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Sibelius, Beethoven, Satie, Debussy
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I'm sorry to hear that you know what it feels like to be beaten with a rolled up newspaper. No one should have to endure such an indignity.

When it comes to Beethoven, I recommend for you the slow movement of the Archduke Trio. It can only make the bruises heal faster.
I somehow thought I might get a flippant response to what was a post with a serious point to make, if done with a little humour (seriously lacking in these pages).

I note you sidestepped my last post where I suggested that since no one here has presented the universally agreed criteria for what is 'good', it's doubtful that 'good' can be universally agreed upon.

Still, that's hardly surprising. Several pages of posts about politeness on Internet forums intervened, and who can be bothered to track back?

Think I'll go and get some more newspaper treatment.

Coming Ludwig!
 

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I somehow thought I might get a flippant response to what was a post with a serious point to make, if done with a little humour (seriously lacking in these pages).

I note you sidestepped my last post where I suggested that since no one here has presented the universally agreed criteria for what is 'good', it's doubtful that 'good' can be universally agreed upon.

Still, that's hardly surprising. Several pages of posts about politeness on Internet forums intervened, and who can be bothered to track back?

Think I'll go and get some more newspaper treatment.

Coming Ludwig!
Now, now! I thought you were trying to be funny. Trying or not, you made me laugh with the rolled up newspaper bit.

If you'd like a serious response, it can be arranged, but it's late at night here and I'm done with this heavy-duty stuff for the night.
 

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Discussion Starter · #544 · (Edited)
Woodduck: "The sense of purpose - the sense that the artist is in control and is directing his material toward a striking and memorable end - is another mark of excellence in art."
Ex post facto reasoning at its peak. In looking back over the music I love, I find--amazingly--that the artist was under control and directing her material toward a striking and memorable end.

Using a Woodduckian methodology, let's wonder why we felt we had to use striking and memorable together. Doesn't the one strongly imply the other? Let's pick apart everybody's language. And resurrect the idea of asking 16 questions of everyone's posts. We've explored purple prose and righteous anger.
 

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Discussion Starter · #545 ·
DaveM was merely assuming that SM's words meant what they normally mean. If I say that "as an educated layman and listener to CM for about 75 years, I have a naive faith in my ability to tell music 'done well' from music not well done," I'm ordinarily saying that age and experience have enhanced my ability to tell good music from less good. If SM's quotes around "done well" and his use of the word "naive" are the clues that he intended to subvert the normal meaning of his statement, they do an ambiguous job of it, and DaveM was completely justified in not getting the sarcasm, if that's what it was. His comments were merely extrapolations from the apparent meaning of SM's statement. I understand your subjective desire to defend a fellow subjectivist, but in this case you're defending the wrong person.

As it happens, I too have had to question SM about a statement that gave exactly the same mistaken impression as the one above, if taken as worded. In discussions of this nature, we surely need to be preternaturally careful of how we say things, given that much of what we must say about art is difficult - in some cases maybe impossible - to put into words.
The psychiatrist's couch awaits. I note that Woodduck himself has misconstrued the remarks of others. For that a good whacking with a rolled-up newspaper is in order. And why is naive now in quotes? I am naive in the sense that as an educated lay listener to CM for 75 years, I yet have no music PhD nor a history of musical criticism. I just listen to the music.
 

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Much as I like Beethoven's 5th, I sometimes 'sense' that I'm being beaten about the head with a rolled up newspaper. Was that part of his purpose? He succeeds brilliantly if it was, and if it wasn't, is that a failure on his part?
You remind me of tdc's subjective views on Beethoven

