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#1 Kat

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Posted 29 December 2005 - 07:22 AM

Ayn Rand Answers on sale at LFB

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Good reading. This is a book worth getting and it is on sale for $9.95. Sure it may be a little sanitized, but it gives you Ayn Rand in her own words. There is also a short review of the book at LFB.

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#2 Dragonfly

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Posted 22 January 2006 - 09:52 AM

I've finished reading the book. I'll mention just a few quotes:

p. 123: The kind of people I like are in my novels and some exist in real life. (I could name them briefly.)

Why do I have a nasty suspicion that the ARI censor has deleted some names here? Rewriting of history? Oh, sure, the original transcripts are available to "serious scholars". Well, we all know what that means...

p. 143: Apart from basic moral premises, is it ever proper to speak of an Objectivist position on an issue? Shouldn't one's own mind be the sole determinant of one's stand?

This is not an honest question.


Why couldn't this be an honest question? Why immediately suggest bad faith on the part of the questioner? I think the question is quite reasonable and that it has been asked in good faith.

p. 226: What do you think of the work of Beethoven?

He is a great composer, but I can't stand him. Music expresses a sense of life - an emotional response to metaphysical issues. Beethoven is great because he makes his message so clear by means of music; but his message is malevolent universe: man's heroic fight against destiny, and man's defeat.


Huh??! Where the hell did she get that crazy idea? Just listen to the most popular "struggle" works by Beethoven, the 5th and the 9th symphony, both ending in a glaring triumph (sometimes a bit too glaring IMO, especially the 5th, with all those banal C maj. chords at the end). Or the Egmont Overture, the story is tragic, but the music ends in triumph. And the often melancholic and tragic music of Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky of which she apparently was so fond no doubt gives us a message of a benevolent universe? I think she should have limited her answer to "I can't stand him", which is a legitimate viewpoint, without trying to rationalize her answer in such a ridiculous way. I had heard about her "malevolent universe" viewpoint of Beethoven before, but had never seen such an explicit statement as this one before.

#3 Ellen Stuttle

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Posted 26 January 2006 - 04:24 AM

[quote=Dragonfly]I've finished reading the book. I'll mention just a few quotes:

[....]

p. 226: What do you think of the work of Beethoven?

He is a great composer, but I can't stand him. Music expresses a sense of life - an emotional response to metaphysical issues. Beethoven is great because he makes his message so clear by means of music; but his message is malevolent universe: man's heroic fight against destiny, and man's defeat.


Is that the full quote given or did you not type all of it? What's the occasion on which she's reported as having said this? (I'm asking because I was there when she was asked the Beethoven question after one of her Ford Hall Forum speeches, and if this is a quote from that occasion and is given as the full comment, the remark was definitely edited.)

Ellen

#4 Dragonfly

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Posted 26 January 2006 - 04:46 AM

I omitted only the last sentence: "That's the opposite of my sense of life" [FHF 81]. Can you tell us how you remember her comment? Was it even worse than this?

#5 Ellen Stuttle

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Posted 26 January 2006 - 04:53 PM

Hmm. The quote is attributed to a Ford Hall Forum appearance in '81? She talked there that year? She was by no means well by then; she died in the spring of '82... In any event I'm almost sure I didn't attend the Ford Hall Forum in '81, so if that's when she said the reported remarks, evidently someone else asked her the Beethoven question on another occasion from the one when I was present. I'm not remembering which year is the year I'm thinking of, but it would probably have had to have been after '72, which is the year when Larry went to Temple to continue his graduate work. (He started at Brooklyn Poly, which was where he got to know Leonard Peikoff well enough he was allowed to participate in AR's Epistemology seminars, but I don't think he did any teaching until he went to Temple.) The girl who asked about Beethoven -- Julie, I forget her last name -- had been a student in a course Larry was teaching. He realized that he knew her when she and he and I and many others congregated at Erik (sp?) Vehle's (sp?) party in Cambridge (MA) the night before the Forum event...

(It looks as if I'm fixing to tell the whole story...)

