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A profound work for me is something like schuberts string quintet where i don't necessarily enjoy myself listening to it yet i come back to it because theres truth and psychological insight in it
 

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Much here is a matter of degree, but as far as that goes, I'm not going for the blind men and elephant analogy. As a lifelong practitioner of several arts, I find that description of my (and others') aesthetic understanding quite insulting. Nothing personal, I'm sure...
As a lifelong practitioner (and studier: I'm that kook who reads textbooks for fun) I find that description of my (and others') aesthetic understanding dead on. It's a bit like science in that regard. Sure, we can admire just how much we've come to know in contrast to our hominid origins, going from learning how to use tools and build fires to traveling to the moon and discovering all the weird movements of subatomic particles... but at the same time if you can look at the remaining mysteries of life and the universe and not be humbled by them then something is very wrong. I'm reminded of the great Isaac Newton quote: "I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me."

Well, yeah, everyone's "subjectivity" matters, whatever it consists of. But I knew a guy, not into opera at all, who I had watch the phenomenal film of Callas and Gobbi in act two of Tosca. He knew he was seeing something remarkable. I also had my sister - a woman with acting experience and a classical music lover who dislikes Callas's voice - watch it, and she said "I can see what the fuss is all about."

Maybe I'd be impressed by Murphy's pub and its patrons were someone to introduce me, but let's try to keep a little perspective on the potentials of human subjectivity., and the potential of art to captivate and transform it.
And I know a guy, not into opera at all, but who's a rather sensitive aesthete with a taste for great films and literature, whom I introduced to Tristan und Isolde and he couldn't even finish it... though I did have some luck with having him watch a filmed version of Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle. I'm sure we all have anecdotes like this, and I dare say mine is more common than yours: most people don't like opera and don't have the experience with opera to pick out the "great voices" or "great operas" from the offal and also-rans. I guarantee that if you played a clip of Callas and an ordinary soprano most people couldn't tell the difference. The only way to make these subjectivities see the "greatness" in Callas or any great opera is simply make them empathetic to what WE see in these things; but this is the same kind of empathy (even sympathy) I'm saying we should be doing for ALL subjectivities, including the folks at Murphy's pub.

What you see, at least in the case of some of us, is the simple understanding that talk of the irreducible subjectivity of artistic judgments simply leads nowhere.
This gets into arguments of pragmatism. To me, I'm always interested in truth whether it's pragmatic or not. To me, I think the understanding of the objective/subjective distinction doesn't just pertain to truth, but in many life situations is quite useful. Is it useful to anyone's artistic work? Probably not, no more than understanding physics is useful to a baseball player when he's up to bat. My issue is that some are trying build objectively true theories out of what are subjective feelings that don't have any truth value. That has more damaging consequences in, say, religion and politics compared to aesthetics, of course.

Is that fact impressive to you? I consider it somewhat interesting and worth an explanation - not so hard to come up with, eh? - before moving on. We might ask who, under 90 years of age, is listening to Steve and Eydie now, and why.
I don't see why it would/should be any less impressive than the reputation of Bach among the subjectivities of classical music lovers, players, conductors, theorists, etc. Other than the fact that my own subjectivity is probably closer to, and thus more naturally sympathetic with, the Bach lovers, other than this biased sympathetic preference there is no objective reason why mass tastes are any less impressive. There's even reasons, I think, why it should be more impressive. As the great Billy Wilder said: "An audience is never wrong. An individual member of it may be an imbecile, but a thousand imbeciles together in the dark - that is critical genius."

The fact that much popular art is forgotten doesn't mean much; most unpopular art is forgotten too, as has most classical music been forgotten. Very little art from any genre or style remains over long periods of time, and I'm also not convinced that this "lasting" is any definitive sign of greatness. What it is is a sign of art that, if we're being generous and non-cynical (the way hammeredklavier is with his brainwashing and circularity of popularity theories), we can say such art managed to tap into the fundamental aspects of human experience and psychology and managed to render them powerfully within a medium... that's all well-and-good, but nobody is a "universal human;" we are particular humans from particular times and places within particular cultures with particular styles, tastes, etc. The fact that people like to see the flesh-and-blood aspects of their particular experience rendered in art is not an aesthetic crime. The fact that this rendering of particularities means it's likely that art will fade with the fashions doesn't mean it was any less excellent at capturing these particularities of time, place, and experiences. Yes, art can be both particular and universal, but that's rarer still.[/QUOTE]
 

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One path forward, though an extremely difficult one, is through research into neurology, physiology, brain chemistry in response to certain musical stimuli.
And then we just define a specific neurological and chemical response of the body as the reaction to "certain musical stimuli" that we would call...profound?. It looks like more we worship science the less we understand.
 