Actually the cartoon in Ken's post illustrates something about Beethoven, it always seems as though he is in a musical sense throwing tantrums, shouting, and over stating things. Its like art for people who need to be beaten over the head with the message.
I also agree with the verbose comment earlier in the thread. Beethoven's musical phrases seem very "wordy", like someone who rants and rants, and just when you think they are getting to the point they explode about another topic. It grates me.
When Beethoven is being solemn and slow it is a grandiose and over the top way. Everything is always too much with him. Mahler and Bruckner may be longer time wise, but they aren't so 'chatty' like that. I agree with Chopin's comments on him, I think Beethoven turned his back on eternal principles, this is why I see him as actually a little bit outside of what I love about classical music. Beethoven is his own thing, and for me it is not related to what I enjoy about music. If his music never existed it wouldn't bother me.
Beethoven's sense of vertical harmony leaves me underwhelmed, so his longer musical paragraphs, although groundbreaking in form, don't help in redeeming his music for me. They actually make it worse.
For me it is like listening to someone who is chatty but doesn't have anything that meaningful to say. Or someone that is telling me a boring story, but they try to spice it up by being over dramatic.
I acknowledge his greatness, virtuosity and genius in form but that is how his music subjectively impacts me.
 

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I find him a useful companion when I'm in the mood for skittles, but the scatology is wearing after a while.
Guy A: "With his mastery over Italian melody and German harmony, Mozart rose above both nations, just as Rossini said."
Guy B: "which makes him a useful companion when I'm in the mood for skittles."
Guy A: "Skittles?! Surely, his music has more nutrition than that! "The purity of his soul was absolute", just as Tchaikovsky said."
Guy B: "Isn't it more like, the scatology was absolute."
Guy A: ""The boy is moreover handsome, vivacious, graceful and full of good manners; and knowing him, it is difficult to avoid loving him." -Adolf Hasse, on the young Mozart."
Guy B: "Just like his music, which is full of unabashed politeness and inoffensiveness."
Guy A: "..." (* shocked *)
Guy B: "What's the matter? I like his music."
 

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Well I didn't think I'd be in a minority of one. It's partly LvB's forceful style that makes him attractive, musically speaking of course.
What you describe in 5th/1 is either "being smacked with a newspaper" or "relentlessness" depending on which side of the bed you got up on. I don't think it's an inaccurate way to describe what's happening, but it's a case where when you're objecting to the actual thing the music is trying to do, you're going to have a hard time trying to like it.
 

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An artist's intent matters only insofar as it's actually evident in the finished work. We can assume that Beethoven intended the first movement of his fifth symphony to be as terse as he could make it and still tell his "story" - create a complete dramatic action (taking sonata form as a kind of dramatic narrative). We can assume it because he succeeded brilliantly, and because such things don't happen accidentally. The sense of purpose - the sense that the artist is in control and is directing his material toward a striking and memorable end - is another mark of excellence in art.
I don't know if this is even relevant, but a lot of the time I talk of art as an autonomous object. I say things like "what the music is trying to do", "what this symphony is saying", etc. This is either totally irrelevant or maybe a difference in how much we concentrate on artists.

I think this just struck me as strange as it's just kind of a weird way to describe how the concept of artistic intent is usually used. We certainly can define it as the contents of the work itself but this just seems like bypassing the so-called intentional fallacy by defining the artist's intent as the contents of the art. I don't know if this is strictly wrong (someone who actually knows about art philosophy as more than a layman can chime in) but it seems a bit like trying to have it two ways at once.
 

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Once again, I'm not an art philosopher so I may be talking crap here.

I think the simplified romantic view of art is something like -

Artist -> Work -> (Audience)

An artist creates a work according to their will and imbues it with genius, which is then appreciated by a receptive audience. An extreme version of this would state that the audience isn't actually necessary - the work is genius regardless of whether or not an audience exists or not. I think this is why the likes of Taruskin called the modernists hyper-romantics - the artist raised to such an individualist hero-figure that we need not care about the audience at all, cue Milton Babbitt.


After modernism, in the 20th century I think the more accepted view became something like this -

(Artist) -> Work <--> Audience

I might have said before that genius, profundity, etc are things humans ascribe to art but that's not complete, and does make it sound a bit arbitrary. To moderate it, it might be more precisely stated that it's a result of an interaction between the work and the audience. We respond to things in the art, but also, in the act of interacting with it (both individually, and as a population) can imbue it with meaning and context in a manner beyond the artist's control. Once again, an extreme view of this might state that the artist themselves is not necessary for this process, which explains the likes of John Cage (and why he makes so much sense and had such impact as a reaction to the modernists).
 

