View Poll Results: Do you believe in greatness in music?

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  • Yes.

    108 84.38%
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    20 15.63%
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Thread: Do you believe in greatness in music?

  1. #1
    Senior Member Allerius's Avatar
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    Default Do you believe in greatness in music?

    It seems that those who believe in greatness in music usually establish criteria to be used to recognize it, and that those who do not believe tend to reject these criteria in favor of the idea of total subjectivity in the evaluation of the arts, governed only by individual perception (taste). Therefore, we have those who see "great" as a kind of synonym of "favorite", and those who don't. Note that acknowledging that greatness exists do not imply to believe that it's easy (or even possible) to quantify it.

    I perceive this question as being central to many discussions here on TC, and I would like to see the overall response of this community to it.
    Last edited by Allerius; Nov-28-2020 at 07:42.
    “To play a wrong note is insignificant; to play without passion is inexcusable.” - Ludwig van Beethoven.

  2. #2
    Senior Member jdec's Avatar
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    I not only believe in it, I have witnessed it

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    Senior Member Strange Magic's Avatar
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    My recognition of greatness, what is great, what is not, often differs markedly from the experience of others. Hence a simple binary Yes/No without discussion of the unique subjectivity of one's personal esthetic tells us little. Unless, of course, there is a show of hands as to what is great, how greatness is measured, etc. In that sense, esthetics is poll. Let me offer you this fine wine....

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    Senior Member consuono's Avatar
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    Yes. Otherwise Stephen King or maybe J. K. Rowling would be the "greatest" writer ever in the English language, and we all intuitively know that ain't true.

  6. #5
    Senior Member Strange Magic's Avatar
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    We all know things intuitively. Sometimes we even agree on the tools used to measure. I know the above post was referring to the authors of the King James Bible. Or maybe not.....

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    Yes, I believe there is objective quality to music that can make it good, bad, or great. The way to discern it's greatness is the skill that went into creating it. Lots of people can create a simple melody, but few can form lush orchestrations or complex polyphony or other things that demonstrate one's skills at composing. There is always personal taste involved, yes. Indeed I can hear music by certain and admire the technical ability that went into the piece even if I don't enjoy listening to it. There are several examples of music that shows it is not all of equal worth. One thing would be stock music. Another example would be various children's songs. No one would say "Baby Shark" can be placed in the same league as Beethoven.
    Last edited by adriesba; Nov-28-2020 at 06:14.

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  9. #7
    Senior Member consuono's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange Magic View Post
    We all know things intuitively. Sometimes we even agree on the tools used to measure. I know the above post was referring to the authors of the King James Bible. Or maybe not.....
    The Tyndale-tradition translators, or Shakespeare, or Milton, or Hemingway, or Joyce, or...

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    Senior Member mbhaub's Avatar
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    Absolutely there is GREAT music, and it's impossible to quantify it. But, to paraphrase an old saying, I know it when I hear it, or play it. When you sit in an orchestra and play a symphony by Beethoven or Brahms, you just feel it. It's spectacular to be a part of such genius and play such great music. Compare that to playing a symphony by a lesser composer and the difference is startling. As much as I enjoy the Amy Beach symphony, I recognize it's no masterpiece. The standard repertoire that has been handed down to us took years and years of winnowing. Eventually the wheat and chaff were separated and most of what is still played is great music. Not to say there isn't music that deserves another look and evaluation, but given the current state of affairs in the classical world, even without the Coronavirus, that's not likely to happen.

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    I was going to post first but I wanted the BS to roll in first.

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    Senior Member Rogerx's Avatar
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    Yes, next question please.
    “Never argue with an idiot. They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.” ― Mark Twain

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    I believe in objective aesthetic quality more than beauty itself, which is subjective. For example, Beethoven's Razumovsky Quartet No. 3 took more "R&D" than Smetana's String Quartet No. 2.

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    I would tend to believe, if there were such a thing as objective greatness, a numerous majority here wouldn't be inclined to know about it. Yes we have our Beethoven and Bach, but their longevity falls under objective matters of evolutionary biology, a temporal facet of our own place and experience, and not proven matters of a rational or mathematical quality, the cold proponent we so feign to recognize. Diversification in biology occurs in every organism but we have what's considered the average line of the human psyche, the textbook case. Some don't fit within the average and thus don't like Bach or Beethoven, that doesn't make their archetypal qualia less great. If someone prefers Bach or instead Berg, these are subjective. Our purpose is to respect individuality, the source of diversity.
    Last edited by Ethereality; Nov-28-2020 at 06:30.

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  18. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ethereality View Post
    I would tend to believe, if there were such a thing as objective greatness, a numerous majority here wouldn't be inclined to know about it. Yes we have our Beethoven and Bach, but their longevity falls under objective matters of evolutionary biology, not proven matters of rational or mathematical quality, the cold proponent we so feign to recognize. Diversification in biology occurs in every organism but we have what's considered the average line of the human psyche, the textbook case. Some don't fit within the average and thus don't like Bach or Beethoven, that doesn't make their archetypal qualia less great. If someone prefers Bach or instead Berg, these are subjective. Our purpose is to respect individuality, the source of diversity.
    When the players are so evenly matched, distinguishing one as greater than the other becomes nigh impossible. If we only compare music by people like Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, Mahler, Wagner, Brahms, etc., then differences become less objective and more subjective. That is why I really don't like it when I read some sort of literature about music and it says "so and so was the greatest of xyz composers". I've seen the same thing in literature. People will say things like "Shakespeare was the greatest English author ever". I cringe reading stuff like that because I think, what about this composer? or what about Milton, Dickens, and so fourth.

    But even so, I do believe there is an objective side to art. I don't think Beethoven can be put on the same level as any local garage band or that a child's scribble drawing can be put on the same level as Rembrandt.

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  20. #14
    Senior Member consuono's Avatar
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    People will say things like "Shakespeare was the greatest English author ever". I cringe reading stuff like that ...
    He was, though...as Milton and Dickens (who were both massively influenced by Shakespeare) would agree.

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    Quote Originally Posted by consuono View Post
    He was, though...as Milton and Dickens (who were both massively influenced by Shakespeare) would agree.
    Well yes, art does not exist in a vacuum. But then Shakespeare was surely influenced by others. Isn't Romeo and Juliet hugely inspired by Pyramus and Thisbe?

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