Friday, March 20, 2009
What then of music? Do works of music have a subject — are they about anything? Vocal music, such as songs and operas, has a subject because it contains words. But what of purely instrumental music — can it also have a subject?
Well, a musical composition, as well as a performance, could be inspired by practically anything. This does not cause the music to be "about" canyons or give it a high degree of aesthetic value. In aesthetic experience we enjoy sounds, words, and colors for their own sake, not for what they might be alleged to be about, nor what the experience leads to in later life, or where it comes from, or in whose mind it had its origin.This view raises interesting questions in light of the Objectivist approach (and dismissal) of "abstract art." If we enjoy music "for it's own sake," as opposed to "what it's about," it's tempting to take the argument to mean appreciation of tones for their own sake. So why not appreciate colors and shapes for their own sake, without being "representational" or anything other than that color or shape? I don't think Objectivists would have a problem with that, if it's treated as simply decorative effect (see Rand's comments in The Romantic Manifesto regarding decorative arts being cheapened by figures of people.) It's the equation of "abstract decorations" with things from reality, though, that set Objectivists off. (Well, actually, it's the attempt of some so-called "anti-artists" to bring "disintegration" of the senses that really set Rand off.)
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Kudos to Adam for putting it out there! I'd like to hear Adam, who is a classically-trained composer, expound on the academic approach to capitalism and music, and how leftists like Theodor Adorno have taught that tonal music is a product of hierarchal capitalist-pig tendencies, while advocating "egalitarian" solutions such as the 12-tone row, etc.. Or, it would have been interesting to hear his reaction as to how such music gets funded; like most unlistenable music or "anti-art," through taxpayer money. (Maybe in future podcasts?)
But I do appreciate, A LOT, what Adam DOES say, especially this bit:
It may sound funny coming from somebody who wants to make a living through music, as one doesn't normally associate artists and musicians with the idea of capitalism.Now, Adam comes from a classical background, while I'm a rock guy at heart. What he says hits especially hard for a rock musician; classical music has its association with the bourgeouise, but "rock" is the "voice of the people," of rebellion, etc. (Nevermind the dirty little fact of record companies and platinum records; you ain't a real rocker if you ain't a "street fighting man!"). And yet, I'm a capitalist, and proud of it. But it's funny that what he speaks of crosses genres, styles, and periods. Art has, for too long, been "monopolized" by the left. (As they say, the devil has all the best tunes.) Ayn Rand tried to correct this, by making art the fifth branch of her philosophy, but it still, for the most part, is marginalized in the Objectivist world (as least up until recently; it didn't even rate in the The Philosophic Thought of Ayn Rand.) I suspect that this is due to the "conservative" faction of Objectivist fans, who seem to focus more on politics, economics, or the "scientific" faction of Objectivism, which focuses on technology. I see here a parallel between the politics of the sixties, and the music of its day. The "establishment" had its "safe as milk" tunes, while the hippies had "rock"; born of "rock and roll," whose "rebels without a cause" went from "Rockin' Robin" to the "The Times, They Are a Changin'." The Left took on the radical and subversive opportunities of art, while the Right went to jingoism and propaganda.
Of the Left: to paraphrase Kira in We The Living, "I loathe their goals, I admire their methods."
As a result, the Right took to the religious country music, while the left took to Jim Morrison, Dionysus, and the gift of wine. (Interesting parallel there, as Jesus and Dionysus have their parallels.) But the appropriation of "creativity" by the Left in the sixties exists to this day, so that the idea of a Capitalist artist is, indeed, a funny thing. (This has broader historical roots, to be sure, with the "patron" system of the past, being a sticky widget in the development of the idea of artistic freedom in the Enlightment.) Rand herself was an exception, what with her novel-writing and Hollywood work, but there have been too few artists of note to come from the Objectivist world, at least not enough to have enough impact to reclaim the arts from the monopoly of the Left. There is the case of the band Rush and Spiderman co-creator Steve Ditko. I wish I could name more off of the top of my head (and those are hardly household names in the grand scheme of things.)
So, to Adam, from one musician to another, thanks for speaking up. Shine on.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
When music and Ayn Rand are mentioned together, the first place many go is to AtIas Shrugged and hero-composer Richard HaIIey. Then Rand versus Beethoven...then Rush and 2112 and "Anthem." Then, after some more examples, we finaIIy get to We the Living.
[I]n the magnificent goblet of the music, the words were not intoxicating as wine; they were not terrifying as blood, they were gray as dishwater.But the music was like the marching of thousands of feet, measured and steady, like drums beaten by unvarying, unhurried hands. The music was like the feet of soldiers marching into the dawn that is to see their battle and their victory; as if the song rose from under the soldier's feet, with the dust of the road, as if the soldier's feet played it upon the earth.The tune sand a promise, calmly, with the calm of an immeasurable strength, and then, tense with a restrained, but uncontrollable ecstasy, the notes rose, trembling, repeating themselves, too rapt to be held still, like arms raised and waving in the sweep of banners.It was a hymn with the force of a march, a march with the majesty of a hymn. It was the song of soldiers bearing sacred banners and of priests carrying swords. It was an anthem to the sanctity of strength."
It had been a favorite beauty of Vienna. There had been a balustrade on the stage, overlooking a drop with the twinkling lights of a big city, and a row of crystal goblets lined along the balustrade. The beauty sand the number and one by one, lightly, hardly touching them, kicked the crystal goblets and sent them flying in tingling, glittering splinters-around the tight, sheer stockings on the most beautiful legs in Europe.There were sharp little blows in the music, and waves of quick, fine notes that burst and rolled like the thin, clear ringing of broken glass. There were slow notes, as if the cords of the violins trembled in hesitation, tense with the fullness of sound, taking a few measured steps before the leap into the explosion of laughter.
She heard a song, a tune now loud enough to be a human sound, a song as a last battle-march. It was not a funeral dirge, it was not a hymn, it was not a prayer. It was a tune from an old operetta, the "Song of Broken Glass."Little notes of music trembled in hesitation, and burst, and rolled in quick, fine waves, like the thin, clear ringing of glass. Little notes leaped and exploded and laughed, laughed with a full, unconditional, consummate joy.She did not know whether she was singing. Perhaps she was only hearing the music somewhere. But the music had been a promise; a promise at the dawn of her life. That which had been promised then, could not be denied to her now.
June 1, 1967
Dear Mr. Eddy,
Thank you -- enormously -- for the record of "Will O' the Wisp" which you
The record is wonderful. The "noise" you mention is so slight that I am
not aware of it when I listen to the music. I must teII you that no present
can give me a thriII today, only my kind of music can and does. You have
given me a powerfuI source of my personal "benevolent universe." No, it is
not a "smaII thing," it means a great deaI to me -- and I appreciate it
Sunday, March 1, 2009
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?