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A few thoughts after reading through the lat few pages of posts:

1. Artists definitely have intent in their work. While they may not be consciously aware or involved in every nuance later audiences find in a work, I think they are certainly capable of using the materials in a work to communicate ideas and themes.

2. When the work is completed and enters the public realm, find an audience, it has a life of its own, divorced from the artist's intentions, except only what is obvious superficially. Without an accompanying essay explaining the work, the artist's intention can only be guessed at, or discovered through analysis - although it remains speculative. This is a dicey game, allowing opportunistic critics to find their own philosophy within just about any work. (Remember the essay by G.F. Haas regarding the Erlking?)

3. Does it ultimately matter if we know the artist's intention? Are we able to get something out of a work by perceiving our own meaning in it? The answer for me is most definitely.
 

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Speaking of bad criticism, this was one I remembered about Beethoven 7 - apparently a lot of critics decided it was an allegory for the French Revolution.

The sign of revolt is given; there is a rushing and running about of the multitude; an innocent man, or party, is surrounded, overpowered after a struggle and haled before a legal tribunal. Innocency weeps; the judge pronounces a harsh sentence; sympathetic voices mingle in laments and denunciations. … The magistrates are now scarcely able to quiet the wild tumult. The uprising is suppressed, but the people are not quieted; hope smiles cheeringly and suddenly the voice of the people pronounces the decision in harmonious agreement.
This kind of art criticism strikes us now as excessively extra-textual, and a big reach that- while vaguely justifiable by the form of the work, isn't a very productive way to view the music, but so does a lot of 19th century art criticism. This kind of thing apparently ticked even Beethoven himself off. I wonder how bad our criticism will look in 100 years?
 

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Well Mozart or Beethoven didn’t write this either, so your point escapes me:
So who before Haydn utilized chromaticism in such a dramatic way? Please enlighten me.
Bach didn't have the sense for operatic drama. Handel and Gluck didn't have the sense for chromatic harmony. The sole reason why Haydn isn't called a "father" (to his junior colleague Mozart, his pupil Weber, his admirer Schubert, and from them, the subsequent composers) is because we weren't taught in school that he was. The dogma of the "establishment" dictated that, just like what I described in posts #442, #454. Why didn't Mozart flat out say, "Bach is the Best!". He saw things in Benda that Bach lacked.
If an 18th century composer writes a diminished 7th chord over a pedal tone; let's say in the key of C, he initially sets up a tonic pedal, and then slams vii°7/iv, making up the sonority [C, E, G, Bb, Db]; could this be considered a 9th chord? [@] watch?v=Dzmj8lRLHh0&t=11m41s (bars 217~220; "i - vii°4/2 - V7/iv - iv - vii°4/3 - V7 - i"; makes up vertical sonorities containing [B, D, F, Ab, C]).
similarly, the harmonies in bar 226 (34:26) watch?v=Dzmj8lRLHh0&t=34m11s
The way to reach the dominant from i64, with the chromatic ascent C -> C# -> D, with the major second [ G, A ] on the top (D -> C -> C# -> D | G -> F# | Bb -> A) Dzmj8lRLHh0&t=16m50s sounds so eerie

Quam olim Abrahae: watch?v=Dzmj8lRLHh0&t=16m6s
 

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Speaking of funny metaphors about Beethoven and slapstick violence, I once heard the bit in the finale of the 8th where the timpani "kick" the music back into the correct key described as like someone smacking a television to get it to display the picture properly.

