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Thread: Will Atonal Compositions Last Centuries like Past Works?

  1. #301
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    Quote Originally Posted by ido66667 View Post
    It feels to me that you just cannot grasp the fact that people, infact, many people, perhaps the majority of humanity can hold contrary opinions to what is widely accepted in your own social circles.
    Huh?


    Quote Originally Posted by ido66667 View Post
    First of all, works by Bach are not always distinguishable for experts from music of his contemporaries. A number of pieces, some quite famous, that had been attributed to him in the past were found to be of other composers (like Telemann) or simply arrangements or transcriptions made by Bach.
    That's an exceedingly small number of pieces. And I notice you're being exceedingly vague about the "number of pieces" for someone who professes to be "into early music". I'm guessing that you're referring to the Toccata and Fugue in D minor as one of the "famous pieces"?

    Quote Originally Posted by ido66667 View Post
    And as someone who's into early music (Baroque and Renaissance), I can yell you many of Bach contemporaries composed fugues, and some of them very proficiently.
    Yeah, that's why it's called the baroque period.

    Quote Originally Posted by ido66667 View Post
    If you think there are rules set in stone saying what makes a fugue great or how to exactly compose it, than you probably haven't heard much music from that era, or even a good number of fugues.
    Okay. Now we're into the straw man, if you believe "x", then formulation. Which I don't, but do go on.

    Quote Originally Posted by ido66667 View Post
    The closest thing we have is a general idea of characteristics that fugues have.
    Right, gotta' stop you here. Couple things: I attended the conservatory of music at Cincinnati where I passed out of music history and composed fugues (among other pieces) because, you know, there's an untapped market for 21st century baroque composers.

    Not.

    I moved on to literature.

    My point is: I have some idea what I'm talking about and it sounds like, based on your sweeping generalities, you don't. At all. When you're comparing Bach's fugues to those of his peers, it's not about referencing some fugual ideal. What makes Bach's fugues great is his encyclopedic knowledge of contrapuntal techniques and his ability to apply them with seeming effortlessness to the appropriate subjects. It's about his exploitation of key relationships or as his contemporaries would have put it: His knowledge of harmony. No other composer of the period compares. Not even Händel, who quit writing fugues in his youth and destroyed most of his efforts.

    Quote Originally Posted by ido66667 View Post
    If you judge Shakespeare by Epic Greek poetry conventions, then perhaps Shakespeare isn't much of a great poet.
    [Face palm.]

    Quote Originally Posted by ido66667 View Post
    If there were built-in objective aesthetical judgmental into our brains, than we wouldn't be here arguing because we'd all agree what is a masterpiece and what isn't.
    Another face palm because, you see, that is precisely what happens. There apparently is just such a thing because in each musical genre, be it classical, jazz, rock or pop, listeners tend to agree on who's writing the best music --- the Beatles for example. And many scholars have devoted their ingenuity to teasing out just what all these pieces, objectively, have in common.

    I cannot for the life of me understand what is so difficult about that to grasp—or so controversial?!?
    Last edited by vtpoet; Sep-15-2019 at 17:20.

  2. #302
    Senior Member Eva Yojimbo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    Oh, all right! Have some more definitions of "arbitrary":

    1. existing or coming about seemingly at random or by chance or as a capricious and unreasonable act of will

    2. based on or determined by individual preference or convenience rather than by necessity or the intrinsic nature of something

    Precision is admirable, but let's not quibble. The point I was trying to make is that "subjective" values that can claim nothing but "liking" for their explanation and validation make explanation and validation pointless. We're saying only "I like it because I like it." This tells us nothing about values inherent in the thing itself, if indeed it doesn't deny their existence altogether. Valuations based on factors other than the qualities of the things being evaluated are, in effect, arbitrary.
    With those definitions, I don't think the first fits at all (and I think that's closer to what most people mean by "arbitrary"). For the second, I think that's ultimately what all subjective judgment is unless people are using others' preferences rather than their own for the standard (but I don't think the second is what most people mean by arbitrary).

    Unless you believe that human behavior, thoughts, and values are fundamentally inexplicable, I have no idea why you'd think that subjective values can't have explanations. The desire to live is a subjective value, but it's perfectly explainable by evolutionary psychology. As for "validation," we are "validated" the moment we find like-minded people, which also happens all the time with subjective values.

