Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Did Ayn Rand bash folk music?

Rate this topic


ironworks soundlabs
 Share

Recommended Posts

  • Replies 96
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

I finally found exact quotes of Ayn Rand's position on the epistemology of folk music, which I had said I would return with. I think the thread has moved on since then, but, for what it's worth, I'll make my "case."

Atavistic remnants and echoes of those ages have always existed in the backwaters of civilized countries, particularly in Europe, among the old, the tired, the timid, and those who gave up before they started.  Such people are the carriers of "ethnicity."  The "ways of living" they transmit from generation to generation consist in: folk songs, folk dances, special ways of cooking food, traditional costumes, and folk festivals. Although the professional "ethnics" would (and did) fight wars over the differences between their songs and those of their neighbors, there are no significant differences between them; all folk art is essentially similar and excruciatingly boring: if you've seen one set of people clapping their hands while jumping up and down, you've seen them all.

Now observe the nature of those traditional ethnic "achievements": all of them belong to the perceptual level of man's consciousness.  All of them are ways of dealing with or manipulating the concrete, the immediately given, the directly perceivable.  All of them are manifestations of the preconceptual stage of development.

I quote from one of my articles: "The concrete-bound, anti-perceptual mentality can cope only with men who are bound by the same concretes - by the same kind of finite world.  To this mentality, it means a world in which men do not have to deal with abstract principles: principles are replaced by memorized rules of behavior, which are accepted uncritically as the given.  What is 'finite' in such a world is not its extension, but the degree of mental effort required of its inhabitants.  When they say 'finite,' they mean 'perceptual.'" (This is from "The Missing Link" in [Philosophy: Who Needs It].  That article deals with the psycho-epistemological roots of modern tribalism.)

[bold emphases added.]

As can be gleaned from the above, Ayn Rand was not merely expressing a disdain for the boring nature of folk art (which includes folk music), but also highlighting the essence of its non-method: concrete-boundedness.

Since I do not want to use the folk music I grew up with as an example [not international enough], I enjoin my fellow contributors on this board to take pure folk music in any culture and check Miss Rand's assertions against the evidence.

The folk music I grew up around corroborates her statements; and I would like to here give credit to my younger brother, who brought my full attention to this issue about two years ago - which is why I was able to remember the context of the quote (though not the quote) with the degree of accuracy I did.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Zeus, thank you for confirming the memories of a busy man. (me)

If that doesn't qualify as a "bash," then I don't know what does. We now have quotes of Miss Rand speaking unfavorably of folk music both implicity in fiction and explicitly in non-fiction. As the point of this thread was to discover her opinion of folk music, I believe we have our answer.

If people want to disagree with, agree with, or discuss the merits of her opinion, might I suggest another thread?

(FC, you will note that I am not now, nor have I yet, disclosed my personal opinion of folk music)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Zeus, thank you for confirming the memories of a busy man. (me)

You're welcome.

If that doesn't qualify as a "bash," then I don't know what does. We now have quotes of Miss Rand speaking unfavorably of folk music both implicity in fiction and explicitly in non-fiction. As the point of this thread was to discover her opinion of folk music, I believe we have our answer.

If people want to disagree with, agree with, or discuss the merits of her opinion, might I suggest another thread?

Since I wasn't one of the initiators of this thread, I have to defer to other contributors on this one.

Best wishes!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 6 months later...

I have seen some people package-dealing, lumping statements about tribal music and folk music together in this thread, and I wish to point out that I do not believe Ayn Rand wanted to do so herself. There may be elements of tribalism in folk music (and folk art), but it would probably vary between different folk musics. I have also heard Leonard Peikoff warn about folk music, but he never made it clear why he did so (one of the extremely few puzzling things I have heard from him, but he may have relied on Rand's statements, but nothing suggested it). (Just as I read a prominent Objectivist comment on how he overcame Beethoven, which made no sense at all to me ... . If Beethoven is expressing something malevolent and one likes it -- I guess it is ones malevolence rather than Beethoven's music one needs to overcome ... .)