A group of us knew that The Question was going to be posed. Evan Picoult, a friend of Larry's and mine, had heard through one or another grapevine about Julie's intent to query Rand. This info led to Evan's making a remark I've always remembered as speaking volumes about New York O'ists and Rand's esthetic preferences. Several of us were gathered at Evan's apartment: Evan was a physics graduate student at Columbia (Lederman was his advisor, a tidbit of possible interest to Dragonfly). He was the primary leasee of a large apartment, rooms in which he'd sublease to other students. The living room was big, and became the frequent meeting place of a group of us, the group I thought of as "the intellectual group" of my two main groups of O'ist friends: Evan, the Knapp brothers -- Robert and Raymond -- Debbie Goldstein (who later married and still later divorced Robert), Shosh Milgram (ditto re Raymond), Rob Masters, though Rob by then had become an apostate to O'ism, Lee Pierson (J. J. Gibson's last doctoral student, one of the two O'ist friends from those years with whom Larry and I have maintained regular contact), David Kelley when David was in New York, the Donway brothers, and a few others who sometimes joined us.

Evan had a rather out-of-tune upright piano. He sat down at the piano and started, in his amusingly choppy though somehow enjoyable style, a snatch of one of the Beethoven piano sonatas. Then he abruptly stopped and turned to me (I was standing next to him) and wailed (accurate description of the voice tones): "Oh, I HOPE that she [AR] doesn't come out in favor of Beethoven!! Because if she does, then I'll NEVER know who really loves Beethoven!!"

She (AR) did not come out in favor of Beethoven.

Jump ahead to the pre-Forum party given by Erik (sp?) Vehl (sp.) and his girlfriend. The party was at a rented meeting room, many people there. I was feeling tired, so I laid down on a padded bench which was along one side of the room and was drifting into half sleep when Larry came over excitedly telling me, "This is Julie; I know her; she was in a class of mine; she's the one who's going to ask about Beethoven."

Julie was a vivacious, glowing-with-life person, attractive, slim, mid-height, long wavy orange-reddish hair. Larry had told her of my love for Beethoven. "It's Beethoven and Rand, isn't it?," Julie said, holding the index and middle finger of her right hand up, pressing the fingers together to indicate unity: "The two are one; it's the same thing."

"W-e-l-l," I told her, I agreed that the dramatic sensibility did seem to me very similar, but that I was afraid she was going to be disappointed by Rand's response, that Rand didn't like Beethoven and considered Beethoven "malevolent." "Oh, she probably just hasn't heard much Beethoven!" Julie said undaunted.

Come the occasion, and the question.

The answer was in form like the answer quoted, but it was longer -- more like eight-ten sentences, and more emphatic sounding, more force in the delivery (the answer as quoted sounds casual and mild, though it says the same thing). She briefly stated her view that art conveys a sense of life, and that there are two primary categories of senses of life. And she said that Beethoven was a great composer, for essentially the reason given in the quote as reported. She also said -- I wrote this sentence down in (speedwriting) shorthand: "He was a giant of the malevolent sense of life, which is the opposite of mine." (I wryly commented to Larry when Rand had finished her remarks, "At least she got the 'giant' right.")

So it's almost the same, except tamer and shorter in the quote given. Rand did have a way of almost identically repeating herself when answering similar questions on different occasions, so I suppose that's what she did here.

The story didn't end with Rand's answer to Julie. Julie went to talk to Rand in the post-lecture autograph line. I shadowed along, wanting to eavesdrop. "But, Miss Rand," Julie said, innocently, exuberantly, "have you ever heard [and she reeled off the titles of several Beethoven compositions, the 4th and 6th symphonies and some non-symphonic works, I forget which ones]?" "I don't know," Rand said, just as a flat declarative statement. "Well, if I sent you some records, would you listen to them?" Rand said that she would (I surmised that Julie's style of sparkling openness appealed to Rand, eliciting her agreement).

The rest I can only report via grapevine sources. Rand listened to the records -- and sent Julie a letter couched in terms that changed Julie's view of Rand, and Julie quit attending the Objectivist club at the school where she was by then a student (I think the University of Michigan, or maybe Wisconsin). I never heard what became of her after that, and I don't know the details of what Rand said to her.