    Again, there ARE no values "inherent in the thing itself." Have you never heard the saying "A thing's worth what someone is willing to pay for it?" The same is true of all objects. Things are only as valuable as the value people see in them. Things are not, can not be, inherently valuable. There's a rather fantastic scene in the 1966 film Blow Up that demonstrates this quite perfectly: Notice how the broken guitar goes from being so "inherently valuable" that the crowd is fighting over it, but once outside the club it becomes a worthless chunk of wood? What changed? The guitar is still the same, the only thing different is the minds of the people encountering it. All art, all objects, are like that when it comes to value.

    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    So you're not only a thoroughgoing subjectivist, but a determinist as well. We're all just pushed around by our environment and our genes (unless that "dose of individuality" is a mysterious third factor). My distaste for Scelsi is Mom's fault; she should've laid off the wine when she was pregnant.
    I think the best current scientific evidence and philosophical reasoning leads to determinism, yes. Thing is "we" are not "pushed around by our... genes," we ARE our genes (and our brains) and all the molecules/particles that make them up, and, so far as we can tell, what such material does is physically determined. Unless you believe in libertarian free will as most religious-types do, it's difficult not to be a determinist.

    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    OhHeh heh. Good one. I guess a lot of people have a funny way of recognizing quality?
    You laugh it off, but it's a rather good point. If you claim that masterpieces exist objectively independent of what people think, that there are masterpieces that are still such even though some don't like it, why are there no masterpieces that (almost) nobody likes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    No, that's not all I'm saying. I knew Beethoven's Op. 132 string quartet was a surpassingly great work of art when I first heard it at age 15, before I knew what anyone else thought of it. I knew, by the exercise of my own ears and brain, that it was a greater musical achievement than the music most of my high school classmates were listening to, despite the fact that I was one person against hordes of them and they were screaming and fainting at rock concerts. Beethoven didn't make me scream or faint; it just made me sit there, stunned, knowing that a world was being opened to me that I wasn't even ready fully to enter.
    All you're doing is projecting a subjective experience into a state of objective knowledge. How many could say the same thing but replace Beethoven's Op. 132 with The Beatles or literally any other music that people feel that way about? Then you have this fundamental disagreement with no way to settle it other than for you and the other person to hypothetically yell "I know I'm right and you're wrong!" at each other to a stalemate.

    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    I don't do that.
    Whenever you say "I don't like X, but I still think X is a masterpiece" you are very much doing that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    Sure, things can be "masterpieces of their kind," but not all "kinds" are equally remarkable. I think Josef Strauss's Spharenklange is a masterpiece of the Viennese waltz genre, but I've never imagined it being as great an achievement as Beethoven's Op. 132, either in form or in substance, despite the fact that I enjoy it every bit as much. My judgment is based neither on felt enjoyment nor on some sort of "collective subjectivity."
    The "kinds" that are more remarkable are only more remarkable because you (and others) have subjectively decided they're more valuable. The things Beethoven's Op. 132 does is more valuable to you (and others) compared to J. Strauss's Spharenklange. That's all there is to it. You could have different values that would swap these two easily. Just imagine thinking that what Spharenklange does is more valuable than Beethoven's Op. 132. There, done.

    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    No, I don't seriously think that. But what difference does it make what they can or can't explain about music? We're not talking fundamentally about conceptual knowledge or verbal skills. The perception of aesthetic qualities is just that - perception. It's a given; you perceive things, or you don't. Explanations may follow, but aesthetic perception - the apprehension of the organization of the sensory elements of music into comprehensible and significant entities - fortunately doesn't depend on them. Neither does the ability to discern, within the limits of our mental and emotional development and constitution, degrees of excellence in the way composers have done that organizing.
    If they can't explain anything then how do you know what aesthetic qualities they're perceiving or not? For all you know, to them, it's just a random collection of pretty sounds.

  3. #303
    Senior Member Eva Yojimbo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BachIsBest View Post
    I have some bad news for you. Everything humans do (including looking at the sun and seeing it exists) is based in human thought/feelings, which is conditioned by evolution, culture, and, yes, some does of individuality.