As usual Ayn Rand is best taken exactly on her words! She writes about philosophy in principles and not by pointing to only to concretes around her. When she condemns "minimalist musics" for example -- what she condemns is the essential of this music -- its repetitiveness. She is not condemning the possible expressiveness of that music. That music is reducing art to the minimal in principle, but may not do so in every instance. A good example in my view is the extremely different experiences it is to listen to different works by Steve Reich (the arch popular minimalist) -- some of his works simply stupefies you and achieves nothing, while some other may be very expressive. (His 'Drumming' might be an example of the first and his 'Music for 18 musicians' might be a good example of the latter. (I do believe this is very personal and Ayn Rand might not have agreed with this example at all, of course.))

Folk Music is essentially what Rand says it is -- a part of a ritual for concrete bound people. However, all music that draws from such sources may not be essentially about this.

Jerry

Link to comment
Share on other sites

(Just as I read a prominent Objectivist comment on how he overcame Beethoven, which made no sense at all to me ... . If Beethoven is expressing something malevolent and one likes it -- I guess it is ones malevolence rather than Beethoven's music one needs to overcome ... .)

I love Beethoven's music; he's my favorite composer. So the part of your post I have quoted caught my eye. Could you elaborate a bit on this if you know more, please? Who was this individual? Where did you read it? Is it available online? Got a link?

As stated, it makes no sense to me either! Thanks.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I love Beethoven's music; he's my favorite composer.  So the part of your post I have quoted caught my eye.  Could you elaborate a bit on this if you know more, please?  Who was this individual?  Where did you read it?  Is it available online?  Got a link?

As stated, it makes no sense to me either! Thanks.

I could possibly have misunderstood his position and therefore do not want leave out his name.

One point is that I think it may be easier than in most fields to make errors regarding art and esp. music, since it is more difficult to point out contradictions in evaluations and propositions in that field. Another was that, while you may dislike some art for having a sense-of-life contrary to your own, this does not make it wrong for another objective person to enjoy that art nor is it that this art is no good for that reason.

Art fulfills a spiritual need for man no matter whether that man is partly a man on bad premises or not.

Jerry

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks.  I am glad you got some value from it.

Rap qua rap is not music.  It's closest relation to any exiting art form would have to be poetry.  This is my estimate based on the facts rap & poetry share the common attributes of specifically selected words from a given language spoken in structural framework of rhythm & candence.  Granted much rap would have to be (in my estimation) bad poetry, but poetry nevertheless.

An aspect that frequently confuses the issue of "Is rap music?" is that fact that  most modern rap "songs" have some musical data in them.  But this merely serves as a background, or baseline rhythmic standard by which rappers gauge their timing, phrasing, etc.  It is not the main focus of attention.  And even if one argued that this background musical data is to a degree integrated with the rapping it still doesn't change anything.

Rapping does not contain melodic information.  Therefore it cannot contain harmonic information.  It only contains linguistic & rhythmic information.  Therefore rapping per se is not music.

On a side note, friends of mine with more interest in rap (hip-hop, rave, etc.) have informed me there are in fact identifiable standards by which one can judge the respective skills of various rappers.  And there is an increasingly blurred line on what any given genre/style of music is or what aspect it contains.  Some "rap" songs have sections with actual singing in them; some musical songs (i.e. primarily focused on a sung melody) have rapping in them.  The people involved in the creation of these styles are frequently clever, imaginative manipulators of digital samples of others songs, pieces of songs and/or repeated sound samples but they are primarily interested in linguistic, rhythmic & sectional structure.  They use the simplest of melodic devices (if at all).  Harmonic content (i.e. a goal-directed harmonic progression) is of little to no serious value at all to them.  Perhaps a better name for this type of thing is Poetry Set To An Audio Soundscape.

I am not necessarily denigrating this stylistic approach, I am merely saying that certain aspects of it are not music.  Of course, in my experience, much of the content of their art is irrational, primitive & sometimes explicitly evil.  This, of course, gets no sanction.

Friends & acquaintances have also informed me there are rappers & hip-hop artists out there that do project rational (or semi-rational) content.  That very well may be.  & I wish them well, but don't really care.  I also find much of this stuff unbearable to listen to long enough to evaluate.  I will listen to just about anything once just to be fair.

OK, too long-winded here (as usual!), but...

