View Poll Results: Do you believe in total subjectivity concerning the evaluation of music's merits?

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Thread: Do you believe in total subjectivity concerning the evaluation of music's merits?

  1. #106
    Senior Member Pat Fairlea's Avatar
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    Some people can see transcendental beauty in an equation, some can hear great music in the sound of the wind, others see great art in landscape gardening.

    That's all I'm saying on this topic.

    Apart, obviously, from Vermeer was a genius.

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  3. #107
    Senior Member DaveM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange Magic View Post
    Getting close to religion here. Perhaps appeals to Papal Infallibility will help the undecided.

    I happen to love Vermeer (returning to our discussions of artists), but I happen to love Albert Plnkham Ryder more, though he clearly knew (and cared) less about the mechanics of painting than most other artists, as is shown by the ravages that time has wrought on many of his works. Yet there is a strange illumination of Ryder's scenes--landscapes, seascapes--from within rather than from without, and they are haunting. I believe the Popes of Assertion of Greatness rank Vermeer above Ryder in the canon, or maybe they don't, but it is here that the idea of the primacy of ones' individual experience of art is clearly displayed.
    But this isn’t all about you and what you like and don’t like. Greatness is about those with superior skills in the arts that is appreciated not only by a significant audience, but also a significant number of peers who also are experts in the field.

    Obviously, each individual brings subjectivity into the appreciation of the arts. Given the difference in age, personality, experience and overall life history of these individuals, why is it that you don’t appreciate the greatness in the skill that is required to create something that appeals to the masses of these individuals consistently over generations and the objective evidence of the accomplishment thereof.

    Res ipsa loquitur

    ( -the Latin added to give the post gravitas as you like to do. )
    Last edited by DaveM; Dec-02-2020 at 18:51.

  4. #108
    Senior Member Strange Magic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveM View Post
    But this isn’t all about you and what you like and don’t like. Greatness is about those with superior skills in the arts that is appreciated not only by a significant audience, but also a significant number of peers who also are experts in the field.

    Obviously, each individual brings subjectivity into the appreciation of the arts. Given the difference in age, personality, experience and overall life history of these individuals, why is it that you don’t appreciate the greatness in the skill that is required to create something that appeals to the masses of these individuals consistently over generations and the objective evidence of the accomplishment thereof.

    Res ipsa loquitur

    ( -the Latin added to give the post gravitas as you like to do. )
    Who says I don't appreciate the greatness of the skill, etc., etc.? Besides, in my formulation, it is all about what I like and don't like. Also concerning the objective evidence--if you mean something beside or beyond the actual physical existence of the art object itself--if you mean the significance to me as a reasonably well educated, thoughtful, appreciative absorber/enjoyer of music and the other arts, well, that's for me to evaluate and decide. And to everybody else, likewise, I grant all the freedoms I enjoy.

  5. #109
    Senior Member Strange Magic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    Vermeer and Ryder are both extraordinary artists. I love them both too. They express much different aspects of the human experience. Why worry about "ranking" and "the canon"?
    I agree. Let's pledge not to worry about the canon. We need to worry much more about the cannon. I tend to like the cañons I've seen; they are often profound.

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  7. #110
    Senior Member DaveM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange Magic View Post
    Who says I don't appreciate the greatness of the skill, etc., etc.? Besides, in my formulation, it is all about what I like and don't like. Also concerning the objective evidence--if you mean something beside or beyond the actual physical existence of the art object itself--if you mean the significance to me as a reasonably well educated, thoughtful, appreciative absorber/enjoyer of music and the other arts, well, that's for me to evaluate and decide. And to everybody else, likewise, I grant all the freedoms I enjoy.
    Non responsive.....

  8. #111
    Senior Member Strange Magic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveM View Post
    Non responsive.....
    Why not craft an answer for me that better suits? As I have posted along these lines now for literally years, it still seems that I am not making myself crystal-clear, and for that, mea culpa (a liitle more Latin).

  9. #112
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BrahmsWasAGreatMelodist View Post
    I know very little about visual arts, but looking at "Blue Poles", I notice a certain beauty and elegance (weird way to describe it, but I'm not sure how better to) in its arrangement and design. Perhaps "things could be moved around" without "damage to its design quality", though I suspect doing so would at least present significant changes to the design quality. What do you think (for example) you could move around that wouldn't disturb its current affect, and why? Furthermore, does this mean it isn't a great work of art? Tight compositional structure is only one approach to creating great art; it seems to me there are other (equally valid) approaches: free improvisation, for example. Conversely, a melody like "Jingle Bells" doesn't seem to present much that you can tinker with without "damage to the design quality". Does this make it a great work of art?
    Good questions. On "Blue Poles," I would say that the angles of the poles (why poles? they look more like trees) and the placement of the "branches" could have been different in any number of ways without changing the effect of the picture. Pollock could have created a "Blue Poles II" and a "Blue Poles III" and beyond, and all the variants could have been essentially alike in effect. That doesn't make any of them poor as art; artists often paint a series of works on a theme. But it's certainly a lesser achievement than a work that takes on and solves unique problems of design and expression, a work where everything has a reason for being just so and not otherwise. That's what "good composition" is, in its broadest sense, and artists of all kinds are forever striving to "get it right." There are kinds of art where composition is less important than other factors; musical improvisation, as you suggest, can be expressive and interesting without trying for an overall design, but that doesn't obviate the need for design - i.e., coherence - on a more moment-by-moment basis. Randomness and chaos have uses in art, but music that seems not to know what it's doing isn't much of an achievement and isn't going to get very far in the world.