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Discussion Starter · #205 ·
And then we just define a specific neurological and chemical response of the body as the reaction to "certain musical stimuli" that we would call...profound?. It looks like more we worship science the less we understand.
Maybe you worship science. I don't. I merely regard it as the least fallible way of looking at reality and coming the closest to understanding it. Hard to get my mind around science making us understand less. Do people worship art?

You might be interested in an essay by the late philosopher Ernest Nagel titled Naturalism Reconsidered. He gave it as a presidential address before the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association in 1954. His specialty was in the scientific method as a path toward understanding the world and he authored several books on the subject. The essay is short but well worth the examination.
 

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As a lifelong practitioner (and studier: I'm that kook who reads textbooks for fun) I find that description of my (and others') aesthetic understanding dead on.
Well, that's rather pretentious. An analogy is only an analogy. It isn't supposed to be "dead on," it's merely supposed to offer a useful parallel. Analogies are nearly all bad if taken too far or too literally. In this case, a bunch of blind people feeling an elephant's body parts and thinking they're actually snakes and whatever doesn't sound to me like a good analogy for our understanding of how art works. Maybe you feel that that describes your understanding.

It's a bit like science in that regard. Sure, we can admire just how much we've come to know in contrast to our hominid origins, going from learning how to use tools and build fires to traveling to the moon and discovering all the weird movements of subatomic particles... but at the same time if you can look at the remaining mysteries of life and the universe and not be humbled by them then something is very wrong.
Similarly, I doubt you can really comment on anyone else's level of humility, if that's what you're doing (but maybe you're not doing that?).

And I know a guy, not into opera at all, but who's a rather sensitive aesthete with a taste for great films and literature, whom I introduced to Tristan und Isolde and he couldn't even finish it... though I did have some luck with having him watch a filmed version of Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle. I'm sure we all have anecdotes like this, and I dare say mine is more common than yours: most people don't like opera and don't have the experience with opera to pick out the "great voices" or "great operas" from the offal and also-rans. I guarantee that if you played a clip of Callas and an ordinary soprano most people couldn't tell the difference. The only way to make these subjectivities see the "greatness" in Callas or any great opera is simply make them empathetic to what WE see in these things; but this is the same kind of empathy (even sympathy) I'm saying we should be doing for ALL subjectivities, including the folks at Murphy's pub.
I continue to be surprised that you radical subjectivists find such significance in the fact that not every great work of art is enjoyed by every "sensitive aesthete." Do you really think that individuality of taste implies anything about the existence of more universal aesthetic values? Or do you imagine that the power of the individual psyche to affect people's reactions to art needs to be demonstrated? Has anyone denied that?

The ability of one person ignorant of classical music and opera, and of another person hostile to Callas's voice, to be powerfully affected by her film of Tosca, impressed me, but it didn't surprise me. It says much about the capacity of the art, of Puccini's and/or Callas's, to cut through enormous differences in the people who receive it. By contrast, your "sensitive aesthete's" inability to get through Tristan und Isolde on first exposure doesn't impress me at all. I knew a guy who couldn't get past the first fifteen minutes of Tristan; he said it was so intense he had to take the record off. This guy was a psychiatrist and a lover of Mahler! I just laughed and told him to try again when his psyche felt stronger. Nobody should underestimate the power of listeners' experience and temperament to affect their reception of art, and I certainly don't. But to take that as casting doubt on obvious artistic greatness is a foolish non sequitur.

My issue is that some are trying build objectively true theories out of what are subjective feelings that don't have any truth value. That has more damaging consequences in, say, religion and politics compared to aesthetics, of course.
Your (and others') comparison of aesthetics and religion is epistemically myopic, has very limited validity, and is insulting to artists and those who appreciate what artists do. An artist's knowledge that in the progress of his work he's making it better is as unprovable, by the quantifiable metrics of science, as the theologian's belief in the Holy Trinity, but it is not at all the same sort of belief. It is actual first hand knowledge of a tangible reality, not some "revelation" of a fanciful alternate or parallel "reality" which someone says he ought to believe. It has truth value, but evidently not of a sort you can comprehend or accept.

I don't see why [the reputation of popular performers like Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme] would/should be any less impressive than the reputation of Bach among the subjectivities of classical music lovers, players, conductors, theorists, etc.
I do. For one thing, those who can comprehend Bach can very likely also comprehend Steve and Eydie, even if they don't care so much for the genre. The opposite is much less likely to be true.

Other than the fact that my own subjectivity is probably closer to, and thus more naturally sympathetic with, the Bach lovers, other than this biased sympathetic preference there is no objective reason why mass tastes are any less impressive. There's even reasons, I think, why it should be more impressive. As the great Billy Wilder said: "An audience is never wrong. An individual member of it may be an imbecile, but a thousand imbeciles together in the dark - that is critical genius."
And those reasons are...?
 