    What is, arguably, the most objective construction of all, an axiomatic logic system, exists entirely in human thought.
    Of course, but there are some aspects of perception, like seeing at the sun, that don't change depending on how we feel/think about them. I can believe the sun doesn't exist all I want, but when I look up I will still see a giant, orange, glowing ball that will give me sunburn and (eventually) skin cancer. The thing with objectively existing things is that our senses tend to persistently report them regardless of what we think about them. Subjective things aren't like that. They only exist because we think about them. They aren't properties of those persistent sensory objects. Unfortunately, many people fail to distinguish this difference and project subjective things (like values) onto objective reality all the time... probably for good evolutionary reasons.

    Actually, I would say that axiomatic logic systems are subjective as well, but they are (typically) constructed to be accurate models of objective reality and thus have their validation in how well they model that reality. We can construct axiomatic systems that have no connection to reality (some experimental mathetmatics do this), but such things are exceptions.

  4. #304
    Senior Member Eva Yojimbo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    No one is arguing that taste is "objective," only that there are objective factors inherent in music which can serve as a legitimate basis for aesthetic judgments (not for "tastes," which are a personal matter not subject to debate). .
    Not without us first deciding that those "objective factors inherent in music" SHOULD serve as a basis for aesthetic judgment, and that decision is (surprise, surprise) a subjective one.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Eva Yojimbo View Post
    Not without us first deciding that those "objective factors inherent in music" SHOULD serve as a basis for aesthetic judgment, and that decision is (surprise, surprise) a subjective one.
    But you're utterly and I mean just completely and utterly missing the point.

    You can draw objective conclusions about subjective tastes.

    If that weren't the case, the record industry wouldn't be paying producers millions of dollars and advertising wouldn't exist. Period.
    Last edited by vtpoet; Sep-15-2019 at 17:37.

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    Senior Member Eva Yojimbo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vtpoet View Post
    But you're utterly and I mean just completely and utterly missing the point.

    You can draw objective conclusions about subjective tastes.

    If that weren't the case, the record industry wouldn't be paying producers millions of dollars and advertising wouldn't exist. Period.
    Yes you can draw objective conclusions about subjective tastes, but I don't see what point I missed, or even what point you're making. If you took a poll about whether people preferred Taylor Swift or Beethoven, you'd have an objective conclusion about subjective tastes, but unless you're suggesting we should use this as a basis for declaring which is "objectively better" (which I doubt you are), I don't know why this is relevant.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Eva Yojimbo View Post
    Yes you can draw objective conclusions about subjective tastes...
    That's all anybody has been saying the entire time!

    Quote Originally Posted by Eva Yojimbo View Post
    ...but I don't see what point I missed , or even what point you're making..
    That you draw objective conclusions about what "Masterpieces" have in common. If that weren't the case, conservatories wouldn't exist, Bach, Mozart and Beethoven, let alone Salieri, would have had nothing to teach.

    Quote Originally Posted by Eva Yojimbo View Post
    If you took a poll about whether people preferred Taylor Swift or Beethoven, you'd have an objective conclusion about subjective tastes...
    For example. Or you could apply music theory to pieces (that have had broad appeal over time) to discover what, objectively, these pieces have in common.

    Quote Originally Posted by Eva Yojimbo View Post
    ...but unless you're suggesting we should use this as a basis for declaring which is "objectively better" (which I doubt you are), I don't know why this is relevant.
    The music industry does this every day. Any producer worth their salt can tell you, objectively, what is apt to appeal to the widest possible audience. Does that make it "objectively better"? Not as a rule. But Bach, Mozart and Beethoven (among other composers) grasped what made music objectively better, otherwise their music wouldn't be held up as masterpieces.

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    Senior Member Strange Magic's Avatar
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    Our friend from Vermont (beautiful state--because I think so!) appears to triumph when he declares that one can draw objective conclusions about subjective tastes. That sort of polling data is precisely among those measurable, quantifiable properties that do exist objectively when discussing art objects and experiences--along with color, weight, size, shape, duration, creator (if known), date of creation, where object can be found, etc. This has nothing to do with the inherently subjective nature of our opinions about art, "greatness" in art, "masterpieces", etc. The fact remains that value in art is opinion, neither more nor less. And the corollary, for me, is that all aesthetics is subjective, individual, and personal

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    Round and round and no-one is going to tell me how my six proposed "atonal masterpieces" fail to make the grade. Is that why this thread has gone so astray and become so irrelevant to the question - because no-one has an answer to my question? I guess the added requirement of objectivity makes my question impossible to answer.

