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Discussion Starter · #261 · (Edited)
What does it mean to "approach" profundity?
I don't understand that the term "approach profundity" requires further explanation. But let's say that in the spectrum, the gradation of the sublime, profundity is the ultimate endpoint. Beyond this may lie madness.

Woodduck: I understand your distinction between the profound and the sublime - I agree that they are different - but I'm not comfortable with your illustration. What does it mean to consider a photograph of something "as art"? Does it imply ignoring what it's a picture of? We don't ignore the subject matter of representational paintings, and it makes still less sense to do it with photographs. If I look at the Pillars of Creation as a pure play of abstract forms and colors, I see no profound significance in it. If I imagine it as a painting of an astronomical phenomenon, I see a subject that in reality would be quite awe-inducing. That might induce a sense of the sublime, but it wouldn't make the picture profound. If I understand it as an actual photograph of the phenomenon, the knowledge that it isn't a painter's conception would probably be more likely to have me contemplating the cosmos, and might increase my feeling of the sublime. I still wouldn't consider the photograph - which is, after all, just a photograph - profound. Can you explain why you would?
No, I don't mean to ignore what the photograph is a picture of, but the work, say, of an Ansel Adams is quite generally regarded as art. I have a wonderful book titled Geology Illustrated written by a geologist who is also the pilot of a small airplane and a skilled aerial photographer. Many of the photographs, if framed and hung in a gallery, would be lauded as fine art. Here is a convergence of sublimity and profundity. While the photograph as an object is not profound, the thoughts and feelings that it induces are of the profound, the extra-human profound. In the case of the geologist, he offers photos of deeply eroded anticlines in Wyoming that illustrate to the imagination the vast forces that folded up the anticline and then the eons of time that eroded it down to a skeletal outline of itself. That is profound; something well beyond our quotidian existence. A suggestion of Shelley's Ozymandias but on a far more vast scale.
 

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Most lovers of Beethoven, for example, probably agree that some of his symphonies are more profound in what they evoke, or seem to be about, than others, and most people would probably point to the third, fifth, sixth and ninth as conveying deeper and more complex meaning - greater profundity - than the first, second, fourth, seventh and eighth.
For example, if we all generalize all the stuff of the kind
Slow tempo, thick texture, and an abundance of diminished 7th.
as more objectively profound than other stuff, it would only show us listeners of CP music are very predictable and formulaic in responding to patterns; like pigeonholing all artistic things strictly as answers "Yes" or "No". If this is the case, I think "profundity" would be a rather empty and clichéd notion. I just think we should be more tolerant to, and encourage having a diversity of opinion. What did Spohr, Verdi, Stravinsky think of Beethoven's 9th (compared to his other symphonies).
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.
 

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but they may also mean (as I would) that one piece presents content more evocative of profound concepts and values, even somewhat apart from how strongly they respond to it emotionally. Most lovers of Beethoven, for example, probably agree that some of his symphonies are more profound in what they evoke, or seem to be about, than others, and most people would probably point to the third, fifth, sixth and ninth as conveying deeper and more complex meaning - greater profundity - than the first, second, fourth, seventh and eighth.
I understand both the principle and the example of what you're saying. In the case of the example, I'd refer to my earlier post about what constitutes profound content - its tendency towards the Deep, the Meaningful, often the Tragic as compared with any other content often deemed shallow (and therefore, by definition, not profound). My view is that the 'serious' is not intrinsically of greater value than the 'non-serious'. For me, the 6th is NOT profound (Beethoven walks by a brook, doesn't he? Not an ocean!), but the 7th might be if it weren't so exhausting.

I'm not contesting that others may feel differently, or rejecting the idea many report this kind of thing and call it 'profound'. Nor am I suggesting that just because I don't find the 6th 'profound' that this invalidates the idea altogether. I'm doubting that these symphonies (and others) have content that might be usefully described in these terms.