There is so much potential for beauty in the art of music.  Sometimes it is disappointing how banal, pointless, vulgar, etc. much of current pop culture's music is.  Even when I hear an artist that does actual music I frequently find myself bored to death.  If you can find any artist with a good sense of life & decent musical aspects to their work (i.e. melody, harmony, rational form) it should be cherished & valued.

Christopher Schlegel

Well said. I'd say based on your response that you regard melody as intrinsically harmonic. If so, I'd agree! I agree with your entire post. There is been a huge volume of writing in the last twenty years on this subject. But unfortunately most of it is based on, yes, you guessed it...Plato! EVen Aristotle held views on music similar to Plato's, but are they right? Does a particular "type" of music or in this case non-music, have an effect on the individual? Is there enough data to support a conclusion to this either way. Miss Rand suggests that an active mind will be drawn to more complex musical ideas, or as Aristoxeus might say, musical space. But even she stopped short of a final answer and just offered an hypothesis.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The little she said about Rock was also negative. I disagree with her, however, on Rock as I find value in some bands and muscians who truly excel.

I imagine that if Rand could have heard some of the Prog Rock that came out in the 80s and beyond she would have some good things to say about it. No obviously it doesn't have the same value as a symphony, but the artists proficiency with their instruments and often symphonic melodies are valuable. And music that makes you happy and want to dance--she definitely valued.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well said.

Thanks, glad you found it of value. :D

I'd say based on your response that you regard melody as intrinsically harmonic.

I'm not exactly sure about that formulation. My position is that, in an objective sense, the more a melody implies goal-directed harmonic structures, the more valuable it is. So, I suppose you could say that a melody does not necessarily have to contain that element. For example, Gregorian chants or some modal jazz have 'melodic lines' or 'threads', but not necessarily a goal-directed harmonic structure.

If you are interested I did posts regarding this topic in extensive detail HERE & HERE. Feel free to respond there or here, whatever makes the most sense to you.

I agree with your entire post...

Is there enough data to support a conclusion to this either way. Miss Rand suggests that an active mind will be drawn to more complex musical ideas, or as Aristoxeus might say, musical space. But even she stopped short of a final answer and just offered an hypothesis.

I have thought long & hard about this for many years; & I now know that you have also. I think it is a realistic goal to be able to formulate an objective musical aesthetic philosophy. It sure won't be easy. & there is ONE HELL OF A LOT of work to be done in this area that has not just never been done, but worse, has never even been considered. Especially considering the largely abysmal current state of academic musical studies & scholarship.

We have a long road ahead.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

...an objective musical aesthetic philosophy. It sure won't be easy. & there is ONE HELL OF A LOT of work to be done in this area that has not just never been done, but worse, has never even been considered. Especially considering the largely abysmal current state of academic musical studies & scholarship.

We have a long road ahead.

I have to bring an emphasis to this point because, as a musician and an Objectivist I find it very necessary to explore this.

I have spent many sleepless nights pondering the world of music but have been unsucsessful in finding the root of it that keeps me playing. I know that's backwards, I should have found a reason to start, in today's world this kind of thing happens often.

I am almost certain that it is what I want to do. But that's the problem, I'm almost certain.

'I wasn't born an Objectivist per se.'

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have to bring an emphasis to this point because, as a musician and an Objectivist I find it very necessary to explore this.

Hello! I am sorry I missed you before now. What is your primary instrument? Are you studying music? Do you have samples of your work online?

I have spent many sleepless nights pondering the world of music but have been unsucsessful in finding the root of it that keeps me playing. I know that's backwards, I should have found a reason to start, in today's world this kind of thing happens often.

I'm not sure what you mean here. You are 'pondering the world of music' in what way? & you are pondering in order to find out why you are interested in playing music? I am sincerely confused about what you are saying here. My first impression here is you are trying to combine two separate issues: the universal nature of music & your own motivation for playing. If that is the case, the context is set VERY wide. You can most certainly, eventually connect the two but there will be an incredibly large number of steps between them.

I am almost certain that it is what I want to do. But that's the problem, I'm almost certain.

Do you mean you are almost certain that you want to work on developing an objective musical aesthetic as a career goal?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Boy, it's amazing how worked up people can get about such a topic as folk music. Geeze.

