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Comparing aesthetics in music experience

Use this forum to have philosophical discussions about aesthetics and art. What is art? What is beauty? What makes art good? You can also use this forum to discuss philosophy in the arts, namely to discuss the philosophical points in any particular movie, TV show, book or story.
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Re: Comparing aesthetics in music experience

Post by LuckyR » February 9th, 2016, 1:17 pm

Scribbler60 wrote:
LuckyR wrote:Interesting thread. To my mind, music has two common "appreciations": one, is the typical appreciation (that everyone has), this is usually based on whatever one appreciated when they graduated from high school. Thus, I'm in my fifties and I can appreciate late 70's music like Led Zeppelin and AC/DC. True, I enjoy music from the 50's (oldies), the 60's (grade school years), the 80's (college years), but I get very selective starting with the 90's. Most of what I like in 90's/00's and 10's are either throwbacks or new material from older artists.

The other music "appreciation" is, of course, Academic appreciation. This (supposedly) transcends taste and goes to the "objective" evaluation of the music. IMO, this is inherantly quite limited since in my opinion, the majority of music's appeal is it's ability to conjure emotions and most of these emotions are NOT de novo, but are rather memories... often from youth and young adulthood. Hence my original premise.
Interesting premise.

Seems I'm about the same age as you.

My musical tastes in high school were somewhat different from the norm. When everyone else was shaking their booty to Gloria Gaynor, KC and the Sunshine Band and Donna Summer, I (and a few other geek types) were pondering existence to the soundtrack of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Rush, Gentle Giant, Yes, Genesis and other prog legends.

Why me and my friends - all musicians, by the way - gravitated to prog when the rest of the world seemed to be going all Bee Gees is a mystery.
I don't know where you grew up but in SoCal in the 70's, AOR (album oriented rock) was very prominent, if somewhat less popular than Top 40. So your preferences were pretty common. I mean Rush still sells out moderate venues to this day.
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Re: Comparing aesthetics in music experience

Post by Present awareness » February 10th, 2016, 12:20 am

As a musician and songwriter, I've always had an interest in what makes a good song.
For me, music may be broken down into two basic components, rhythm and melody. Almost all humans respond to rhythm, as the pounding of our mothers heartbeat while in the womb, was a constant, but most likely forgotten sound that we grew with for awhile. Most tribal cultures used drums and dance to connect to there inner sense of rhythm.

Melody, appeals to our sense of spacial relationships, like the distance between a third, perfect fifth or an octave for example. A haunting melody played on a lone flute, may not inspire toe tapping, but may still stir deep emotions.

All art, including music, depends on subjective evaluation and there is no way around that fact. There is no accounting for taste. You may get someone to agree that a certain piece of music or art is good. You may even get ten million people to agree that a song or work of art is good, all you would have is ten million subjective views. If another ten million views said it was crap, it does not diminish the pleasure of those ten million whom like it.
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Re: Comparing aesthetics in music experience

Post by Aristocles » February 10th, 2016, 2:03 am

Present awareness wrote: All art, including music, depends on subjective evaluation and there is no way around that fact. There is no accounting for taste. You may get someone to agree that a certain piece of music or art is good. You may even get ten million people to agree that a song or work of art is good, all you would have is ten million subjective views. If another ten million views said it was crap, it does not diminish the pleasure of those ten million whom like it.
But when we give reasons for our tastes, then it appears we approach a more rational understanding of our inclinations.

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Re: Comparing aesthetics in music experience

Post by 3uGH7D4MLj » February 12th, 2016, 10:36 am

3uGH7D4MLj wrote:
Hereandnow wrote:Not a side point at all. Language here is used in a strict way, i suppose. Language is a rule governed system of meaning making, and the rules it uses are grammatical ones. Grammar IS cognition; that is, grammatical rules are grounded in logic. Of course, languages are different in their arbitrary features such as preposition formation, subject/object arrangement, and so forth. But all grammar is grounded in logic and adheres to logical rules: hypotheticals, contradictions, tautologies, disjunctions, and so forth.

Nonverbal, cognitive? i don't understand this. Of course, you don't have to verbalize, but meaningful verbalization is inherently cognitive. That's what it means for something to make sense.
Hereandnow, your life is big, your experiences, emotions, sensations, data is pouring in from all directions constantly and it contains lots of meaning. This includes when you listen to music or look at art.

