Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Minimalism as a movement.

Rate this topic


buy more product
 Share

Recommended Posts

This is an issue that touches close to heart for me; I listen almost exclusively to early, baroque and 21st century minimalist classical music. In browsing through the discussions on here I've noticed that taste on in classical music on these boards almost never runs far into the 21st century.

Further, from what I've read by and about the major composers of the movement--Glass comes to mind, and to a lesser extent, Cage--the composers themselves openly and cheerfully identify with eastern mysticism and All the Issues. Philip Glass is a buddhist, or something of that nature.

My personal favorite, Michael Nyman, doesn't seem as interested in intellectual toxins of this kind, but I have no clear idea of what his stated principles are. On the other hand, every time I hear his second string quartet I think of Halley.

I have two related questions, then. Is it possible from an objectivist standpoint to produce art operating on valid principles, although one intends the art to work on different principles entirely? Case in point: Glass suggests that minimalist music is a vehicle for breaking down western ideas about structure, form and meaning in classical music, and that it puts the audience into an eastern meditative state which ideally overwhelms and undermines the personality. Dreadful stuff. On the other hand, I personally find that the structure of other minimalist music--like Adams', or Cage's--puts me into a very clarified, analytical, primarily intellectual (rather than emotional) state, which is quite the opposite of Glass's program but very congenial to my needs. N.B., I do not feel this way about Glass's music--I think it's very messy, lowbrow stuff, his toxic ideas about life aside.

The second question is more general. What kind of moral and cultural ideas do you think are implied or supported by the best of minimalist music--Michael Nyman and Joby Talbot's lyric minimalism, for instance, or John Cage's pieces for the prepared piano, or Adams' orchestral "Walls of Sound" compositions?

I'm new here and still formulating my own ideas on the subject, and I'd like to see what others think.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't think you're likely to get much of an answer here: esthetics as it concerns music is far from a science and about as subjective as you're likely to get because understanding how music interacts with our brain is unbelievably complicated.

That being said, it's certainly possible to produce good music if you have bad philosophy, just as it's possible to produce bad music if you have good philosophy. A lot of religious music, for instance, is very powerful. Music induces an emotional response in the listener, and people with poor philosophy have the same emotional states as people with good philosophy, they just attach them to different actions.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Point taken about the capitalization. I'll be more careful.

Now, as for apprehending the aesthetics of music qua music's effect on the brain--that isn't what we do when we apprehend visual art, for instance, so I would posit that we should be able to make the same kind of claims about the ontological basis for music as for literature or visual art. I realize this is a counterintuitive idea, because a fugue and a mosaic are such radically different objects; on the other hand, I think one has the best of reasons to try to identify the ontological root of art. Plato's idea that beautiful things are beautiful through the agency of Beauty as a form is similar to what I'm looking for here--the "idea" of art, the qualitative template by which an object becomes an art object. This is of course not to propose that "art" is a platonic idea, or that platonic ideas are a useful or stable component to today's philosophy; but I do think that intellectual rigor requires one to seek out the core principles of any concept, as it relates to man's intellectual "discourse" with the world and the world's properties.

That's why I say that the aesthetics of music should be kept in the theoretical, rather than neurological, realm. Science will inevitably display the chemical-biological basis for our apprehension of music's meaning--how we apprehend music--but I think the task remains to us to determine the intellectual basis for that apprehension, i.e., why we apprehend it and what the value of that apprehension is.

I am primarily a theorist of literature, specifically of poetry--I'm a New Critic trying to revise and expand John Crowe Ransom's critical work--so this will of course inform my take on music. I don't have a stance I'm willing to put forth in completion, yet, but I do think that we have good reason not to apprehend music as a primarily emotional genre, for these reasons:

First, I think that what we usually mean when we say that music is emotional in nature is that it suggests or raises emotional states in its audience. But of course this is to say that an audience will respond to music in an emotional way, rather than to say that music is itself emotional: For, after all, nothing inorganic can have an emotion of any kind, and certainly nothing nonhuman can have an emotion in a meaningful sense. Though music originates with a human composer and terminates in an audience, the phase it actually exists in--the phase in which we apprehend it--is immediately divorced from its human roots and must be reapprehended on human terms in order to be meaningful. If a Martian windmill squeaks in perfect fifths, it takes a listener to lend that musical consonance meaning.