    And, if you let in my six you will have to let in many more.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Enthusiast View Post
    Round and round and no-one is going to tell me how my six proposed "atonal masterpieces" fail to make the grade. Is that why this thread has gone so astray and become so irrelevant to the question - because no-one has an answer to my question? I guess the added requirement of objectivity makes my question impossible to answer.

    And, if you let in my six you will have to let in many more.
    Why not just present your list of 6 atonal masterpieces in one place, with a statement that you believe these 6 are indeed atonal masterpieces, and ask for comments to either support or deny your assertion?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Eva Yojimbo View Post
    Of course, but there are some aspects of perception, like seeing at the sun, that don't change depending on how we feel/think about them. I can believe the sun doesn't exist all I want, but when I look up I will still see a giant, orange, glowing ball that will give me sunburn and (eventually) skin cancer. The thing with objectively existing things is that our senses tend to persistently report them regardless of what we think about them. Subjective things aren't like that. They only exist because we think about them. They aren't properties of those persistent sensory objects. Unfortunately, many people fail to distinguish this difference and project subjective things (like values) onto objective reality all the time... probably for good evolutionary reasons.

    Actually, I would say that axiomatic logic systems are subjective as well, but they are (typically) constructed to be accurate models of objective reality and thus have their validation in how well they model that reality. We can construct axiomatic systems that have no connection to reality (some experimental mathetmatics do this), but such things are exceptions.
    But if you put sunglasses on, you don't see the sun the same way anymore. It's simmilar for music. Think of sunglasses as our bias (culture, familiarity, exposure, nostalgia, "coolness"...). Of course, it's much easier to remove your sunglasses than to remove your bias about music. Actually, it is impossible to listen to music objectively (without bias), but that doesn't mean that there is no objectively greater and lesser music.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange Magic View Post
    ....one can draw objective conclusions about subjective tastes. That sort of polling data is precisely among those measurable, quantifiable properties that do exist objectively when discussing art objects and experiences...
    That's right. That's why sutdents wanted studied with the great composers; and not to learn Strange Magic's rule of composition: Everything's subjective so just compose whatever your little heart desires and fame and prestige will come to you. La!

    Quote Originally Posted by Strange Magic View Post
    This has nothing to do with the inherently subjective nature of our opinions about art, "greatness" in art, "masterpieces", etc.
    Nobody but you is saying it does. I don't even particularly care about that assertion. It's so stupidly obvious it's not worth discussing. The point is in discerning what masterpieces can objectively tell us about our subjective experience of music----and what we collectively value.

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eva Yojimbo View Post
    Unless you believe that human behavior, thoughts, and values are fundamentally inexplicable, I have no idea why you'd think that subjective values can't have explanations.
    I never said that they can't have explanations: physiological, psychological, ideological, whatever. But who appeals to such things in trying to understand a piano concerto? This particular line of discussion seems rather useless.

    As for "validation," we are "validated" the moment we find like-minded people, which also happens all the time with subjective values.
    I don't need like-minded people to validate my artistic judgments.

    Again, there ARE no values "inherent in the thing itself."
    "Values" has more than one definition. Am I being a little archaic in using the word to describe a quality of excellence inherent in something? A thing has "value" in that sense if it ought to be valued, or appraised as excellent, by a reasonable, intelligent, informed person. This isn't the same, again, as personal liking. I recognize the artistic values in Milhaud's neoclassical works even though I don't much care for that style of music.

    If you claim that masterpieces exist objectively independent of what people think, that there are masterpieces that are still such even though some don't like it, why are there no masterpieces that (almost) nobody likes?
    That's so easy I'm surprised you would even ask it. The answer is that people are generally perceptive enough that fine things won't go unrecognized.

    All you're doing is projecting a subjective experience into a state of objective knowledge. How many could say the same thing but replace Beethoven's Op. 132 with The Beatles or literally any other music that people feel that way about? Then you have this fundamental disagreement with no way to settle it other than for you and the other person to hypothetically yell "I know I'm right and you're wrong!" at each other to a stalemate.
    You're forgetting the context of my statement. You had written: "All you're saying with 'we can recognize masterpieces regardless of personal taste' is that 'we recognize others, who have different tastes, like this piece enough to consider it a masterpiece,' and that's it.' I responded: "No, that's not all I'm saying." I wasn't saying anything like that.

