?¨Concertos of Deliverance"


Paul Mawdsley

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Wasn't there an Objectivist estheticist by the name of Rukovina (I can remember my father mentioning a name like Anna, but it may be Mary Ann Rukovina that he was referring to) who did an in-depth course on the philosophical meaning of music and how to evaluate music in that realm?

Mary Ann Rukavina (later Mary Ann Sures) gave a course on the aesthetics of painting. It was Allan Blumenthal who gave a course on music, in the mid-70s. The course was later revised and includes portions by Joan Blumenthal on the art-historical context of the various musical styles. You can find information about this course in the Roger Bissell corner.

Ellen

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Ellen,

Thanks for pointing me to that resource. I was struggling to pull in some information from the weak and static-ridden noise of my distant memories from forty some-odd years ago, when I had last heard the name, and it must have been my father's error or my listening in error that associated her with musical esthetics. Indeed, it makes sense that Allen Blumenthal would be the one teaching on this and I am glad I know the source of this knowledge now.

As a host of a weekly radio music program, I find it important to keep expanding my knowledge of music so that I can educate listeners in the appreciation of music, much the way my protege, Karl Haas did.

I have found a rare few articles on the meaning and esthetics of music, and I enjoy reading the real Objectivist views on what constitutes and defines music.

I have a lot of arguments with lay people on that definition. Liberals will say that rock is music, while I'll argue that rock lacks real melodic development and then cite certain classical pieces as a contrasting example, and so on. The more I can learn about the philosophical meaning of music, the better I can argue the definition. Does that make sense?

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Mark,

I listened to the samples of "Concerto of Deliverance" and my mouth dropped open. I expected anything but this. (Thanks for the link. One comment on your comments. The first song--I'm sorry, I can't call it a "movement," it's a song--is a tango, not a Russian waltz. I imagine this is a musical reference to Francisco d'Anconia since tango is an Argentinean style. I don't see Francisco dancing that one, though.)

MIchael,

You're quite correct. It was late, and I was getting foggy in the brain. Not being able to tell the difference in time signature must have meant that I was really lacking of sleep. It is indeed a Tango.

In reading your comments throughout this thread, I fully agree. This music gave me the same impressions. It is being billed as much more than it is, which is a simple collection of songs. I think of a concerto as an integrated series of movements, all fitting within a context. This recording is anything but that. Instead, a loose collection of seemingly unrelated pieces of music. Yeah, Muzak-quality compositions.

Sorry to be so blunt, but I can't state truth as I understand it any more obliquely.

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"Whether nearer to me or far,

It's no different, darling, where you are,"

Barbara, you're a bit off! It's

"Whether near to me or far,

It's no matter, darling, where you are,"

I have the sheet music, but I don't even need to consult it.

I'll take this occasion to quote some Porter lines that always get to me:

"I give to you and you give to me

True love, true love.

So on and on it will always be

True love--true love!"

It's that third line that does it to me.

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On the other forum, I was surprised at the friction with Carolyn Ray. I have read some of her stuff and I always thought of her highly. It was disappointing to see nastiness.

I haven't looked at that forum. Maybe someday when I'm in the mood to become aggravated and have time for fuming. Re Carolyn and Monart, however: They can both become decidedly acerbic. Monart takes quick offense at people who he thinks aren't sharing his "vision," and Carolyn has a rapier way with words that can cut an opponent to shreds. If those two were debating each other...blood on the floor.

Ellen

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As a host of a weekly radio music program, I find it important to keep expanding my knowledge of music so that I can educate listeners in the appreciation of music, much the way my protege, Karl Haas did.

I expect you mean "mentor" not "protege." Haas was much your senior in age. I loved that man. We got his program here for a few years, though it was then discontinued for budget reasons. I still miss the glowing love of his attitude to music, and his imaginativeness, and his wonderful voice. He was my ostensive definition of what a benevolent human being is.