(ok that was me that said that)
 

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I repeat: You must be pulling my leg. Is there anyone who denies the existence of the humanities and the arts? I have yet to find one on TC. And your rhetoric about my misguided view of reality (of all things) and science (which my whole education was principally about) is tedious. There is a developing pattern in the remarks of my chief critics, and it smells of desperation and certainly ill-contained rancor. Very telling. And what about "inexorable logic:?
Did you really misunderstand this simple point: Scientific methodology is pretty much useless in addressing any important question in philosophy, aesthetics, art criticism. literature, etc. Believing that science offers answers in these fields is just … weird — far too weird to get upset, desperate, or rancorous about. One has to be able to take an idea or point of view seriously or as in some way connected to a reality one recognizes to feel any of those things. Despite my vague curiosity about what you are trying to accomplish in this and other threads, I think I will bow out and leave you to … whatever that might be. :)
 

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Much as I like Beethoven's 5th, I sometimes 'sense' that I'm being beaten about the head with a rolled up newspaper. Was that part of his purpose? He succeeds brilliantly if it was, and if it wasn't, is that a failure on his part?
Yes, I can agree at times about LvB. He surely wanted his works to be impactful.
From what's been written, he was driven, he was put upon by the realities of the screwy culture, he was struggling to make a name and to get out the music that he knew was in him. The monumental task of getting it down on paper permanently (I mean to thank Woodduck for that phrase) revising and correcting the copy.

Abuse as a kid, head of the household, the unfairness, the patronage system, the general ignorance as he saw it.

He went overboard occasionally, especially for that time. But not mistakes for our time, IMO.
 

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I don't know if this is even relevant, but a lot of the time I talk of art as an autonomous object. I say things like "what the music is trying to do", "what this symphony is saying", etc. This is either totally irrelevant or maybe a difference in how much we concentrate on artists.

I think this just struck me as strange as it's just kind of a weird way to describe how the concept of artistic intent is usually used. We certainly can define it as the contents of the work itself but this just seems like bypassing the so-called intentional fallacy by defining the artist's intent as the contents of the art. I don't know if this is strictly wrong (someone who actually knows about art philosophy as more than a layman can chime in) but it seems a bit like trying to have it two ways at once.
I really appreciate these observations. Speaking of tthe artist's intent as it's embodied in the work really isn't a sleight of hand or a case of having it both ways. Works of art, as they progress under the artist's hand, do become more and more "autonomous." They increasingly take on a life of their own and dictate to the artist what choices are possible or preferable. The further along a work progresses, the more definite its character becomes, and the more specific and well-defined the options for continuation. Some possibilities will open up, while others will be eliminated. Novelists say that as they develop a story their characters begin to dictate to them, and something analogous happens in developing the structure of even the most abstract arts such as music. I observe it happen as I improvise at the piano, when what I've already done both generates ideas for what comes later and restricts my reasonable choices. If I make a choice that injects an element of surprise and doesn't seem "logical" at first, I look for a way to continue from there that makes the surprise feel right in retrospect and so gives the work a coherent character when taken as a whole. The creative process consists of constantly weighing one thing against another, looking both back at what's already been done and forward to what might come, with the intention of creating a definite conception that will impress the listener, viewer or reader as making sense.

Given the evolution of an art work in its creation, the "artist's intent" is seen not to be a static thing. Works often turn out to be quite different from what the artist imagined or planned at the start. The work increasingly dictates its own progress; the work becomes the master, and the artist its servant. This can make our search for the "artist's intent" a rather speculaive venture, and in some cases entirely unproductive. What we have is the evidence of the work itself, and the question, always somewhere in our subconscious as we listen, of whether what we're hearing at the moment makes sense and suggests a meaningful intention on the artist's part, regardless of whether tthat intention was the one the artist initially set out to realize. A listener to a piece of music is exercising, at the receiving end of an artistic transaction, the same faculty of aesthetic perception that the artist exercised at the creating end (though of course his job is much easier!), and he, like the artist, will judge whether, in the end, the work succeeds in doing "what it's trying to do."

So what was Beethoven's "intent" when he began work on his Fifth? Who knows? But he's an interesting case in that we have many discarded sketches showing some of the ideas he considered and rejected in the course of composition. Leonard Bernstein gave an interesting talk on the first movement of the Fifth in which he speculated on how Beethoven might have used some of the sketches; he inserted them in parts of the movement where they might fit and had the NY Philharmonic play the result, and then discussed how they compared with Beethoven's final choices. The lecture turned on some light bulbs for me when I first heard it as a young artist, helping me to understand what it was I was doing as both a maker and a receiver of art.

I'm not sure how well this addresses your points, but it's where my mind went in reaction to them.
 
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