There's nothing strange or unusual in attributing profundity, or depth of meaning, to works of music, which of course convey no explicit concepts. Since human emotions are products of the interaction of mind and body, and express often complex ideas and values, it's fallacious to think that art which can express and evoke emotions is idea- and value-free. If it isn't, and if some of the ideas and values we may take from the experience of art, along with the kinds of emotion those ideas and values evoke, can rightly be called profound, it's proper to call such works profound. Whether we can agree on how well the term fits a given work - and there's a lot of agreement, but it will never be universal - is a different question, one I don't need to address here (though I'm sure someone will want to :)).
There's nothing strange or unusual in all kinds of attributions humans make to phenomena which may nevertheless be false or at least, open to the same doubts I'm expressing here. I hesitate to bring up the R word, but it's the most obvious example. I'm not sure what you mean by your second sentence. If you mean that when we feel an emotion, it is usually accompanied by some intellectual activity too - thoughts, ideas - giving rise to or inspired by the emotion the music prompts, well I'd agree, but that doesn't mean that such ideas are explicitly connected to the music except for the individual listener; nor that if the 5th is about 'a struggle between darkness and light', or 'fate knocking' etc that the work is profound.

I'm not quite sure I've explained myself properly, but that will have to do for now.
 

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Customers at the Mcdonalds prefer the Big Mac to the other burgers. Customers at the Burger King prefer the Whopper to the other burgers. Of course every franchise has "icons" that they use to represent themselves. That's just how human culture works, for various purposes such as marketing, and there's nothing special about that. Certainly we can comment (to a limited extent) on spiciness or saltiness (in elements such as use of harmony) how they apply to everyone's taste, but whether or not one burger tastes better than another is a vague and subjective notion. Again, we should not resort to Argumentum ad populum.
 

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Is this really incomprehensible to you? I can't believe anyone finds it hard to understand.
Nobody does operatic camp like Strauss. All that voluptuous rolling on the floor, and the crazy poetry everyone talks in... "The moon is like the egg of an amorous dove, your forehead is like the slopes of Ararat, I love the marks of your teeth in my fruit, I want to kiss your whatever." The better it's performed - quite brilliantly here - the more wonderfully kitchy it is. I got quite a few chuckles out of it. Isn't this fundamentally comic?
I like to occasionally read your writings about opera composers and singers, since they give me chuckles; the way you word things seems so clever. Maybe I've read too many of them lately, but when it comes to topics like objective profundity, I can't help but thinking (again, I'm sorry, it's just the impression I get) you're trying to imply things like "The better Strauss is performed, the more wonderfully kitschy it is. I can't believe anyone can't understand the objective fact."
 

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I like to occasionally read your writings about opera composers and singers, since they give me chuckles; the way you word things seems so clever. Maybe I've read too many of them lately, but when it comes to topics like objective profundity, I can't help but thinking (again, I'm sorry, it's just the impression I get) you're trying to imply things like "The better Strauss is performed, the more wonderfully kitschy it is. I can't believe anyone can't understand the objective fact."
Honestly, I don't see your point.
 

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I don't understand that the term "approach profundity" requires further explanation. But let's say that in the spectrum, the gradation of the sublime, profundity is the ultimate endpoint. Beyond this may lie madness.



No, I don't mean to ignore what the photograph is a picture of, but the work, say, of an Ansel Adams is quite generally regarded as art. I have a wonderful book titled Geology Illustrated written by a geologist who is also the pilot of a small airplane and a skilled aerial photographer. Many of the photographs, if framed and hung in a gallery, would be lauded as fine art. Here is a convergence of sublimity and profundity. While the photograph as an object is not profound, the thoughts and feelings that it induces are of the profound, the extra-human profound. In the case of the geologist, he offers photos of deeply eroded anticlines in Wyoming that illustrate to the imagination the vast forces that folded up the anticline and then the eons of time that eroded it down to a skeletal outline of itself. That is profound; something well beyond our quotidian existence. A suggestion of Shelley's Ozymandias but on a far more vast scale.
I can't escape the feeling that too much of this discussion founders on how we define and use words. Geological activity, profound? Extra-human profound? "Profound: something well beyond our quotidian existence"? Are "vast forces" more "profound" than "minute forces" or "subtle forces"? What are the boundaries of our "quotidian existence," and how far beyond them do we have to go to reach the profound? You retract your previous description of a photograph as "profound" and say instead "the thoughts and feelings that it induces are of the profound." What does "OF the profound" mean? Are you saying that the objects of thought and feeling - the geological phenomena themselvers - are profound? How can objects in nature be profound? Do you mean, rather, that certain objects can or should inspire profound thoughts or feelings? That "deeply eroded inclines" are, or should be, objects of this kind? What if they don't inspire such thoughts and feelings? Are they still "profound"? Is anything necessarily, or always, profound? Isn't it rather...um...subjective? And if it is, how can you be so insistent on confining profundity to your favorite field of science?

