Sunday, February 1, 2009

"Fixin' a Hole?" or, "Rand's Flimsy Patch Job?"

On the never-ending flame war at (this flame burns longer than Wyatt's Torch), one poster offered up this assessment of Rand's musical theory:
My view is that Rand needed a way of allowing music to remain classified as a legitimate art form, so, despite recognizing that it is not an objective art form and that it does not fit her requirements of intelligibility and communication, she gave it a pass -- she concocted a flimsy patch for the hole in her theory by asserting that someday music will be objective and therefore we should allow it to be classified as art today. She allowed no such patch for abstract visual art, even though Kandinsky and others had already proposed theories of abstract art that were more advanced and objective than any of the speculations that Rand had engaged in regarding music's means, and she allowed no such patch for architecture, but simply concocted another: that it was in a special "class by itself," a class containing a single member which blatantly contradicted her definition and requirements for art.
I'm already somewhat familiar with this argument myself, after having read What Art Is: The Esthetic Theory of Ayn Rand. I've had similar thoughts to the quoted based on a presentation of abstract art in a different field, Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics. (I've even had the "pleasure" of an email exchange years ago with the author(s) of What Art Is, and presented the Understanding Comics theory, only to never hear back from the authors again. I took the silence to be a rejection of this theory (and me!). I'm somewhat amused, now, to find that this idea has infiltrated the Objectivist debate (see the symposium on the subject in The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies.) Anyway, I will, in the next few weeks, try to present my own theory of "how music makes us feel emotions," based on my understanding of the theory of abstract art as presented in Understanding Comics. (That said, it's only a theory; and I'm not quite sure I agree with the SOLO poster, based on work I've read elsewhere that negates the comparison of music to abstract art, because the temporal aspect of music works in context with the auditory means of perception, which renders the comparison false. Or something...)

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