Ellen


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#6 Robert Campbell

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Posted 29 March 2006 - 07:08 PM

Ellen,

Forgive me from chiming in so late, but I'm only gradually catching up with various threads here.

Erich Veyhl was a Ph. D. student in Applied Math at Harvard and, for a time, the editor of Ergo, which is how I knew him. He usually seemed to have the Objectivist siege mentality that I so often recall from those days. I think he's been hunkered down somewhere in rural Maine for a couple of decades.

Ray Knapp and I both lived in Leverett House and I got to know him pretty well. I was there when he and Shoshana Milgram were married in the Leverett House library. I haven't seen him since they were divorced.

I'd heard of him years before, but I didn't actually meet Lee Pierson in 2003 at the Positive Psychology Summit in Washington--an event that some Randians have attended off and on. Those with an ARI orientation tend not to come back, though.

I don't blame Julie one bit for giving Objectivism a miss after being lectured about Beethoven's "malevolent sense of life." I'm glad I never had a discussion with Ayn Rand about Ornette Coleman's music, or Sun Ra's, or Charles Mingus's, back then. If she couldn't stand Beethoven, what kind of epithets would she have applled to them?

Robert

#7 DavidMcK

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Posted 29 March 2006 - 11:59 PM

Ellen, I'm a former music student, and I'm fascinated by the Beethoven/Rand connection (which of course she would deny), and I might add a little to this topic. Beethoven's sense of life was actually far more optimistic and powerfully uplifting than Rand's, and Beethoven was a proponent of 'organic' art long before Frank Lloyd Wright, Sullivan or 'The Fountainhead' was written (see Charles Rosen's 'The Classical Style' e.g.). I've often wondered what Frank Lloyd Wright played on the piano at their meeting (described in 'The Passion of Ayn Rand'?), and that she described as escatic, if I recall the incident, and thought Wright was being phony. Since Wright was very fond of Beethoven, it was probably what he was playing (Wright used to say that he could write something as good as Beethoven if he was a composer). Anyway, it would show she didn't know Beethoven's music well enough to come up with an informed comment. The two obviously have that enormous desire to assert themselves, the cultivation of their originality, and so on: I agree with 'Julie' , that the two go together.

#8 Ellen Stuttle

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Posted 02 April 2006 - 10:53 PM

Robert,

Interesting that you knew Raymond Knapp in college. I feel that I knew him, and Shosh, the least well of the group -- I suppose because they attended less frequently than the others, and maybe too because of their being the youngest (whereas Larry and I were the oldest) and thus having less overlap in terms of stage-of-life concerns. I've lost touch except through hearsay with most of the people from that group. I think it's been upward of twenty-five years since I've had any direct contact with either of the Knapp brothers or with Debbie or Shosh. Larry has occasionally seen (separately) Robert or Raymond or Shosh on his travels. And he saw Evan at the ARS meeting in December. He's had more frequent contact with David (just had dinner in Washington with him about a month and a half ago), and I've seen David at a few meetings of IOS/TOC or once at that Poughkeepsie O'ist group (Ken Livingstone's wife Gwen was giving a presentation I wanted to hear), and Larry and I have gone out to dinner with David and Susan and the Donways the day following the Summer Seminars of 1999 and 2000.

The one person from the group who's remained a repeating presence in my life is Lee Pierson. Lee and another friend (Arnold Baise) have journeyed to our abode at Thanksgiving every year since we bought our house ('92). We eat out -- at a restaurant which serves a sumptuous Thanksgiving buffet -- then return home and recuperate awhile from overeating, then have a music session (Larry and I play piano/violin pieces for the other two), then talk/argue/argue/talk all night (going to bed before 6:00 a.m. is against the rules). Arnold leaves Friday afternoon, but Lee usually stays through Friday and sometimes through Saturday, and we argue/talk/argue until he's gotten into his car and driven off. Generally at least once I become so provoked I resort to screaming at Lee (I think he doesn't feel that Thanksgiving is complete unless he can trigger this reaction at least once). A great time is had.