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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.
 

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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.
How can you explain the "phenomenon" of Pachelbel's canon and the Art of the Fugue, which I talked about earlier.

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.
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?

Music is too essential to human life to be long captured by idolatry.
Why must anyone be into some kind of music? Music isn't essential to human life. How much important it is varies depending on the individual. Some don't really care for any music in their lives.
 

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hammeredklavier said:
How can you explain the "phenomenon" of Pachelbel's canon and the Art of the Fugue, which I talked about earlier.
I don't know, but it blows away your "it's all about popularity" thesis. I love the Art of Fugue. But you'll tell me it's essentially because it's "popular". But then you'll denigrate it as bring less popular than Pachelbel's Canon. You're all over the lot.
 

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Maybe you worship science. I don't. I merely regard it as the least fallible way of looking at reality and coming the closest to understanding it. Hard to get my mind around science making us understand less.
Entertaining the idea that scientific inquiry is a promising way to approach profundity in music reduces the chances of understanding profundity in music.
 
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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?
 

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How can you explain the "phenomenon" of Pachelbel's canon and the Art of the Fugue, which I talked about earlier.
Is this really incomprehensible to you? I can't believe anyone finds it hard to understand.

Why must anyone be into some kind of music? Music isn't essential to human life. How much important it is varies depending on the individual. Some don't really care for any music in their lives.
Oh, come now. Obviously the human organism can survive without music. It can survive, in some manner, without everything but air, food, water. and some sort of shelter in bad weather. Is that your standard for what constitutes a human life? When I say that music is "essential" to human life, I'm using "essential" in the sense of "essentially human," not "biologically necessary." You might even say I was merely doing what you subjectivists and guardians of scientistic epistemologies love talking about: taking a poll. Are there cultures without music? I haven't heard of any. Most humans, in my experience, love music of some kind, and in most cultures I know of it has a prominent place and a variety of functions. We seem to be built to make and enjoy music.

Besides, what I actually said was "music is too essential to human life to be long captured by idolatry." I said "too essential," not "absolutely essential." How many things can you misread all at once in your single-minded pursuit of whatever agenda you're into?
 

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We first hear fascinating tonalities in nursery songs and so it comes from very far back in our past. Children will sing a song over and over, because it becomes simple for them (accomplishment and reinforcing) and it’s something older kids and parents can do? IDK. Many folks I know never get past those sweet resolutions, because to them that's what the enjoyment is all about.
And these are fascinating people to me, very intelligent and well educated. My friend who was an engineer/physicist for Lockheed (back then) told me over and over that he was tone deaf and in church he couldn't tell one hymn from another, except for the words. I've always been struck by his account of that because he was so forthright and convinced. How would it be (to live like that)?

One of his extreme assertions;
Without music, life would be a mistake... I would only believe in a God who knew how to dance.
Friedrich Nietzsche
 

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Are there cultures without music? I haven't heard of any. Most humans, in my experience, love music of some kind, and in most cultures I know of it has a prominent place and a variety of functions. We seem to be built to make and enjoy music.
The same can be said about sports, for instance. How are we any different from the otakus who say "How would life have been without Neon Genesis Evangelion". Just like them, we're closed in our own nerdy little circles, unable to understand why the rest of the world doesn't care for the Art of the Fugue.
 

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As a lifelong practitioner (and studier: I'm that kook who reads textbooks for fun) I find that description of my (and others') aesthetic understanding dead on. It's a bit like science in that regard. Sure, we can admire just how much we've come to know in contrast to our hominid origins, going from learning how to use tools and build fires to traveling to the moon and discovering all the weird movements of subatomic particles... but at the same time if you can look at the remaining mysteries of life and the universe and not be humbled by them then something is very wrong. I'm reminded of the great Isaac Newton quote: "I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me."

And I know a guy, not into opera at all, but who's a rather sensitive aesthete with a taste for great films and literature, whom I introduced to Tristan und Isolde and he couldn't even finish it... though I did have some luck with having him watch a filmed version of Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle. I'm sure we all have anecdotes like this, and I dare say mine is more common than yours: most people don't like opera and don't have the experience with opera to pick out the "great voices" or "great operas" from the offal and also-rans. I guarantee that if you played a clip of Callas and an ordinary soprano most people couldn't tell the difference. The only way to make these subjectivities see the "greatness" in Callas or any great opera is simply make them empathetic to what WE see in these things; but this is the same kind of empathy (even sympathy) I'm saying we should be doing for ALL subjectivities, including the folks at Murphy's pub.

