Sunday, February 1, 2009

"Music of the Spheres?" or "Trapped in a Box?"

Again, posted by Jonathan from the "Eternal Flamewar" thread of
Apparently she didn't consider, and perhaps consciously didn't want to consider, the very real possibility that music is a subjective medium, and that a universal "objective language" of music might not be possible. Instead of making an unbiased philosophical inquiry into the nature of art, she seems to have started with the desired conclusion that art cannot be, must not be, subjective, and then sought to find ways of forcing a favored subjective art form into an objective box.
I've been meaning to address a piece I read on the older version of SOLO, This quote has motivated me to finally address it (especially since it summarizes my argument against the piece, saving me the time!).

Anyway, here's the original piece: A Review: Syd "Styg"Brixham's Concert by Paul Hibbert
I'll refer readers to the original site to read the whole thing, but this one part is of importance here:
The explanation for the phenomenon of Brixham is elusive. I believe that he has gained access to some universal, hitherto unknown, cognitive function of the human psyche and is able to communicate with it in some mysterious way. He has discovered a new kind of music, "meta-music" if you will. What this will be finally called I have no way of knowing, and at presentBrixham is the only exponent of it. I am unsure if this new form of expression can be learned by other musicians — perhaps it's only the unique combination of the mind, lips, lungs and fingers of Brixham that can accomplish it, but we can only hope that he is only the first of many such musicians. His new music is sure to influence the arts and culture in a very profound way, not only here but in other countries as well, with only positive results.
This is a "fictional" review, written by Paul, of a fictional musician. I'm not going to be hard on him, it was posted, by his own admission, by "someone with too much time on my hands." (And he's a nice guy, based on the limited correspondence I had with him on the old forum.) Actually, it was a fun little piece to read. But it does seem to be how some Objectivists have approached the future of music, and if Jonathan's post on SOLO is correct in his quote, so did Rand. My own objection to the idea of "meta-music" is an objection to the idea of Plato' "ideal"; this all sounds like a suggestion that their is an idealized world of music just waiting to be given form. My own reading of the gestalt theory of music leads me to believe that just the opposite will happen, that music will continue to evolve not into a "universal" language, but a diversity of form. (I say this "ideally," the record companies would rather create ahomogeneous market appealing to the common denominator. On second thought, even that's not accurate; they DO promote homogenization, but they also promote "taste markets," appealing to demographics, that artificially set one group against the other. But within those "taste markets" is standardization to fit the genre. How...unromantic.)

Anyway, this all smacks of a search for the "music of the spheres" or the "mystical lost chord." But music is not an active agent in itself, in the sense that it "hears" for the listener. The listener has to "listen," and translate the succession of sounds into music (or not.) The gestalt theory is a testament to our individuality, and I don't believe there will ever be one musician or composition that appeals to everyone (literally) the same way.

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