Second, much of our great music is emotionally ineffective. A great deal of Baroque music simply does not carry an emotional burden: Consider Bach's organ fugues. There is a certain tension to this music, which makes it stirring--but to take the famous example, I would posit that without its accumulated patina of the Gothic, the Toccata and Fugue in Dm would arouse nothing like foreboding in the listener. To take another stirring example that many people have heard, consider the Little Fugue in Gm: If one were to try to identify its emotional content, he would be hard pressed. The effect is strictly intellectual, and the pleasure it arouses, I would argue, is the pleasure of apprehending great order on human terms.

I realize that you didn't in any way posit that music is emotion: These arguments are intended primarily to contend that emotional impact should be a secondary consideration in our apprehension of music, if at all. This means that the philosophical implications of music as a genre are particularly important: It's true that all people have the same emotional states, but an evilly induced intellectual state should proceed from an evil intellectual model, it would stand to reason. If music is primarily intellectual, then it stands to reason that the intellectual model of a genre--cf. the question at hand--will produce music either pernicious or healthful, depending on its own nature.

For instance, the basic implications of an organ fugue run along lines like "Music is a massive system; music follows the development and conclusion of thought; music mirrors the intellect of its creator; music inherently makes sense," and so forth. These premises seem necessary to obey the genre in its classical form; you can't (or wouldn't) produce a fugue if you think that man's intellect is essentially impotent and that his apprehension of order is an illusion.

Is this clarifying the intellectual problems I'm working toward at all? I'm in a difficult position, because I have a number of propositions but no clear conclusion or working system. The reason I bring this issue to the Objectivist board is that my goal here is to examine an essentially moralistic view of music and musical aesthetics.

Salubrious music? Gad! I hate sounding like a neoplatonist.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

These arguments are intended primarily to contend that emotional impact should be a secondary consideration in our apprehension of music, if at all.

Actually, the intellectual and emotional impact of music are esthetically of equal significance: this is why the Romantic movement is the best esthetically: because it combines these two elements. This is also why the esthetics of music are extremely complicated.

At the one end of the spectrum you have intellectual music with no emotional impact . . . elevator music in essence. On the other end you get a large portion of modern music (referred to by Ayn Rand as "perceptual" music) that is intellectually barren (three chords repeated over and over and over along with some idiot lyrics) but does have a definite emotional appeal.

I personally prefer the latter type. Intellectual music without emotional impact bores me to tears. I definitely prefer music that contains both elements when I can find it. It sounds more like you are the opposite. I suggest you read The Romantic Manifesto if you haven't already, and I'm going to bow out of this topic because after this point I'm out of my depth.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think I'm contesting the idea that "the intellectual and emotional significance of music are of equal importance," because I think that the one must inevitably proceed from the other or be mis-applied.

What I mean by this is that ideally, one's emotional response to a piece of art should be the heartfelt response to the representation of one's values. When we respond emotionally to AS or a picture of a cute kitten, we are saying quite a lot about our value systems--but the emotion generated is internal. You know those vacuum balls with the electrified cores, that focus the charge in a lightning tendril when you touch them? It looks as though your finger is electrifying the core, but the core is actually responding to a focus. I'd say that music and the emotions work the same way.

Because music has to operate as a focus, its intellectuality becomes particularly important: I would definitely say that elevator music is not intellectual, because it lacks complexity and focus. If anything, it's the opposite of intellectual art, because it diffuses intellectual and emotional focus.

I really do need to read RM. It would be nice to have citations to argue against--I think that Objectivist aesthetic theory may be on the wrong track right now inasmuch as it seems (as far as I can tell) to deal strictly with content, without having an apparatus to deal with form-as-content. This is of course only the most impressionistic of sentiments at this point.

Don't think that I'm trying to provoke you into further discussion if you'd like to bow out--I'm trying to contextualize my earlier ideas in order to make my position clearer to anyone else who might happen along.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I can discuss general esthetic theory but unfortunately I know absolutely nothing about music specifically. If you asked me to listen to two works I would probably have the devil of a time figuring out which one was more intellectual and what type of intellectual premises were presented in the music. I could probably learn to do it with practice, but since this particular area of esthetics is not my interest I haven't had any reason to practice.

