Classical Music Forum banner
1 - 20 of 25 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
185 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
·
185 Posts
I would guess that what the masses prefer is considered less impressive because of the idea that a work must sacrifice complexity & variety for the sake of appealing to the lowest common denominator. For people who value complexity & variety above all else, I don't think it's unfair for them to consider that what the masses prefer, in general (especially in our current environment where everything is commercialized), will not meet their standards. That's not to say that everything that appeals to the masses is (according to their standards) low quality. Only that there is a tendency for it to be so.

There is truth in the idea that the audience is never wrong, but it can be hard to disentangle the part of the audience appreciation that comes from a work meeting commonly-held aesthetic standards (i.e. appreciating the truly impressive works), from the part of audience appreciation that is a result of people taking advantage of trends in the name of profit. You could say this involves cases where the audience doesn't know what it's missing out on because it's not profitable to produce certain kinds of music that they would potentially enjoy more than what they are currently listening to.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
185 Posts
How can you explain the "phenomenon" of Pachelbel's canon and the Art of the Fugue, which I talked about earlier.
Now let's look at the Art of the Fugue; why is it not as popular as Pachelbel's canon? Because people have failed to grasp the complexity of the Bach? Or because the Pachelbel has inherent qualities to move more people than the Bach? Or — because the Bach is simply "academicism/pedanticism" passed as profundity? (I'm not saying it is. I'm just posing a question.)
When something ends up more popular than another, it's often just an accident of history. Had conditions been even slightly different, then who knows, the Art of the Fugue might have ended up more popular. Since the AotF is less popular, does that mean that there is something inherent in somber music (which is plenty in the AotF) that does not move people does not move people as much as the peaceful music of Pachelbel's canon? It could be, but I think it's an unlikely explanation since so much "sad" music is popular.

Really, it can be all of those reasons you mentioned, all contributing to different extents. Though it's hard to make a general statement out of this since Pachelbel being more popular than the Art of the Fugue is just one example, and figuring out why it's so still won't explain why another work is more popular than others.

Or maybe we are "nerdy little circles" having fetish for music hundreds of years old, and they're the normal ones. You say "to prefer", but how much a "life & death" situation it is varies depending on the context and who says it. If a person outside of our nerdy circles says; "Even if music never existed, it wouldn't bother me much, I don't think it's really that essential for human life. On the fundamental level, it's really just a form of entertainment glorified as art. I'm not bothered by pop music I hear in public places." (See Fbjim's comment in another thread: "When I listen to Brahms 4 because I love Brahms 4, and want to enjoy listening to Brahms 4: is that an act of entertainment, or an act of logic?") Does it have less significant meaning than the things we say in our nerdy circles?
I'm having difficulty locating the thread & comment that you were referring to, so sorry if there's something I'm missing.

I'm not quite sure what you're getting at. Classical music is a niche interest, yes. People differ in preferences, and some don't care about music. Also true. You're asking how much we should weigh the opinions of people who aren't interested in classical music, right? It depends on the claim being made. Much of the discussions here are about about objective & subjective greatness in music, and how it is linked to mass appeal. So if the masses hold different aesthetic standards from those in the classical community, then how relevant are their tastes when it comes to assessing how great a work can be? Like with almost everything... it depends. & I think it goes back to what I mentioned in my earlier post. How do you distinguish the part of the audience appreciation that results from fulfilling aesthetic standards that are held by both the masses and people in the classical community, from the part of audience appreciation that is a result people falling for trends, & not seeking out music that they could potentially enjoy more?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
185 Posts
My profound discovery from this thread so far is that Benjamin Franklin composed. And just the other day, I found out that Nietzsche also composed music. Are there any other historical figures moonlighting as musicians I should be aware of?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
185 Posts
What would a world where all art is equally good look like? If all art were equally good, then they should be given the same amount of attention. No preferential treatment.

I don't think that the subjectivists here advocate for that. I can see them advocating for more recognition of less appreciated types of art, but not so much that it crowds out conventional art.

The subjectivist position makes it possible, in theory, for all art to be equally good. But in practice, even if all art were equally good, some works of art will still be given more attention than others. Not because they are inherently better, but because a larger no. of people appreciate their aesthetic; the dominating aesthetic is just a reflection of what most people like. The subjectivists here may believe that something is not necessarily better than another, but that doesn't mean they are going to force people to like things they don't like, especially if people are not receptive to a certain aesthetic.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
185 Posts
Okay, so the popularity of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven is nothing more than that comparable to works appearing in/on most ‘classical-light’ playlists or DVDs. Likewise, to understand the popularity of the works of The Beatles, one need look no further than ‘Yummy, Yummy, Yummy (I’ve got love in my Tummy)’ and ‘I’m Henry the Eighth I Am’. Got it.
I agree with hammered's implied point that some things aren't necessarily more popular because they are "the best", but I think people should be careful to go overboard with the idea and conclude that no popular work has "earned" its popularity or that no work of art can be better (in some respects) than others (not saying that this is what Hammered believes, but this is for our dear audience who might get the wrong idea)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
185 Posts
"Deserve" or "earning" is a value statement and I kind of think statements like that just boil down to "this is popular but I think it's bad". I don't think it's possible to ask if a work "deserves" to be popular without bringing questions of aesthetic taste into it.
Right, it does bring in questions of aesthetic taste, but I don't see the issue with that. These tastes are based on standards, & whether one aesthetic standard is better than another is a subjective matter, but it doesn't mean that all works will meet a particular aesthetic standard equally well. Some might be better at accomplishing a specific goal. That's why I tacked on that works of art can be better "in some respects", not better in every way.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
185 Posts
I don't sense hostility from anyone advocating any kind of music. Or from someone who says they can't stand Baroque music. I may not agree, but I don't consider it hostile. On the other hand I've seen threads in which attacking John Cage and his work was taken as a personal insult to Cage fans. It's puzzling.
I won't assume that you have no basis for thinking that there's a double standard, but to be fair to fans of John Cage & other avante-garde fans, they most likely hear people disparage their preferences way more often than fans of baroque. Perhaps not in the TalkClassical forums where people are more welcoming, but in most other spaces. I can see why they'd be less patient.