The bit of experience that you are able to put into language is tenuous and cramped. Language is a coding system used to communicate, it's a narrow channel. It doesn't determine meaning. Grammar isn't cognition. Steven Pinker is good on this, also Noam Chomsky. You walk in a cathedral of sensations, your experience is vast, language is attenuated, it's an approximation, a rough outline of the full fabulous glory of our lives.
On this sidepoint: Say you go to see the Grand Canyon, or Victoria falls, or Ayers Rock, Stonehenge -- is your experience meaningless? It's a different kind of meaning than you're used to considering perhaps, but it's constantly with us. How much meaning is involved in passing a person on the sidewalk? Lots of meaning -- analysis, assumptions, evaluations, judgements, relating to previous encounters, conclusions, all non-verbal.

We could solve this problem by specifying "meaning which can be put into words." In my opinion this would be a small subset of possible meanings, but you could say that music has no meaning which can be put into words. Mozart's life work has no meaning that can be put into words. But it does have meaning.
fair to say

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Re: Comparing aesthetics in music experience

Post by Belinda » February 16th, 2016, 6:41 am

Mozart's life work has no meaning that can be put into words. But it does have meaning.
Music composed by a skilful maker , for rich people living during the age of Enlightenment to the present day.
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Re: Comparing aesthetics in music experience

Post by Greta » February 16th, 2016, 7:39 am

Greta wrote:There is ultimately only one valid division between "good music" and "bad music" - music made with passion, sincerity and love versus music largely made with economic and egotistical agendas in mind. Is the artist's angle primarily one of expressing or impressing?
3uGH7D4MLj wrote:Well, I don't know. Is sincerity all it takes? Ellington worked for money, he said he would never have finished anything without a deadline. I think the Art / commerce dichotomy is useful but not ultimate.
I think Duke's comment is fairly typical of too-cool-for-school jazz cats - the feigned indifference is not unlike good scholars who claim not to study. Values have changed and today's performers prefer to speak of the many hours they put in rather than act nonchalant. In a more scientifically-minded world there is greater credibility in "standing on the shoulders of giants" than cruising by through raw talent; it's seen as wasted potential that discipline could have honed.

Duke was passionate about music bringing people together: sites.google.com/site/integrationandduk ... al-beliefs

You also mentioned that "good music" depends on function and used the example of dance music. There is no doubt that financially minded people are simply churning the stuff out with about as much passion like as the cookie cutter sweatshop paintings that used to be sold door-to-door. Just as the cheap paintings can find appreciation amongst the naive and aesthetically challenged, the same can be said for cheap "factory-produced music. Does that mean the paintings and dance ditties are good art or simply better suited to some circumstances?

There are objective standards in music, but they not absolute. As a musician you learn about those standards by attending or holding auditions. No amount of postmodern rationalisation can save you if the next musician at the audition gives the music a noticeable lift. That kind of lift that quality music and musicians provide can be noticed by laypersons.

Still, expertise is one aspect of excellent music but the plethora of overly flamboyant poseurs playing peddling flatulant fusion and cock rock makes clear that skill is not the only measure, especially when lined up against simplistic but creative blues, garage rock and punk. Music can be effectively an acrobatics show, but it's a cheap thrill that doesn't sustain over the course of a gig. On the other hand, there is an enormous amount of both art and popular music that bores me to tears, even though it ticks all the "good music boxes". There's also some cheap, nasty and silly music I love simply through chemistry.

Good music would seem to be part sincerity, part skill, part style and taste in balancing the musical elements - and the rest seems to just be chemistry.
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Re: Comparing aesthetics in music experience

Post by 3uGH7D4MLj » February 16th, 2016, 12:18 pm

Greta wrote:You also mentioned that "good music" depends on function and used the example of dance music. There is no doubt that financially minded people are simply churning the stuff out with about as much passion like as the cookie cutter sweatshop paintings that used to be sold door-to-door. Just as the cheap paintings can find appreciation amongst the naive and aesthetically challenged, the same can be said for cheap "factory-produced music. Does that mean the paintings and dance ditties are good art or simply better suited to some circumstances?
Cheap, factory produced cookie cutter art and music will always be with us.

