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All the rancor aside, I would agree. I do not pretend to know and be able to pinpoint every single thing that makes Bach great to me and to millions of others, or Handel or Mozart or Beethoven or the Rolling Stones for that matter. I don't think even experts in music theory can do such. They may be able to identify and express some things with a little more precision. But the problem I have with the debate is that there seems to be this tendency among, shall we say, card-carrying subjectivists if someone says "Bach is the greatest composer ever". Or Beethoven or Wagner or whoever. I think such hierarchies are completely natural even if I may not agree with some else's ranking. Then we get the sermons about how there really is no good, better, best, worst. And that doesn't resolve or explain anything. Nor does the pointless Strange Magic type of trollish badgering for "proof". I don't need any proof, nor have I ever asked for proof in support of someone else's preferences.
We almost entirely agree here. The irony is I've spent much of my life writing criticism (mostly film, but some music/literature) for various websites and I focused primarily on objective analysis. I've spent much of life studying the arts, even owning multiple textbooks on film, music, and poetry. It's just that, try as I might, I never could find any unifying feature that made every work I felt was great great. That lead me to thinking more about just how my own subjectivity influenced that perception, especially with works that hit me on a profound level, which also kickstarted my thinking about how different subjectivities could interact with different art in different ways.

I agree about hierarchies being natural and inevitable, I just get skittish when some people (not all) move from accepting such hierarchies as subjective phenomenon to thinking they're objective, which often leads to very negative opinions and views on people who disagree. As long as one isn't doing that then there's no problem. Though I do share SM's skepticism when it comes to certain claims on a variety of issues, music and otherwise.
 

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Actually, I think you'd fine that one side (mostly myself and SM) were quite certain that we were UNcertain about what was being discussed, and despite our continued querying of what was meant by certain terms, no (or very little, and all very late) clarification was forthcoming.

Also, I dislike the dichotomous split between "those with specific knowledge" and "those without it." As I've said, I'm somewhere in the middle when it comes to music theory: I'm not an expert, but I understand it well enough to follow most scores and musical analysis. However, I'm also a rationalist with a strong distaste for woo and fake authority.
Woo and fake authority? In musicology, music theory, musical analysis? i'd like to hear thoughts about this.
 

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All the rancor aside, I would agree. I do not pretend to know and be able to pinpoint every single thing that makes Bach great to me and to millions of others, or Handel or Mozart or Beethoven or the Rolling Stones for that matter. I don't think even experts in music theory can do such. They may be able to identify and express some things with a little more precision. But the problem I have with the debate is that there seems to be this tendency among, shall we say, card-carrying subjectivists that if someone says "Bach is the greatest composer ever" -- or Beethoven or Wagner or whoever -- then we get the sermons about how there really is no good, better, best, worst. And that doesn't resolve or explain anything. Nor does the pointless Strange Magic type of trollish badgering for "proof". I don't need any proof, nor have I ever asked for proof in support of someone else's preferences.
Give me a break! Anybody can say whatever they like about whether Bach is the Greatest Ever. Just don't insist that if I think otherwise and rank Engelbert Humperdink the Greatest (not likely from me: I would say--if true--that I prefer his music.), then my esthetic values are invalid, my joy is fake or shallow, etc. All I do is to bring to the individual complete control over and confidence in their choices in the arts. In the arts, the experts and critics and the clusters are of only passing interest--one can follow them or not, but one's own tastes and preferences are supreme.
 

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Fine. What I meant was that each side argued a particular meaning of particular terms and felt they knew the clear meaning of what they were arguing. Because each side was arguing about a different meaning of the same terms (e.g. "inexorable logic" and subjective/objective), little progress was made..
Like the unstoppable force against the immovable object, this is the unstoppable philosophy against the immovable objectivity. :)
 

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We almost entirely agree here. The irony is I've spent much of my life writing criticism (mostly film, but some music/literature) for various websites and I focused primarily on objective analysis. I've spent much of life studying the arts, even owning multiple textbooks on film, music, and poetry. It's just that, try as I might, I never could find any unifying feature that made every work I felt was great great. That lead me to thinking more about just how my own subjectivity influenced that perception, especially with works that hit me on a profound level, which also kickstarted my thinking about how different subjectivities could interact with different art in different ways.

I agree about hierarchies being natural and inevitable, I just get skittish when some people (not all) move from accepting such hierarchies as subjective phenomenon to thinking they're objective, which often leads to very negative opinions and views on people who disagree. As long as one isn't doing that then there's no problem. Though I do share SM's skepticism when it comes to certain claims on a variety of issues, music and otherwise.
Well whatever our disagreements I do hereby officially apologize for mocking your learning and your commenting style, which is really a cheap shot. Unless I'm going to engage in a point by point response it's much more decent to be politely quiet. By the way I think your comments on Wagner and atonality in another thread were thought-provoking. I had never considered the connection or lack thereof in quite that way.
 

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Woo and fake authority? In musicology, music theory, musical analysis? i'd like to hear thoughts about this.
It may be worth its own thread, but my concern is that a lot of people don't know where musicology, music theory, and music analysis ends and where philosophy begins, and being an expert in the former doesn't make you an expert in the latter. Discussing the objective features of scores--forms, keys, harmony, melody--or factual matters like dates, influences, intended audiences, etc. are all perfectly fine subjects for music theory and musicology: but notions of understanding, greatness, objective/subjective, logic, etc. are all innately philosophical, and being an expert on the former doesn't lend expertise to the latter. The latter is full of woo and other forms of irrationality, and it's easy for people without sound epistemologies (which most don't have) to easily lapse into woo.