I'm not quibbling or being fussy. I find your presentation at least ambiguous, and when we're exploring a concept with several possible meanings that creates great difficulties.
 

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Pure unvarnished assertion. How about sex (not an invitation)? :rolleyes:
Tease.

The combinations of features and contexts that produce profundity in music arise from emergent properties, that is, properties that can't be reduced to any necessary or consistent sub-structural bases, properties that are always more than the sum of their parts. This irreducibility puts notions like profundity out of the purview of scientific inquiry. The best discussion of this I know is in Chapter 7 ("Aesthetics Supervenience") of Jerrold Levinson's Music, Art, and Metaphysics.
 

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I can't escape the feeling that too much of this discussion founders on how we define and use words. Geological activity, profound? Extra-human profound? "Profound: something well beyond our quotidian existence"? Are "vast forces" more "profound" than "minute forces" or "subtle forces"? What are the boundaries of our "quotidian existence," and how far beyond them do we have to go to reach the profound? You retract your previous description of a photograph as "profound" and say instead "the thoughts and feelings that it induces are of the profound." What does "OF the profound" mean? Are you saying that the objects of thought and feeling - the geological phenomena themselvers - are profound? How can objects in nature be profound? Do you mean, rather, that certain objects can or should inspire profound thoughts or feelings? That "deeply eroded inclines" are, or should be, objects of this kind? What if they don't inspire such thoughts and feelings? Are they still "profound"? Is anything necessarily, or always, profound? Isn't it rather...um...subjective? And if it is, how can you be so insistent on confining profundity to your favorite field of science?

I'm not quibbling or being fussy. I find your presentation at least ambiguous, and when we're exploring a concept with several possible meanings that creates great difficulties.
For me, the ‘most’ profound realization in science has been how extremely precise the per unit strength of Dark Energy has had to be, to allow our emergence here. There are huge ramifications. But off topic..

Anyway, for me, in music I want to appreciate HOW (specifically) the greats composed works with such effectively evoking notes (harmonies, rhythms, orchestrations etc.), for the prepared listener.

IMHO, any great creation in art should be ‘profound’ for every human, but the road is long and full of pitfalls.

I won’t re-post it here, off topic, but there is a profound consequence (maybe) for humans from the discovery of the protoplanet Theia (maybe) inside our happy little planet. Yes, it's aliens this time. Post #6 in Mantle Plumes in Talk Science.
 

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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.
Go through this: critique-musicale.com/bachen.htm
"It appears that many recent Music History books, and even dictionaries, generally respecting the objectivity of scientific books introduce as Pavlovian reflex about Bach judgments of value. The terms sublime, genial, wonderful, marvellous are used even though they are generally not used for Vivaldi and most other composers."
What's your point? That terms like sublime, genial, wonderful should be used universally or not at all? Opinion like in this quote is worth as much as my opinion, or maybe even less:)
 

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Discussion Starter · #271 · (Edited)
I can't escape the feeling that too much of this discussion founders on how we define and use words. Geological activity, profound? Extra-human profound? "Profound: something well beyond our quotidian existence"? Are "vast forces" more "profound" than "minute forces" or "subtle forces"? What are the boundaries of our "quotidian existence," and how far beyond them do we have to go to reach the profound? You retract your previous description of a photograph as "profound" and say instead "the thoughts and feelings that it induces are of the profound." What does "OF the profound" mean? Are you saying that the objects of thought and feeling - the geological phenomena themselvers - are profound? How can objects in nature be profound? Do you mean, rather, that certain objects can or should inspire profound thoughts or feelings? That "deeply eroded inclines" are, or should be, objects of this kind? What if they don't inspire such thoughts and feelings? Are they still "profound"? Is anything necessarily, or always, profound? Isn't it rather...um...subjective? And if it is, how can you be so insistent on confining profundity to your favorite field of science?

I'm not quibbling or being fussy. I find your presentation at least ambiguous, and when we're exploring a concept with several possible meanings that creates great difficulties.
In a nutshell, objects are neither sublime nor profound. I think we can agree on that, My thesis (I much prefer brevity) is that that objects, whether art pictures, photographs, music, can sometimes induce/inspire/generate/encourage feelings of both the sublime and of the profound. My point--and it is similar to a point made by Richard Feynman--is that the scope of human life and experience, focused on itself, with its own emotions directed to checking its "pulse and heat rate" is capable of only inducing a feeling of the sublime, often very strongly. This is the Burkean outlook--he sees mountains, the Alps, towering over him, and feels the terror I described previously. But he has no knowledge of how the mountains became as they were: sedimentation, igneous intrusion, folding under great pressures, uplift, erosion, glaciation, etc. He may feel the sublime to the max. But it is only the scientifically aware person, layman or professional, who can sense the grandeur of the forces and the immensity of the time it took to create those mountains. Knowledge of those sorts of data and of the beauty of the now well-attested scientific "stories" that give us the AHA understanding, generates an awe and a transport that is profound and and is of the profound.

