Michelle Marder Kamhi's "Who Says That's Art?"


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Here's a great example of the irrationality, arbitrariness, and double standards of Kamhi and Torres's mindset:

http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB125426448028050665

Note in the comments section that Torres declares all of these miniature sculptures to be "not art."

Why? Because they're miniature? If so, where and when did scale become one of their criteria? Or is it because Torres just personally has a bug up his bossy ass, and dislikes the tiny sculptures for some irrational reason? Perhaps he enjoys saying "Not art" so much that he'll say it about anything?

They really do seem to get a huge thrill out of getting in people's faces and saying "That's not art." It appears to be the irrational thrill of destruction, and of trying to bring everyone down to their level. They seem to be primarily motivated by being angry that others are getting depth and meaning out of things which do nothing for them, and that seems to make them want to lash out at others and try to destroy their enjoyment of art.

There's no other explanation for their selective application of their own stated criteria. There's no other reason for suddenly randomly making sculptural scale a determining factor of what's not art.

J

J, I'd say that you are coming at this from the wrong direction, with the wrong end of the stick. You'd expect that from me. But suffice to ask if you're at least aware that there is a different opinion to yours which is not at all based on anger and destruction. Rather, 1. it is a stance wholly in defence of the uniqueness of art. 2. It is in defence of objectivity and objective definitions. 3. It is all for the mind of man.

And a few individuals who are speaking up, clearly and rationally, against the entrenched and powerful Art Establishment are hardly the bullies you make of them. By far, the reverse, more like rocks against the popular current; while they might not get everything right all the time.

Art is symptomatic (and the motivator) of much, today. Here is a huge (probably favoritist or cronyist) industry which self-rewardedly deems what art is, for its own benefits and status. Following them, the many people who blindly depend on what they are told of the nature of art, and great art, by 'experts'. And underneath, common and universal egalitarianism which dictates that everybody has equal talent, everybody equally deserves success by only existing, and art is 'anything goes'. All together, I think the result is a corruption and devaluation of what art means.

If someone enjoys viewing something, hell - then let him enjoy it!

Who's going to prevent his enjoyment? But why is it that this enjoyable work (craft or design, or whatever) should have to carry the prestigious cachet - "Art" - in order to be enjoyed? it speaks of something false and second-handed.

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I’m not knowledgeable or passionate about art but I have followed many of your conversations with interest. When you  point out the inconsistency that music doesn’t fit her criteria but she called it

LOL. Look at the amount of verbiage you produced when I didn't even cite a passage.  What would I be in for if I did? Ellen  btw, I haven't read any further than the sentence I quoted,

I could, abundant passages, like approximately the whole book. But I don't have the time, and if I did have the time, I wouldn't want to spend it on so frustrating a proceeding - way worse than t

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Here's a great example of the irrationality, arbitrariness, and double standards of Kamhi and Torres's mindset:

http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB125426448028050665

Note in the comments section that Torres declares all of these miniature sculptures to be "not art."

Why? Because they're miniature? If so, where and when did scale become one of their criteria? Or is it because Torres just personally has a bug up his bossy ass, and dislikes the tiny sculptures for some irrational reason? Perhaps he enjoys saying "Not art" so much that he'll say it about anything?

They really do seem to get a huge thrill out of getting in people's faces and saying "That's not art." It appears to be the irrational thrill of destruction, and of trying to bring everyone down to their level. They seem to be primarily motivated by being angry that others are getting depth and meaning out of things which do nothing for them, and that seems to make them want to lash out at others and try to destroy their enjoyment of art.

There's no other explanation for their selective application of their own stated criteria. There's no other reason for suddenly randomly making sculptural scale a determining factor of what's not art.

J

J, I'd say that you are coming at this from the wrong direction, with the wrong end of the stick. You'd expect that from me. But suffice to ask if you're at least aware that there is a different opinion to yours which is not at all based on anger and destruction. Rather, 1. it is a stance wholly in defence of the uniqueness of art. 2. It is in defence of objectivity and objective definitions. 3. It is all for the mind of man.

And a few individuals who are speaking up, clearly and rationally, against the entrenched and powerful Art Establishment are hardly the bullies you make of them. By far, the reverse, more like rocks against the popular current, while they might not get everything right.

Art is symptomatic (and the motivator) of much, today. Here is a huge (probably cronyist) industry which self-rewardedly deems what art is, for its own benefits and status. Following them, the many people who blindly depend on what they are told of the nature of art, and great art, is by 'experts'. And underneath, common and universal egalitarianism which dictates that everybody has equal talent, everybody equally deserves success by only existing, and art is 'anything goes'. All together, the result is a corruption and devaluation of what art means.

If someone enjoys viewing something, why - then let them enjoy it!

Who's going to prevent their enjoyment? But why is it that enjoyable work - craft, or design, or whatever - should have to carry the prestigious cachet - "Art" - in order to be enjoyed? it speaks of something false and second-handed.

No, it's where do you get off telling artists they aren't creating art and therefore they aren't artists until you get to around to saying otherwise? This is dogma you're pushing--cultural fascism. For the same reason classical Objectivism is intellectual dogma--intellectual fascism. That's why Nathaniel Branden and Ayn Rand told everybody to shut up back in the sixties. Then Rand told Branden the same thing, except he didn't. Then Leonard Peikoff, the surviving King of Objectivism, tried the same thing with Barbara Branden because she wouldn't shut up--kowtow. His attitude to "The Passion of Ayn Rand" was, "I don't know, I don't know, I don't know" (and I'm not going to know) or, "Don't bother me, don't bother me, don't bother me."

--Brant

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J, I could say that you are coming at this from the wrong direction, with the wrong end of the stick. But suffice to ask if you're at least aware that there is an opposing opinion to yours which is not at all based on anger and destruction. Rather, 1. it is a stance wholly in defence of the uniqueness of art. 2. It is in defence of objectivity and objective definitions.

What is "objective" about the idea of declaring tiny realistic sculptures of intelligible, identifiable figures to be "not art"???!!!!

3. It is all for the mind of man.

Why do you keep ignoring my questions about whose mind represents the limits of "the mind of man"? If the capabilities and limits of "man's mind" are actually the issue here, then why are the limits of your and Kamhi's and Torres's minds the only limits that are considered valid and representative of "man's mind"? Please, answer the question, Tony.

I specifically asked you about the Objectivish student-artist whose mind wasn't able to comprehend very obvious perspective errors in a realistic painting. As I said, she was completely certain that I was just making things up in claiming to see the errors. Tony, does that mean that "the mind of man" is not equipped to comprehend the perspective errors? Like you, since she couldn't see and comprehend something in a painting, then no one could? Answer the question, Tony.

And a few individuals who are speaking up, clearly and rationally, against the entrenched and powerful Art Establishment are hardly the bullies you make of them. By far, the reverse.

What is "clear and rational" about Torres arbitrarily declaring that miniature realistic sculptures are "not art"? Tony, are you saying that you actually agree with Torres that the miniature sculptures are not art?!!! If so, what is the "clear and rational" reason that makes you believe that they should not qualify as art?

Art is symptomatic (and motivator) of much today. Here is a huge (probably cronyist) industry which self-rewardedly deems what art is, for its own benefits and status. Following them, the many people who blindly depend on what they are told of the nature of art and what great art is by 'experts'.

When you say that people blindly depend on what they are told of the nature of art by 'experts,' do you mean Ayn Rand? Kamhi and Torres have officially declared that architecture is not art, so you must be referring to Rand's promoting the idea of architecture as a valid form of art for almost her entire adult life. You're saying that she was a blind follower, and that her following was "symptomatic," and that she was fooled by the huge cronyism industry which self-rewardedly deems what art is. Or perhaps you're saying that she was a part of the cronyist industry and she self-rewardely deemed that architecture was art for the sake of her own benefits and status?

And underneath, the premise of egalitarianism which dictates that everybody has equal talent, everybody deserves to be great...

Heh. No one in the art world thinks that everyone has equal talent, or that everyone deserves to be great. As usual, you're having frantic Objectivish fantasies. You're not able to distinguish between what is real and what is imaginary.

...and art is 'anything goes'.

Under Kamhi's criteria, art is "nothing goes." Under Torres, his own criteria are sometimes arbitrarily abandoned, and random new criteria are invented and adopted, so that he can enjoy the thrill of saying "Not art" to people.

All together, the result is a corruption and devaluation of what art means.

So, an artist's making tiny realistic sculptures is "corruption" and "devaluation" in your opinion? Wow. Totally nutty!

What is the smallest acceptable size of sculptures, and by what "clear and rational" objective standard have you arrived at the size limit? Is there also a scale which is too large? Are certain works not art because they must be viewed from special, artificial circumstances or perspectives which don't exist in nature? So, if we were to make a gigantic drawing on the moon, and viewers needed a telescope to see it, it wouldn't be art? And the Nazca figures aren't art?

Seriously, Tony, please help me to understand the "clear and rational" thinking behind the issue of Torres claiming that miniature realistic sculptures are not art. Identify the "clear and rational" basis for his opinion.

If someone enjoys viewing something, why - then let them enjoy it!

Who's going to prevent their enjoyment? But why that enjoyable work - craft, or design, or whatever - should have to carry the prestigious cachet - "Art" - in order to be enjoyed, speaks of something false and second-handed.

Then I think that the first step would be for Objectivish-types to sweep their own doorstep first, and attack Ayn Rand and The Fountainhead as being fraudulent, second-hand destroyers of the prestigious cachet of "art." Why aren't they doing so?

J

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No, it's where do you get off telling artists they aren't creating art and therefore they aren't artists until you get to around to saying otherwise? This is dogma you're pushing--cultural fascism.

Indeed, it's a sort of cultural fascism which is coming from aesthetically incompetent people who attempt to arbitrarily establish their own personal aesthetic incompetence as representing the limits of "man's mind." Their position is nothing more than their refusal to believe that others can experience in various art forms what the aesthetically incompetent can't.

J

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J, I could say that you are coming at this from the wrong direction, with the wrong end of the stick. But suffice to ask if you're at least aware that there is an opposing opinion to yours which is not at all based on anger and destruction. Rather, 1. it is a stance wholly in defence of the uniqueness of art. 2. It is in defence of objectivity and objective definitions.

What is "objective" about the idea of declaring tiny realistic sculptures of intelligible, identifiable figures to be "not art"???!!!!

J

The subject is abstract art, I remind you. From there, you've brought in this weird and wonderful, extreme example to oppose an argument which nobody but Torres made. I'll indulge you your red herring.

I know very little about Torres, and only a little about Kamhi, but if it is he who passed this assessment, after seeing a few samples I'd tend to not agree.

(Anyway, this has not much to do with my post).

The figures are identifiable, sure. If they'd been of 'normal' scale, I'd say, still, that it is art, if not in itself particularly good art.

Their impact rests mostly upon extraneous things - What we know about the process: which is the unbelievable patience and skill to produce a microscopic, but recognizable object, and our wonderment at this. Novelty value and rarity is an extraneous element too.

My question:

Is it your conviction that the harder the artist's effort, the greater the proof of art?

An abstract painting could just as well take a minute, or months.

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3. It is all for the mind of man.

Why do you keep ignoring my questions about whose mind represents the limits of "the mind of man"? If the capabilities and limits of "man's mind" are actually the issue here, then why are the limits of your and Kamhi's and Torres's minds the only limits that are considered valid and representative of "man's mind"? Please, answer the question, Tony.

If someone enjoys viewing something, why - then let them enjoy it!

Who's going to prevent their enjoyment? But why that enjoyable work - craft, or design, or whatever - should have to carry the prestigious cachet - "Art" - in order to be enjoyed, speaks of something false and second-handed.

Then I think that the first step would be for Objectivish-types to sweep their own doorstep first, and attack Ayn Rand and The Fountainhead as being fraudulent, second-hand destroyers of the prestigious cachet of "art." Why aren't they doing so?

J

"Whose mind?" We keep coming back to this. Your mind. My mind. Man's mind. Objectivism, identity, consciousness. I believe that you can be objective and I know that I can be. But as long as you are stuck in an 'empirical-universal' mode, you aren't going to find that ultimate 'proof' you look for.

(Until the last person on earth has been interviewed, and the final scientific test completed - and even then, how does anyone know anything for certain?).

Please explain the reference to The Fountainhead, which I don't understand.

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No, it's where do you get off telling artists they aren't creating art and therefore they aren't artists until you get to around to saying otherwise? This is dogma you're pushing--cultural fascism.

Indeed, it's a sort of cultural fascism which is coming from aesthetically incompetent people who attempt to arbitrarily establish their own personal aesthetic incompetence as representing the limits of "man's mind." Their position is nothing more than their refusal to believe that others can experience in various art forms what the aesthetically incompetent can't.

J

I think some perspective is called for. If in our tiny pool in a small pond of Objectivist (and Oist-friendly) types, the overwhelming and longstanding powerful status quo of the art world, is being challenged by a handful of writers - exactly which bunch, in numbers and influence, are the true cultural fascists?

The issue is simply IDENTITY, not an attack on art, but its support and rescue.

(I do sense a back-handed compliment to O'ism in here, though. :smile: )

Enough from me for now.

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"Whose mind?" We keep coming back to this.

Yes, we keep coming back to "whose mind?" because you keep refusing to answer the question. You keep referring to your own personal limitations as representing the limit of what "man's mind" is capable of.

Your mind. My mind. Man's mind. Objectivism, identity, consciousness.

If my mind counts as "man's mind," then why do my aesthetic responses not count as valid, but only yours, Kamhi's and Torres's do? Why do you assert that my aesthetic responses are pretend, that I'm not thinking for myself but am mindlessly following the orders of an elite arts establishment?

I believe that you can be objective and I know that I can be. But as long as you are stuck in an 'empirical-universal' mode, you aren't going to find that ultimate 'proof' you look for.

Moron, I'm not stuck in an empircal-universal mode. Jesus, you are dense! Um, have you not been paying attention to the fact that you've been referring to "man's mind" and its limitations in this discussion? Haven't you noticed that you have not been referring to only your own mind and your personal limits of experience, but that you've been asserting that "man's mind" is not capable of anything beyond what your mind is capable of? How are you not grasping that you are the one who is making a universal claim about the limits of cognitive ability of all of mankind? Idiot!

(Until the last person on earth has been interviewed, and the final scientific test completed - and even then, how does anyone know anything for certain?).

Jesus. Where do you come up with these insane misinterpretations of what I'm saying?!!!

My position is not that we can't know anything for certain. My position isn't that we would have to test the entire population for anything. My position is that "man's mind" is not limited to what your mind is limited to. "Man's mind" is also not limited to what my mind is limited to. I suck at math. That doesn't mean that all of mankind sucks at math. Understand?

Please explain the reference to The Fountainhead, which I don't understand.

I already explained it to you: Kamhi and Torres have declared that architecture is not art, so therefore by your method of judgment Rand was a destroyer of the proper concept of "art" because she spent a great deal of her life promoting the idea that architecture was a valid art form, including writing the novel The Fountainhead, which treats architecture as an art form.

J

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The subject is abstract art, I remind you. From there, you've brought in this weird and wonderful, extreme example to oppose an argument which nobody but Torres made. I'll indulge you your red herring.

In response to my posting Torres's opinion on the miniature sculptures, you defended Torres as one of the heroic individuals who is standing up "clearly and rationally" against the arts establishment. Did you not visit the link prior to giving that opinion?

I know very little about Torres, and only a little about Kamhi, but if it is he who passed this assessment, after seeing a few samples I'd tend to not agree.

Okay, so then his opinion on the sculptures isn't an example of being "clear and rational"?

(Anyway, this has not much to do with my post).

The figures are identifiable, sure. If they'd been of 'normal' scale, I'd say, still, that it is art, if not in itself particularly good art.

Technnically, Wigan's work probably takes more skill than Capuletti's work.

Their impact rests mostly upon extraneous things - What we know about the process...

See what you just did there again? You wrote of your personal response as if everyone responds that way. You wrote of "we" when you were actually talking about you. You were attempting to sneak in your response as universal. You're attempting to imply that anyone who doesn't respond in the way that you're limited to isn't a part of the "we," and therefore doesn't count, and their aesthetic responses can therefore be ignored, disregarded and invalidated.

...which is the unbelievable patience and skill to produce a microscopic, but recognizable object, and our wonderment at this. Novelty value and rarity is an extraneous element too.

My question:

Is it your conviction that the harder the artist's effort, the greater the proof of art?

No.

An abstract painting could just as well take a minute, or months.

As could a great song. Many song-writers have talked about a song just popping into their heads and requiring no effort.

J

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Jonathan,

Judging from your posts, you still aren't getting the differences between:

-- being intelligible and communicating;

You're playing semantic games. Let's cut to the chase. Define your terms. Please define "intelligible" and "communication."

Try this example:

Rosetta Stone

wired.com link

Sept. 27, 1822: Deciphering the Rosetta Stone Unlocks Egyptian History

BY JASON B. JONES 09.27.10 | 7:00 AM |

1822: Jean-François Champollion shows a draft translation of the mysterious Rosetta stone and demonstrates to the world how to read the voluminous hieroglyphics left behind by the scribes of ancient Egypt.

Further material on how Champollion did it: sacred-texts.com link.

Hieroglyphics were intelligible in the centuries after all those who had used them for communication had died and during which they were largely indecipherable.

---

I've meanwhile been reading an earlier thread in which you did a lot of chasing - a thread ostensively about Dutton's The Art Instinct. I scarcely glanced at that at the time, as I was too busy with climate issues to get into art issues.

I'll discuss some material from that earlier thread when I can - with luck, maybe later today. However, there's a blizzard starting here. The storm is predicted to be a humongous one, with possible power outages.

Regarding some of your questions pertaining to Kamhi, however, haven't you read the book?

Doesn't look to me as if you've done much more than snatch quotes out of context.

For instance, this:

Ellen, please demonstrate, point by point and step by step, a piece of music complying with Kamhi's criteria of art. Objectively show how it meets each of her requirements. [emphasis added]

The criteria Kamhi lists in Who Says That's Art? aren't proposed as criteria of ART generically but of visual art.

Likewise, the definition is for visual art. An endnote to the definition says:

pg. 260

1. This definition is based, in part, on the one I offered for all fine art (not just visual art): Art is a selective re-creation of reality according to an artist's fundamental view of life, which includes his deepest values. (What Art Is, 107-108). Crucial to both definitions is the idea that genuine art is the expression of deeply held values and beliefs.

Nothing about "representation" in that.

Ellen

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Try this example:

Rosetta Stone

Quote

wired.com link

Sept. 27, 1822: Deciphering the Rosetta Stone Unlocks Egyptian History

BY JASON B. JONES 09.27.10 | 7:00 AM |

1822: Jean-François Champollion shows a draft translation of the mysterious Rosetta stone and demonstrates to the world how to read the voluminous hieroglyphics left behind by the scribes of ancient Egypt.

Further material on how Champollion did it: sacred-texts.com link.

Hieroglyphics were intelligible in the centuries after all those who had used them for communication had died and during which they were largely indecipherable.

---

I don't see your definitions for "intelligible" and "communication" in there. I don't see where you specifically identified WHAT Kamhi believes must be intelligible in art. I don't see your explanation of why that requirement of what must be intelligible does not equal communication.

You don't want to actually define your terms, do you? Heh.

I've meanwhile been reading an earlier thread in which you did a lot of chasing - a thread ostensively about Dutton's The Art Instinct. I scarcely glanced at that at the time, as I was too busy with climate issues to get into art issues.

I'll discuss some material from that earlier thread when I can - with luck, maybe later today. However, there's a blizzard starting here. The storm is predicted to be a humongous one, with possible power outages.

Are you looking for a distraction so that you don't have to answer the questions that have been asked on this thread?

You haven't defined "intelligible" and "communication," and you haven't explained the big difference between the two in regard to Kamhi's criteria of art. You haven't given any examples of music qualifying as art by her criteria.

Regarding some of your questions pertaining to Kamhi, however, haven't you read the book?

Doesn't look to me as if you've done much more than snatch quotes out of context.

For instance, this:

Jonathan, on 24 Jan 2015 - 2:47 PM, said:

Ellen, please demonstrate, point by point and step by step, a piece of music complying with Kamhi's criteria of art. Objectively show how it meets each of her requirements. [emphasis added]

The criteria Kamhi lists in Who Says That's Art? aren't proposed as criteria of ART generically but of visual art.

Oh, indeed! As I said earlier, Kamhi arbitrarily has different criteria for different art forms based on whether she wants them to qualify as art or not. Perhaps you're easily fooled by that tactic, but I'm not.

But that's not important, because music doesn't qualify as art by any of Kamhi's selectively applied definitions or criteria!

Likewise, the definition is for visual art. An endnote to the definition says:

Quote

pg. 260

1. This definition is based, in part, on the one I offered for all fine art (not just visual art): Art is a selective re-creation of reality according to an artist's fundamental view of life, which includes his deepest values. (What Art Is, 107-108). Crucial to both definitions is the idea that genuine art is the expression of deeply held values and beliefs.

Nothing about "representation" in that.

Heh. Except the "re-creation of reality part."

Oh, wait. Does "re-creation of reality" mean whatever you personally want it to mean? Just like "abstract art" means to you something other than what Kamhi and all of art history meant?

Ellen, perhaps you'd like to take a shot at answering Dutton's question: "Exactly what reality is 're-created' in a Bach fugue?"

Then again, perhaps not.

J

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I've always thought that fugues were like multi-voice conversations "chewing" on the same comment(s) - difficult to follow, but aided somewhat by the recurrence of material. A well-written fugue is coherent and does not descend into unintelligible babble. The best fugues are written in a key that makes them playable by trombone trios or quartets. :-)

REB

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It just occurred to me that an effect similar to a fugue could be created by having one person begin talking and having his words displayed on a computer screen with a 10 second delay, at which point person #2 began reading those words, while person #1 continued saying additional material, then when person #2 reached the end of person #1's original remarks, she continued onward with the additional remarks, while person #3 entered repeating person #1's original remarks, etc. If their voices were sufficiently separated in pitch level, it could be very similar to a fugue or a 2- or 3-part invention.

As to what this might mean..."the whole town (or world) is talking about x." Like having 3 television sets all tuned to the evening news, with the same story(s) being broadcast, but somewhat out of sync in time and specific content. (This reminds me of Edith Efron's project during the 1968 presidential campaign, when she had three televisions and video recorders set to tape the evening news, in order to analyze it for liberal news bias - of which there was plenty. See The News Twisters. I wonder how J. S. Bach would have reacted to seeing that, if he could have come to 1968 in a time machine and seen it in real-time. Would he have said: "Ach, that is just like one of my fugues"? :-)

REB

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Ellen, perhaps you'd like to take a shot at answering Dutton's question: "Exactly what reality is 're-created' in a Bach fugue?"

That question is where you came in on the thread titled "The Art Instinct."

By post #12, in response to a question from Ted Keer, you were off and rampaging about supposed double standards on Rand's part because of her including music as an art form and not including "abstract art."

I could swear that the issue of "selective re-creation of reality" in regard to music was thrashed out toward the beginning of this board's history, maybe as far back as 2006.

I confess to having had troubles with that wording in relation to music myself, and I'm still not sure if it quite suits. However, I think I have a better understanding today than I once did of what Rand meant by "re-creation of reality."

I think she meant an imaginative re-doing of abstractions formed from reality. Roger, who I see has piped in, calls this forming a "microcosm."

What Rand thought music selectively re-creates is most briefly summarized in this statement which she made when she was comparing music and dance:

"Art and Cognition"

1975 Signet Second Revised Edition

pg. 57

[bold emphasis added]

[M]usic presents a stylized version of man's consciousness in action - the dance presents a stylized version of man's body in action. "Stylized" means condensed to essential characteristics, which are chosen according to an artist's views of man.

Music presents an abstraction of man's emotions in the context of his cognitive processes - the dance presents an abstraction of man's emotions in the context of his physical movements.

I have disagreements with Rand's approach to music, but it isn't as if she didn't say what she thought music selectively re-created.

A more general comment:

Your suggestion of throwing music out of the "art" category if it presents difficulties in terms of a proffered definition is completely backward.

Music is arguably the most venerable ancestor of the very idea of "the arts." All the muses sang, and each was associated with a musical instrument. Music has been since antiquity a primary phenomenon which people are trying to understand in theorizing about "art." If there's a problem about music's fit under a definition of "art," it's the definition which needs adjusting or discarding, not music which needs abandoning.

Ellen

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I've always thought that fugues were like multi-voice conversations "chewing" on the same comment(s) - difficult to follow, but aided somewhat by the recurrence of material. A well-written fugue is coherent and does not descend into unintelligible babble. The best fugues are written in a key that makes them playable by trombone trios or quartets. :-)

REB

So, based on the implied standards based on the respones to my descriptions of the content of the two abstract paintings, how would we determine that the music actually contains "re-creations" of conversations versus that Roger is just making things up, rationalizing, or "reading into" what's not there? If "ordinary citizens" can't identify what the "conversation" is about, wouldn't that make the art form abstract (in the historical meaning of the term, and not Ellen's personal meaning of it)?

Do all fugues "re-create" the same thing? Do they all therefore mean the same thing or express the same emotional content? No? If they don't express the same meanings or emotions, then their "conversation" aspect is not their essential characteristic, and therefore there must be some other thing which is being "re-created" which does express the differences in meaning or emotion. Specifically what is that something?

J

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I think she meant an imaginative re-doing of abstractions formed from reality. Roger, who I see has piped in, calls this forming a "microcosm."

Abstractions? Gasp!!! As in the historical meaning of "abstract art"?!!!

[M]usic presents a stylized version of man's consciousness in action - the dance presents a stylized version of man's body in action. "Stylized" means condensed to essential characteristics, which are chosen according to an artist's views of man.Music presents an abstraction of man's emotions in the context of his cognitive processes - the dance presents an abstraction of man's emotions in the context of his physical movements.

And you don't think that she's just "reading into" music? If emotions are re-created in music, then shouldn't "ordinary citizens" of " the public" be able to identify which emotions are being re-created as easily as they'd be able to identify, say, an apple versus a walnut in a painting?

Why are aural abstractions acceptable but visual abstractions are not? What rational explanation is there other than that, like Kamhi, Rand personally didn't get enough depth of emotion or meaning out of visual abstractions where she did out of music?

I have disagreements with Rand's approach to music, but it isn't as if she didn't say what she thought music selectively re-created.

A more general comment:

Your suggestion of throwing music out of the "art" category if it presents difficulties in terms of a proffered definition is completely backward.

Music is arguably the most venerable ancestor of the very idea of "the arts." All the muses sang, and each was associated with a musical instrument. Music has been since antiquity a primary phenomenon which people are trying to understand in theorizing about "art." If there's a problem about music's fit under a definition of "art," it's the definition which needs adjusting or discarding, not music which needs abandoning.

Ellen

Ditto shapes and colors and textures! And I couldn't agree more about definitions needing adjusting or discarding!

J

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I guess Rand was mostly interested in how visual art depicted the human body and human beings and abstract wasn't up to it. But her saying in so many words that she loved Frank's "Man Also Rises" has got to be her love being "exception making" in action. It's quasi abstract.

--Brant

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If I don't feel any emotions being re-created in a piece of music, would that be proof that those who claim to experience emotion in it are pretending in order to conform to and impress the elite musical establishment? Or is there some valid reason for a double standard in which my lack of response doesn't cancel out others' responses in exactly the same way that Kamhi's and Rand's lack of response cancels out mine?

J

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If I don't feel any emotions being re-created in a piece of music, would that be proof that those who claim to experience emotion in it are pretending in order to conform to and impress the elite musical establishment? Or is there some valid reason for a double standard in which my lack of response doesn't cancel out others' responses in exactly the same way that Kamhi's and Rand's lack of response cancels out mine?

J

Music simply doesn't fit Rand's definition of art. Anyway, emotions are in the listener and not in the music. How could they be in music? It's not sentient. Music is evocative. In standard classical music one tends to create images in one's head to match up with it. It's a help too with creativity. Art is the end result of creativity for its own sake. It's like a metaphorical mirror in which the one who looks into it sees back what he had not put into it but had to help create through that experience.

--Brant

trying--trying

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Jonathan in #340: "Do all fugues "re-create" the same thing? Do they all therefore mean the same thing or express the same emotional content? No? If they don't express the same meanings or emotions, then their "conversation" aspect is not their essential characteristic, and therefore there must be some other thing which is being "re-created" which does express the differences in meaning or emotion. Specifically what is that something?"

"The same thing"? Depends on your level of specificity. Certainly not the same emotional content, any more than one song is likely to express the same emotional content as another. However, I think that there fugues and songs that are more similar to one another (than to others) in their character and, yes, the emotions they express.

Just for example, compare "Time after Time" - the older song ("...I tell myself that I'm so lucky to be loving you..") - and "Right as the Rain." Note how similar is the sentiment expressed in the lyrics, how well the lyrics fit each song, how similar the melodic contours are, etc. Then ponder why it is that the former is considerably light-hearted and the latter much more reverent - and the former much more popular over the years, and the latter almost totally obscure except for some moving recent recordings by Barbra Streisand and Maureen McGovern. (This is just a teaser. It will be "in the book," so I'm not going to expand further on it now.)

The chief (but not only) culprits seem to be harmony and melodic intervals and melodic "direction." (Tempo and rhythmic style are important, too.) For instance, upward tending melodies connote striving, major key harmonies connote optimism, the melodic interval of the 6th moving to the 5th connotes joy - and not just because I'm "reading them in," or because countless composers and song-writers have used them in that way during the past 4 centuries, but because there are physiological factors that make them work that way. Deryck Cooke's 1960 book The Language of Music is very helpful with details, as is Helmholtz' The Sensations of Tone.

But as Ellen noted, I go deeper than the subject/content of the artwork in analyzing its meaning. To me, art is world-making, creating a realm into which the viewer/listener/reader can "enter" imaginatively and "live" there for a while. This of course necessarily includes making something to be in that world, but I consider that (the subject/content) to be the secondary level of "re-creation."

Fugues, and imitative music in general, all re-create a world in which some sort of multi-person conversation is being conducted. When the fugue or other contrapuntal or polyphonic music is vocal, the conversation is literal, though regimented by the words being prescribed in advance and in a certain pattern of pitch and rhythm. It's theoretically possible to take some person's spoken words and construct a vocal piece out of it, even a fugue or other contrapuntal piece, thus "re-creating" that set of spoken words, but the over-arching context of setting those rather than some other words is constructing a tonal or sonic "world" *in which* one can hear that sort of speech/conversation. The principle is that a world is created in which this-or-that-or-the-other kind of human conversation occurs. (I suppose you could record car horns or dog barks and make a fugue out of that - much in the same manner as the recording of the "singing" cats and dogs doing "Jingle Bells.")

When only instruments are used, without people singing words, the principle is the same as when instrumental dance movements are performed without dancers. There is still the metaphor of a world where one perceives, in the motions and relationships of the musical notes, an abstract(ed) image of human conversation or human physical movement.

Imitative instrumental music in general, and fugues in particular, grew out of imitative vocal music. Music that has more than one pitch sounding at a time is usually written as melody and accompaniment (homophonic) or two or more independent melodies (polyphonic), whether imitative like rounds, canons, fugues, etc., or non-imitative such as "Lida Rose" and "Sweet and Low" in The Music Man (or "Seventy-Six Trombones" and "Good Night, My Someone" in the same play/movie).

I once wrote a piece that combined chordal homophonic texture with non-imitative polyphony. If this is too jargony or technical, just imagine a church choir singing a hymn, while another singer improvises a different melody "over" the block-style hymn sung by the choir.

A very familiar example of a piece that uses both homophonic and polyphonic texture, but in *sequence,* is the "Hallelujah Chorus" in Handel's Messiah. It's helpful to note the similarity between "hallelujah" and "so say we all" in Battlestar Galactica, as people unanimously, in solidarity expressing some common belief or resolution. Most Protestant hymns are written in this block harmony, "chordal" style, for that very purpose - to more or less regiment the congregation's mood and participation in worship. The imitative section of the "Hallelujah Chorus" ("Lord God omnipotent reigneth...") has the text sung in overlapping sequence by various voices of the choir. (The first group does not stop and say, "Why are you repeating everything I say?" :-) Something between a simple round and a fugue. Then returning to the block choral texture again.

I'm not a huge fan of Handel's, but this is very effective writing, partly because of his skillful alternation of textures and the skillful use of each of them, but also even in his astute use of melodic intervals for expressive effect. ("Hallelujah" is repeatedly sung on the 5th-major 6th-5th intervals, which even in the mid-1700s were widely recognized as being the most effective melodic intervals for connoting joy. Again, see Cooke's excellent book about this point)

I played in the Disneyland Candlelighting Orchestra the first weekend of December for about 20 years, and the "Hallelujah Chorus" was the climax piece of the concert. The "world" of the Messiah is certainly not the kind of world I want to live in for more than a few minutes once a year - but neither did I come remotely close to having a Cherryl Taggart moment. :-)

REB

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If I don't feel any emotions being re-created in a piece of music, would that be proof that those who claim to experience emotion in it are pretending in order to conform to and impress the elite musical establishment? Or is there some valid reason for a double standard in which my lack of response doesn't cancel out others' responses in exactly the same way that Kamhi's and Rand's lack of response cancels out mine?

J

Music simply doesn't fit Rand's definition of art. Anyway, emotions are in the listener and not in the music. How could they be in music? It's not sentient. Music is evocative. In standard classical music one tends to create images in one's head to match up with it. It's a help too with creativity. Art is the end result of creativity for its own sake. It's like a metaphorical mirror in which the one who looks into it sees back what he had not put into it but had to help create through that experience.

--Brant

trying--trying

You're absolutely right. Music does not fit Rand's definition or criteria of art. It also doesn't fit Kamhi's or Torres's. Rand's attempt to claim that music "re-creates" emotions and man's cognitive process is a laughably obvious failed attempt to force music to fit her definition, and the jarring double standard that it employs doesn't escape anyone's notice, despite Objectivish-types hoping that it does. The Objectivist Esthetics will never be given serious scholarly attention as long as its promoters and defenders don't recognize, address and eliminate the jarring double standards. And rightfully so.

Unfortunately, Kamhi and Torres have dedicated their lives to compounding the errors and adopting the double standards. They're very intelligent people, but instead of investing their time and talents on the positive task of cleaning up and sorting out Rand's mess, they've wasted their lives on the cheap destructive thrill of aping rand at her worst, lashing out at imagined enemies, and shouting "That's not art!" at just about everyone and everything. They've arbitrarily promoted themselves to the position that Rand used to hold (which she had also arbitrarily promoted herself to), which is the position of Universal Standard, Limit, and Final Arbiter of Aesthetic Taste, Sensitivity and Cognitive Function. That's all that their argument really boils down to: their mere arbitrary assertion of the universality of their personal aesthetic limitations.

J

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Jonathan in #343: "If I don't feel any emotions being re-created in a piece of music, would that be proof that those who claim to experience emotion in it are pretending in order to conform to and impress the elite musical establishment? Or is there some valid reason for a double standard in which my lack of response doesn't cancel out others' responses in exactly the same way that Kamhi's and Rand's lack of response cancels out mine?"

Not all "parallels" are parallel...

Case 1: Joe kills Jim, and Bill witnesses correctly to the killing, but Bob says in all seriousness, "What killing? I didn't see any killing."

Case 2: Joe does not kill Jim, and Bob witnesses incorrectly to there being a "killing," while Bill says in all seriousness, "What killing? I didn't see any killing."

There is no double standard here.

Sometimes the Emperor really is naked.

Case 3: Traditional tonal music is "abstract 1" in that it presents a stylized, metaphorical image of human action, while modern atonal music is "abstract 2" in that it does not present a stylized, metaphorical image of human action.

Case 4: Traditional realistic painting is "abstract 1" in that it presents a stylized image of (say) a human face or body, while modern non-realistic painting is "abstract 2" in that it does not present a stylized image of a human face or body.

The "abstract 2" of Case 4 is NOT "parallel" to the "abstract 1" of Case 3. Music (in general) is NOT "just like" modern, abstract art. It's a grievous insult to traditional tonal music, and an egregious elevation of status of modern, non-realistic painting, to claim otherwise.

REB

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For instance, upward tending melodies connote striving...

Skewed visual forms and converging lines also connote striving!

...major key harmonies connote optimism...

Saturated colors also connote optimism!

...the melodic interval of the 6th moving to the 5th connotes joy - and not just because I'm "reading them in," or because countless composers and song-writers have used them in that way during the past 4 centuries, but because there are physiological factors that make them work that way. Deryck Cooke's 1960 book The Language of Music is very helpful with details, as is Helmholtz' The Sensations of Tone.

If I personally don't feel an emotion that you say exists in the music, shouldn't I accuse you of having an Emperor's New Clothes attitude, and of pretending to experience the emotion so as to impress elitists like Deryck Cooke and Helmholtz and their mindless accolytes? In fact, doesn't my not feeling it prove that you are pretending to feel it, if we use Kamhi's method?

J

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Jonathan in #348: "If I personally don't feel an emotion that you say exists in the music, shouldn't I accuse you of having an Emperor's New Clothes attitude, and of pretending to experience the emotion so as to impress elitists like Deryck Cooke and Helmholtz and their mindless accolytes? In fact, doesn't my not feeling it prove that you are pretending to feel it, if we use Kamhi's method?"

Not unless your name is...Bob (see post #347).

:-)

REB

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Jonathan in #343: "If I don't feel any emotions being re-created in a piece of music, would that be proof that those who claim to experience emotion in it are pretending in order to conform to and impress the elite musical establishment? Or is there some valid reason for a double standard in which my lack of response doesn't cancel out others' responses in exactly the same way that Kamhi's and Rand's lack of response cancels out mine?"

Not all "parallels" are parallel...

Case 1: Joe kills Jim, and Bill witnesses correctly to the killing, but Bob says in all seriousness, "What killing? I didn't see any killing."

Case 2: Joe does not kill Jim, and Bob witnesses incorrectly to there being a "killing," while Bill says in all seriousness, "What killing? I didn't see any killing."

There is no double standard here.

Sometimes the Emperor really is naked.

Case 3: Traditional tonal music is "abstract 1" in that it presents a stylized, metaphorical image of human action, while modern atonal music is "abstract 2" in that it does not present a stylized, metaphorical image of human action.

Case 4: Traditional realistic painting is "abstract 1" in that it presents a stylized image of (say) a human face or body, while modern non-realistic painting is "abstract 2" in that it does not present a stylized image of a human face or body.

The "abstract 2" of Case 4 is NOT "parallel" to the "abstract 1" of Case 3. Music (in general) is NOT "just like" modern, abstract art. It's a grievous insult to traditional tonal music, and an egregious elevation of status of modern, non-realistic painting, to claim otherwise.

REB

Case 5: A modern non-realistic painting is "abstract 1" in that it presents a stylized, metaphorical image of human action. The two paintings that I posted and described earlier are examples. I objectively analyzed the content of the art and explained the metaphorical human actions, personalities and other traits and characteristics that I and others experience in the art.

Case 5 is a parallel to the "abstract 1" of Case 3. QED.

J

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