    I can't think of a reason to call "Jingle Bells" a great work of art, but I'd be willing to call it a good tune. It's catchy, memorable, and fun, and it expresses its lyrics effectively. One criterion of quality in art is that it achieve what it sets out to do. "Jingle Bells" certainly does that.

  10. #113
    Senior Member RogerWaters's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    I'm not glossing over that "fact." [that different people find different art I'm simply asserting that it doesn't mean anything. It doesn't mean that the concept of greatness is invalid, and it doesn't mean that human beings are incapable of recognizing great music when they hear it. It can mean nothing more than that people use words differently.
    But this, my friend, means (in its own way - I am taking a slightly different line on the subjective vs objective issue) nothing less than what you are arguing against: greatness in art is 'subjective'.

    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    My concept of artistic greatness[!] doesn't require anything as specific as you're imagining. It can embrace Ali Akbar Khan and Miles Davis as well as Igor Stravinsky and Maria Callas. What it does require is the achievement of something exceptional, difficult, meaningful, and enduring
    What some people find exceptional, others do not. What some find meaningful, others do not. People find Pollock exceptional and meaningful, you do not (if not you, plentry of others, including me). There is no objective way to judge the former as wrong and the latter as right. Why? AGAIN, because there is no one concept of artistic greatness to fall back on[1]. Blue Poles also endures, at least so far (my government paid millions for blue poles and it remains a popular drawcard in the national gallery).

    Your position seems to be that different concepts of greatness does not sully the fact that greatness in art is one (set of) thing(s).

    But how? The features of the world your concept of greatness pick out, other peoples' leave completely undisturbed.

    My two-cents again: rather than fight to show that one's own preferred features of art are the Great ones, instead focus on persuading others to see these features, and by doing so, appreciate them. Doing the former is only going to ruffle feathers. Doing the latter might just get you closer to your goal in the end: causing other people's concept of artistic greatness to converge on your own.

    ---

    1. Compare this to the concept of 'chair'. There is much more agreement about what objective things in the world the concept 'chair' picks out. Ergo, there are not these kind of debates about whether chairs actually exist.
    Last edited by RogerWaters; Dec-02-2020 at 22:48.

  11. #114
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RogerWaters View Post
    But this, my friend, means (in its own way - I am taking a slightly different line on the subjective vs objective issue) nothing less than what you are arguing against: greatness in art is 'subjective'.
    No, it doesn't mean that. If people have apparently opposing positions but are using the same words to mean different things, neither of their positions can be affirmed. Nothing will get done so long as they're talking around and past each other.

    What some people find exceptional, others do not.
    Are Beethoven's late quartets exceptional in identifiable ways or are they standard-issue Classical works? This isn't a hard question.

    What some find meaningful, others do not.
    What people "find" doesn't mean much. There's a hell of a lot more meaning in Schubert's Erlkonig than in "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," regardless of what people think they're finding when they listen to them.

    People find Pollock exceptional and meaningful, you do not (if not you, plentry of others, including me). There is no objective way to judge the former as wrong and the latter as right.
    Again, what is actually in a Pollock painting? Anyone can project anything they wish onto an artwork, but that may tell us little about the artwork.

    because there is no one concept of artistic greatness to fall back on.
    We don't need just one concept. We just need to agree on what we're talking about.

    Your position seems to be that different concepts of greatness does not sully the fact that greatness in art is one (set of) thing(s).
    Hey, I'm open to two sets of things! Greatness can manifest in lots of ways. I'm quite educable, so Pollock fans can speak freely.

    The features of the world your concept of greatness pick out, other peoples' leave completely undisturbed.
    I wonder what you think my concept of greatness consists of.

    My two-cents again: rather than fight to show that one's own preferred features of art are the Great ones, instead focus on persuading others to see these features, and by doing so, appreciate them. Doing the former is only going to ruffle feathers. Doing the latter might just get you closer to your goal in the end: causing other people's concept of artistic greatness to converge on your own.
    Showing people the features of art and explaining what's good about them takes a lot of work, and assumes that the art is before us to study. I'm afraid I have no inclination to work that hard for people who are committed in principle to the position that greatness in art is a figment of the imagination.