For a funny movie about folk music, see A Mighty Wind. I enjoyed most of the music and the dry humor, of course, is great. These are the same group of folks (pun intended) that made Best in Show.

Just thought we needed a post to lighten things up a bit. God.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Boy, it's amazing how worked up people can get about such a topic as folk music. Geeze.
I was talking about music in general in response to:

I have thought long & hard about this for many years; & I now know that you have also. I think it is a realistic goal to be able to formulate an objective musical aesthetic philosophy. It sure won't be easy. & there is ONE HELL OF A LOT of work to be done in this area that has not just never been done, but worse, has never even been considered. Especially considering the largely abysmal current state of academic musical studies & scholarship.

We have a long road ahead.

Hello! I am sorry I missed you before now. What is your primary instrument? Are you studying music? Do you have samples of your work online?
I am an intermediate/advanced pianist, studying for my first degree in music (BA in Music Composition.) I am a novice composer with little work completed and unavailable.

I'm not sure what you mean here. You are 'pondering the world of music' in what way? & you are pondering in order to find out why you are interested in playing music?[...]

As a hobbyist in and a lover of the world of Philosophy (and becoming an Objectivist) I am eager to explore my place in the world of music. I agree that there is little work that I know of that addresses a 'Theory of Music' or any general aspects of non-arbitrary aesthetics in music.

I am searching for a connection between my limited knowledge of aesthetics and the reasons I play.

I am considering a double major in Philosophy though I do not think UNLV would be the best place to do it. (many liberals and I've heard that there is a closet Kantian on campus)

[...]the universal nature of music & your own motivation for playing. [...] ...the context is set VERY wide. You can most certainly, eventually connect the two but there will be an incredibly large number of steps between them.

This is essentially it. I wish to explore a theory of aesthetics in music and I have formulated a few lines of thought on the matter (a linguistic approach) however I am far from being a 'Philosopher' per se.

I know that the music I create has value to me. However, I want to explore what value in music is on a wider scale.

Thanks for the thoughts.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am an intermediate/advanced pianist, studying for my first degree in music (BA in Music Composition.) I am a novice composer with little work completed and unavailable.

Excellent. I just got my BA in Music (Applied/Performance) this past weekend. I wish you success in your future composing.

I am considering a double major in Philosophy....

Wow! That's an ambitious goal!

...though I do not think UNLV would be the best place to do it. (many liberals and I've heard that there is a closet Kantian on campus)

Hopefully if you decide to take this path you can find a more appropriate school then.

I wish to explore a theory of aesthetics in music and I have formulated a few lines of thought on the matter (a linguistic approach) however I am far from being a 'Philosopher' per se.

Very good, care to share? I understand you are not yet a Philosopher; which, I am assuming, is why you are considering going to school for it. :lol:

I know that the music I create has value to me. However, I want to explore what value in music is on a wider scale.

Thanks for the thoughts.

A worthy endeavor! You are welcome & thank you also.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I wouldn't call myself a fan of folk music (for the record I hate Country and Rap, and Woodie Guthrie).  I am, however, a pretty good musician myself, with a wide variety of musical tastes.  I take pleasure from different kinds of music because I like it, not because it falls under the genre of "primitive folk music" or "sophisticated tasteful classical music."  Mozart was dull (and lest somebody call me a moron, I can play the trombone solo from his piece "Requiem" from memory...but I just don't like to).

I'm the same way. For those bashing African Drum music, you are clearly not a musician and cannot hear the intense and EXTREMELY hard polyrhythms going on. African music is very difficult and very well put together. You may not like it, but to call it "trash" is unsupported and insulting.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Very good, care to share? I understand you are not yet a Philosopher; which, I am assuming, is why you are considering going to school for it.

It is obvious that the value in music is irrelevant if no consciousness is able to perceive it and to judge it. It is obvious that no value exists in music if no consciousness is able to create it. This is a rough and unrefined statement of the Law of Identity in the context of Value in Music.