I can't say I agree with you that rock isn't music, but I haven't time for philosophic debate now, so I'll leave that issue to others.

Ellen

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I listened to it.

Same as MSK's take, pretty much.

Sometimes, people have good intentions when they write music these days, and some skill, too. But what I think may happen is that they, for whatever reason, are not fully aware of how much is going on out there.

This is sort of hybrid, electronica/new age/classic-influence. I was expecting some, er, "balls."

I saw Blue Man Group a few weeks ago, and they had balls. Good, solid raw hitting power for an engine.

Listen to something more modern like, I dunno... the beginning of Peter Gabriel's "Red Rain." That's balls.

Even more into the schooled rock world-- some of the instrumental stuff Dream Theater does. Balls.

Full symphony orchestras=balls.

I was disappointed. It's not inept music at all-- just no, you know...

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Ellen, I don't blame you for not wading through all the material on Monart Pons' Yahoo list regarding the Concerto of Deliverance. I would like to offer the following comments and accompanying excerpts from the discussion, particularly relating to Monart, Carolyn, and their attitudes and approach to defending John Cockrell Mills's Concerto of Deliverance...

1. Monart and Carolyn weren't attacking each other. Carolyn was actually supporting Monart against those of us trained musicians who criticized JCM's COD, alleging that she, apparently one of the smartest human beings on this or any other planet, had a superior understanding of its musical form and content. I took great umbrage to this. (See excerpt A below.)

2. In my experience with Carolyn, stretching over 11 years and various topics, I have found her to be alternately acerbic, arrogant, and heavy-handedly condescending, seemingly as suits the situation. (My favorite anecdote about her: about 5 years ago at Nathaniel Branden's house in Beverly Hills -- before he and Devers split up, before Carolyn and Diana Hsieh dissolved their Enlightenment partnership, and before Diana Hsieh decided Nathaniel was not her friend, but her and Objectivism's mortal enemy -- a group of a dozen or so Objectivists were gathered to talk about ethics and personal relationships, and Carolyn gratuitously opined that she could have any man in the room that she wanted. Some such as Nathaniel found it amusing; I was less amused and had to restrain myself from saying "Think again, sister.")

3. Monart is usually not acerbic, his arrogance and presumptuousness seems to be more clueless and innocent than Carolyn's, but his condescension is just as real and galling. He also is prone to paranoia, referring to some unspecified "gatekeepers" who were preventing the COD from becoming a market success. It is true, as Ellen says, that "Monart takes quick offense at people who he thinks aren't sharing his 'vision'," but the way he did so in this discussion was to insinuate that we trained musicians had some deficit in sense of life, and that we were unable to hear the "exaltation" and "triumph" and "deliverance" (insert additional Randian laudatory adjectives as per your taste preferences). In a way, his behavior is very similar to Rand's behavior toward the Blumenthals and others who didn't share her musical preferences -- and the lack of background knowledge for such behavior is strikingly similar, too. (See excerpts B and C below.)

4. Monart had another high-IQ ally, Thomas Radcliffe (then Carolyn Ray's "special friend"), who also weighed in on his and the COD's behalf, taking particular aim at us critics for our shortcomings. (See excerpt C below.)

REB

P.S. -- In all my finger pointing, I do not want to give the appearance of hypocrisy. Yes, I can be very acerbic, too, especially when I have been condescended to by someone who is not in a position to issue claims of superior aesthetic judgment, and who suggests that I have a deficient sense of life for not understanding and liking his pet music. Fie on that!

=================================================================

Excerpt A (October 21, 2003):

Re: FW: Carol Ray's Remarks

I appreciate Monart's posting Carolyn Ray's comments. They show, by contrast, that Monart's condescending

and insulting remarks probably ~were~ innocently made.