It's actually been demonstrated scientifically that certain notes and combinations of notes evoke certain definite emotional responses in test subjects. (AR talks about this in RM.) In addition, several people hearing the same piece of music can all easily identify the emotional response it evokes: anyone can listen to music and say whether it's happy or sad or benevolent or malevolent or whatever. What differs is the way those people regard that emotional response, which is dependent upon their particular values . . . which are in turn dependent upon their philosophical base. The emotional response itself is not completely viewer-dependant. What happens instead is that someone with malevolent-universe premise hearing a light, upbeat piece of music dislikes it and dismisses it as trivial, while someone with a more benevolent view feels a desire to get up and dance. They both detect the "happy" in the music, it's just that their view of the place of happiness in the world is different, in other words.

This is also the reason why a fully-developed esthetics of music is so complicated, because it involves isolating what musical combinations evoke what types of emotional responses, why those combinations evoke those responses, what different compositional methods mean and finally what the listener's response to all of the above says about their subconsciously grasped philosophical principles.

The reason I encourage you to read RM is because I know so little about music that I can only say "that makes sense" when reading what she wrote and then, basically, tell you about it to the best of my rememberance, I can't really chew her theory that well because my background is shaky as hell.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What I mean by this is that ideally, one's emotional response to a piece of art should be the heartfelt response to the representation of one's values. When we respond emotionally to AS or a picture of a cute kitten, we are saying quite a lot about our value systems--but the emotion generated is internal. You know those vacuum balls with the electrified cores, that focus the charge in a lightning tendril when you touch them? It looks as though your finger is electrifying the core, but the core is actually responding to a focus. I'd say that music and the emotions work the same way.

I'm not quite sure what you mean by this analogy. What is the core? What is the focus? What does it mean to "respond to a focus"?

I'm not a music expert either although I've had some training, and have some family who've had more.

The primary concept Rand discusses in "The Psycho-Epistemology of Art" (which is really sort of the topic you have here) is the "metaphysical value judgement". I want to understand how you think this compares, contrasts with what you have posted above.

http://objectivism101.com/Lectures/Lecture60.shtml

http://objectivism101.com/Lectures/Lecture63.shtml

http://www.saint-andre.com/journal/1994-10-15.html

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I read these lectures, and see what the basic issue here is.

I retract my earlier speculation that Objectivist aesthetics are on the wrong track; this isn't quite the case. Objectivist aesthetics are resting wholly one one rail of the right track. I think I can preach the whole homily from one verse:

In other words, art provides a connecting point between the concrete particularity of reality and the abstract universality of our very widest abstractions.
(Peter Saint-Andre, "Psycho-Epistemology of Art")

That point of connexion between the concrete and the abstract is both absolutely necessary to our understanding of art as well as an incomplete point. It's necessary because it explains how we can recognize value statements in non-linguistic objects--a picture can describe a discourse only because it represents abstracts by the means of a concrete--and is incomplete because it is being applied only to representational art, and as far as I can tell, almost inevitably to art of the human figure.

I think that Rand's conception that "Art is a selective re-creation of reality according to an artist's metaphysical value-judgments" is an important one, but its manifestation so far implies that the artist can only do so by representing reality on a pictorially mimetic level. This is especially problematic when one moves away from the visual arts and into music, and by considering the problems of applying Objectivist aesthetics to music, it is becoming clearer that we are missing an apparatus for apprehending the arts on a formal level qua metaphysical judgment.

When I call a work of art a "focus," I do so in the same sense that Rand writes, in "Art and Cognition," that "The sensory-perceptual awareness of an adult ... [consists] .. of integrations that combine sense data with a vast context of conceptual knowledge. The visual arts refine and direct the sensory elements of these integrations." The refinement and direction of the sensory elements in the work of art demands the refinement and direction of the perception; art at its core level is a call to concentrated attention on a concretized frame of reference.

This frame, however, can be non-figurative, because we really are apprehending an abstract: That's why we're able to approach a Mondriaan; it's a concrete realization of abstract ideas of order, balance, and the interrelation of visual objects on the most nonfigurative level--the art is acting mimetically to itself, to the province of the ideal, not to the concrete world.

I think that we can extend the idea of the metaphysical value-judgment away from works with a clear figurative narrative; because when Mondriaan makes an abstract painting he is demonstrating, by formal means, salubrious concepts: That man can order the world on abstract levels, that the world reflects an ideal order, that man himself can be a structured and balanced audience to structured and balanced art. Conversely, when Pollock makes an abstract painting, he is demonstrating by formal means a worldview that may not be malevolent, but is certainly destructive: That the artist's feelings and impulses are more important than his concepts, that a mood is more important than an analysis, that personality is more important than precision, etc.

