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Thread: Will Atonal Compositions Last Centuries like Past Works?

  1. #196
    Senior Member Strange Magic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveM View Post
    Add to that that experts in that field of art have, over time, designated certain works of art to be a masterpiece. Then add that, over time, there is a collective agreement among experts, those experienced in looking at or listening to those works of art and the common man/woman that these works of art are at a level that few or no others could equal and you now have evidence that is more objective than subjective.

    It does not meet the smell test that the designation of a masterpiece as most experienced (in the arts) see it starts and ends with simple subjectivity (with emphasis on ‘ends’).
    No. What we have are votes and popularity contests ("beauty contests"), agreement among experts, etc. No matter how you slice it and dice it, it is opinion, or opinion squared, or cubed. What would an aesthete of the T'ang Dynasty make of the (insert atonal or whatever Western masterpiece here)? If the masterpiece qualities are inherent in the art, then all should be receptive to them. If not, we are dealing with opinion/subjectivity.
    Last edited by Strange Magic; Sep-13-2019 at 20:23.

  2. #197
    Senior Member Simon Moon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by samm View Post
    On the other hand a lot of people in the classical listening world also judge works on the criteria of whether they "sound right". Which means: judging whether these are obviously tonal, whether they have melodies that fit the existing idea of a melody, whether, in fact, they sound very much like other pieces of music already judged to be masterpieces. Some of them only elevated to that accolade centuries after they were written.

    Interesting thing is, when I listen to atonal works, they do sound 'right' to me. So do many tonal works sound 'right' to me.

    I don't care if melodies fit the existing idea of a melody, that is not one of the reasons I listen to atonal music. There are plenty of works within classical, and in other genres, where the 'existing idea of melody' is adhered to.

    There are so many other musical reasons, besides fitting an existing idea of melody, to listen to atonal music.

    Whether they sound like other pieces to me is a negative. I enjoy new and unique music and art.


    To be able to judge whether a composer is conveying a distinctive vision and a "message" is actually very subjective, with a lot of opinion about this being parroted from certain critics rather than being the thought-out response of every individual listener. Plus there is a tendency to believe or suggest that an 'atonal' composer is somehow, at bottom, a bit of a fraud and not really a master of his/her craft, and so hides behind atonal shenanigans.
    Yes, that is clear by how often atonal music is dreided here on TC.

    I am sure that all the haters feel that way.

    But why define some atonal techniques as 'shenanigans', and not tonal techniques? Aren't you poisoning the well?
    Last edited by Simon Moon; Sep-13-2019 at 20:21.
    And if there were a god, I think it very unlikely that he would have such an uneasy vanity as to be offended by those who doubt His existence - Russell

  3. #198
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    Quote Originally Posted by Enthusiast View Post
    Then I am not sure what your argument is. Perhaps you could reiterate it?
    This:

    Quote Originally Posted by Enthusiast View Post
    and that popularity (the subjective judgement of the largest number of people) is the only proper measure?
    Is not something I wrote or ever stated. This is a straw man of your own making. It is not "the only proper measure", but one part, as others here have stated.


    Quote Originally Posted by Enthusiast View Post
    As I have said, at the end of the day we are all expressing opinions and cannot hope to do more than that. There is no acceptable proof in this regularly repeated discussion (there is always at least one discussion going on about how atonal music is doomed or great). I know I am right and you know you are right. That's what taste is like.
    You're conflating two different issues. The first is the interesting question of what defines a masterpiece. More than just opinions go into assessing a masterpiece like Mozart's 40th or Shakespeare's Hamlet. There are objective reasons why these works are superior to others of their kind. Just because you or Strange Magic or others don't have the education or training to suss it out (and I don't mean that pejoratively---there's no reason why you should) doesn't mean that ipso facto everything is just by golly a matter of subjective opinion. There are fascinating insights that go far beyond "just taste". The second is that it doesn't matter whether there's any consensus as regards masterpieces (or not) insofar as atonal music goes (or heavy metal for that matter). If atonal music appeals to you? Great! I don't have a dog in the hunt. That's a matter of taste and taste is subjective.

    Quote Originally Posted by Enthusiast View Post
    The highlighted part of the first sentence seems to be a proof that could be used for atonal music, too.
    Of course it could! But has it? Is there any consensus as regards atonal 20th century masterpieces? I honestly don't know.