Carolyn wrote:

> I poked around my books, the inserts of my albums,

> and the web a little bit, looking for definitions

> of 'concerto', thinking maybe I just was completely

> uneducated in this regard. All the definitions that

> I found were essentially, "solo instruments contrasted

> with a larger ensemble". I didn't see anything that

> was so anal as to suggest that a concerto had a fixed

> number of movements, and I certainly didn't see anything

> saying that the piano had to be, or even was most

> probably, the solo instrument.

What is the point of the above, except to call, without naming names, people who disagree with her "anal"? If

wanting a concerto to have 2 to 4 movements is "anal," why isn't wanting or accepting a concerto with (?)

eleven movements evidence of "diarrhea"? Give me a break. And why focus on ~piano~, for Pete's sake? And what about the suggestion that the COD more closely resembles a ~suite~ than a ~concerto~? Blanking out all but the most simplistic objections does not constitute a refutation.

> ...in the music that I used to listen to during a less

> mature period (Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Chopin, musicals,

> progressive rock, etc.)

OK, so those of us who enjoy listening to the above are "less mature"? (Than Carolyn?) I know I just requested a break, but I'd like another one, please.

> My own musical taste inclines toward the extremely

> complex, which is, I think, what explains my ability

> to enjoy this brand new piece

Ah, and the inclination ~away~ from the "extremely complex" must then explain the ~inability~ of others to enjoy it. But then what could you expect of those who are less (intellectually? aesthetically?) mature than Carolyn! Break time, again!

> This concerto is really nice in that I can hear the

> themes that tie the whole thing together, but I don't

> have to endure repetitiveness. In other words, it's

> very listenable, for me. It satisfies the same urge

> that the organ works of Oliver Messiaen, Jean Langlais,

> Gabrielle Faure, Cesar Franck, and of course, Johann

> Sebastian Bach do. This MIGHT explain why others are

> having problems with it. It's too complex, they don't

> actually have good musical ears, and they can't find

> their way around in it.

How helpful to realize that we (some of us? all of us?) "have problems" with the COD because we "don't actually have good musical ears," that the COD is "too complex," and we just don't have the (intelletual? musical?) equipment to "find [our] way around in it." Thanks, yet again, Carolyn, for sharing evidence of your blinding superiority to the rest of us merely trained musicians who just "don't get it."

> Walk away, Monart.

Good idea. You don't want to ever cross this chick, Monart. She's light years beyond you in nastiness.

REB

Excerpt B (Nov. 2, 2003:

While we continue to wait for Carolyn Ray's answer to Douglas Wagoner's request for clarification on what thematic material she hears as being "turned inside out" from one movement to another <g>[2006 note: that clarification from Ray was never provided], I thought I would append some comments to Monart's reply to Tom [Radcliffe]:

> > Creators deserve better. [than what Douglas, Eric,

> > I, and others gave JMC in our criticisms]

>

> About creators and critics, you may know what Theodore Roosevelt

> said:

>

> "It's not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the

> strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done

> them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the

> arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who

> strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again,

> because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who

> does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great

> enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy

> cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high

> achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails

> while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those

> cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."

OK, so those of us who have criticized JMC's piece are "cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat." Nice way of dismissing us, lumping us with the do-nothing, dare-nothing carpers, the impotent resenters of achievement. Wonderful. It is assumed that we have ~not~ been in the area, ~not~ striven valiantly, ~not~ spent ourselves in worthy causes, ~not~ dared greatly. No, we just try to enviously tear down someone else "whose achievement we cannot hope to equal." (A stock Randian phrase that seems strangely missing from the counter-criticism thus far.) Shame on us. How dare we be critical of someone who is trying to be creative!

Well. The last I checked, we were ~not~ trying to diss JMC for being creative. We were objecting strenuously

to the ~mislabelling~ and ~mischaracterizing~ of what he had created! The only disrespect I have noted so

far is in Carolyn's bizarre and snotty comments (and, admittedly, in my response to them :-).

> > [...]

