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You seem to be expecting a different response to polls, i.e. one based on objective criteria. But you admit that most polls exhibit an entirely subjective response. This might cause a different person to reflect on their original premise.
I didn’t admit ‘that most polls exhibit an entirely subjective response’. Don’t put words in my mouth. I referred to a number of polls on this forum where in addition to the responses being unnecessarily subjective, they are not even responsive to the instructions in the OP.

The more I read the responses from the same few here, the more I am amazed that there are those who appear to be experienced in listening to CM, but can’t appreciate the objective significance in the accomplishments of the major composers. Well I can and I do. And when I respond to a poll, I’m capable of reading the instructions and putting aside my personal subjective preferences.
 

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Discussion Starter · #622 ·
I have a passing layman's interest in musicology so I'm drawn to music which was considered particularly impactful or groundbreaking, which is why I love both Beethoven and Steve Reich. I think a lot of people also take the view that - if a lot of people, including experts like a given work, it's probably worth listening to because it's likely to bring them enjoyment, under the rationale that their own tastes are likely to overlap with the listener consensus at least a good amount of the time.

As with so much, it really depends on what one hopes to get out of music, and what listening habits one finds enjoyable.
I have discovered some fine music here on TC from the references of others. I also have heard a lot more uninteresting music. For me, it's always been essentially a random process--but I often will listen to and watch something on YouTube that strikes my fancy, with often excellent results.
 

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When someone puts themselves into a position where they pick and choose which experts count, and when they count*, it is no longer the realm of objectivity, it is the realm of taste and subjective judgment.

This is not even a fault if done honestly. There are many critics I ignore because I think their tastes are diametrically opposed to mine. I've long accepted that I'm probably not going to particularly like Mozart, as revered as he was, because his music isn't to my tastes, and I'm not a big opera fan anyway. What is dishonest is using "expertise" to dress subjective opinion in the trappings of objective justification, but then reject it selectively in order to maintain this fiction. These guys don't count because contemporary composers are biased. These guys don't count because they're modernists. This poster's education doesn't count because music education has been taken over by modernist and post-modernist dogma. Keep doing this and you can pretend that all the experts which "count" happen to be the ones which agree with you.


*to be honest I'm not sure it's the case that even if one values expert consensus entirely, it's the "realm of objectivity". It positively is not the case when one selectively (emphasis: select) values expert opinion, however.
 

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Sibelius, Beethoven, Satie, Debussy
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So, 32 pages on (ignoring the previous thread), there seems to be only one clearly stated opinion (though no agreement) on what 'profundity' is (wrt to CM) and, ironically, it is not in the field of classical music. Perhaps I should rephrase that and say that I think I know what SM's opinion is, and that some posters seem to agree with the implications (if not the 'fact' that profundity can only be found in the world of science). Oh, and I know that I reject the usefulness of the term 'profundity' wrt CM altogether.

Much of the rest of the debate has been enlightening to some extent (about related matters), but other than generalised assertions based on some unvoiced agreements that we know Beethoven wrote some 'profound' music, there has been little analysis of CM to exemplify and thereby help establish what 'profundity' in music actually sounds like. There's been reference to extra-musical content (the profundity of LvB's 9th, based on Schiller's ideas) and some suggestion that some abstract music contains Important Ideas (though no examples of this stick in my mind). There's been reference to degrees of intensity of emotional response, and also the spiritual/transcendent experience, but acknowledgement that since this is always a personal matter (no matter how many people claim that listening to LvB's 9th brings tears to the eyes or the listener nearer to something ineffable) it's not really a satisfactory universal for 'profundity'.

Is there an explanation/definition that has been set out in the thread that I've missed?

Would anyone care to continue by comparing, say, Mahler's 5th with Vaughan Williams 5th and determining which is the more profound? We might get closer to 'profundity' through such an analysis. If you don't like these two, by all means pick two others.
 

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There has been little analysis of CM to exemplify and thereby help establish what 'profundity' in music actually sounds like.
No definition of profundity in art has been, or will be, agreed on here. And even if it were, why would you expect profundity to have a particular sound? Or look, in the visual arts? Or subject matter, in any art? Art isn't that simple. Not remotely.
Would anyone care to continue by comparing, say, Mahler's 5th with Vaughan Williams 5th and determining which is the more profound? We might get closer to 'profundity' through such an analysis. If you don't like these two, by all means pick two others.
That would be a fool's errand. I would hope no one would imagine that profundity is a quantifiable substance, and that we can weigh the relative qualities of superb works of art with precision. Art works are not even strictly comparable except in terms of very specific qualities - we might be comparing apples not only with oranges but with aardvarks - and profundity isn't even an aesthetic quality such as proportion, harmony, balance, etc., which can fairly easily be assessed by anyone with a good ear or eye. Honestly, I find your proposal rather startling.
 

