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Discussion Starter · #561 ·
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. :)
I think that everything is material or the space between material objects or the forces (usually particles) that interact with other particles. We have no evidence to the contrary. We also agree that the brain is the source and seat of all thought such as philosophy, esthetics, art criticism, literature, etc. and that the brain exists (sometimes questionable). Science therefore can sweep all of the above into its net for examination. To deny this is to resort to/retreat into mysticism, the R word, cultism, Deepack Chopra territory, woo-woo land, anywhere to escape the long reach of scientific inquiry. Won't work.
 

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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.
I don’t know why you would backtrack, as quickly as a politician after January 6 :), the premise that 75 years of listening to CM confers an ability to recognize music ‘done well’. Or why you minimize the experience above. Personally, I think that experience gives one an edge in credibility on the subject over those with only a few years of experience. Would that those 75 years had enlightened you more on the subject of objectivity, though the fact that you accept some objectivity as applied to judgments within the CP era is a step in the right direction.
 

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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.
Yes. I have great respect for the best art historians, and there have been some very good ones. But as centuries pass, however diligently we may study our cultural history, the artist and their particular time, circumstances and context unavoidably become more remote and alien to us. In the end, for a work of art to survive its own time, it must create a reaction, or interaction as fbjim calls it, with audiences that, if not entirely ignorant of the work's original context, are much less than thoroughly informed.
We can observe this interaction empirically. Some will try to analyze it, but this is always ex post facto analysis. There is no unified theory of art. Of course, a particular artistic method can be developed in great and elaborate detail, and a particular artist can display extraordinary skills in working according to that method, as J.S. Bach did with certain types of counterpoint. But there is no way to demonstrate any inherent artistic superiority of that artist, or their method, to another artist or another method. We only have empirical observations of the interaction of art and audience as a gauge of the significance or profundity of Bach's art.
After spending nearly a lifetime (I hope I have a few years left) listening to, playing and singing the works of J.S. Bach, I am genuinely mystified that anyone would less than entirely satisfied with this view, and persist in viewing art as a puzzle to be solved. There is nothing to prove and everything to love.
 

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Discussion Starter · #564 ·
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.
An excellent post. I agree that as a work becomes further and further removed from our direct knowledge of the artist's intent, the piece develops a life of its own--it becomes a more and more neutral artifact with a metaphorically mirror-like surface in which each individual can read whatever mental image they find looking back at them in the reflective surface. As I have bolded your final paragraph, I certainly agree that we are able to see what we will, "perceiving our own meaning in it". This is in accord with my metaphor of each individual casting a net of hopes, fears, tastes, expectations over the art object and finding what they will "in" the piece as they reel the net in.
 

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In the end, for a work of art to survive its own time, it must create a reaction, or interaction as fbjim calls it, with audiences that, if not entirely ignorant of the work's original context, are much less than thoroughly informed.
With audiences like the kind tdc describes here?:
I'm just pointing out that there can be other reasons for artists to become popular, and the mere fact some of his concerts have sold-out in itself does not mean there is anything superior about his music.
I remember speaking with an acquaintance a while back who had recently gone to see a Beethoven Symphony and she did not know the difference between the Beethoven work and the Rachmaninov Piano Concerto that preceded it - she thought they were the same piece. This is the kind of person who is often filling those extra seats. There is nothing wrong with that - I'm just pointing out these kinds of concert sales are clearly not necessarily an indicator of anything inherent in the actual music.
 

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Discussion Starter · #566 · (Edited)
I don’t know why you would backtrack, as quickly as a politician after January 6 :), the premise that 75 years of listening to CM confers an ability to recognize music ‘done well’. Or why you minimize the experience above. Personally, I think that experience gives one an edge in credibility on the subject over those with only a few years of experience. Would that those 75 years had enlightened you more on the subject of objectivity, though the fact that you accept some objectivity as applied to judgments within the CP era is a step in the right direction.
There is, to repeat myself, not a scintilla of evidence that notions about art are anything other than pure opinion and/or the assertions of authorities, and/or clusters of such. Criteria are promulgated (often after the fact, confirming and validating what we find we liked), and accepted by whomever, and, if met by an art object, are set forth as objective confirmation of the excellence of the criteria. This position is independent of anybody's experience, education, music degrees, whatever. In my naivete, this fact was easy to discern. Yet even the musically educated fail to grasp this simple truth.

You are grasping at straws if you equate the objective fact that a consensus agrees that criteria have been met, with some sort of objective excellence in the art object itself. BIG difference.
 

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Music degrees, experience, age, etc - I think these can certainly give authority in certain specialized fields which go beyond general layman's knowledge, such as musicology/music history, music theory, and more scholarly forms of aesthetic theory. But aesthetic evaluation? The context of musical performance is that the music is performed for laymen. There may be some assumptions that the listeners be familiar with certain conventions about classical music, but given that music is performed for a general audience, I think it's entirely fine to evaluate it on that level.