I was talking against comparing genres. I said: Music is a big tent. In theatre we don't compare Cats to Becket. Dance music is dance music, how well does it work? How great a dance tune is this? Classical music is in a different category. It's fun to consider favorites and evaluate, judge compare-able works. But if you compare genres, it's like you say, apples and oranges.

Why compare The Sound of Music to a play by Becket? Why say Mahler is sublime while rock and jazz are coarse? Why compare music for people sitting in a concert hall with music written for a dance club? It's a completely different thing. Both are music in a general sense, but what is the purpose of comparing? Titian, comic books, both art -- is it useful to compare?

Dance music is one kind of music where you can actually do an objective survey of sorts. Have a dance party, put on different songs and see if people dance or leave the floor. My experience is that Billie Jean is a much better dance tune than Miss You. Feel free to call me "coarse".
Greta wrote:There are objective standards in music, but they not absolute. As a musician you learn about those standards by attending or holding auditions. No amount of postmodern rationalisation can save you if the next musician at the audition gives the music a noticeable lift. That kind of lift that quality music and musicians provide can be noticed by laypersons.
I agree. But the first violin, first chair of the NY Symphony will not draw a crowd busking at Grand Central Station.

-- Updated February 16th, 2016, 11:29 am to add the following --
Belinda wrote:
Mozart's life work has no meaning that can be put into words. But it does have meaning.
Music composed by a skilful maker, for rich people living during the age of Enlightenment to the present day.
Right. Can we talk about this without considering economic class?

-- Updated February 16th, 2016, 12:42 pm to add the following --
LuckyR wrote:My musical tastes in high school were somewhat different from the norm. When everyone else was shaking their booty to Gloria Gaynor, KC and the Sunshine Band and Donna Summer, I (and a few other geek types) were pondering existence to the soundtrack of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Rush, Gentle Giant, Yes, Genesis and other prog legends.

Why me and my friends - all musicians, by the way - gravitated to prog when the rest of the world seemed to be going all Bee Gees is a mystery.
AOR was a godsend. We had AOR and three college stations, great radio.

Earlier, when I was nine or ten, I had my own AM radio that I used to go to bed with. A guy named Dr. Bop would come on at 10. This is Doctor Bop on the scene with a stack of shellac on my record machine. He would play a top forty countdown every night, it would change every week. It made this little kid so happy, man, and the music! Jim Dandy to the Rescue! Go Jim Dandy!

Now you could say that this was a teen exploitation scheme, a payola fueled scam where every song was an advertisement for a 79 cent piece of plastic. ok. but it was wonderful.
fair to say

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Re: Comparing aesthetics in music experience

Post by Belinda » February 17th, 2016, 5:25 am

Greta wrote:
Right. Can we talk about this without considering economic class?
Okay, but let's not sanctify Mozart out of all recognition that he was a human being working to earn a living in a certain time and place in history. I agree with what you wrote earlier about how comparisons should be within the same genre. If we compare St Mozart with other musicians of his time and place who were composing and performing for the same sort of people then we might get to recognise whether and if Mozart is not a "cookie-cutter" musician. It's not only poor people who like "cookie-cutter " pop, rich and expensively educated people do so too, and some classical composers may well be not nearly as good as Mozart. So we really need formal criticism bearing in mind that we are comparing like with like.
I cannot do formal criticism of music but there are others here who can, including yourself.
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Re: Comparing aesthetics in music experience

Post by Greta » February 17th, 2016, 7:50 am

Belinda, the quote was actually 3ug's.

3ug, sorry, I didn't make my intent clear, expecting context to carry me through. By "dance ditties" I meant overcompressed formulaic plastic music. I wouldn't dismiss an entire genre - there are passionate and sincere artists in all styles.
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Re: Comparing aesthetics in music experience

Post by Belinda » February 17th, 2016, 1:46 pm

I've done it again.Sorry!

I understand, 3UG. I too think that all genres contain good and bad examples. Classical music is no exception, and why should it be?
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Re: Comparing aesthetics in music experience

Post by LuckyR » February 17th, 2016, 3:25 pm

3uGH7D4MLj wrote:
LuckyR wrote:My musical tastes in high school were somewhat different from the norm. When everyone else was shaking their booty to Gloria Gaynor, KC and the Sunshine Band and Donna Summer, I (and a few other geek types) were pondering existence to the soundtrack of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Rush, Gentle Giant, Yes, Genesis and other prog legends.

