Thursday, May 14, 2009

Orpheus is Remembered

 In their essay "Critical Neglect of Rand's Theory of Art," Torres and Kamhi examine briefly the relationship between John Hospers and Rand. Specifically, they touch on Hosper's theory of music. I have not read Hosper's work, but I was familiar with this via Rand's letter to him in The Letters of Ayn Rand.  In its essence, it's similar to the "projection" theory" I presented. I don't know the details of the theory, but I do know Rand's reaction to it, based on her letter:
Am I correct in gathering that you suggest that a clue to the emotional meaning of a work of art may be found in a parallel between the physical form of an art work and man's physical states? If so, then man's mental processes in responding to an artwork would be purely perceptual and associational, rather than conceptual and logical. (The equation of horizontal lines with security, in the example you give, is associational.) If this is true, then how would your theory apply to literature?
 Again, since I don't have his work to reference, I can only infer. But I can say that if Rand is reading him correctly, and that he really is saying it is purely "perceptual and associational," that would differ from my presentation, via McCloud's "triangle", which says it can be both. But Torres and Kamhi provide some discussion of Hosper's take on Rand and abstract art that offer support for my own comments on that:
[Ayn] had no use for non-representational painting...and I tried vainly to convince her that a line could be expressive even though that line was no part of a representational person or object." 
 Torres and Khamhi comment that "(t)he central issue for Rand, of course, would not have been whether a line could be "expressive" but whether it could concretize fundamental values or a view of life. She went much further than merely having "no use" for abstract painting: she offered compelling reasons why it does not quality as art." This is because of Rand's theory of epistemology; as Torres and Kamhi stress, "Rand's epistemology constitutes the very foundation of her theory of art," and explain how Hospers and Rand has fundamental disagreements in that area. My personal belief is that the two could be reconciled through the "pyramid theory." There is plenty more work to be done on this, and I expect that my personal interest will lead me to examine Hosper's theory. 

 But it would seem that I have reached the limits of what I can learn about the topic from the Objectivist perspective. I've been aware of Rand's comments above for years, and rejected theories such as Hosper's based on Rand's arguments. But my own conclusions have led me back to those theories I rejected. In doing so, I think AND feel that I have a working theory that joins both the cognitive and somatic components involved in the creation and understanding of music, effectively creating a bridge between Apollo and Dionysus, reason and emotion...in short, "Orpheus is remembered." My conclusion won't be shared by everyone in the Objectivist community and I know that the battles for musical superiority will continue anyway, but that is not my concern; I'm not saying they can't be corrected, but that my conclusions are independent (and I can't remain caught up in never-ending flame wars.) That said, I am grateful to all those who contributed to musical development, and I thank Ayn Rand for her contributions to the topic, which were sorely needed. Moving on from there will make the journey that much smoother.