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No definition of profundity in art has been, or will be, agreed on here. And even if it were, why would you expect profundity to have a particular sound? Or look, in the visual arts? Or subject matter, in any art? Art isn't that simple. Not remotely.
I'm not looking for agreement. I'm looking for someone to say what it is, to describe it, to illustrate it. The whole point of my summary is to check where we've got to (aside from up our own fundaments or each others' noses). I think we've got nowhere, but I think I'm right in saying that I'm the only other one (aside from SM) who's come out and said profundity is not a useful term wrt music, and I'm still not clear what others think it 'sounds' like. I say 'sounds' because it's music, of course; to talk about what profundity 'looks' like is just silly.

References to other arts are, IMO, irrelevant, since the thread is about profundity wrt music, not sculpture, literature, painting etc, where, it might be argued, it is easier to convey ideas (profound or not) than it is in music.

That would be a fool's errand. I would hope no one would imagine that profundity is a quantifiable substance, and that we can weigh the relative qualities of superb works of art with precision. Art works are not even strictly comparable except in terms of very specific qualities - we might be comparing apples not only with oranges but with aardvarks - and profundity isn't even an aesthetic quality such as proportion, harmony, balance, etc., which can fairly easily be assessed by anyone with a good ear or eye. Honestly, I find your proposal rather startling.
Well, I've no problem being a fool - but if no-one takes up the idea, that's fine. As for the idea that profundity is a quantifiable, measurable substance, all I can say is that if no one is prepared to desribe it in some way, shape or form, I'm pretty clear that it is, indeed, a redundant term.

Previously, you've said:

The profundity in art lies not in "how much it means to me" - i.e., how much I like it - but in the range of meanings, and in what kinds of meanings, it is seen to be capable of conveying and provoking.

This view does of course assume that art actually has the capacity to mean something, with the corollary that the range of meanings a given work will convey is determined to a major degree by the nature of the work - which is to say, that meaning is not merely something imposed by the audience.
I assume you were including music in 'art', and therefore, you could further illustrate your description of profundity with reference to some specific examples. I'm not sure why, if you think profundity does exist in music, you would find my suggestion that we look for it so startling.
 

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Discussion Starter · #628 ·
As an example of real profundity, in that it deals with the fate of humanity and quite probably that of Earth's biosphere, there is Garrett Hardin's shattering essay The Tragedy of the Commons, appearing like a bolt of lightning in 1968 as a lead article in Science, the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. It struck me at the time (and still does) with its resemblance to Greek tragedy: as Hardin writes: "The essence of dramatic tragedy is not unhappiness. It resides in the solemnity of the remorseless working of things." And Hardin wrote The Tragedy,,, years before global warming was even being seriously discussed, though a handful of scientists had worried about the consequences of putting vast quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. AGW has only increased the profundity of the issue and is now forcing Hardin's thesis ever more forward into the public's consciousness. Too late? We may be the generation or the parents or grandparents of those who will see, though the outlines are clear.

I offer this as an example of the profundity with which science and writings about science can be imbued and submit that art's profundities are of a different, lesser order, if profundity can be attributed to art at all. Sublimity, yes--we have all experienced it in art. I would be happy(!?) to be shown an example in art where the gravity of such issues is addressed with equal profundity, force, consciousness of consequence.
 

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What would Beethoven's predecessors have thought of youtube.com/watch?v=FwZsDzGY1XA&t=44m44s (~45:06) in terms of profundity? (This is not a putdown of Beethoven). Are we indulging in the wishful thinking "they would also have seen Beethoven's genius just like we do today"? Are we trying to separate the artists from the sensibilities of their respective times and places?
 

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

(just kidding, sorry Beethoven fans)
 

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What would Beethoven's predecessors have thought of youtube.com/watch?v=FwZsDzGY1XA&t=44m44s (~45:06) in terms of profundity? (This is not a putdown of Beethoven). Are we indulging in the wishful thinking "they would also have seen Beethoven's genius just like we do today"? Are we trying to separate the artists from the sensibilities of their respective times and places?
You‘re coming at it from the wrong direction. What did the composers think who followed Beethoven? Why did Schumann tell Brahms that, in effect, he was the next Beethoven? Why did Brahms wait until his forties to write his first symphony partly because he felt obligated to live up to that expectation?
 