To me, fake authority comes from two sources: one is someone who isn't actually an expert on musicology or theory making comments about such things as if they are. I mean, I can reiterate what I've learned from reading/watching music analysis, but I would never pretend to be an expert or authority. The other source of fake authority is simply what I describe above about being an expert on music theory/musicology not making one an expert on the philosophy related to these subjects, yet many think it does.

To use a non-music example, I've often lamented how ignorant many scientists are of philosophy, including the philosophy of science. This often leads to them getting trounced in debates on philosophy by woo-peddlers who simply know more about philosophy and results in them making some really dumb comments about philosophy. It's why I prefer someone like Sean Carroll who, while being a formidable theoretical physicist (and a great teacher of physics) is also quite philosophically informed, at least more than enough to handle the woo-peddlers.
 

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Give me a break! Anybody can say whatever they like about whether Bach is the Greatest Ever. Just don't insist that if I think otherwise and rank Engelbert Humperdink the Greatest (not likely from me: I would say--if true--that I prefer his music.), then my esthetic values are invalid, my joy is fake or shallow, etc. ...
Have I in particular ever done that? Whose ranking, tastes or choices have I denigrated? I told hammeredklavier that if he thinks Michael Haydn is the greatest of all time, that's fine with me.
 

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By the way I think your comments on Wagner and atonality in another thread were thought-provoking. I had never considered the connection or lack thereof in quite that way.
Thanks, though I'd be dishonest if I were to take credit for it as I actually got it from Jacques Chailley who is quoted on Wiki's page about The Tristan Chord:
"Tristan's chromaticism, grounded in appoggiaturas and passing notes, technically and spiritually represents an apogee of tension. I have never been able to understand how the preposterous idea that Tristan could be made the prototype of an atonality grounded in destruction of all tension could possibly have gained credence. This was an idea that was disseminated under the (hardly disinterested) authority of Schoenberg, to the point where Alban Berg could cite the Tristan Chord in the Lyric Suite, as a kind of homage to a precursor of atonality. This curious conception could not have been made except as the consequence of a destruction of normal analytical reflexes leading to an artificial isolation of an aggregate in part made up of foreign notes, and to consider it—an abstraction out of context—as an organic whole. After this, it becomes easy to convince naive readers that such an aggregation escapes classification in terms of harmony textbooks."
 

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Have I in particular ever done that? Whose ranking, tastes or choices have I denigrated?
My reply deliberately said somebody as not to get into direct personal confrontation with anybody still active in the thread. There are others--no longer posting here now--who repeatedly denigrated and mocked the tastes of others which they did not share.
 

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My reply deliberately said somebody as not to get into direct personal confrontation with anybody still active in the thread. There are others--no longer posting here now--who repeatedly denigrated and mocked the tastes of others which they did not share.
Well then take that up with them. You're fighting phantoms, man.
 

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Woo and fake authority? In musicology, music theory, musical analysis? i'd like to hear thoughts about this.
I wish I had some examples but, particularly in the older days of theoretical/formal analysis, I've definitely seen some inane, bizarre exegesis on music which was based, or at least purportedly based in music theory.

I don't think this is very unusual because these things happen all the time- how many woo-salesmen dress their stuff in the language of quantum theory?
 

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Actually I do have an example - I think the oft shared (especially on social media) "chart" on which keys correspond to which emotions is basically pseudoscience masquerading as music theory.
Yeah, but affect represented by key signature was in the minds of composers in the 18th and probably on into the 19th centuries. Not trying to be pedantic really. It's an interesting thing to take into consideration as far as key signature choices by earlier composers are concerned. It seems to be a moot point given equal temperament.
We lose a part of the meaning of their music if we are ignorant of their affective choices. Although these characteristics were, of course, subjective, it was possible to conceive of each key as unique because each key actually sounded distinct within unequal temperaments. When equal temperament became the dominant tuning after 1917, the aural quality of every key became the same, and therefore these affective characteristics are mostly lost to us. ...
 

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It's off-topic but I don't so much object to the idea of it so much as the "viral" versions of these things tend to portray things in an oversimplified way that portrays it in a pseudoscientific manner, but that's sort of a case of bad pop-sci content more than anything.


e) like it's one thing to go "composers, by convention use key x to create an affect y" but what I usually see instead bypasses artistic conventions and goes into like, pop-science neuroscience instead
 

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Actually I do have an example - I think the oft shared (especially on social media) "chart" on which keys correspond to which emotions is basically pseudoscience masquerading as music theory.
I take your point. And yet, isn't there a grain of truth in the idea that some keys are more likely to provoke certain emotions? Film composers build their careers on such connections, and one of the basic appeals of pop music is that it does the same.
 

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It's not emotional for me. A piano concerto by JC Bach and one by Mozart. Where is it better and how is it better? Let's look at them. Let's learn something specific.
Compare two scores. Wouldn't it be obvious to a trained person? You can see what both composers were doing. [...]
In a perhaps overlooked post, I asserted that comparing scores is not a valid of way of being able to determine which is better (assuming we're comparing the comparable). So, Luchesi (or anyone else) how would you argue that such comparison would help such a determination?
 
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