This gets into arguments of pragmatism. To me, I'm always interested in truth whether it's pragmatic or not. To me, I think the understanding of the objective/subjective distinction doesn't just pertain to truth, but in many life situations is quite useful. Is it useful to anyone's artistic work? Probably not, no more than understanding physics is useful to a baseball player when he's up to bat. My issue is that some are trying build objectively true theories out of what are subjective feelings that don't have any truth value. That has more damaging consequences in, say, religion and politics compared to aesthetics, of course.

I don't see why it would/should be any less impressive than the reputation of Bach among the subjectivities of classical music lovers, players, conductors, theorists, etc. Other than the fact that my own subjectivity is probably closer to, and thus more naturally sympathetic with, the Bach lovers, other than this biased sympathetic preference there is no objective reason why mass tastes are any less impressive. There's even reasons, I think, why it should be more impressive. As the great Billy Wilder said: "An audience is never wrong. An individual member of it may be an imbecile, but a thousand imbeciles together in the dark - that is critical genius."

The fact that much popular art is forgotten doesn't mean much; most unpopular art is forgotten too, as has most classical music been forgotten. Very little art from any genre or style remains over long periods of time, and I'm also not convinced that this "lasting" is any definitive sign of greatness. What it is is a sign of art that, if we're being generous and non-cynical (the way hammeredklavier is with his brainwashing and circularity of popularity theories), we can say such art managed to tap into the fundamental aspects of human experience and psychology and managed to render them powerfully within a medium... that's all well-and-good, but nobody is a "universal human;" we are particular humans from particular times and places within particular cultures with particular styles, tastes, etc. The fact that people like to see the flesh-and-blood aspects of their particular experience rendered in art is not an aesthetic crime. The fact that this rendering of particularities means it's likely that art will fade with the fashions doesn't mean it was any less excellent at capturing these particularities of time, place, and experiences. Yes, art can be both particular and universal, but that's rarer still.
[/QUOTE]
All of that is very well said, especially the quote by the great Billy Wilder about imbeciles in the dark. But especially noteworthy in the context of certain ongoing marathon debates here at TC is your final paragraph about the distinction between popular and classical art, which you describe very well. Like you, I'm always careful to point out my great respect for a great deal of popular art, which as you say is often the product of great talent and skill and truly deserves to be called "excellent". But classical art aims to deal in truths and psychological insights that are more universal, and if successful and not sealed in a tomb like King Tut's treasures, remains relevant and compelling well beyond its own time, place and social and cultural context. That is the sense in which classical art is more "profound" than popular art.
 

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The same can be said about sports, for instance. How are we any different from the otakus who say "How would life have been without Neon Genesis Evangelion". Just like them, we're closed in our own nerdy little circles, unable to understand why the rest of the world doesn't care for the Art of the Fugue.
Speak for your own closed, nerdy little circles, bub.

I have no difficulty understanding why the Kunst der Fuge was never on Billboard's list. I seem to recall suggesting some reasons, several posts back. Guess you didn't care for them. My advice: stop struggling with it.
 

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The same can be said about sports, for instance. How are we any different from the otakus who say "How would life have been without Neon Genesis Evangelion". Just like them, we're closed in our own nerdy little circles, unable to understand why the rest of the world doesn't care for the Art of the Fugue.
Wait a second. The fans of one of the least popular genres on earth are following it because it's popular? Is that right?

I understand pretty well why the rest of the world doesn't care for Art of Fugue. And: I don't care. I wish such music had a wider listenership for the sake of the listeners, but if I were the only one on the planet listening to that music, it wouldn't bother me a bit.
 

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Discussion Starter · #220 ·
fluteman: "But classical art aims to deal in truths and psychological insights that are more universal, and if successful and not sealed in a tomb like King Tut's treasures, remains relevant and compelling well beyond its own time, place and social and cultural context. That is the sense in which classical art is more "profound" than popular art."
Are we sure that classical art aims to deal in truths and psychological insights that are more universal? I'm not sure that is always the case or even most of the case. I also can think of many popular songs that deal explicitly in issues that classical music only rarely touches if at all. They don't last as long as some classical music (of which Sturgeon tells us accurately 90% of which is crap) due to the fact that another song comes along to displace it,

What is more profound that the realization that humankind is driving the world's wildlife into extinction through environmental vandalism? Listen to Ian & Sylvia's Antelope. Listen to PJ Harvey's album Let England Shake. There are innumerable songs about good love, bad love, and everything in between, with the music well tuned to the lyrics. Even songs about life and death (of all things)! The Blues. Cante flamenco. Some of these genres appeal to large masses of people.

The longevity of CM is largely the staying power of its audience, attuned as they are to hearing the favored old familiar melodies over and over. That and the intellectual/social panache of being counted among the Best and Brightest People. That includes me, though I certainly also love the music--among many musics--very much. I await somebody telling me that I cannot possibly love CM as much as they do or as it is correct to do so.
 
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