Not to mention that credentials very frequently get called into question if someone with credentials says something that one happens to disagree with. See- the BBC composer poll
 

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I think that everything is material or the space between material objects or the forces (usually particles) that interact with other particles. We have no evidence to the contrary. We also agree that the brain is the source and seat of all thought such as philosophy, esthetics, art criticism, literature, etc. and that the brain exists (sometimes questionable). Science therefore can sweep all of the above into its net for examination. To deny this is to resort to/retreat into mysticism, the R word, cultism, Deepack Chopra territory, woo-woo land, anywhere to escape the long reach of scientific inquiry. Won't work.
It isn't a matter of "escaping" scientific inquiry. It's that scientific inquiry doesn't produce omniscience. It's probably comforting to some though to believe that it's at least possible that every aspect of existence can be given a rational, scientific explanation. But I don't believe that's true. There's no evidence that it is true. I don't think even the overwhelming majority of scientists believe that's true.
 

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In one of the previous threads that focused on the objective/subjective conundrum I put forward the idea of informed subjectivity. What I mean by IS is precisely what has been posted in the last few posts, i.e. musicians, composers, scholars and even professional critics, who possess a level of knowledge, training, and experience that informs their subjective response with a large dose of analytical expertise.

In one of my much earlier posts I theorized that the consensus about a work's greatness that has evolved over two-three centuries was made up of this kind of peer group, who handed down an informed assessment of the works and composers of their time who were better than others.

We have inherited this consensus judgment usually called the test of time.

However, no matter how informed a response may be, it is still a subjective response. Just one that includes a healthy amount of expertise, and knowledge, which allows that listener more of an ability to perceive a well-written composition as opposed to one that they simply enjoy.
 

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the idea of informed subjectivity. What I mean by IS is precisely what has been posted in the last few posts, i.e. musicians, composers, scholars and even professional critics, who possess a level of knowledge, training, and experience that informs their subjective response with a large dose of analytical expertise.
I think that also has serious limitations because, for instance:
"It's simply impossible to listen to everything, since life is short. People tend to neglect composers neglected by others. "Experts" are no different."
So even among "experts", there are ones who know his music, and ones who don't.
"... Phrases tend to be short and contrasting, and the harmonic language is more chromatic and bold. Nevertheless, the high professionalism that is a hallmark of Michael Haydn’s compositions is evident throughout. ..." -Benjamin Perl (from the article "Mozartian Touches in Michael Haydn’s Dramatic Works" Mozartian_Touches77-88.pdf#page=5)
"... It is fair to say that he surpassed by far such colleagues as Anton Cajetan Adlgasser and Leopold Mozart and that his was the only talent that seriously rivalled the genius of young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. ..." -Charles H. Sherman (from the "foreward" from the Carusmedia score of 'Missa Tempore Quadragesimae MH 553 (1794) à 4 Voci in pieno, col’Organo' 50/5032700/5032700x.pdf#page=4)
We can't be sure if the "experts" have listened to everything. For instance, Donald Tovey said of Beethoven's Missa solemnis: "There is no earlier choral writing that comes so near to recovering some of the lost secrets of the style of Palestrina."
But look at "Missa in Dominica Palmarum" (1794) [...]
The earliest generation of "experts" neglected X, then the next generation could also, then the pattern continues, until X falls more and more into obscurity. I'm just saying it's not an impossibility.
What do you mean by "extensive knowledge of music", if a person calls himself an "expert" of C.P.E. Bach keyboard music, for example, but cannot pass tests like [50 Unidentified Excerpts from Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach Keyboard Sonatas]- would you still consider him an "expert" in matters regarding it? What you're suggesting might be "blind submission to authority." [...]
It doesn't matter how many of these people there are, they still won't know. Isn't this common sense? You know the Bible even without reading it? A person who has read the Bible 10 times carefully has greater chance of knowing what's inside than a person who only skimmed through it once.
 

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Music degrees, experience, age, etc - I think these can certainly give authority in certain specialized fields which go beyond general layman's knowledge, such as musicology/music history, music theory, and more scholarly forms of aesthetic theory. But aesthetic evaluation? The context of musical performance is that the music is performed for laymen. There may be some assumptions that the listeners be familiar with certain conventions about classical music, but given that music is performed for a general audience, I think it's entirely fine to evaluate it on that level.

Not to mention that credentials very frequently get called into question if someone with credentials says something that one happens to disagree with. See- the BBC composer poll
I'm on the fence about this issue of aesthetic evaluation (not the joy and value of music analysis). I mean, why did Beethoven strive to continue to create better and better (more significant, more complex, more enduring, a teachable sequence) sonatas and quartets and symphonies? Maybe it was just some deep instinct.. Or just making a living.
Haydn sonatas, symphonies etc., Schubert sonatas, Mozart symphonies and especially his piano concertos. They were wrong to strive/struggle/aspire for some more impressiveness, effectiveness and excellence. LvB could have remained in his Middle Period, I guess.
Or maybe they didn't succeed in getting better.. I only imagine it.

added;
I think it would have been easier to continue in his Middle Period. More income too, I suspect.
 