Why me and my friends - all musicians, by the way - gravitated to prog when the rest of the world seemed to be going all Bee Gees is a mystery.
AOR was a godsend. We had AOR and three college stations, great radio.

Earlier, when I was nine or ten, I had my own AM radio that I used to go to bed with. A guy named Dr. Bop would come on at 10. This is Doctor Bop on the scene with a stack of shellac on my record machine. He would play a top forty countdown every night, it would change every week. It made this little kid so happy, man, and the music! Jim Dandy to the Rescue! Go Jim Dandy!

Now you could say that this was a teen exploitation scheme, a payola fueled scam where every song was an advertisement for a 79 cent piece of plastic. ok. but it was wonderful.
Art isn't about the art itself, it is about the emotions (usually through memories) that are created or recreated through exposure to the art.
"As usual... it depends."

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Re: Comparing aesthetics in music experience

Post by 3uGH7D4MLj » February 17th, 2016, 7:27 pm

Belinda wrote:Greta wrote:
Right. Can we talk about this without considering economic class?
Okay, but let's not sanctify Mozart out of all recognition that he was a human being working to earn a living in a certain time and place in history. I agree with what you wrote earlier about how comparisons should be within the same genre. If we compare St Mozart with other musicians of his time and place who were composing and performing for the same sort of people then we might get to recognise whether and if Mozart is not a "cookie-cutter" musician. It's not only poor people who like "cookie-cutter " pop, rich and expensively educated people do so too, and some classical composers may well be not nearly as good as Mozart. So we really need formal criticism bearing in mind that we are comparing like with like.
I cannot do formal criticism of music but there are others here who can, including yourself.
Hi Belinda, my post wasn't clear, it can be taken two ways. I tried to take the class issue that you had brought up and emphasize it, I think it's pretty interesting. The way I worded it, it may have seemed like I didn't want to talk about that.

How much of the popularity of classical music is owing to the fact that it is considered highbrow?
fair to say

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Re: Comparing aesthetics in music experience

Post by Greta » February 17th, 2016, 8:53 pm

LuckyR wrote:Art isn't about the art itself, it is about the emotions (usually through memories) that are created or recreated through exposure to the art.
Most of it is, but not all. Art can simply be about the fascination of patterns, with the appeal similar to that enjoyed by mathematicians. Apparently an unusually high proportion of mathematicians and physicists are musicians. Consider King Crimson's math rock track, "Discipline":

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QracpYC4xbY

It's a mathematical exercise of overlaying various time signatures - 5/8, 4/4, 9/8 and 15/16. Rather than emotionalism the track mainly concerns the intellect - an exercise in discipline - with no one band member dominating, all just interweaving. The interlocking Celtic design on the album cover is intended to be a visual analogue of the title track:

Image

The wish for discipline or intellectual pursuits generally is triggered by emotions, so there is that connection, but it's too oblique and ubiquitous to be useful in this instance.
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Re: Comparing aesthetics in music experience

Post by LuckyR » February 17th, 2016, 9:14 pm

Greta wrote:
LuckyR wrote:Art isn't about the art itself, it is about the emotions (usually through memories) that are created or recreated through exposure to the art.
Most of it is, but not all. Art can simply be about the fascination of patterns, with the appeal similar to that enjoyed by mathematicians. Apparently an unusually high proportion of mathematicians and physicists are musicians. Consider King Crimson's math rock track, "Discipline":

It's a mathematical exercise of overlaying various time signatures - 5/8, 4/4, 9/8 and 15/16. Rather than emotionalism the track mainly concerns the intellect - an exercise in discipline - with no one band member dominating, all just interweaving. The interlocking Celtic design on the album cover is intended to be a visual analogue of the title track:

The wish for discipline or intellectual pursuits generally is triggered by emotions, so there is that connection, but it's too oblique and ubiquitous to be useful in this instance.
I am happy to amend my original statement to include intellectual response, within the confines of your example.
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Re: Comparing aesthetics in music experience

Post by Greta » February 17th, 2016, 9:58 pm

I do have other examples, if you like :)
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