Ellen

PS: I feel as if I've been away from listland for a month instead of just a few days. My mind is still awhirl with thoughts of cosmology. (The conference theme was cosmology, and the plenary talks were excellent.) It will be awhile before I can catch up to what's transpired here.


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#9 Ellen Stuttle

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Posted 02 April 2006 - 11:29 PM

I agree with 'Julie' , that the two [Beethoven and Rand] go together.

Likewise, and I've always wondered why AR didn't hear the similarity. One factor I suppose was her not being that familiar with Beethoven's total opus. E.g., she didn't even know if she'd heard the compositions Julie asked her about in the autograph line. (I never found out which compositions she had heard, and when.) But upon listening to the selections Julie sent her, she remained negative. I've entertained two lines of theorizing on her antipathy toward Beethoven -- the two could both be true: one, that she recognized something of herself in the "malevolent" "giant," and was disturbed by the recognition. Another, that Beethoven's music is unmistakably Germanic, and she tended to dislike the Germanic style. Her favorite classical composers were Rachmaninoff, next Tchaikovsky; and she liked Chopin a lot. Her ear -- to the extent she had an ear for such music -- seems to have favored the Russian sound, then the French and/or rhapsodic (e.g., she liked some Lizst). I've been told, by Allan Blumenthal and I think Barbara said this too at one point on Old Atlantis, that Rand became irritated at the suggestion that Rachmaninoff owed anything to Russian influence -- she attributed his greatness to Western influence -- but I think that a trained ear needs to hear no more than one measure of Rachmaninoff to detect Russian.

Beethoven's sense of life was actually far more optimistic and powerfully uplifting than Rand's [...].

I agree with that too, though I have reservations about the whole O'ist theory of "sense of life," but just going with the term in the context, I share the assessment.

Ellen

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#10 jenright

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Posted 03 April 2006 - 07:33 PM

George Walsh was asked whether he thought Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony sounded malevolent.

He said: "Of course. Can't you just hear the sheep gnashing their teeth?"

#11 Ellen Stuttle

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Posted 03 April 2006 - 11:00 PM

George Walsh [upon being asked re malevolence in Herr Ludwig van's 6th symphony]: "Of course.  Can't you just hear the sheep gnashing their teeth?"


Wish I could get a glowing emoticon to work. I can just hear George saying that. Damn, he is missed. He was a delight.

Ellen


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#12 Roger Bissell

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Posted 04 April 2006 - 10:42 AM

Ellen, I wonder if the cause of Rand's antipathy toward Beethoven and his music could be as simple as her having heard that his main theme (motif) of the 5th Symphony (da da da daaaa) was supposed to represent Fate knocking at the door. As we all know, Fate = fatalism = determinism = malevolent sense of life. Just read "What is Romanticism?" for details on the Byronic sense of life, which is how I assume she interpreted Beethoven.

Didn't Rand also dislike Shakespeare? If anyone are the towering geniuses in modern Western art, it would be these two, Beethoven and Shakespeare. (Which doesn't mean that they are my favorites, nor that no one else is great, just that I acknowledge their monumental greatness.)

As for the Germanic style not being to her taste, didn't she like some of Wagner? What about "Hymn to the Evening Star" from Tannhauser? I think she mentioned that favorably somewhere, but I can't recall just where. I happen to prefer Russian and Italian (and Chopin) to German composers, but it's all on a sliding scale. I like a lot of it. I guess I'm just a musical slut. :-)

But malevolent? I'd have to judge that on a case by case basis. "Night on Bald Mountain"? I guess if that had been the only piece Mussorgsky wrote, and he explicitly said, "This is what life and the world means to me," then yeah, I guess you could reasonably infer that he was a really dark dude. However, in the context of everything else he wrote, it was just another piece, reflecting a darker, demonic scene from his imagination. And what's wrong with that, in the broader context? Rand included villains in her novels, too, and they were intended as contrast items to serve as foils to the good, not as ends in themselves. Who is saying that "Night on Bald Mountain" is a take-it-or-leave-it summation of man and the universe?

Especially when you're trying to assess someone with such a massive output as Beethoven's, you really have to do more heavy lifting the simplistic dismissal that opinionated musical amateurs tend to make. It's just irresponsible to listen to no more Beethoven than Rand admitted to, and to condemn him as "malevolent." Unless Rand knew something about Beethoven's explicit philosophy of life -- and unless she wanted to make some cockeyed kind of case that any seeming benevolence in Beethoven's music is a superficial sham, sort of like Kant arguing for limited government and treating others as ends in themselves -- I can't fathom how she could justify making a global condemnation of Beethoven as being essentially anti-life or "malevolent."

Considering how little of Beethoven's music Rand had listened to, her judgment of Beethoven sounds a lot like uninformed pontificating -- or at least, grossly over-generalized pontificating. There is definitely a tendency toward sense-of-life Rationalism (top-down, armchair, deductive application of one's implicit metaphysics) in Rand's thinking, and it leaped out in full bloom in this case.

REB
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#13 Ellen Stuttle

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Posted 04 April 2006 - 05:21 PM

Ellen, I wonder if the cause of Rand's antipathy toward Beethoven and his music could be as simple as her having heard that his main theme (motif) of the 5th Symphony (da da da daaaa) was supposed to represent Fate knocking at the door. As we all know, Fate = fatalism = determinism = malevolent sense of life.

Roger,

No, I don't think it could be that simple. She had heard at least some of his music, and she listened to the selections Julie sent her. And she'd had conversations with Allan Blumenthal on the subject. (He tried to encourage a more favorable, by her standards, interpretation -- of Beethoven and of others, e.g., Brahms, Mozart, Haydn, whom she disliked as well, though she didn't call them "malevolent." Mozart she called pre-music. I kid you not.)

Didn't Rand also dislike Shakespeare?

Yes; she called him a naturalist.

As for the Germanic style not being to her taste, didn't she like some of Wagner? What about "Hymn to the Evening Star" from Tannhauser? I think she mentioned that favorably somewhere, but I can't recall just where.

Yes, she did like that. She also liked some Mendelssohn. She didn't like Wagner in general, however. Plus, Wagner was highly chromatic. It's that 4-square Germanic style which she seems not to have liked. I never specifically posed this hypothesis to Allan; it's something I thought of later. But I think a lot of the music she didn't like could be described as having regular, Germanic-style rhythms (and a Germanic pallette in harmonies).

At some point, I'll have to tell a Rand-and-music story pertaining to Allan's music class... Maybe after dinner.

Ellen

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#14 DavidMcK

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Posted 04 April 2006 - 06:20 PM

'The Fountainhead' pg. 661 in the paperback edition (Wynand is walking around after caving in)
"He walked past the door of a saloon. There was a smell of stale beer. A woman sat slumped, breasts flattened against the table top. A juke box played Wagner's 'Song to the Evening Star,' adapted, in swing time."

David

P.S. It is interesting that Rachmaninoff was just the opposite about his Russian background; in order to get himself composing again here in the United States, one of his biographers tells us he had to surround himself with Russian things, music, people, etc. In Russia there was a big conflict between the Western oriented and the ones who claimed to be pure Russian (the 'Russian 5'). but really all of them were influenced by the West.

#15 Roger Bissell

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Posted 04 April 2006 - 07:31 PM

Ellen, I bow to your first-hand acquaintance with Rand and the Blumenthals in re Rand's attitude toward Beethoven &c. And I look forward to whatever you can share about your experiences in the Blumenthals' music lectures.

I have transcribed 5 of their 12 lectures to this point, and I marvel at how similar their view of music in re emotion and in re its analogy to literature is to my own, which I was developing independently at about the same time (the early 70s). Living down in the Buckle of the Bible Belt (Nashville, Tennessee), I was lucky to get in on some of one-shot auditings of the basic Objectivist history of philosophy taped lectures, and it was only recently that I sprung for the Blumenthal lectures. (Michelle Kamhi, with whom I've had substantial disagreements about emotion and meaning in music, suggested that I should hear what they had to say, and it reinforced my own viewpoint, rather than nudging me in her direction. This has also happened with other authors she likes, in particular, Roger Scruton's The Philosophy of Music and Stephen Halliwell's The Aesthetics of Mimesis. I may post on this at some point over in the aesthetics folder. I include it here just for context and background.)

Anyway, the Blumenthals are heroes of mine, and one of the few regrets I have over not locating in NYC after finishing college in 1971 is missing out on joining forces with them and taking the Objectivist thinking on music beyond Rand's muddled and amateurish writings (in particular, the stuff she wrote in "Art and Cognition). I also think it's a crying shame that their noble and noteworthy efforts to upgrade her musical knowledge and acquaintance with great musical works did not result in her writing anything else on music. All of her lecturing about the need for a technical vocabulary in music was met in spades by the Blumenthals, yet it stimulated no further efforts by Rand to write with more objectivity about music; she apparently remained stuck on the subjective level she acknowledge in her 1971 essay. If she did evolve her thoughts on music, she certainly didn't share them with us. The only apparent change she made in ANY of her views on art was to authorize Binswanger to omit the planned entry for "architecture" from The Ayn Rand Lexicon, on the grounds that architecture did not fit her definition of "art." Not only was this an embarrassing (though silent) alteration of her official views, it was an error, as I argued in my "Art as Microcosm" essay.

Anyone wanting to see the current state of my thinking about music and architecture and art in general should check out this essay (which Mike has graciously posted over in the aesthetics folder), as well as my essay comparing Rand, Langer, and Camus about art. Both of them are available in their Journal of Ayn Rand Studies format on my website at:

http://members.aol.c...l/indexmmm.html

So, Ellen, any time you are ready, I for one am salivating for details of your reminiscences of the Blumenthals' music course "in vivo." :-)

Best,
REB
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#16 Ellen Stuttle

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Posted 04 April 2006 - 10:28 PM

I mentioned in my earlier post that AR liked some of Mendelssohn. I'm reminded of a story...

--

At the time when Allan was starting preparations for his music course, I was repeating his regular psychology course. (I'd previously taken that and one he offered for people with a professional interest in psychology. The second time I took the regular course, Larry was taking it with me.) At the next-to-last session, Allan asked if I'd come about an hour before the last class so I could talk with him about music; he thought the conversation might stimulate ideas. Due to a moment of clumsiness on Larry's part, I didn't make the appointment. Larry managed to spill a jug of grape juice in the refrigerator just as we were getting ready to leave (he'd been going to leave when I did and wait while Allan and I were talking). So I missed the train I'd expected to catch. Allan didn't have time to talk after the class. Thus he said to call and we'd arrange an evening when we were both free.

The earliest occasion when our schedules jibed was about a month later. By then Allan had progressed with his plans for the music course. He told me his tentative outline. He also said that in the penultimate class, he was going to play a record and ask the attendees to try to identify the composer from the style. He grinned with an Allan grin and said, "And I know which composer I'll use."

I almost said -- the name leaping to my mind -- "Mendelssohn." But I held back, since I felt that if I was right, then Allan might feel that he had to change to someone else. The reason I thought of Mendelssohn was because it would every now and then happen, if I would tune in to a classical station in the middle of a piece, that I would be puzzled at hearing something obviously in the late classical-period style the composer of which I couldn't recognize. I'd know that it wasn't Beethoven, but it would seem too late to be Mozart, and not really quite Schubertian, and I'd draw a blank. Then the announcer would say "Mendelssohn" and I'd think, "Oh, of course, I'm always forgetting about Mendelssohn." So he seemed the perfect choice.

A year or so later, come the music course...

The third row on the right facing the podium would be reserved for Ayn Rand and coterie. Edith Packer generally sat next to her. Leonard Peikoff would sit in that row. I think Susan Ludel attended, and the Kalbermans and Barbara Weiss. I especially remember AR and Edith and Leonard being there. A friend of mine who was coming down from New Rochelle would arrive early; he'd sit in the row in front of the reserved row and save me a seat. A couple times I was directly in front of AR, other times in front of her one or two seats to her right. She and Edith occasionally exchanged murmured remarks. Most of these remarks I couldn't hear, even though my hearing is extra acute. But her reaction when the "mystery composer" recording started to play I heard distinctly. "I know who it is!" she said, in her "youthful pleased delight" variety of voice tones; "I have the record."

And I felt: Damn, Allan, you set it up. You set it up to make her look good, to make it look as if she could identify the composer by style when in fact she isn't identifying by style but by recognition of a recording she's familiar with.

I'm just about sure that as part of the exercise Allan requested that people who knew what the composition was not enter slips (those who entered correct guesses were to receive the record as a prize). Nevertheless (and assuming he did make this request), she entered a slip. The last class, Allan announced that 4 (as I recall) people had named the composer and that one of those was Ayn Rand.

Grrr.

Ellen

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#17 Ellen Stuttle

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Posted 04 April 2006 - 10:54 PM

I look forward to whatever you can share about your experiences in the Blumenthals' music lectures.

My memories of that course are bittersweet, mostly painful. As the course progressed, I began to think the following thought, in these exact words: "He's either going to split with her or lose his soul."

He walked a fence so carefully between his tastes and informed-musician beliefs and her preferences and prejudices, he had to know the fence was there, I thought. One can't walk a fence so carefully without awareness of the fence. And he was going to fall one way or the other, either into losing his own reality or breaking with AR.

I have transcribed 5 of their 12 lectures to this point, and I marvel at how similar their view of music in re emotion and in re its analogy to literature is to my own, which I was developing independently at about the same time (the early 70s).

I've never listened to the re-done set. I believe they re-did it - yes?, that the set for sale isn't recordings of the original live lectures? I've wondered what changes he made, but I've never quite dared to find out.

Anyway, the Blumenthals are heroes of mine, and one of the few regrets I have over not locating in NYC after finishing college in 1971 is missing out on joining forces with them and taking the Objectivist thinking on music beyond Rand's muddled and amateurish writings (in particular, the stuff she wrote in "Art and Cognition). I also think it's a crying shame that their noble and noteworthy efforts to upgrade her musical knowledge and acquaintance with great musical works did not result in her writing anything else on music. All of her lecturing about the need for a technical vocabulary in music was met in spades by the Blumenthals, yet it stimulated no further efforts by Rand to write with more objectivity about music; she apparently remained stuck on the subjective level she acknowledge in her 1971 essay. If she did evolve her thoughts on music, she certainly didn't share them with us.

I think you wouldn't have gotten anywhere with her, any more than they did. Remember the quote from Allan in the post with which I started the "A quote (from AB) and comments re AR's journals" thread in the Branden Corner:

(The quote starts with an "and," since it occurred in the midst of a series of reflections.) "And there are some subjects about which she knows nothing," he said, "like music and painting. But if you try to explain to her, she'll tell you you're wrong. And then she'll call the next day to ask if you've thought about what she said, and if you say 'no,' then it will be long discussions of your psychoepistemology. Conversations with her were not a pleasure."  

Of course he was highlighting the negative when he told me this. He'd by then split with Rand (several months previously) and was looking back on his relationship with her. He'd found value as well as displeasure in conversations with her, else he wouldn't have remained her associate as long as he did. But I felt as I talked with him that day that what he was saying confirmed my own disinclination to avoid getting "too close" to Rand's near orbit.


It's a sad story, Roger. It really is. If-onlys. But the if-onlys weren't, and wouldn't have been, I believe, whoever had tried with her.

Ellen

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#18 Roger Bissell

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Posted 05 April 2006 - 12:59 AM

Ellen, I really enjoyed your reminiscences about the Blumenthals' music lecture course. You wrote:

it would every now and then happen, if I would tune in to a classical station in the middle of a piece, that I would be puzzled at hearing something obviously in the late classical-period style the composer of which I couldn't recognize. I'd know that it wasn't Beethoven, but it would seem too late to be Mozart, and not really quite Schubertian, and I'd draw a blank. Then the announcer would say "Mendelssohn" and I'd think, "Oh, of course, I'm always forgetting about Mendelssohn." So he seemed the perfect choice.