    Quote Originally Posted by Enthusiast View Post
    For the rest, there is no myth. Bach was respected in his lifetime and many critics and composers revered him after that, until his music slowly became acceptable in public performance again.
    This very assertion betrays a misunderstanding of music history. It's not as if any composer, let alone Bach, were being regularly "performed" before an audience once their careers had ended. The modern notion of a dedicated orchestra and conductor publicly performing pieces by a deceased composer didn't get started until the 19th century. Before then, you might have benefit concerts or you might have one-off revivals of pieces by Handel and CPE Bach (Mozart re-orchestrated the music of both). It's as if you had written: "...until his music slowly became acceptable to classical music radio stations again." It's an anachronistic assertion. For the most part, public performances meant composers performing their own works. Why would any composer spend precious time and resources promoting a deceased composer's works? If one didn't hear Bach prior to Mendelssohn, it wasn't because he wasn't "acceptable in the public performance", but because that sort of outlet and audience didn't exist yet. Once Mendelssohn undertook the creation of it, Bach was immediately accepted by the public. That repeats itself over and over with many of his pieces, like the Cello Suites and the Goldberg Variations.

    Quote Originally Posted by Enthusiast View Post
    No-one mentioned the lumpen masses - it was educated concert audiences who rejected him...
    A.) Educated concert audiences didn't exist then as now. B.) You're just wrong about educated audiences:

    "As Christoph Wolff pointed out in 2004, Bach's music continued to circulate among two different groups: professional musicians (including Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven) and middle-class intellectuals. In the late eighteenth and nineteenth century, people with enough education and leisure time to do so liked to gather together in people's homes to discuss various smart topics; these gatherings were known as "salons." (We associate that word with hairdressers today because they were once seen to fulfill the same role in society: a place where people discuss the goings-on of the world.) Wolff's essay focuses on the salon of Sara Levy, which attracted people who were interested in old music at a time when newly composed music dominated the concert halls. Sara Levy was Mendelssohn's great-aunt...."

    Quote Originally Posted by Enthusiast View Post
    Adjusting for history many atonal composers of the early to mid 1900s are doing better with the educated public than Bach did after, say, 70 years.
    That's just complete nonsense. First of all, this isn't a competition between Bach and atonal composers. But as a factual matter, Bach continues to be listened to far above and beyond, probably, atonal composers as a whole. But if you like atonal music, good! Listen to it. I don't know why it's important to you that it be competitive with Bach and Beethoven. Beyond that, atonal music was and remains the purview of devotées. The masses long ago left behind/rejected that phase of "classical" music, moving on to jazz, country music, rock, pop, etc.... where music continued to be tonal.

    Quote Originally Posted by Enthusiast View Post
    For myself, I don't greatly care if atonal music continues to grow in popularity or not.
    Good. Odds are, it won't. But I also think there will always be a very small core of listeners to whom it will appeal---and in a world with billions of people, that's still a fair amount of people, and enough to keep the composers fed—though I would recommend composing for film if they have a taste for caviar and champagne. Or get a job teaching at conservatories. That's what all the third rate poets do.
    Last edited by vtpoet; Sep-13-2019 at 20:44.

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  5. #199
    Senior Member Eva Yojimbo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveM View Post
    Add to that that experts in that field of art have, over time, designated certain works of art to be a masterpiece. Then add that, over time, there is a collective agreement among experts, those experienced in looking at or listening to those works of art and the common man/woman that these works of art are at a level that few or no others could equal and you now have evidence that is more objective than subjective.

    It does not meet the smell test that the designation of a masterpiece, as most experienced people (in the arts) see it, starts and ends with simple subjectivity (with emphasis on ‘ends’).
    Your additions are as follows: the subjective opinions of experts (whose expertise ultimately have no impact on said opinions); the collective subjective opinions among experts (whose expertise ultimately have no impact on said opinions); the collective subjective opinions of the common man/woman. None of that is evidence for anything being "more objective than subjective;" that statement doesn't even make sense.

    I don't know what "smell test" you speak of or why it doesn't meet it. The simple question is this: does the designation of "masterpiece" require thinking minds establishing standards that it utilizes for that labeling? Since the (obvious) answer to this is "yes," it is subjective, full stop. That a lot of people, experts, etc. agree on the standards and classifications is of zero consequence to this.

    It seems to me that what a lot of people mean by "not subjective/objective" is "collective." The two are not remotely the same thing. The definitions of words, or the rules of sports, are determined by collective agreement; but definitions and rules are not objective. A classification like "masterpiece" doesn't even have that level of collective agreement.

  6. #200
    Senior Member DaveM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange Magic View Post
    No. What we have are votes and popularity contests ("beauty contests"), agreement among experts, etc. No matter how you slice it and dice it, it is opinion, or opinion squared, or cubed. What would an aesthete of the T'ang Dynasty make of the (insert atonal or whatever Western masterpiece here)? If the masterpiece qualities are inherent in the art, then all should be receptive to them. If not, we are dealing with opinion/subjectivity.
    As they say, you’re missing the forest for the trees.

  7. #201
    Senior Member DaveM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eva Yojimbo View Post
    Your additions are as follows: the subjective opinions of experts (whose expertise ultimately have no impact on said opinions); the collective subjective opinions among experts (whose expertise ultimately have no impact on said opinions); the collective subjective opinions of the common man/woman. None of that is evidence for anything being "more objective than subjective;" that statement doesn't even make sense.
    It makes sense. You just don’t understand it.