"Charlatan"/"emperors new clothes"/etc is borderline, and while I wouldn't say it's explicitly like, hostile in every possible usage, it amounts to saying that listeners are either being fooled, or are mis-representing their own tastes to try to look cool, and that's not likely to ever be taken well.
This is a tricky one to navigate. Modern music fans have a right to feel insulted when people imply they're being fooled or pretending, but the issue is the "emperor's new clothes" sentiment pops up so often that, while I'm not condoning it, modern music fans should by now expect those kinds of comments & not take them too personally. It comes with the territory.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
185 Posts
But that's just it. If you really and truly feel that it all comes down to completely subjective individual opinions, then it doesn't matter. All you can say is "well, I don't know for sure. Maybe I am being fooled, but I like this stuff anyway".
I won't rule out the possibility of composers who don't believe in what they're selling & are just out to dupe people, but if there are people out there who like it, it shouldn't be too far-fetched to believe that the composer himself likes his compositions.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
185 Posts
I'm about to finish listening to a Michael Haydn symphony cycle right now, not long after completing Joseph's. I'd say their "hit-or-miss" rates are roughly the same, at more or less 42%. To my ears, they are equally good, but Joseph has the advantage of quantity. I can understand if "received wisdom" makes people unfairly overestimate Joseph Haydn's music, but I don't see why this bias towards Joseph necessarily means that people would be reluctant to listen to Michael or rush to put him down. I would be thrilled to find out that so-and-so composer is just as good as so-and-so. Wouldn't people want to be exposed to more great music?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
185 Posts
What would Beethoven's predecessors have thought of youtube.com/watch?v=FwZsDzGY1XA&t=44m44s (~45:06) in terms of profundity? (This is not a putdown of Beethoven). Are we indulging in the wishful thinking "they would also have seen Beethoven's genius just like we do today"? Are we trying to separate the artists from the sensibilities of their times and places?
They'd be relieved that the painfully slow adagio is finally over

(just kidding, sorry Beethoven fans)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
185 Posts
Correct me if I am wrong, but my impression is that the objectivist side appears to think the other side wants says all art is of equal value, while the subjectivist side thinks that the other side believes that value in art is an intrinsic, inherent property of art that exists even without a human perceiving it. Both don't seem like the strongest interpretation of either side's point. Why not argue their best case?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
185 Posts
"One critic shaped how we look at a half-century of painting. If Pollock was overrated, Clement Greenberg was the one doing it. We just followed his lead. So what is the correction here? It's not to discount Jackson Pollock. It's to give more attention to those other abstract expressionists as well. And to know the critic who decided which names we'd learn."

I'm necessarily saying the same thing happened in classical music, but the power of "influencers" (critics such as Donald Tovey, Charlatan Rosen) shouldn't be underestimated.

If Leonardo Bernstein wasn't a star, would Mahler's music have become as popular as it is today?
Since you're knowledgeable about this topic, I'm curious to know how widely revered Bach, Mozart, & Beethoven even were in their own times. Not as much as they are today, surely? I'm aware about Bach falling out of style until Mendelssohn, & Mozart on the same track if not for his wife's efforts.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
185 Posts
With all due respect, not to discredit the famous composers— you honestly think all that popularity has been gained justly and fairly? Artists can be neglected due to "'excessive focus' on some" or even "'history distortions' that favor some", (see dissident's discussion of the "Amadeus phenomenon", people's tendency to be drawn into the "tortured, tragic artist" concept), look back at posts such as #442. (what-is-profundity-revisited.80215/page-23#post-2311156) Is this fair? For example, a composer, X, of the Classical period sounds too happy all the time,— people, who by nature find that repulsive, could have been introduced to an alternative, composer Y, who is different. In reality, people generally aren't given "choices" like that— what's happening is, a constant shoving of X in their throats, all the time. Just look at all the writings by Charlatan Rosen and all the others, you name it. Because X has to be continued to be glorified and worshipped, "potential fans" of Y are all taken away by the X industry. People like Fabulin on this forum said they didn't see the things the way I did until I told them to. How can you say it was a "fair game" from the start. You people say it's not a zero-sum game, but why is there still that compulsion to rate objectively, as if the famous ones haven't been glorified enough already? What's the whole point?
No composer is perfect, so all the major composers can be thought of as being somehow overrated, but given that, what's next? I would assume that the mindset that the big name composers were the greatest & cannot be matched is only common among newer or casual classical fans, but that's a problem faced by every genre, not just classical. What you're trying to achieve - that there be no misconceptions about greatness, seems like an impossible task, since these misconceptions are to be expected in any community centered around some music (or art form in general)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
185 Posts
Suggesting that the popularity of X composer is not totally a reflection of their greatness (& instead may be a result of something like random chance) shouldn't be confused with suggesting that X composer does not deserve to be popular at all, or that X composer was never to some extent better than his contemporaries. I don't think anyone here would find that objectionable
 
1 - 20 of 25 Posts
Top