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Discussion Starter · #572 ·
It isn't a matter of "escaping" scientific inquiry. It's that scientific inquiry doesn't produce omniscience. It's probably comforting to some though to believe that it's at least possible that every aspect of existence can be given a rational, scientific explanation. But I don't believe that's true. There's no evidence that it is true. I don't think even the overwhelming majority of scientists believe that's true.
There is no end point to scientific inquiry. That is at the very center of science. Not looking for omniscience, certainly not soon--only greater understanding. And no evidence that it is false and every expectation that it is true based on the past and current experience of science.
 

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Discussion Starter · #573 ·
In one of the previous threads that focused on the objective/subjective conundrum I put forward the idea of informed subjectivity. What I mean by IS is precisely what has been posted in the last few posts, i.e. musicians, composers, scholars and even professional critics, who possess a level of knowledge, training, and experience that informs their subjective response with a large dose of analytical expertise.

In one of my much earlier posts I theorized that the consensus about a work's greatness that has evolved over two-three centuries was made up of this kind of peer group, who handed down an informed assessment of the works and composers of their time who were better than others.

We have inherited this consensus judgment usually called the test of time.

However, no matter how informed a response may be, it is still a subjective response. Just one that includes a healthy amount of expertise, and knowledge, which allows that listener more of an ability to perceive a well-written composition as opposed to one that they simply enjoy.
I largely agree but wonder what CM we like that we do not consider well-written. My problem is that certain pieces are too long and thus I do not like them as much and can complain that is was not well-written.
 

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I largely agree but wonder what CM we like that we do not consider well-written. My problem is that certain pieces are too long and thus I do not like them as much and can complain that is was not well-written.
I usually don't think about the quality of a work as I listen to it; I am simply reacting intuitively to the music. I am a trained musician and have analyzed plenty of works and at one time could explain why a Beethoven sonata, or a Maher symphony, or a Berg opera is well-written. I haven't done that kind of thing in a long time and have no interest in it anymore.

I turn off that part of my brain while I am listening.
 

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There is no end point to scientific inquiry. That is at the very center of science. Not looking for omniscience, certainly not soon--only greater understanding. And no evidence that it is false and every expectation that it is true based on the past and current experience of science.
No end point. Do you mean limits or boundaries? There are. Scientific knowledge could develop the atomic bomb, but it couldn't tell if it was right to use it. Using physical, observable data, which is what science deals with, you couldn't either.
 

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There is no end point to scientific inquiry. That is at the very center of science. Not looking for omniscience, certainly not soon--only greater understanding. And no evidence that it is false and every expectation that it is true based on the past and current experience of science.
Yes, I welcome scientists to attempt to explain how we understand (and appreciate) art, at the level of brain electro-chemicals. They will start with the objective facts. Find reliable, repeatable evidence, analyze, reduce, predict, test, replicate, repeat.. (Will they start with subjective opinions?)
 

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I largely agree but wonder what CM we like that we do not consider well-written. My problem is that certain pieces are too long and thus I do not like them as much and can complain that is was not well-written.
One reason you may find certain 19th century symphonies or operas too long is that you are not a 19th century person, but rather a late 20th / early 21st century person. The problem may not be that the 19th century work was not well-written but that it was written for a 19th century audience. And that may be a minor problem at most for some, but a very big problem for others.
 

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..We have inherited this consensus judgment usually called the test of time.

However, no matter how informed a response may be, it is still a subjective response. Just one that includes a healthy amount of expertise, and knowledge, which allows that listener more of an ability to perceive a well-written composition as opposed to one that they simply enjoy.
The very mention of some level of the ability to perceive a well-written composition infers objective information being used to make the distinction.
 

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Well, so you say, but the reality is that you are qualifying something (his own frame of reference) not stated. What was stated, no matter how you spin it, was that long experience confers the ability to judge music well done versus music not well done.
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.
I'll respond to both of these since they're responding to the same post.

Another problem around here is that of language. Thinking of language in terms of "what words normally mean" is a useful heuristic without any other context to go on, but words are ambiguous things that can mean a dozen different things to different people depending on the context. At some point we have to move past "what words normally mean" (which is often nothing more than "what these words mean to me") to "what does this specific person mean specifically by these words?" SM has written enough about his views by this point that everyone should, if they actually care about what he's saying, know what he means and doesn't mean when he uses terms like he used in that post you both responded to. Responding to someone's post whom you know has a particular perspective and uses common words to express that perspective by interpreting those words by "what they usually mean" is rather disingenuous. I doubt either of you really think that SM has suddenly become an objectivist, so if you don't think that then why would you interpret his words as if they'd been uttered by an objectivist? Why is that even the default position of "what those words usually mean?" You can read what he said perfectly fine from the subjectivist viewpoint.
 

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It's interesting to ask, I think, what is going on in our minds when we say something like "I can tell this is well-written/well-made but I don't like it". It could be an example of empathy, where we have some ability to put ourselves in the shoes of someone with different tastes than ours, or it might be a more formal-analysis-esque ability to recognize the artistic goal of the work, recognize that the work achieves those goals, yet reject them because those goals are unappealing to us.
 
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