> > To someone of my generation (I'm 41) synthesizers have a tendency

> > to create Alan Parsons flashbacks, and on first hearing I swear I

> > heard the rather unfortunate, monotonous rhythmicity of '70's-era

> > synthetic music. Curiously, on my most recent listening I was not

> > only not able to hear this, but was not able to identify where I

> > thought I had heard it previously. I conclude from this that

> > you've managed to create a self-modifying CD, which has

> > mysteriously morphed into something else on repeated playings, as

> > it is simply not possible that my initial response was in error

> > :-) Listening to Track 5 again just now I think I can now spot

> > where I was picking this sense up from, but I believe the effect

> > really is in me as a biased listener rather than in the music.

>

> I think that you were hearing the effects of the abundant poly-

> rhythms found in "The Gathering" (TRK 5) and other movements. One

> time you might catch one rhythm, a different time you might hear

> another rhythm in dance with it. So, the "morphing" phenomenon

> could be due to the listener's shifting "bias" at a given time.

> Indeed, the other polygonal qualities of this music -- the poly-

> melodics and poly-harmonics -- might also be heard as morphing

> features. Thus, this concerto may be more aptly called a "poly-

> concerto", a form more pluralistic than even a concerto grosso, for

> example.

Sorry, Monart, this is gobbledygook. All of this "morphing," "poly"-wolly-doodle you and Tom are tossing around sounds like the high-blown poetic stuff that music critics write when they offer rave reviews of pieces they like, but do not have the technical understanding to support their feelings with facts.

> > My theoretical understanding of concertos is limited, but from

> > what I know the essence of a concerto is to have several voices

> > that are used to contrast against each other, and I'd say this

> > work achieves that result in many dimensions: there is the

> > contrast between the sung, the spoken, and the purely

> > instrumental parts, the musical contrasts between themes, and

> > finally the contrasts between musical traditions. That makes for

> > a lovely, layered work.

> Yes, I agree. The music's multi-dimensional layers make it a highly

> dense work of diverse colors and rich textures, building

> expansively and steadfastly to a satisfying resolution.

A concerto is a musical composition for a solo instrument or instruments (as in the concerto grosso) -- not "voices." An aria is a long, accompanied song for a solo voice. It is a stretch to call the songs in JMC's work "arias," but by ~no~ stretch can they be considered part of a concerto.

What some consider to be "lovely, layered", others find to be a mildly interesting, unorganized pot-pourri. What some consider to "build expansively and steadfastly to a satisfying resolution", others consider to be 70+ minutes of a mildly interesting, un-goal-directed sequence of short musical pieces. What some consider to be a "concerto," others consider to be more of a loosely connected ~suite~. None of that detracts from its true value to those of us who have less enthusiastic opinions of it than you do, nor does it intend any disrespect for what JMC has created.

In offering your own opinions about JMC's piece, it would be helpful if you would ~qualify~ your remarks, by saying, "In my opinion..." or "As I experience it..." It sounds overly and unjustifiably "objectivistic" to state your opinions so categorically, when you know that there are people on the list who are perceiving the same piece that you are who experience it differently. If we were simple, uneducated hicks, you might impress us with your glowing phrases. But we are not, and you would do well to remember that.

> > I think you've done a very good thing in producing this. I hope

> > you profit from it!

>

> Thank you. I hope so too, not only so that I recover the investment

> and also pay the rent, but because this production could be a

> springboard to others like this. One big marketing problem (other

> than a non-existent budget) is getting to, around, or through the

> music gate-keepers.

Who, pray tell, are these "music gate-keepers"? In the old days, when composers were dependent upon the favor of royalty or government privilege, the term legitimately applied to those who exercised such powers. I suppose that today, there are gate-keepers who are in charge of accepting or denying applications for government grants. (Your tax dollars at work!) But who are the "gate-keepers" who could keep JMC's work from reaching its proper market? In a free market, doesn't a creator -- and his sponsors -- have to appeal to the self-interest (the values and needs) of his customers? Doesn't there have to be some kind of demonstration of the ~worth~ of the product to those who are targeted for buying it?

