it bears repeating here:

"On a more adult level: a heroic man, the skyline of New York, a sunlit landscape, pure colors, ecstatic music--or: a humble man, an old village, a foggy landscape, muddy colors, folk music."

Ayn Rand, Philosophy and Sense of Life, The Romantic Manifesto.

as well as the one I included in my first post:

"The products of anti-rational, anti-cognitive "Progressive" education, the hippies, are reverting to the music and the drumbeat of the jungle." Ayn Rand, Art and Cognition, The Romantic Manifesto.
I believe these statements speak for themselves. I could be wrong, but I don't believe that I am.

WilliamB: The idea that certain types of music can be psychologically damaging (an idea which Rand seems to espouse)...

Betsy: Where, pray tell?

"The deadly monotony of primitive music--the endless repetition of a few notes and of a rhythmic pattern that beats against the brain with the regularity of the ancient torture of water drops falling on a man's skull-- paralyzes cognitive processes, obliterates awareness and disintegrates the mind." 

Ayn Rand, "Art and Cognition", The Romantic Manifesto p.62

The reference to "primitive" music is a bit vague, but since she says that the hippies were "reverting to the music and the drumbeat of the jungle", I'd say it's a fair guess that she considered folk music a type of primitive music, since the music associated with the hippies was predominantly folk. In any case, what I specifically said was that I believed Ayn Rand might have held to the idea that "certain types of music" could be psychologically damaging. I would think that any music that "paralyzes cognitive processes, obliterates awareness and disintegrates the mind", could very well be psychologically damaging. If this is too broad a leap, I apologize.

I am sorry if my posts have offended. Best regards to all of you.

WAB

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Geeze, I am really sorry if what I said upset you. It wasn't intended to. I have just seen a large amount of people throughout the world who do change the philosophy into something they follow almost religously. I wasn't adressing anyone here specifically if you noticed, I don't think anything was said that directly related to my thoughts. After reading the thread I did however see an overall tone to this thread as well as others and I thoughtmy post would have been an intresting discussion.

In other words, rather than addressing specific facts related to specific people, you decided to slur an entire group of Objectivists by lecturing us, telling us that we treat Objectivism as a religion and Ayn Rand as a prophet.

I am not an enemy and I said nothing of blind faith.  I don't think what I said was rude by any means.
I see. So your sense of propriety includes knocking on people's doors and telling them that they are treating as religion the philosophy they value so greatly, and treating the ideas of its founder, as a prophet.

I will now mention that your tone in responce to my post is more specifically what I was talking about,  you seem to tie your identity to your beliefs rather than the other way around.

First, the philosophy I hold is not a matter of "beliefs," but rather a matter of careful and rigorous logical thinking that I have done over the course of my life. Second, your intended slur against my character was gratuitous, unsupported by reference to any facts. Your barefaced assertions carry no weight. Third, my "identity" is my mind -- my consciousness -- so in a very real sense my identity is those thoughts and ideas that I hold.

You seem to feel the need to to talk in terms of "us versus them."
I see. So in addition to being an expert on the ideas and views I hold, now you are also expert on my feelings and my motivation. You may have no doubts as to the veracity of your claims, but how unfortunate it is for us lesser folk that the pronouncements you make are unsupported by reference to any facts.

I have heard few people other than the very religous use words like "enemy" for people who don't follow or find truth in thier own belief system.

First, I cannot speak for the basis of your philosophy, but, again, mine is not held as a matter of "belief." Second, it is you, not me, who spoke of "people who don't follow or find truth" in my philosophy, as being my enemy. It would be nice for a change if you could refer to what I actually said when making your unwarranted and unsupported judgments.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This quote was already provided by another member, and I think it bears repeating here:

"On a more adult level: a heroic man, the skyline of New York, a sunlit landscape, pure colors, ecstatic music--or: a humble man, an old village, a foggy landscape, muddy colors, folk music."

Ayn Rand, Philosophy and Sense of Life, The Romantic Manifesto.

You (WilliamB) seem to have completely misread what Ayn Rand wrote. The first five things she stated -- "a heroic man, the skyline of New York, a sunlit landscape, pure colors, ecstatic music" -- are paired with the following five things -- "a humble man, an old village, a foggy landscape, muddy colors, folk music.." So, the only reference to music in that quote is to contrast "folk music" with "ecstatic music," not your "redundant, repetitive simplicity."

And the second quote you provided, namely

"The products of anti-rational, anti-cognitive "Progressive" education, the hippies, are reverting to the music and the drumbeat of the jungle." Ayn Rand, Art and Cognition, The Romantic Manifesto.

makes no reference to folk music at all.

I believe these statements speak for themselves.

Yes, they do, but perhaps not in the way you intended.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I do not have a firm opinion of Ayn Rand's view of valid music but would like to illuminate a point of contention on this thread.

I am away from my books right now, so I cannot provide an exact quote; but I seem to remember her criticizing the epistemology behind folk music in an essay published in The Voice of Reason. I think it was in "Global Balkanization," but I'm not sure.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I do not have a firm opinion of Ayn Rand's view of valid music but would like to illuminate a point of contention on this thread.

I am away from my books right now, so I cannot provide an exact quote; but I seem to remember her criticizing the epistemology behind folk music in an essay published in The Voice of Reason.  I think it was in "Global Balkanization," but I'm not sure.

In that essay Miss Rand referred to folk art as "essentially similar and excruciatingly boring." Why do you think this is a "point of contention?"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"The products of anti-rational, anti-cognitive "Progressive" education, the hippies, are reverting to the music and the drumbeat of the jungle." Ayn Rand, Art and Cognition, The Romantic Manifesto."

makes no reference to folk music at all.

It doesn't have to. Look to other writings and you can pretty easily see that she isn't talking about something like heavy metal, reggae (as it wasn't prominent among hippies and is more a neo-hippy thing), or trance.

"I am trying to raise money for Friends of Global Progress." Rearden had never been able to keep track of the many organizations to which Philip belonged, nor to get a clear idea of their activities. He had heard Philip talking vaguely about this one for the last six months. It seemed to be devoted to some sort of free lectures on psychology, folk music and co-operative farming. Rearden felt contempt for groups of that kind and saw no reason for a closer inquiry into their nature.

Check this out:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hippie

Lets look at some of the highlights of the article:

"Hippie political expression often took the form of dropping out of society to implement the changes they sought. The back to the land movement, cooperative business enterprises, alternative energy, free press movement, and organic farming were all political in nature at their start."

Hmmmm cooperative business enterprises. "Back to the land" movments and "organic farming."

I'm seeing a connection with how she negatively characterizes Phillip.

I'm thinking that this folk music tends to fall right in line with the other hippie aspects of Phillip Rearden's causes. It isn't like folk music ISN'T similar to "the beat of the jungle." It doesn't exactly have complex time signatures and has simple "earthy" lyrics.

If you keep reading the Wiki article it also says:

-

Listening to certain styles of music; psychedelic rock such as the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, Sly & The Family Stone; modern jam band counterparts such as Phish, String Cheese Incident, moe., the Black Crowes, or Goa trance music

If you click on Psychedelic rock you get commonly accepted folk artists like Cream, The Band, and Bob Dylan mentioned in connection with hippies.

Does anyone want to argue that Bob Dylan and his progeny (Sheryl Crow, etc) aren't hippies? Have fun with that.

If nothing else, the key and time signatures psychadelic and beatnik rock share with folk music make it very similar in elements.

Stuff like Peter Paul and Marry, John Denver, and Bob Dylan were pretty popular among that crowd, even if it WAS a subset.

I'm guessing that Rearden (a Rand hero) who didn't like folk music had his hippy brother Phillip as the antithesis for a reason.

The first five things she stated -- "a heroic man, the skyline of New York, a sunlit landscape, pure colors, ecstatic music" -- are paired with the following five things -- "a humble man, an old village, a foggy landscape, muddy colors, folk music.." So, the only reference to music in that quote is to contrast "folk music" with "ecstatic music," not your "redundant, repetitive simplicity."QUOTE]

She is contrasting man's sense of life.

The heroic man is paired with elements that display a bright and sunny sense of life. Pure colors, ecstatic music, sunlit landscape, etc.

The humble man has a crappy village, foggy landscape (dull, muddled, etc), and his folk music.

For a woman like Miss Rand who displayed pride as a VIRTUE, I think that does indeed speak for itself.

Remember the skyline of New York contrasted with the muddy huts of some poor country that is made in Atlas Shrugged? Is that a coincidence? She seems to contrast sense of life in both of those.

Why is it so hard?

Even in your last post you admit that Rand labels folk music as excruciatingly boring.

I think that serves as warrant enough for WilliamB's point.

With all the evidence compiled, I don't see that as "mind reading" or "psychologizing".

I see it more as empirical observation and verified data.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...