    I don't know what "smell test" you speak of or why it doesn't meet it. The simple question is this: does the designation of "masterpiece" require thinking minds establishing standards that it utilizes for that labeling? Since the (obvious) answer to this is "yes," it is subjective, full stop. That a lot of people, experts, etc. agree on the standards and classifications is of zero consequence to this.

    It seems to me that what a lot of people mean by "not subjective/objective" is "collective." The two are not remotely the same thing. The definitions of words, or the rules of sports, are determined by collective agreement; but definitions and rules are not objective. A classification like "masterpiece" doesn't even have that level of collective agreement.
    So you’re walking back your previous post and the term ‘masterpiece’ has no significance. Try running all of the above by experts and the common folk and they’ll tell you how the ‘smell test’ applies.
    Last edited by DaveM; Sep-13-2019 at 20:36.

  8. #202
    Senior Member Eva Yojimbo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveM View Post
    It makes sense. You just don’t understand it.
    No, I understand it perfectly having actually studied this subject. You can't use subjective agreement to make what's subjective objective. That's not how it works.

    Quote Originally Posted by DaveM View Post
    So you’re walking back your previous post and the term ‘masterpiece’ has no significance. Try running all of the above by experts and the common folk and they’ll tell you how the ‘smell test’ applies.
    I never said the term had no significance. In fact, I said the exact opposite. Why would I want to "run all the above" by people who are likely completely ignorant of the relevant philosophy underlying this subject?
    Last edited by Eva Yojimbo; Sep-13-2019 at 20:40.

  9. #203
    Senior Member Larkenfield's Avatar
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    ...............
    Last edited by Larkenfield; Sep-13-2019 at 20:55.
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  10. #204
    Senior Member Machiavel's Avatar
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    Atonal bad but John cage 4.33 a masterpiece for some here when its just pure fraud. lol
    ¨Life in every breathe¨

  11. #205
    Senior Member KenOC's Avatar
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    Music without recognizable rhythms, clear form, or any melody at all is likely to always be a minority pleasure. In that, it’s like those two things that Bax makes exceptions to his general rule, “One should try everything once.” Each, though universally execrated, has its coterie of aficionados.


  12. #206
    Senior Member Eva Yojimbo's Avatar
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    Since Larkenfield deleted his post I'll delete my response.
    Last edited by Eva Yojimbo; Sep-13-2019 at 21:03.

  13. #207
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eva Yojimbo View Post
    "Hearing a composer manipulating the materials of their art exceptionally" is just your (or others') subjective standards as to what counts as such.

    Even assuming such things weren't innately subjective, there's not even reasons given as to why we should value them in the first place. Of course, we're all free to value what we will, but I wish people wouldn't delude themselves as to what they're doing.
    You're conflating evaluation (appraisal) with valuing (preference). The two influence each other, but are not the same, and the better we understand music, the more we can separate them.

    There are reasons why there is only one J. S. Bach, only one W. A. Mozart, only one L. van Beethoven, only one R. Wagner, etc., etc. These reasons are not "subjective," and neither is the distinctiveness of their work and the ability of people - including you - to perceive that distinctiveness. You know as well as I do that that some composers achieve a higher level of skill and inspiration than others, and in the above (and some other) cases a level achievable by only a minute fraction of human beings.

    Since you know it, I know it, and the collective understanding of humanity knows it, what is all this nattering over "subjectivity"? Whether you or I "like" the B-Minor Mass or Parsifal is not the point. The point is that a musically sensitive/knowledgeable person - one who understands, whether intuitively or technically, the "language" of Western music - recognizes them as the work of artistic geniuses who have mastered that language and spoken it with incomprehensible - to most of us - prowess and distinction.

    These arguments that all aesthetic excellence is a creation of "subjective" bias would lead me to think their proponents incredibly insensible if I didn't know better. I think the "absolute subjectivists" are simply bound to deny their own perceptions by their philosophical presuppositions, which appear to consist of some sort of radical, empirical materialism that denies the knowability of anything nonphysical. Genius? Beauty? Profundity? Where is it? Can't see it or measure it!

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  15. #208
    Senior Member DaveM's Avatar
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    ^^^ What he said.

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  17. #209
    Senior Member DaveM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eva Yojimbo View Post
    I never said the term had no significance. In fact, I said the exact opposite.
    You can’t have it both ways. You can’t say that it has the special significance you said in your quote and dismiss the term as simple subjectivity.

    Btw, you’ve said you have studied this. What are your sources that prove your point?
    Last edited by DaveM; Sep-13-2019 at 21:48.

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    Senior Member Bwv 1080's Avatar
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    Last edited by Bwv 1080; Sep-13-2019 at 21:47.

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