Because I can only conceive of music as purely formal, I think that distinctions like these are paramount. It can only make statements on formal, not narrative, grounds; as it stands, Objectivist aesthetics are only equipped to evaluate art objects where figurative or linguistic representation produces a narrative. When art is a point of connexion between the abstract and the concrete, the formal qualities of the concrete should give us information about the abstracts, particularly when no figurative content is available to us.

This is the basis on which I ask whether the abstract formal principles of minimalist music can be considered salubrious or not.

As to the electric ball analogy, I mean the core to be the intellect and the focus to be the object of aesthetic apprehension; i.e. the music is not creating the concentrated electricity of the emotional response, it's giving the intellectual core a point to direct its emotional response toward.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi bmp,

Well, thanks for the thoughtful reading of the material. And it looks as though you might have read a bit of the Romantic Manifesto as well.

It's an interesting question, and certainly I think music would be the focal point of the debate because its form is not quite like the others.

If I understand your thesis correctly (and please modify if I reflect it improperly) you are saying that art can represent formal concepts in the abstract without necessarily making any sort of referent, in its execution, to reality or concrete things. This is almost a Platonic approach to aesthetics (as opposed to Aristotelian, from whom Rand springs). So the idea of order can be represented by a picture of a grid with squares colored in (as per Mondriaan).

As I understand Miss Rand's aesthetics, the selective recreation of reality is an absolute critical element to the basic definition of art. This is because the concept of integration is a crucial one to her whole philosophy, as is her theory of concepts, neither as Platonic forms, nor as a collection of uncollected concretes, but as intellectual tools by which man can understand his world.

Under this idea then, at best, such "non-representational" works are studies in mood or tone, but they have very little meaning other than that. They may require skill to execute, and they may actually evoke some response. However, calling that art is sort of like calling a spoke, a bicycle. They are interesting for the artist to consider in the abstract, to understand how say color, and shading, and dissonance, and harmony, act psychologically to create a specific mood, but they are not art in and of themselves.

So then, order may be part of a theme of a work of art, but order as a concept only means something with respect to things in reality. Thus you can experiment to see what aspects of a visual medium can evoke that feeling. And that is an important part of understanding the medium, but it is not art. It is pre-art. It is as if Mondriaan showed us his art school experiments and called them fully formed works of art.

Another clue to this for me is that I find you interpretations of Mondriaan, and Pollack as highly psychologized. That is, I can see how you derive the idea of order from a Mondrian, but I cannot see how you arrive at a benevolent world view (man as efficaciousness of man, etc) of Mondrian vs. a malevolant world view of Pollack, at least not from the concretes of the painting itself. I could just as easily say that Mondriaan expresses the malevolant world view of a repressive, ordered world, and Pollack represents the vibrant spark of creativity and joy and the creative in man. There are no concrete referents in either to sway me one way or the other, and this is the fundamental issue. They may evoke a tone or mood, but they have no meaning without a referent to reality, and without being intergrated to other referents in reality to form plot, theme, composition, etc.

When you talk of focus, and use Rand's quote, you miss the vital element (last word of the sentence): integrations. What you propose as possible art is certainly interesting, but it is wholly dis-integrated.

Edited by KendallJ
Link to comment
Share on other sites

By the way, just my own personal take on minimalist music. I can appreciate the skill it takes to evoke a particular mood with music. I used to play and I understand enough of the theory and mechanics to appreciate even what I would call musical "experiments". In fact, my favorite activity in chat is to "bring in" music or art works and see what sort of moods are evoked, see how universal they are, etc. I like to play with different works at times when I am in different moods to see how constant a work is in being able to evoke a mood. To that end, I like listening to all sorts of music. However, while I find many pieces containing many aspects of artful work, to me, only the highest of these qualify as really well-integrated fully formed art, in Rand's sense of the word.

If I think of this with respect to the word salubrious (which is a new word for me, thanks), I would say that pieces of pre-art, such as most minimalist music are "decorative", but they are not art.

Edited by KendallJ
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Full disclosure: I only read the essays; RM is on my reading list, but aside from its quotations in the essays and lectures, I am not familiar with it.