Very interesting -- I have always (since college in the late 60s) had a similar experience with Mendelssohn. I've always enjoyed him, but had trouble recognizing him -- sort of the "I remember the face, but I can't place the name."

You also wrote:

A couple times I was directly in front of AR, other times in front of her one or two seats to her right. She and Edith occasionally exchanged murmured remarks. Most of these remarks I couldn't hear, even though my hearing is extra acute. But her reaction when the "mystery composer" recording started to play I heard distinctly. "I know who it is!" she said, in her "youthful pleased delight" variety of voice tones; "I have the record."  

And I felt: Damn, Allan, you set it up. You set it up to make her look good, to make it look as if she could identify the composer by style when in fact she isn't identifying by style but by recognition of a recording she's familiar with.  

I'm just about sure that as part of the exercise Allan requested that people who knew what the composition was not enter slips (those who entered correct guesses were to receive the record as a prize). Nevertheless (and assuming he did make this request), she entered a slip. The last class, Allan announced that 4 (as I recall) people had named the composer and that one of those was Ayn Rand.

Grrr.


Grrr, indeed! It's a good thing that you were only "just about sure" and not totally (Dwyerianly) sure -- otherwise, we'd all be staring at proof that Rand was not morally perfect. :-/

REB
Objectivism, properly used, is a tool for living, not a weapon with which to bash those one disagrees with.

#19 Roger Bissell

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Posted 05 April 2006 - 01:11 AM

Ellen, you wrote:

My memories of that course are bittersweet, mostly painful. As the course progressed, I began to think the following thought, in these exact words: "He's either going to split with her or lose his soul." He walked a fence so carefully between his tastes and informed-musician beliefs and her preferences and prejudices, he had to know the fence was there, I thought. One can't walk a fence so carefully without awareness of the fence. And he was going to fall one way or the other, either into losing his own reality or breaking with AR.

I suppose it was inevitable. I found it amusing, in this light, to listen to the lectures on music from periods other than the Romantic Era, especially the Baroque, hearing Allan and Joan talk about the drama and the "romantic" themes and climaxes in that music, knowing that Rand must have had a skeptical eyebrow raised when she'd hear such things about "pre-music."

You might find it interesting to know that my wife and I (16 years before marrying, but 5 years after having an inkling that we should -- if you catch my drift) were both speakers at a Midwestern Objectivist-oriented conference on aesthetics in 1974 in Milwaukee, and I made the claim that a particular movement from an unaccompanied cello suite by J. S. Bach was "romantic" and embodied goal-directed action. Becky agreed, because she had always thought that Bach was a very passionate and romantic composer, even though a gross anachronism in re Romanticism.

I've never listened to the re-done set. I believe they re-did it - yes?, that the set for sale isn't recordings of the original live lectures? I've wondered what changes he made, but I've never quite dared to find out.

I have no idea about the changes he and Joan made, but it is clear that the recordings sold through Laissez-Faire Books are not dubs from the tapes of the original live lectures. I've been skipping around, following my principal interests, so I haven't heard all the lectures yet (only about half); but (in my professional opinion) they are very well done.

Thanks again for sharing your memories and reflections about this.

REB
Objectivism, properly used, is a tool for living, not a weapon with which to bash those one disagrees with.

#20 Ellen Stuttle

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Posted 05 April 2006 - 01:37 AM

I have always (since college in the late 60s) had a similar experience with Mendelssohn. I've always enjoyed him, but had trouble recognizing him -- sort of the "I remember the face, but I can't place the name."

Right, sort of like that. Nowadays I'll know it's Mendelssohn because I've heard so much of his music I'll recognize the composition immediately. But if something of his were played that I'd never heard, I might still at first wonder who wrote it.

Grrr, indeed! It's a good thing that you were only "just about sure" and not totally (Dwyerianly) sure -- otherwise, we'd all be staring at proof that Rand was not morally perfect.  :-/

It could be of course that she didn't hear him say that those who knew what the composition was shouldn't enter slips (I am pretty sure, like 99.9..% sure, he did say that). But the incident wasn't Allan's finest moment either, on the assumption -- which I think is a safe bet -- that he knew that the composition was one she'd recognize.

Ellen

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