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You‘re coming at it from the wrong direction. What did the composers think who followed Beethoven? Why did Schumann tell Brahms that, in effect, he was the next Beethoven? Why did Brahms wait until his forties to write his first symphony partly because he felt obligated to live up to that expectation?
Even though I generally believe that art/music is experienced subjectively I have no problem also accepting the judgment of history that some composers were greater than others. I also find the various attempts at undermining the validity of this judgment of history to be ridiculous. Beethoven and the other "greats" are held in high esteem for a reason. or reasons. I made a stab at explaining it, but I know what I wrote is far from enough or even close.

How to nail down exactly how that esteem materialized is probably impossible to objectively define and in any event all the attempts at explanation have not and will not satisfy everyone, or possibly anyone.

But while I accept the notion that Beethoven is among the greatest composers of the Western European Classical music tradition, his music is not the most important music in my life. Part of it is that the entirety of the Classical music canon is not the most important music in my life, but more importantly the idea of "great music" is not important to my appreciation of it nor a motivating factor for me to seek it out.
 

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Discussion Starter · #637 ·
SanAntone: "Even though I generally believe that art/music is experienced subjectively I have no problem also accepting the judgment of history that some composers were greater than others. I also find the various attempts at undermining the validity of this judgment of history to be ridiculous. Beethoven and the other "greats" are held in high esteem for a reason. or reasons. I made a stab at explaining it, but I know what I wrote is far from enough or even close."
No one disputes this. I certainly don't. No one is attempting to undermine the validity of the judgement of history. There are reasons why LVB is held in high esteem and they are all subjecrive. He crafted music that resonated with large numbers of CM enthusiasts because his music was wired into the neurochemical reaction circuits and life experiences of people in a position to ensure that his name and music would be passed on. The problem is that each individual's neurochemistry and life experiences are unique (we are not talking here about brain disease). This will guarantee that reactions to his music will vary, and not exhibit the uniform, universal response that one would expect from an objective, incontrovertible display of undeniable attributes that are obvious to all observers.
 

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I'm not looking for agreement. I'm looking for someone to say what it is, to describe it, to illustrate it. The whole point of my summary is to check where we've got to (aside from up our own fundaments or each others' noses). I think we've got nowhere, but I think I'm right in saying that I'm the only other one (aside from SM) who's come out and said profundity is not a useful term wrt music, and I'm still not clear what others think it 'sounds' like. I say 'sounds' because it's music, of course; to talk about what profundity 'looks' like is just silly.

References to other arts are, IMO, irrelevant, since the thread is about profundity wrt music, not sculpture, literature, painting etc, where, it might be argued, it is easier to convey ideas (profound or not) than it is in music.



Well, I've no problem being a fool - but if no-one takes up the idea, that's fine. As for the idea that profundity is a quantifiable, measurable substance, all I can say is that if no one is prepared to desribe it in some way, shape or form, I'm pretty clear that it is, indeed, a redundant term.

Previously, you've said:



I assume you were including music in 'art', and therefore, you could further illustrate your description of profundity with reference to some specific examples. I'm not sure why, if you think profundity does exist in music, you would find my suggestion that we look for it so startling.
Profundity isn't a property, strictly speaking, of art - or of anything in any field, including philosophy or science. Neither is it an all-or-nothing proposition. When we call art profound, we're referring to its capacity to generate and inspire ideas and feelings of certain kinds in people able to "read" the "language" of that art (for example, the tonal system of Western music, or the parallel musical systems of the music of other cultures). A work's capacity to do this exists objectively, in the work, and in highly variable degree; the ideas and feelings it inspires exist subjectively, in the listener, and are the result of both the stimulus of the work itself and any other factors the listener brings to the experience. The complexity of art, and the complexity of the interactions between the objective factors in the work and the subjective responses that constitute the aesthetic experience, just can't be pinned down and described in a way that I'm guessing would satisfy you, although we could discuss till the cows come home works listeners tend to think are worthy of being called "profound." Ambitious and knowledgeable people have done that; they've talked and written extensively about the works of Bach, Beethoven, Wagner, etc. What they've had to say may not make sense to anyone to whom the notion of profundity in art is alien. I can't speak for anyone else here, but I certainly haven't the fortitude to take a skeptical person on a tour of, say, Bach's St. Matthew, Wagner's Parsifal, or Beethoven's quartet in c# minor, in the probably vain hope that a neon sign flashing "profundity" might turn on in his brain. I'd rather hang out someplace fun like the opera forum, where people are just listening to music and sharing their perceptions and aren't harrassing each other for demonstrations of what's better than what.

I understand and respect the choice not to apply the word "profound" to music. It's only a word, after all.
 

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Discussion Starter · #640 ·
I'm not sure such a literal definition of what happened to Beethoven's art helps us understand anything about Beethoven, aesthetics or music.
Exactly. You must look into your own reaction to and thoughts about Beethoven to sense what is in play when you listen to his music and read about his life and thought.
 
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