I think the central idea from which my line of questioning extends is the notion that an art object has a concrete identity of its own: When you say that "art can represent formal concepts in the abstract without necessarily making any sort of referent, in its execution, to reality or concrete things," I would contend that the art object itself, being a concrete thing, can concretize the formal and abstract concepts in its own body, to the extent that the formal principles which allow it to exist qua itself do not allow for the expression of any other principle, q.v. Mondriaan: You simply cannot construe his De Stijl compositions as representing non-orderly formal principles; it's not possible. There's more room for a reading like the one you suggested, that his orderliness is a repressive and malevolent view of the world; on the other hand, notice that the recognition of order as a central principle inescapable in either case.

It's qualities like this--formal elements of a work which cannot be misconstrued--which I think refer strictly to the art object itself; that is to say, I think the statement is to the form of "This composition exists in a meaningful sense because it is orderly," rather than "This composition refers to ORDER." I realize that it sounds as though I'm invoking a platonic solid, but I really don't mean to; I do think, however, that the set of qualities which are identifiably orderly--especially in the constructed neoclassical sense of what proportion, harmony, etc. represent to man--have a meaningful and consistent presence which carries moral connotations.

This is to say that, yes, order as a concept has meaning only with reference to things in reality; and a Mondriaan is a thing in reality. I mean this beyond the sense that "my furniture is a thing, I can walk into it and hurt myself;" but that the pictoral elements of the work become concretized in a manner that makes an object out of an idea, that solidifies the abstract into the tangible. This is to say not only "This painting exists" but "what is painted on the painting exists, ideally as well as physically."

The reason I keep gesturing toward idealism is because I think we need to, if we are going to apprehend music or literature. Non-idealist readings of the material visual arts works fine, but they begin to break down when you no longer have something you can hang on your wall: Where does a poem exist when there are three copies of it? No copies? Where is the choreography when it's not being performed? What is a piece of music made of when it's not being performed, and what does it refer to when it is?

I see why you would call my reading of Mondriaan and Pollock "psychologizing," but I mean them as statements of principle, in that I think that you simply cannot compose in the manner of either painter without operating on the positive or negative principles I suggested--whether or not the artist thinks he's operating along those lines, the moral content is the same. No sane person would paint in the manner of De Stijl unless he were celebrating orderliness; to celebrate order is to make all of the assertions that I put in Mondriaan's mouth.

Thanks for your thoughtful attention! This is rapidly becoming more a discussion about the visual arts than about music, but I think the digression is justified. If I'm making any egregious mistakes in reasoning, please tell me--this line of argument is a work in progress for me.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Going back to the first bit of the original post and FWIW, my own theoretical take on minimalist music is that it is music geared to the psycho-epistemology of an adding machine.

Speaking personally, i can't abide it at all, ever, under any circumstances. Even decent music that happens to use motives similar to those Glass uses (and uses and uses) irritates me. It has nothing to do with whether it was written last year or last millennium. Boring is boring. This is coming from someone who on any given day might listen to Xenakis, Beethoven, Bjork, Stravinsky, and Thelonius Monk for his own pleasure.

It's true that there is some music written in the last 100 years that crosses the line from complex to not-possible-to-follow. But speaking personally, i prefer a composer to err on that side, rather than on the side of the implied insult of minimalism.

And speaking as a some-time composer, i've always said that if i ever meet Phillip Glass, i'd punch him.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's qualities like this--formal elements of a work which cannot be misconstrued--which I think refer strictly to the art object itself; that is to say, I think the statement is to the form of "This composition exists in a meaningful sense because it is orderly," rather than "This composition refers to ORDER." I realize that it sounds as though I'm invoking a platonic solid, but I really don't mean to; I do think, however, that the set of qualities which are identifiably orderly--especially in the constructed neoclassical sense of what proportion, harmony, etc. represent to man--have a meaningful and consistent presence which carries moral connotations.

Yeah, it sounds awfully Platonic, and formal. The work of art as a "reflexive" concrete. This is a bit like Rands consciousness conscious only of itself. It is a contradiction in terms. You can't mean to agree with the Rand quote then since it is not any sort of integration with reality other than itself.

Interestingly, Binswanger on his HBL list sent out a very relevant link I think, so some Sotheby's abstract art critics critiqueing several pieces (including a Pollack vs. a Mondriaan). Is this the sort of analysis of a reflexive concrete that you are thinking? I think these men sound foolish to me, discussing the "big picture of luminosity, space, simplicity" in a Rothko, or the "profoundness of a small gesture of a green line", or the "great risk in choosing red over green". Interestingly one guy even compares Mondriaan to Rothko citing BOTH's sense of order.

http://www.sothebys.com/video/privateview/

The reason I keep gesturing toward idealism is because I think we need to, if we are going to apprehend music or literature. Non-idealist readings of the material visual arts works fine, but they begin to break down when you no longer have something you can hang on your wall: Where does a poem exist when there are three copies of it? No copies? Where is the choreography when it's not being performed? What is a piece of music made of when it's not being performed, and what does it refer to when it is?

I wholly disagree. This is Platonic bunk. The meaning of these things is wholly interwined with the view of concepts. One could just as easily suggest that the concept table doesn't mean anything when it's not being considered, but that does not mean that it does not exist and persist over time, as a tool of cognition. Poems, literature, symphonies are all concrete as well, just temporal in nature, and what they communicate exists just as surely as the concept table exists, as a tool of cognition referring to things in reality.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just as apoint of clarification. What I meant by "contradiction in terms" is that a so-called reflexive concrete, cannot be conceptual in the sense of a tool of cognition, as art, simply because it has no referent outside itself. That is it is not conceptual in any way. A self referent is not conceptual - it is just a concrete.

It most certainly is a concrete, but saying it is art because it is so, would be no different than if I put a rock up on a wall and oohed, and ahhed a how the random patterns of spots on it gave me a feeling of a sense of order, or luminosity. But wait, one of the Sotheby's guys above is entirely enamoured by a painting consisting of real butterflies glued to a yellow canvas, and how it gives him a contrasting sense of "cruelty" and "beauty". Well there you have it.

We can certainly talk about music and the like, but to make a case that we need this sort of conceptualization of art, in general, because of music is the wrong way to go about it. I'm giving you examples of what this conceptualization of art leads to in the more physical arts, and it is trash. Don't you think that the same sort of thing is true for any of the other arts, music in particular? There ought to be a better way to reconcile the more "abstractness" of something like music with Rand's aesthetics don't you think?

To me, it's clear how a completely different theory of concepts leads to this sort of rubbish being called art. And why philosophy and aesthetics are so linked. That was a huge ah ha for me after studying Objectivism. I had an AP english teacher in High School who was adamant that poetry meant something specific (i.e. it is objective). It was not subjective. (He was the one by the way who turned me on to Tennyson). I never understood why it was so, until Rand.

Edited by KendallJ
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...
Poems, literature, symphonies are all concrete as well, just temporal in nature, and what they communicate exists just as surely as the concept table exists, as a tool of cognition referring to things in reality.

I believe that is a correct statement. As I would define it, music has order and structure, which are "things in reality." I think you would agree that "things" are not limited to physical objects, but also include dynamic processes and relations.

Order and structure in music may be found in one or more of its aspects, such as tempo, rhythm, meter, timbre, pitch, melody, harmony, etc. If there is no intelligible order or structure in at least one of these aspects, then the sound being heard is not music, but rather, unintelligible noise, capable of being apprehended only on a sensory level.

In my view, one's apprehension and appreciation of music has nothing to do with his philosophy. It is purely a neurological matter. Research has all but conclusively shown that the brain is "hard-wired" to seek and apprehend order and structure in reality. Because this has survival value, such a pre-disposition would be an expected product of evolution.

Research has also demonstrated, just as conclusively, that good music (i.e., music capable of evoking emotions) has two aspects:

First, it must have intelligible order and structure, so that expectations arise in the listener, from what he has just heard, regarding what he is about to hear. As in nature generally, order and structure in music may be complex or subtle, requiring close attention and, perhaps, intellectual analysis. But the mere apprehension of structure and order does produce an positive emotional response, because the brain has found what it has been looking for. Sometimes the apprehension of such order or structure takes considerable time and effort, leading to suspense, frustration, and then pleasure when at last it is discovered. This leads to the second aspect, which can transform good music into "great" music.

After setting up expectations, "great" music must then (ironically) violate those expectations. The violation might be temporary, with the music eventually moving on to resolution. Or it might be permanent, such as by the abandonment of a theme and the introduction of a new theme, or by an unexpected ending which leaves the listener hanging. Indeed, the procession of multiple violations themselves might be ordered or structured. In any event, it is these violations of our expectations which evoke the strongest emotions.

