Classical Music Forum banner
1 - 20 of 1659 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,963 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Back in 2016, we had a wonderful exchange of views on the nature of profundity in the arts. The whole objectivist/subjectivist thang was aired as part of the discussion, as was the linked Understanding versus Appreciating a work. These topics have a life of their own, but I enjoyed this thread very much and trust that others might also. Just my opinion. But just try the first page....

See 4chamberedklavier's post below for link to old thread.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
149 Posts
Back in 2016, we had a wonderful exchange of views on the nature of profundity in the arts. The whole objectivist/subjectivist thang was aired as part of the discussion, as was the linked Understanding versus Appreciating a work. These topics have a life of their own, but I enjoyed this thread very much and trust that others might also. Just my opinion. But just try the first page....

www.talkclassical.com/threads/what-is-profundity?
Just a minor correction, if you don't mind - here's a typo in the url (not the displayed text). It's also missing the numbers at the end, so it redirects to an error page. This url should work: What is "profundity"?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,416 Posts
Back in 2016, we had a wonderful exchange of views on the nature of profundity in the arts. The whole objectivist/subjectivist thang was aired as part of the discussion, as was the linked Understanding versus Appreciating a work. These topics have a life of their own, but I enjoyed this thread very much and trust that others might also. Just my opinion. But just try the first page....

www.talkclassical.com/threads/what-is-profundity?
I've long had the notion that the greats of the 1700s and 1800s were so different from us today.

For JsB, what was profound in his view of reality? Probably his religion.
LvB? Probably his God concept along with his views of humans (politics, morals, human ignorance).
Schubert, Chopin, Catholicism?

But they couldn't know how they came to be alive, or their place in this big universe. We know better today (but we're kept humble because we don't have a complete theory of physics or cosmological origins).

I've never thought much about this wide chasm, because music is such a big subject for me by itself.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,884 Posts
What is it? Dictionary definitions are fine as they are. How do they apply to music? In complex ways that require analytical skills, aesthetic sophistication, and usually 8.000 or more words to explain for any given work. Hundreds of analyses and critical commentaries address the profundity of individual works, though often without mentioning that specific word. Many hear the profundity of musical works without having what it takes to explain it in words. Hardly surprising for a nonverbal art form.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,958 Posts
What's most interesting to me is how many of the arguments in that thread are almost verbatim of the ones being made in recent threads, even though some different posters are making them. As much as things change the more they stay the same, I guess. I'm fine viewing profundity as a deeply personal experience. I can analyze works I feel are profound--Tristan und Isolde, Neon Genesis Evangelion, War & Peace, Paradise Lost, Vertigo, Mozart's 41st Symphony, etc.--until the cows come home, but at the end of the day such analysis doesn't matter much unless one feels it on a gut level.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,963 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
My Post #19 from the original thead.........

I'm not at all sure the the noun "profundity" can be applied to music, in an attempt to categorize it. It seems best to reserve the terms "profound, profundity" to truly illuminating, penetrating insights or discoveries that pierce through a jumble of seemingly isolated and discrete facts about reality and reveal to us an underlying deep truth that knits together many disparate facts into a unity. Examples would be the Theories (using the term as scientists use it) of Special and General Relativity, Evolution by Natural Selection, Plate Tectonics, and many recently verified discoveries in astronomy and cosmology. These are profound. There are areas of mathematics that are profound, and doubtless others will bring forth other examples. But Music? Art? We find ourselves back again in a forest of tautologies and of competing definitions and of opinions about who was great, what was great, or deep or profound. However, in cante flamenco for instance, where the song can be very jondo or grande, the measuring rod is simpler and generally accepted: to what extent does the performance, delivered within the recognized confines and accepted usages of the art form, move the listener, directly, emotionally, to empathetic sorrow, tears? Maybe not the same as the Eroica, but the criterion for profundity is clearly laid down here. In the more formal arts, such clarity of criteria is rarely found and often widely disputed.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,416 Posts
My Post #19 from the original thead.........

I'm not at all sure the the noun "profundity" can be applied to music, in an attempt to categorize it. It seems best to reserve the terms "profound, profundity" to truly illuminating, penetrating insights or discoveries that pierce through a jumble of seemingly isolated and discrete facts about reality and reveal to us an underlying deep truth that knits together many disparate facts into a unity. Examples would be the Theories (using the term as scientists use it) of Special and General Relativity, Evolution by Natural Selection, Plate Tectonics, and many recently verified discoveries in astronomy and cosmology. These are profound. There are areas of mathematics that are profound, and doubtless others will bring forth other examples. But Music? Art? We find ourselves back again in a forest of tautologies and of competing definitions and of opinions about who was great, what was great, or deep or profound. However, in cante flamenco for instance, where the song can be very jondo or grande, the measuring rod is simpler and generally accepted: to what extent does the performance, delivered within the recognized confines and accepted usages of the art form, move the listener, directly, emotionally, to empathetic sorrow, tears? Maybe not the same as the Eroica, but the criterion for profundity is clearly laid down here. In the more formal arts, such clarity of criteria is rarely found and often widely disputed.
Great compositions of music could be called profound (by me) because humans have used the physics all around them to express themselves, ascent up through their long history.

The greatest mystery is not
that we have been flung at random
among the profusion of the earth
and the galaxy of the stars,

but that in this prison,
we can fashion images of ourselves,
sufficiently powerful,
to deny our nothingness!

Andre Malraux
 
  • Like
Reactions: Strange Magic

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,366 Posts
My Post #19 from the original thead.........

I'm not at all sure the the noun "profundity" can be applied to music, in an attempt to categorize it. It seems best to reserve the terms "profound, profundity" to truly illuminating, penetrating insights or discoveries that pierce through a jumble of seemingly isolated and discrete facts about reality and reveal to us an underlying deep truth that knits together many disparate facts into a unity. Examples would be the Theories (using the term as scientists use it) of Special and General Relativity, Evolution by Natural Selection, Plate Tectonics, and many recently verified discoveries in astronomy and cosmology. These are profound. There are areas of mathematics that are profound, and doubtless others will bring forth other examples. But Music? Art? We find ourselves back again in a forest of tautologies and of competing definitions and of opinions about who was great, what was great, or deep or profound...
When I first saw the title of this OP, my first thought was (given the 2 past l-o-n-g threads): clickbait. The above confirms it (to me anyway). What can possibly be said here that hasn’t been in those preceding threads?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,963 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Luchesi:
but that in this prison,
we can fashion images of ourselves,
sufficiently powerful,
to deny our nothingness

Andre Malraux
A very fine passage from Malraux! The American poet Robinson Jeffers (whose brother was an astronomer of repute) spent most of his life and work on the place of humankind in the universe. He thought that people spent far too much time on celebrating their special place and specialness, speaking at times of humanity's incestuous relationship with itself. He preached constantly of the need for humankind to turn outward instead and to learn to cherish the great outer world/universe all around them. He and Malraux would have had an interesting discussion.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,963 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 ·
When I first saw the title of this OP, my first thought was (given the 2 past l-o-n-g threads): clickbait. The above confirms it (to me anyway). What can possibly be said here that hasn’t been in those preceding threads?
DaveM, we can count on you always to question the motives and attitudes of other posters and posts. You are free to pass on this thread, and thus bury it in the oblivion you think it deserves.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,963 Posts
Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Again, from the original thread:

:[Another poster] posits that profundity in art does not differ from profundity in what he terms philosophy, by which I suppose he subsumes science as a branch of philosophy. But then he states that the elements of reality to which art refers belong to a world of internal reality, which is to say they are subjective in nature. We are again in "a world of feeling", with all that implies, because your feelings may differ profoundly from mine. But I propose that [that poster] offer an example of a profound piece of art (let's specify that this be a painting or piece of sculpture), and we can consider whether it be profound or not in the sense that I propose that plate tectonics or the concept of an expanding universe is profound. I think the difference will be clear.

I personally have no problem with accepting that anyone can postulate that any piece of music or art is profound, if we simultaneously state that the term may have no real significance "objectively"-- it is merely convention to express our subjective personal preferences.[,,,,,,] The well of subjectivity may be deep indeed, and our experience of its waters quite moving, but that we ought not allow our primary definition of profundity to be tied to such variable and uncertain phenomena as personal experience; it is an exact parallel with our previous discussions on "greatness" in art.:
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,776 Posts
Apparently I had this to say back in 2016...

"I think that the key to the concept of being profound is that the word root and early usage meant having deep insight into a topic. However, as with so much else in language, particularly in recent times, the word has been increasingly used in different contexts where the original meaning would be less applicable, e.g. music and art. As a result the meaning of the term has become very fuzzy. This then brings us directly to Becca's First Law of Threads - the fuzzier the word/concept, the longer the thread."

Things haven't changed.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,366 Posts
DaveM, we can count on you always to question the motives and attitudes of other posters and posts. You are free to pass on this thread, and thus bury it in the oblivion you think it deserves.
Strange Magic said:
But Music? Art? We find ourselves back again in a forest of tautologies and of competing definitions and of opinions about who was great, what was great, or deep or profound.
Well, the motive is obvious and IMO disingenuous so yes, I’ll pass on it. Nice try with the gaslighting though.
 

·
Registered
Sibelius, Beethoven, Satie, Debussy
Joined
·
1,684 Posts
My instinct is to say that profundity is seriously overrated.The serious and the tragic are, for reasons best known to the tragedians in particular, accorded greater importance than the smile and the laugh. Humour is just as valid a part of the human experience, but note how many comedians want to be "taken seriously"...literally.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
10,008 Posts
What is it? Dictionary definitions are fine as they are. How do they apply to music? In complex ways that require analytical skills, aesthetic sophistication, and usually 8.000 or more words to explain for any given work. Hundreds of analyses and critical commentaries address the profundity of individual works, though often without mentioning that specific word. Many hear the profundity of musical works without having what it takes to explain it in words. Hardly surprising for a nonverbal art form.
Is there not a Lacanian tendency in contemporary musicology? Alastair Williams, Seth Brodsky, possibly Slavoj Zizec. I’ve tried and failed to make much headway but I’d like to - you need to be part of a university environment to get initiated into it I think.

The composer Wolfgang Rihm is very interesting too vis-a-vis psychological profundity in music, though very few of his writings have appeared in English. He’s quite articulate about how his music was influenced by ideas about psychological profundity. He was impressed by Antonin Artaud, The Theatre of Cruelty.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
10,008 Posts
Back in 2016, we had a wonderful exchange of views on the nature of profundity in the arts. The whole objectivist/subjectivist thang was aired as part of the discussion, as was the linked Understanding versus Appreciating a work. These topics have a life of their own, but I enjoyed this thread very much and trust that others might also. Just my opinion. But just try the first page....

See 4chamberedklavier's post below for link to old thread.
One idea maybe worth thinking about is that there are aspects of the normal human mentality which are more or less suppressed by mainstream culture, to such an extent that the subject is barely conscious of them, and music in performance can tap into them, bring them to the surface. Sound, especially the ritualised juxtaposition of sounds, effects people. I would say there are examples in Sofronitsky, something like the way he plays the Schumann’s opus 11 sonata seems to me deep. Constantin Sylvestri’s Missa Solemnis another deep musical performance.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
19,668 Posts
I suspect that this thread exists mainly for the purpose of keeping the contentious "objective/subjective" controversy alive for those who can't get enough of repeating themselves. I'll try to avoid falling into that trap by offering a caution: the term "profound" in art is commonly used to mean nothing more than "very moving to me." If that's all it's going to come down to - and that would be consistent with the view that all artistic judgments are valid only for the individual making them - then we can all just agree that "profundity" in art is essentially a vacuous and useless notion, and save ourselves and each other some time we can spend more profitably elsewhere.

Personally, I don't happen to think that "profundity," as applied to art, is merely a pretentious way of referring to a personal emotional reaction. I think some works of art are capable of conveying much more complex meanings and resonances - both emotional and intellectual - than others, meanings and resonances which, although they won't be identical for all perceivers, can be seen and explored. For example, people will never stop exploring Shakespeare's plays and Wagner's operas - the books keep being written and published - while there will never be a need to say a word about vast numbers of works that give every bit as much pleasure. The profundity in art lies not in "how much it means to me" - i.e., how much I like it - but in the range of meanings, and in what kinds of meanings, it is seen to be capable of conveying and provoking.

This view does of course assume that art actually has the capacity to mean something, with the corollary that the range of meanings a given work will convey is determined to a major degree by the nature of the work - which is to say, that meaning is not merely something imposed by the audience. I must therefore call the following statement (from post #6 above) of no value to our understanding:

"I'm fine viewing profundity as a deeply personal experience. I can analyze works I feel are profound--Tristan und Isolde, Neon Genesis Evangelion, War & Peace, Paradise Lost, Vertigo, Mozart's 41st Symphony, etc.--until the cows come home, but at the end of the day such analysis doesn't matter much unless one feels it on a gut level."

Analyses of works of may have little immediate value to those who don't "feel it on a gut level," but one would be a fool to dismiss the perceptions of thoughtful individuals whose deeply felt observations might awaken us to things we hadn't realized were there until we were given a key with which to unlock their secrets. Anyone who's achieved any significant level of appreciation of any art has surely benefitted from the insights of others. Personally, I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to thinkers who have assisted in my awakening to depths of meaning I might otherwise have come to perceive more slowly, if all.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
19,668 Posts
My instinct is to say that profundity is seriously overrated.The serious and the tragic are, for reasons best known to the tragedians in particular, accorded greater importance than the smile and the laugh. Humour is just as valid a part of the human experience, but note how many comedians want to be "taken seriously"...literally.
Humor isn't all the same. It can be shallow or deeply resonant - "profound," in a sense. We can laugh at slapstick and sex jokes, or we can laugh at penetrating satire that acknowledges the tragedy of life.
 
1 - 20 of 1659 Posts
Top