Now, if you are suggesting that ~critics~ (anyone we know? :-) are "gate-keepers," I'm afraid I'll have to object. All we can do is offer our educated opinions, and if people want to follow up on our recommendations by buying (or avoiding) certain products, that is how the free market works. Right?

So, please clarify. Who does this "gate-keeper" terminology really refer to in the present context (of a marketing hurdle)?

Best 2 all,

REB

Excerpt C (Nov. 8, 2003):

Douglas Waggoner wrote: "I will shut up now as I have probably alienated Aura, too. Gracious this has been a frustrating list. I want to applaud what Monart has achieved through his commission and I end up on the side of the curmudgeons bashing what he and JMC have done. I don't like it one bit. Off to do the dishes, change the cat litter and grumble about my role as'Dr Evil'."

Now Douglas, relax. You're not bashing what Monart and JMC ~have done~ in creating this piece of music. You're simply challenging -- vigorously -- what they want to ~call~ it and how they want to ~describe~ it. These are ~intellectual~ issues. You're not saying they're bad for liking JMC's piece, or that there's anything wrong with their sense of life or their psycho-epistemology for liking it. (Unlike Carolyn, who thinks the reason we trained musicians fail to appreciate the piece as she does is because we lack the mental or conceptual equipment to grasp its complexity. :-)

It is frustrating, though, when, at every turn, there is a failure to come to grips with the requirements of objectivity. We ask for ~musical~ evidence to support the claims of "deliverance" being embodied in JMC's

piece, and we are given poetic and emotional and neologistic (poly-this, poly-that) descriptions of entrances by the various instruments. And now, in his most recent set of posts, Monart is insinuating that ~we~ are disrespecting ~them~ (Monart, Aura, Tom, and Carolyn), because we are waving our musical credentials around, claiming that it gives us a superior status as music critics and evaluators. Fie on that.

Quoting Rand from "Art and Sense of Life": "A sense of life is NOT sufficient professional equipment. An esthetician--as well as any man who attempts to evaluate art works--must be guided by MORE than an emotion." (TRM, p. 42, emphasis added) And, I will add, more than poetic metaphors and neologisms. The one and only attempt to claim musical integration between the movements of JMC's piece (Carolyn's "inside out" comment) has not been honored with a specifically detailed explanation.

There is an inversion going on here. ~We have~ the sufficient professional equipment, and we are being discounted because of some deficit or absence in our ~sense of life~ (emotional) response to JMC's piece. This is very similar to how Rand treated the Blumenthals, when they defended Wagner and Beethoven and Mozart and Bach, while she insisted (without any technical, musical justification) that Beethoven, for instance, had a "malevolent sense of life" and that he was not a monumentally significant and excellent composer. Because they didn't agree with her sense of life response to Beethoven's music, their sense of life ~AND~ credentials ~be damned~. With her dogged attempts to psycho-analyze, criticize, and pressure them into admitting their psychological and psycho-epistemological "errors" in liking Beethoven (and other composers and painters), she eventually drove them away. Which is truly sad, because their lectures on music filled a huge gap left by her own strange, misdirected comments on music in her 1971 article "Art and Cognition." For further details, see my forthcoming essay, "Art as Microcosm," coming soon to a journal or monograph near you. :-) [2006 note: this was published in JARS, Spring 2004, Vol. 5, No. 2; for a time it was headed for publication as a monograph by The Objectivist Center, but funding for the series of monographs was ended as a result of shortfalls in fundraising.]

Granted, Monart is not nearly as obnoxious toward us as Rand was toward the Blumenthals. But the direction of argument is the same. "I will respect your credentials until and unless you disagree with what I like or dislike. Then I will suggest that you need to retrain your sense of life and keep listening to a piece you don't like until you do." (This is not a quote, but a summary implied by comments in several posts Monart has made.)