Just as the meaning of Atlas Shrugged would be different if any of the words were rearranged, a piece of music would be different in form and in value if any of the ideas or notes were rearranged. This is where I draw the parallel between language and music. (I have heard from one of my prof.'s that this relation has been addressed before but I neglect to research it because I am aspiring to develop it myself)

The word 'Apple' could have been any other combination of sounds in its infancy and its conceptual development would have been unaffected. This I feel demonstrates the act of volitional choice in the creation of a word to define a concept. This choice, I hold, is directly affected by one's environment i.e. one's phyisical abilities (the ease of saying a certain combination of words for instance, this is the underlying reason that 'apple' wasn't 'dafrenaxoscalemton' It is an early concept ['apple' itself may not thoroughly fit the purpose here but I think my intentions are clear] and its length and form make this apparent.) the amount and content of concepts defined by one's peers ect. (if I already know 'apple' I am not going to use it to define the concept of 'table')

I have come to hold that the 'apple' of music, drawing a metaphor from my example, is the concept of 'harmony'. The 'ease of saying' harmony is the fact that a conglomeration of quartertones is distinctly different from the relationship of the tones in a major chord. The concept of harmony, as a hypothesis and apart from any evidence, was developed because harmonious tonal relationships are few compared to the infinite and continuos combination of tones. "play it again like that, it was easy on my ears"

My time runs short... More to come

ADMIN PLEASE SPAWN ANOTHER THREAD IF I AM TO OFF THE TOPIC HERE

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Boy, it's amazing how worked up people can get about such a topic as folk music.  Geeze.

For a funny movie about folk music, see A Mighty Wind.  I enjoyed most of the music and the dry humor, of course, is great.  These are the same group of folks (pun intended) that made Best in Show.

Just thought we needed a post to lighten things up a bit.  God.

Yeah -- some people are even that stupid that they get worked up about philosophy, you know! (Sarcasm intended.)

But, I agree with you, that it is wonderful that people can find so much interesting things to talk about even in regard to such an obscure topic! (Sarcasm intended. I have to write it as I am not sure you would get this otherwise... .)

Jerry

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For those bashing African Drum music, you are clearly not a musician and cannot hear the intense and EXTREMELY hard polyrhythms going on.  African music is very difficult and very well put together.  You may not like it, but to call it "trash" is unsupported and insulting.
An even more sophisticated analysis shows that some African traditions are really boring and require relatively little skill, and others are interesting and require skill. For example, the Kapere Jazz Band is skilled and worth listening to; pretty much all contemporary East and Central African popular music is a serious disvalue; kora is usually technically skillful but again tends to be excessively repetitive. Farming music is, AFAIK, never interesting although it's better than nothing you're working the dirt for 12 hours. For my money, all Shangaan timbila music is better skipped: whereas, Hukwe Zawose tends to do a pretty good job with essentially the same instruments. In my opinion, there is no such thing as African Drum music. There is a huge difference between Makua drumming and Makonde drumming, and we're talking about just a hundred miles and minimal cultural separation.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

An even more sophisticated analysis shows that some African traditions are really boring and require relatively little skill, and others are interesting and require skill. For example, the Kapere Jazz Band is skilled and worth listening to; pretty much all contemporary East and Central African popular music is a serious disvalue; kora is usually technically skillful but again tends to be excessively repetitive. Farming music is, AFAIK, never interesting although it's better than nothing you're working the dirt for 12 hours. For my money, all Shangaan timbila music is better skipped: whereas, Hukwe Zawose tends to do a pretty good job with essentially the same instruments. In my opinion, there is no such thing as African Drum music. There is a huge difference between Makua drumming and Makonde drumming, and we're talking about just a hundred miles and minimal cultural separation.

Well, that's the same with any music/genre/culture. And I agree about the differences. I'm just quick to defend drums as a MUSICAL instrument.

I know people have made references to John Cage on here, and I will say, while I've never liked his "music" I can respect, in some ways, what he did. I mean, the whole point was that EVERYTHING has a tonal property. Now that doesn't make everything good music, but if hitting trash can lids in piece where they would be perfect makes music....it's still music to use them. There's more to music than just tonal qualities...there's timbre and texture (Which is my HUGE focus) I'm not huge on minimalism, except for some Steve Reich pieces which have AMAZING texture. I just wish they would GO somewhere. My goal in my writing is to get the rhythmic texture of Steve Reich with the movement of Beethoven or Bach. I hope that's obtainable.

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...