Feynman somewhere (I can't instantly find the reference but it may be in his book The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, gets at the same point when he notes that the universe, viewed as a stage, is far too immense for the little human play being enacted thereon, or rather, that our human troubles and travails are far too puny to explain the existence of the great theater in which the play is enacted. I recommend Feynman's book because he says a lot about the awe and joy he finds in science. He also discusses the R word in some detail.;) I hope this helps explain my position.:)
 

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Discussion Starter · #272 ·
Tease.

The combinations of features and contexts that produce profundity in music arise from emergent properties, that is, properties that can't be reduced to any necessary or consistent sub-structural bases, properties that are always more than the sum of their parts. This irreducibility puts notions like profundity out of the purview of scientific inquiry. The best discussion of this I know is in Chapter 7 ("Aesthetics Supervenience") of Jerrold Levinson's Music, Art, and Metaphysics.
What other subjects are out of the purview of scientific inquiry? I had no idea such things existed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #273 ·
Woodduck: "I'm not quibbling or being fussy. I find your presentation at least ambiguous, and when we're exploring a concept with several possible meanings that creates great difficulties."
Just a note. I counted 16 question marks in your full above quote. Are these all real questions troubling people, in your opinion? I had no idea my theses were so vague and indecipherable; some here seem to grasp them. Perhaps, in a spirit of Socratic examination, we should posit a 16-question drill for any post longer than a couple of sentences.:unsure:
 

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What other subjects are out of the purview of scientific inquiry? I had no idea such things existed.
You've never wondered why there are categories like "the arts" and "the humanities?" These are good places to look for things not readily amenable to scientific inquiry and the scientific method.
 

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Discussion Starter · #275 ·
You've never wondered why there are categories like "the arts" and "the humanities?" These are good places to look for things not readily amenable to scientific inquiry and the scientific method.
You are pulling my leg, certainly. Every aspect of reality and our notions of it are within the purview of scientific inquiry. To deny this is to enter boldly into woo-woo country: "Here there are demons,"
 

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I think this is a too simplistic view. First, I don't think all classical art aims to deal in universal truths or psychological insights; just as many are interested in rendering the tastes and fashions and trends of their own particular time. It's why so much classical music featured forms of popular dances in their day because, just as today, there is a whole group of subjectivities who only care for music insofar as they can dance to it (Ezra Pound once quipped that; "poetry withers the further it gets from music; music withers the further it gets from dance." I don't necessarily agree, but it's a good articulation of a certain perspective).

Second, I don't think all popular art avoids universal truths and psychological insights. Of all 20th century music artists I can't think of any in the classical tradition that cared more about such things than, say, Bob Dylan, who was a massively popular artists. And I even think such things can be found in relatively slight popular art.

Finally, I'm not certain universal truths and psychological insights are a necessary component for great or lasting art. Much music, especially, is by its very nature abstract, and the fact that we're able to metaphorically link music to aspects of our human experience doesn't mean that music contains truths and insights; it's more a testament of our very human ability to take anything and find a way to make it relevant to us and our experiences. Perhaps certain music is more malleable for doing this, but it's still a very, innately subjective thing.
Respectfully, the flaw in your analysis of my comment is that you try to draw a sharply defined boundary between the ideas of classical and popular art, or assume I am trying to do so, and then mention someone like Bob Dylan, a boundary-blurring artist. You might also have mentioned Laurie Anderson, Brian Eno or David Byrne, or even Philip Glass.
Also respectfully, the fact that music is abstract, and deals in concepts and ideas rather than concrete, physical forms, is not what is relevant here. The nature of those underlying concepts and ideas is. Charles Rosen, in his books The Classical Style and The Romantic Generation, and Walter Jackson Bate, in his book From Classic to Romantic: Premises of Taste in 18th Century England (which deals with art in general, primarily poetry and literature but also visual art and music) discuss how certain basic concepts consistently permeate and underly the art of the Classical and Romantic Periods.
In short, aesthetic taste is not an innately subjective thing, at least not completely. Nor do we have the ability to take anything and find a way to make it relevant to us and our experiences. Rather, we live in a certain cultural and social context that unavoidably colors our perceptions and tastes. That is why the fashions of one era, or even one year, can differ from those of the next. Yet, some artistic concepts remain compelling centuries, or even millennia, after their appearance. That suggests some concepts are less dependent on the fashions or context of the moment, and more lasting and universal, than others.
 