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  13. #115
    Senior Member RogerWaters's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    No, it doesn't mean that. If people have apparently opposing positions but are using the same words to mean different things, neither of their positions can be affirmed. Nothing will get done so long as they're talking around and past each other.
    This is kinda what I've been saying. Different people/groups have different concepts of 'greatness', causing debates like these.

    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    Are Beethoven's late quartets exceptional in identifiable ways or are they standard-issue Classical works? This isn't a hard question.
    Of course they are 'exceptional' (in the sense of being novel). But this doesn't mean, to me, that they are 'great'. What's your point here? Is 'exceptional' one feature of your own concept of artistic greatness? So what? This doesn't speak to my main contention, which I think is completely bloody obvious, that different people hold different concepts of artistic greatness.

    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    Showing people the features of art and explaining what's good about them takes a lot of work, and assumes that the art is before us to study. I'm afraid I have no inclination to work that hard for people who are committed in principle to the position that greatness in art is a figment of the imagination.
    You aren't understanding me. I don't think greatness is a figment of the imagination. I think greatness depends on one's definition of it[1]. You should really try to wrap your head around divergent opinions, in this case about the issue of subjective vs objective and how this is illuminated by thinking about divergent concepts. It's not just wise-old-you who has anything worth reading around here (although you are one of the most interesting posters).

    ---

    [1] What is greatness in art? This depends on the MEANING OF THE CONCEPT 'GREATNESS'! For God's sake - imagine trying to discover whether genes actually exist in the molecular biological machinery of organisms without having a good definition of WHAT A GENE IS (unit of hereditary, obeying certain laws identified by Mendel, etc.)!

    As it happens, and unlike the concept 'gene', the concept of 'artistic greatness' is simply so heterogeneous as to admit to little agreement - therefore, when it's time to actually look at the world to find those aspects of objective reality referred to by 'artistic greatness', there is LITTLE AGREEMENT.
    Last edited by RogerWaters; Dec-03-2020 at 04:23.

  14. #116
    Senior Member science's Avatar
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    One of the questions I have about this thread is whether I am supposed to evaluate music's merits. Is that what I'm supposed to do?

    I haven't usually bothered about anything like that. Do I need to set out to get the relevant expertise, or can I just go on enjoying the music without judgment?
    Liberty for wolves is death to the lambs.

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  16. #117
    Senior Member Strange Magic's Avatar
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    Woodduck: "Showing people the features of art and explaining what's good about them takes a lot of work, and assumes that the art is before us to study. I'm afraid I have no inclination to work that hard for people who are committed in principle to the position that greatness in art is a figment of the imagination."
    Perhaps there is confusion raised by your phrase "committed to the principle that greatness in art is a figment of the imagination.". This can be interpreted to mean A) some people believe greatness does not exist at all (except possibly only in the imaginations of believers), or B) it is precisely in the imagination (of everyone) that greatness exists.

    I hold to the latter view--that greatness in the arts can and does exist but it is found precisely in the minds (imaginations) of the perceivers of art. It does not inhere within the artwork itself but rather in the relationship that the perceiver establishes with the neutral, inert artwork. Art just is. It has many properties ripe for analysis and precise measurement but greatness is not one of them. This concept over and over appears to be incomprehensible to many, yet is key to my assessment of the relationship between art and its perception.

  17. #118
    Senior Member Strange Magic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by science View Post
    One of the questions I have about this thread is whether I am supposed to evaluate music's merits. Is that what I'm supposed to do?

    I haven't usually bothered about anything like that. Do I need to set out to get the relevant expertise, or can I just go on enjoying the music without judgment?

  18. #119
    Senior Member RogerWaters's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange Magic View Post
    I hold to the latter view--that greatness in the arts can and does exist but it is found precisely in the minds (imaginations) of the perceivers of art. It does not inhere within the artwork itself but rather in the relationship that the perceiver establishes with the neutral, inert artwork. Art just is. It has many properties ripe for analysis and precise measurement but greatness is not one of them. This concept over and over appears to be incomprehensible to many, yet is key to my assessment of the relationship between art and its perception.
    Right. 'Greatness' is a concept ('subjective', in these sense it is not a concrete objective thing in the world). As a concept, it picks out certain things in the world, just like 'doll' or 'tantrum' do. More accurately, it is a set of closely related but different concepts - hence the disagreement on 'great works of art'.

  19. #120
    Senior Member BachIsBest's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by science View Post
    One of the questions I have about this thread is whether I am supposed to evaluate music's merits. Is that what I'm supposed to do?

    I haven't usually bothered about anything like that. Do I need to set out to get the relevant expertise, or can I just go on enjoying the music without judgment?
    You can if you want.

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