    In the quote above, by saying "any other music that people feel that way about," you're reducing my response to Beethoven's quartet to a "feeling." You surely realize that there is far more to the perception of art than "feeling." Plenty of things can make us "feel," but they don't all impress us as being great works of art. A relentless drum beat can induce ecstatic feelings around the village fire pit, but there isn't much to be said for it as music.

    The "kinds" [genres or categories of music] that are more remarkable are only more remarkable because you (and others) have subjectively decided they're more valuable.
    Some kinds of music are inherently capable of greater complexity of form and richness of expression. I call "remarkable" composers and works that exploit those potentialities effectively. Things aren't "remarkable" just because someone likes them.

    The things Beethoven's Op. 132 does is more valuable to you (and others) compared to J. Strauss's Spharenklange. That's all there is to it. You could have different values that would swap these two easily. Just imagine thinking that what Spharenklange does is more valuable than Beethoven's Op. 132. There, done.
    No, not "done" at all. The things Beethoven's Op. 132 does are more complex, more expressively profound, and more difficult to imagine and realize in a work of art than the things a Strauss waltz does. So much so, in fact, that Beethoven's late quartets are widely perceived as pinnacles of creation in our Western musical heritage. I wanted to make clear by describing my reaction to Op.132 that its qualities were immediately apparent even to me as a teenage music lover - that even though I didn't have the conceptual frame of reference with which to articulate the extraordinary things I heard in it, I knew that I was witness to a tremendous creative achievement that stood above much other music I loved. In fact I tried to describe in a brief essay for English class the new realm of feeling I heard Beethoven exploring, a realm which, as I recall, I described as transcending mundane, specific emotional states and attaining a sort of serene perspective on them. It was interesting, in later years, to discover that many people more experienced than I was in both music and life have described the music of late Beethoven in similar ways.

    You will now tell me that Beethoven's late quartets are only called things like "tremendous creative achievements" and "transcendental" because an extraordinary number of people happen to "feel" that they are and like that sort of thing.

    Bleah.

    If they can't explain anything then how do you know what aesthetic qualities they're perceiving or not? For all you know, to them, it's just a random collection of pretty sounds.
    I don't understand this comment, so I won't try to respond to it.
    Last edited by Woodduck; Sep-16-2019 at 02:04.

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  19. #314
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eva Yojimbo View Post
    Not without us first deciding that those "objective factors inherent in music" SHOULD serve as a basis for aesthetic judgment, and that decision is (surprise, surprise) a subjective one.
    I said "there are objective factors inherent in music which CAN serve as a legitimate basis for aesthetic judgments." That they CAN is indisputable, given the fact that they actually DO! This is not dependent on anyone's opinion as to whether they SHOULD.

    But beyond this bit of clarification, isn't it obvious that the aesthetic qualities of art simply exist, independent of our personal interest in them? We can appreciate them or not, but they don't go away, or become less important in making the art work what it is, for lack of interest on our part. If we want to say anything meaningful about art (as opposed to "duh, me likey this"), we had best take these qualities into account.
    Last edited by Woodduck; Sep-15-2019 at 21:17.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Enthusiast View Post
    Round and round and no-one is going to tell me how my six proposed "atonal masterpieces" fail to make the grade.
    Okay, so, my main interest in this thread has been to clarify what objectivity might mean when appraising music that has attained wide appeal over time—loosely masterpieces I suppose. I'm satisfied that I've done that.

    Namely this: You can draw objective conclusions about subjective tastes based on what music attains wide appeal and recognition over time. That insight into what most speaks to our subjective and collective preferences, and why, continues to grow and expand along with the music we listen to.

    So, these standards are probably fairly good predictors of what will and what won't attain the status of a masterpiece. However, it's ultimately the masterpiece that defines the objective standard. That means that while no one might have predicted that Bolero or Carnival of the Animals would have been considered the respective masterpieces of Ravel and Saint-Saëns (least of all the composers), their wide appeal over time has added to our understanding of what we collectively value.

    The same could be true of your list. Why don't you explain why you think your proposed atonal works make the grade?

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