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What's your point? That terms like sublime, genial, wonderful should be used universally or not at all? Opinion like in this quote is worth as much as my opinion, or maybe even less:)
Yet, some artistic concepts remain compelling centuries, or even millennia, after their appearance. That suggests some concepts are less dependent on the fashions or context of the moment, and more lasting and universal, than others.
What do you think of this (how would you refute it)?:
in the end, it's all about popularity. Again, a certain member in the past made a good point by posting the following in another thread (something for us to think about):

"All of the factors contributing to greatness are interrelated and dependent on each other. For example, one factor mentioned above is the tradition of received wisdom: belief in A's greatness has been passed down from generation to generation, reinforced by music textbooks and concert performances and internet forums, while belief in B's greatness has not. Another factor mentioned above is the test of time: A seems greater than B because the former's music has survived till today while the latter's has not. But these two factors are mutually reinforcing: if music textbooks have chapters on A but not B, then of course the former is going to have a leg up on the latter when it comes to the test of time. Conversely, if A's music is still performed today while B's is not, then of course music textbooks are going to have chapters on the former but not the latter. Likewise, another factor that has been mentioned is influence: A has demonstrably had a lasting influence on later composers, even today, while B has not. This is also inherently connected to the above factors: since A appears in textbooks and is more widely performed than B, then of course he is going to have a greater influence on later composers than B will.

In other words, the concept of greatness is a complex and circular system. By this point in time it's also a self-sustaining one, precisely because of the circularity. After all, this system is basically what we call a canon, and it is the very purpose of a canon to be self-perpetuating. As I wrote about in another thread some years ago, it is difficult to imagine any canonical composer being removed from the cycle and losing their canonical status, and it's difficult to imagine any non-canonical composer being inserted into the cycle and acquiring canonical status. I don't think the canon was always closed, and I don't want to think it is now, but if I'm being honest with myself then I have to think realistically that it is."
 

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Charles Rosen, in his books The Classical Style and The Romantic Generation...
Sorry, but your beloved Charlatan Rosen can be shown to be wrong in various things objective-argumentation.79894/page-25 (look through pages 24~26). "Experts" are also fans of things; just cause they studied history and theory it doesn't mean they make objectively better aesthetic judgments.
Sure. A clown who doesn't make mistakes in his acting (and does it flawlessly) scores higher points and has potential to gain greater fame than a clown who makes mistakes in his. "Objectively great" things = things that have amassed large numbers of fans. "Greatness" is essentially what fans attribute to things they love and would defend them against criticisms. Since people are allergic to the term "tyranny", I'll say "argumentum ad populum".
in the end, all you're repeating is "well-composed music is all about good melody, good harmony, good counterpoint, good sense of form ..."
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how certain basic concepts consistently permeate and underly the art of the Classical and Romantic Periods.
On the contrary - every 18th century composer kept the "rules of good taste", so it's even harder to determine objectively what was trash and what was gold from that time.
 

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Is it to help us poor benighted Bach-Mozart-Beethoven fans finally realize that our "idols" are really no better than
Sure, let's say objective artistic hierarchies do exist. But just cause they exist, how does it automatically lead to the conclusion; "Mozart is objectively on a higher plain than von Beecke"? This is something you have to prove separately from the "existence of artistic hierarchies".
Try to answer; "Why isn't von Beecke mentioned alongside Mozart?". All you can do is to repeat "Because Mozart is more popular today" in cleverly different wordings.
Again, Mozart's style of harmony was once perceived to be undesirable. Just cause people who held those views in Mozart's time are now dead, it doesn't mean they don't matter anymore objectively. Is greatness absolute and unchanging?
Try to answer this: "Why isn't any artist from the period 1000~1700 considered to be as profound as Bach, Mozart, Beethoven? Was it a "low point" or "dark age" of European music?"

Ignaz von Beecke (1733-1803) string quartet in C (circa. 1780)
piano quintet in A minor (1770)
 
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