I do not believe that one's philosophical premises have anything to do with his response to music. The brain's pre-disposition to seeking and finding order and structure is not volitional. And the emotional responses that are part of this process are similarly unrelated to any particular philosophical views held by the listener. All that can be said, really, is that "music" which lacks both of the above-described aspects evokes no emotions at all, just boredom and indifference. Great music, on the other hand, produces all sorts of emotions. But these emotions are completely neutral regarding all aspects of reality--except for one: structure or order, the apprehension of and response to which are entirely innate.

Even Megan's listener having, for example, a malevolent view of the universe, cannot escape the positive, involuntary emotional responses evoked by discovering order and structure in music, in experiencing the surprise or shock caused by clever violations of his expectations, the suspense in waiting for resolution, and the pleasure in apprehending that resolution.

Larry

Edited by Larry Kulp
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I do not believe that one's philosophical premises have anything to do with his response to music.

I agree with this to an extent.

Here's and example which Dan Edge provided on the Obloggers email list (why he didn't provide it here, I don't know. :lol:) The vocal is only a minute long, but I tears in my eyes before 30 seconds of it had passed. If you listen especially to the main theme at 0:50-1:05, it does something to you. How can 15 seconds of music do that much to you? Just 20 notes in the right order and dynamic will make your chest swell. I have no other explanation than that above.

I would be interested if anyone doesn't feel it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i0dzZTPWrSM

Edited by KendallJ
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree with this to an extent.

Here's and example which Dan Edge provided on the Obloggers email list (why he didn't provide it here, I don't know. :lol:) The vocal is only a minute long, but I tears in my eyes before 30 seconds of it had passed. If you listen especially to the main theme at 0:50-1:05, it does something to you. How can 15 seconds of music do that much to you? Just 20 notes in the right order and dynamic will make your chest swell. I have no other explanation than that above.

I would be interested if anyone doesn't feel it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i0dzZTPWrSM

That farce was so corny and contrived I was torn between laughing out loud and barfing. Being Jewish I am put off by ham and that whole presentation was hammy in the extreme.

Bob Kolker

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That farce was so corny and contrived I was torn between laughing out loud and barfing. Being Jewish I am put off by ham and that whole presentation was hammy in the extreme.

Bob Kolker

Bob, there is something familiar about your name. Several years ago, I spent some time on an Objectivist newsgroup where you seemed to be a regular poster. I could be mistaken. Anyway, I remember you as posting to a thread where music appreciation was being discussed. The unforgettable thing about your posts were your statements that you were completely indifferent to music, and that you could not fathom how anyone could be moved by a mere sequence of tones, etc.

Are you that guy?

Larry

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Oh yeah, he's probably the same.

Well, if Bob were being honest, then I suppose it proves that something akin to "color-blindness" exists with respect to music appreciation. Nevertheless, such "music blindness" is somewhat problematic vis-a-vis my views about music, namely, that our response to music is the product of our "hard-wired" predisposition to seeking and finding regularity in nature. Such a predisposition would have such immense survival value (speaking in evolutionary terms), that a person lacking it must be profoundly disabled. In other words, someone lacking the ability to apprehend and appreciate music may have the same inability respecting the apprehension of regularity in nature generally.

On the hand, it may be that the deficiency is limited only to the processing of auditory data, or even more specifically, to just the processing of musical data. I hope so, for Bob's sake.

Larry

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That farce was so corny and contrived I was torn between laughing out loud and barfing. Being Jewish I am put off by ham and that whole presentation was hammy in the extreme.

Ye gods, Bob, weren't you paying attention?? As well as his love of the music he explicitly said he had long-standing confidence issues. I well believe it of him, especially in light of the hot-looking singers and their trashy music that are held popular today. I am also happily surprised that the critics were genuinely happy for him and his talent. In this day and age many critics could be conscending with 'technically good but' nonsense. And I certainly did not expect that crowd's reaction! The only hammyness was a few comments on the part of critics unable to think of anything better to say, and that in turn likely no personal fault of theirs but of the pitiful education system. The whole thing was no farce, it was a fantastic show of courage of convictions and that a positive sense of life is not yet completely dead in Europe. Bloody good on him!

Thank you, Kendall, for giving us the link, and Dan for initially finding it.

JJM

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...