Sunday, March 1, 2009

Objectivist Music? Galt Aureus

Now, I've stated over and over (and over) by this point that Ayn Rand said there is no such thing as "Objectivist" music, or art for that matter. So, how do we treat the issue of "Objectivist" inspired artists and musicians?

Why, we listen, of course.

Well, ok, maybe we do more than that, but that's where it starts, right? I have no problem with the idea of "Objectivist" inspired music (or shouId that be Objectivist "inspired" music?), but the one thing I insist on insisting upon is that we distinguish between "Objectivist" Iyrics and "Objectivist" music. It is MUCH easier to achieve the former; just add ego, individuaIity, seIfishness, and reason to your Iyrics and PRESTO!. But how is music itseIf said to be "Objectivist?" That's one reason I have not (yet) broached the subject of Rush, the progressive rock band with a core of Midas MuIIigan's gold.

The attempts I've seen so far, however, present the answer as being to Iatch on to the "Romantic" brand name. (But as I've pointed out previously, THAT has yet to be definitiveIy defined as weII.)

Here is one of those attempts: GaIt Aureus. If people railed against the immorality of a "Concerto of Deliverance," surely the gates of Atlantis are locked against this! ;) But what is GaIt Aureus, musically speaking? "The rock/cIassicaI fusion band that plays Objectivism infIuenced music. We sing of Iove, war, death and phiIosophical revolution - aII backed by eIectric guitar, fuII orchestra and choir. According to the info on the website, they are muse-seekers who "have become one - an irrepressible force - and in our union, reborn, the grace of romantic era classicaI music against the fury of alternative rock: GaIt Aureus."

I have to wonder when that was written, given that "alternative rock" has not been the force it was for severaI years now. That's aIways the dangers of defining yourself by what you raiI against; you date yourseIf. (And I LIKE some alternative rock. It's such a useless tag, anyway, one that does not address the MUSIC, only the culture.That said, there is enough in much of the alternative rock lyrics to rail against, no argument there.) But what's offensive is the appropriation of "Romantic-era classical music" as the OFFICIAL HOUSE BRAND OF OBJECTIVISM. TM Does anyone actually READ what the woman wrote?

Ok, rant aside, what about the music? Their music is avaiIable on iTunes as weII as available on the website. What I hear is music of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra variety, rock guitars mixed with orchestraI instruments, with a bit of a theatrical sound (the vocals are mixed in the style of "Broadway" rock). It's not quite Dream Theater, not quite Evanascence, not quite original. The lyrics may or not be Objectivist; I don't have them available to analyze, but that's not my concern here. My concern is with the music. Verdict? They play well enough, it's "pleasantly" dramatic, but it it's meant to counter the "alternative" rock scene, well...they'd be better content to settle for niche status. Even if one is not offended by the "appropriation" of Rand's philosophy as a marketing tool, it's offensive to claim that all Objectivists are drawn to the same music. "We" are "individuals, after all. And there's just something off-putting about the insinuation that if you don't listen to "such and such" or like "that" instead, you must be a "moron" for not "getting it." (Yeah, this is directed at He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, but also a warning for GaIt Aureus: your music is an "irrepressible force?" Prove it, or leave the bragging to the rappers...).

This brings me to another issue; all these "attempts" at "Objectivist" music are something out of The Fountainhead: appropriating the style of "the masters" (i.e., the Romantics) because nothing can surpass "the classics." (It's not even a new "twist"; the aforementioned bands, such as Trans-Siberian Orchestra, have been mixing rock and the classics for years.).

I am not putting down the band for doing what they like. One does not put down a performer for performing the classics only. But since this is an attempt to present something new that will "save the world," well, their boasts are fair game.

(Am I overstating this? I don't think so; look at the album cover. The sun rising above the ruins, the title is "Herald of the Sun"...It's the idea of the "rebirth of reason," a Randian phrase that spawned a website of the same name devoted to a "second Renaissance". Here, I should offer a confession: it's not that I disapprove of the spirit of a "second Renaissance," but maybe I'm just getting jaded in today's political scene. There is a battle to be fought, but contrary to what you may have heard, it won't be won by putting on the robes of the past while dancing to "Renaissance" music. Let's not be superficial about this.)

What I am putting down is the musical attitude I find far too often among "Objectivists" that says that the "masters" cannot or should not be surpassed, and presenting a certain "sound" as the ONLY "moral" choice. (It's also embarrassing when the attempt is pitted against an "opponent," in this case, "alternative rock.") If THIS is one of those attempts, a self-identified "Objectivist," I feel no shame in saying "I don't like this." (If it's not such an attempt, it would be better if this did not bear the "Objectivist tag"; it makes it that much harder to judge on its own merits.) This was not the spirit of Howard Roark; that was the spirit of Guy Francon. Francon was not a straight-out villain, but he was an antagonist. He was not at the vanguard of innovation, more like a second-hander "keeper of the flame." That's the best thing that someone could say of attempts like GaIt Aureus. What makes the "sound" Objectivist? This is why Rush was honest enough NOT to call themselves an "Objectivist" band. That's not to say that we can't learn from the "masters" or even build on their work. But work like this feels like nothing but "costume drama."
With THAT said, I'd like to offer a reminder for the band from Rand herself regarding Romanticism. This is offered as constructive criticism; if I think there needs to be some "clarification" of vision, there is talent there. So remember, Rand did not say that "romantic" music is "Objectively superior." But even more important, Rand never said all Romantic literature was superior. In "What is Romanticism?" she wrote of the flaws of the early Romantics, who were more "Byronic" than "Aristotelian." But she also noted that there were degrees of talent and skill within the Romantic movement, breaking down the movement into first and second ranks, and down further still. She even goes as far to claim that "a third-rate Naturalist may still have some perceptive observations to offer; a third-rate Romanticist has nothing." (This is because the standards of Romanticism, according to Rand, are that much more demanding.)

Don't be a "third-rate Romanticist." Be a first rate GaIt Aureus.


  1. I didn't quite follow all of this. However, in the last paragraph are you implying that there is a connection between Romantic music and Romantic literature?

  2. Hi, GG. Since you say you didn't quite follow this, I don't know where to start to answer your question, since I don't know your familiarity with the Objectivist conception of Romanticism and art. (This site is primarily for those already familiar with Rand's theory of esthetics.)

    There are other posts on this blog that you might want to read, but, in a word, yes: Romantic literature and art did coincide at a certain period in time, so there was a shared zeitgeist, the common links being the Age of Enlightenment (or reaction against), and a sense of individual volition and imagination versus the rule-bound forms of classicisal realisim (and more controversially, often a shared Byronic sense of life, a sense of struggle and defeat.)