But all of that is a side issue. It is clear to me that Douglas and the others is right: JMC's piece is ~NOT~ a concerto, unless you want to rename the synthesizer "synthetic orchestra." This is ~chamber music~, folks. Let's accept it and move on. To me, the issue of whether JMC's piece embodies "deliverance" and the other various emotions and qualities Monart and others claim is a fascinating one. (The "concerto" definition issue is more conceptual and, as Douglas says, very straightforward.)

On whom is the onus of proof in the "deliverance" matter, anyway? If a painter (or his patron) points to an abstract painting and says that this color blob represents grief, and you, an educated artist and critic, say, "I see the blob, but I don't see the grief," who is right and who is wrong? Objectivity requires that the painter/patron be able to ~explain~ how the blob represents grief in some way other than his arbitrary say-so. On a more complex scale, we face the same issue with JMC's piece. "Deliverance" is not an easy thing

to connote or embody, neither in literature in music, but it can be done, just as "triumph" or "defeat." (See Beethoven's Egmont Overture, especially the last section, often called the "Victory Symphony.) By now, I think the point has been made that a number of us trained musicians think that there is some "wishful hearing" going on. Prove us wrong, please.

All 4 now,

REB

Excerpt D (November 14, 2003):

Tom Radcliffe wrote
: "The purpose of this note is to describe some of the standards of good criticism, and indicate where I believe some of the critics on this list have been lax in living up to those standards. There are two definitions of "critic" and "criticism." There are the more general definitions: a person who judges the merits of literary, artistic, or musical works, especially one who does so professionally; and the analysis and judgment of the merits and faults of a literary or artistic or musical work. And there are the more narrow, negative definitions: a person who expresses an unfavorable opinion of something; and the expression of disapproval of something based on perceived faults or mistakes. I presume you are referring to those of us who fit the latter definitions. If so, I hope you (though I fear you do not) hold to the same standards those who express ~favorable~ opinions of the COD."

I will remind you that those of us who were approached because of our ~professional qualifications~ have not only expressed our value-judgments and feelings about COD. We have also expressed them about the ~claims~ made about and ~labels~ attached to the COD by those who expressed ~favorable~ opinions about it. And by far the majority of our negative comments were expressed in regard not to the COD itself, but to the claims and labels -- i.e., not in regard to the creation, but to the ~characterizers~ of the creation.

The burden is on they who assert the positive -- i.e., they who claim that a certain quality is there in the music, or that the music fits a certain category of musical composition. When we protest that proferred evidence and arguments are unconvincing, we are not obliged to prove our position to be valid. We are saying that it is not adequate to assert, "I don't care what you trained musicians say, I hear the glorious sunbursts and deliverance there in JMC's music," or "I don't care if JMC's piece fits the existing concept of 'concerto', I want to stretch the concept to fit JMC's piece, rather than placing it in another less Randian-sounding category into which it more logically fits."

Reading Monart's posts to this list makes it abundantly clear that he gets certain imagery and feelings, for whatever reason, while listening to JMC's piece, and that perhaps those of us who don't get that imagery and feelings should ask ourselves why we don't and whether perhaps we should, and retrain our values and listening habits until we do. This is ~not~ a method of aesthetic discussion, but instead a kind of sense of life arm-wrestling.

Reading Monart's entries on his website makes it abundantly clear that, despite JMC's continuing doubts about how to classify his work, Monart ~desired~ that it be called a "concerto," and that was that. No matter that it is much more accurate to call JMC's piece a "suite," since that's what it is, or a "trio," since that's also what it is. (There is no orchestra, a sine qua non of a concerto, but instead a clarinet, violin, and synthesizer -- three musicians.)

[Radcliffe] "Critics are responsible for explaining the work's subtleties to a wider audience. They are not reviewers, whose intent is to pass summary judgment with the goal of informing interested observers if the work is worth their while investing time and money in. