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It's a little difficult to define it for abstract music, I think. It's not a word I use a lot, but then again, I mostly listen to abstract music, and only rarely get into liturgical, lieder, or opera.

Usually for me it's a combination of depth - music that, by whatever means, rewards you for putting in closer listening, repeated listening, or any other sort of effort - while not blunting the emotional affect. I sometimes find excessively "correct" or "learned" elements (particularly fugues) to slightly diminish the emotional affect of a work, though this isn't a hard rule, and many extremely affecting works can be both highly emotional and theoretically fascinating, such as Beethoven Op. 111.
 

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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.
A certain enfant terrible of Youtube-based classical music criticism one told a story about how he couldn't understand Elliot Carter's piano concerto, and read Charles Rosen's writings on it- he mentioned that he came away incredibly impressed with the insights Rosen provided, a better understanding of what Carter was doing in the work, was astonished at Carter's skill at composing- and then realized it didn't matter because he still didn't enjoy listening to it.


I don't think it's useless at all to ignore writings on works we don't like or understand, and I think many works with depth will leave listeners pondering it and wondering if they should listen to it again and again - I think, though, that if one feels compelled to seek out understanding of works they may not immediately like on a "surface" level, it means that the work did speak to them on some level enough to draw them back in, even if it's just a feeling of beguilement, or confusion. The stuff we truly have no affinity for, either repels us, or we just classify as "boring".
 

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"Profound" has no specific, universally understood definition when talking about abstract music, but as long that it's a term that we English-speaking listeners of music like to bring out a lot, I think it's worth looking at what we mean by it, and what in music prompts this specific reaction from us.

I'll confess that there's a handful of critical/music review cliches that I'd like to see eliminated, but this isn't really one of them.
 

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My point is it is a false dichotomy between two absurd stances. Total subjectivity means my Cat running up and down the piano is as great as any work of music. Total Objectivity means that the works of Beethoven can be ordered from greatest to least profound/sublime.
I'm not sure the "strong" "hyper-subjective stance" is very popular anywhere. The generally expressed subjective stance is more that there must be some sort of basis for comparing a cat on a piano with Beethoven.
 

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If we want to say that the music which "survives the years" does so because of profundity, I think it is necessary to define what profundity means.

The problem with sort of reverse-defining "Profundity" as a quality of music which survives the years is that it doesn't really map to what a listener says when they say they find a performance "Profound". I can only speak for myself but when I say I find a piece, passage, lyric, or anything "profound", I certainly don't mean to say anything about whether or not it has an impact on the development of art, or anything along those lines- it's usually a personal response.
 

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But then you multiply your personal response by millions of other personal responses that are along the same lines. You find it profound and millions of others did too. There might be something about it then that a lot of people find to be profound. Seems pretty sensible.
the problem here is that this doesn't actually get us any closer to any understanding of what "profundity" in music is, at least in an aesthetic sense. It's sort of just turning it into a semantic null, or at least a synonym for "popular among classical music listeners".
 

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The reasoning of -
1) There is a quality in music called "Profundity"
2) We can define "Profundity" as "Music which is likely to survive the eras and remain popular over a period of time"
3) Therefore, music which is popular is high in the quality "Profundity"


I'm not sure if this is particularly useful, nor does it seem to relate to how any given listener is expressing when they call music "profound", nor does it give us any interesting insight into much of anything. In a way, it's kind of dodging the question.

You can substitute "profundity" with any aesthetic quality, or "greatness", or what have you, and this is why there is the protest that all this amounts to is a polling question.
 

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Probably not, but then I'm not really interested in finding a scientific definition for every facet of existence.
Attempting to reduce "profundity" in music to a popularity-based polling question actually is an example of trying to reduce an aesthetic evaluation to quantifiable, measurable metrics.

I don't think there's any kind of scientific term either, which is why I don't think that's a good idea, except in the sense that we might aesthetically compare music that people frequently describe as "profound".
 

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What can you do if you outright deny that anything called "profundity" can even be applicable to art, and if quantifiable metrics is your only criterion for aesthetic knowledge or truth? Popularity polls is all you're left with. Is the art of Vermeer a visionary celebration of the perceiving eye and mind, standing head and shoulders above the genre scenes of his contemporaries, and setting a standard for technical brilliance that has left other painters baffled and reverent for centuries? Hey, I have an idea. Let's take a poll.
Quantifiable metrics certainly are not my only criterion for aesthetic truth! I wouldn't even say they are a criterion for aesthetic truth for me at all! There are certainly reasons I have for looking for objective, historical truth when it comes to music, or artistic history - for instance, seeing which artists were influenced by others, but aesthetic truth is not one of them.
 

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I am completely in accord with this. I'll wager most people are. Appreciating artistic greatness and profundity has never depended on belonging to a cluster. Rather, it's a primary - in many cases, I think, the primary - explanation for the existence and size of the cluster.
The title of this thread is asking what profundity is. I don't think defining it as "the quality that makes works resonate with a great number of classical listeners" is a very interesting answer, because you could say that about "beauty", "transcendental sorrow", "brilliance", etc, etc. This is an aesthetic question, not a question about why works are popular, I think.
 

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Are you sure there's a difference?
When we talk about art in aesthetic terms, I certainly believe most of us don't start with talking about whether it's popular or not!

To some extent I guess the question is if words like "Profound", "Brilliant", "Insightful", "Sorrowful", pick whatever response word you want are basically semantic nulls and all they mean is "I liked it". Which might be true but I don't really think that's an interesting way to discuss art!
 

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How much of the "popularity" is due to the aesthetic appeal?
Who cares?

We pick words for reasons. When someone calls a work of music "profound", they may mean a different thing than if one calls it "spiritual", "mystical", "beautiful", etc even if all these words amount to positive aesthetic responses. I'm more interested in seeing if there are certain stylistic elements, methods of composition, or just personal emotional response that make a lot of us English-speakers pick the word "profound" over the other words.
 

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The ones who think it's about "polling" should care. You have to take polling questions into consideration.
I don't think music is about polling. I think "polling" (which doesn't just include popularity, but things like historical repute, historical influence etc) amounts to the objective criteria we have on the qualities of music, but I also think this data has very little to do with the act of us listening and responding to music.

The objective evidence I have that Montgomery Clift was a great actor is the reputation of his peers. The reason I revere Montgomery Clift is Red River.
 

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Has anyone defined it that way?
Not directly, but it almost doesn't matter. I'm less interested in what "profundity" means for the enduring universality of music, and more interested in why we're sometimes compelled to use that word in the first place, versus any other word that defines a positive aesthetic response we have to music.

As I said I think people are attempting to simultaneously answer entirely different questions at this point which is causing obvious problems.
 

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If a question admits of no answer, then it's hardly worth asking. I think there ARE answers, and that more answers are possible. The demand for complete knowledge of what makes art variable in its power and scope, and the retreat into a sort of egalitarian subjectivism, is just an evasion of everything interesting about art and the experience of it. I'm not accusing you of that, but...
What's funny is that I kind of see this going on in the other direction! I've said it before but the frustrating thing about "polling" (once again - not just popularity, but the general historical and contemporary reputation of composers and works) is that it bypasses the phenomenon of aesthetic reaction itself, and prefers to measure the effects that reaction has. This makes a lot of sense, as if you can't directly measure something, you can sometimes measure the effect it has on its surroundings - but this is an indirect measurement that - at least to my mind - doesn't explain aesthetic pleasure so much as measure the impact it has.

Popularity, historical repute, contemporary reactions, current-day reactions, etc - all those are effects. The source of pleasure in music, though (at least, my pleasure) is the cause. And that's much harder to pin down - the creation of such strong reactions from abstract form is such a mystery that - to me - it's no surprise that many ascribed mystical and religious powers to music.
 

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A poll is where a representative cross section of a population is selected and asked a series of predetermined questions or subjected to predetermined tests. It is a valid statistical technique for many purposes when done correctly. The tricky aspect to using polls to determine what music is most culturally significant or profound is that mere popularity, or size and enthusiasm of audience, doesn't do it. One indirect sign of cultural significance, pointed out by Hume, is when an artist is remembered and recognized decades or centuries after their own lifetime. (I've picked 75 years, or the approximate length of an average human life, as a measure.) But cultural influence can be quite subtle, and not easily revealed by polls. One's tastes can be profoundly influenced by art of previous eras without even realizing it.
I've sort of seen "polling" as a general shorthand for not just popularity, but measurable, or - at least semi-measurable - effects such as historical reputation, reputation among scholars, difference between contemporary and current reputation ("staying power"), and literal popularity polls.
 
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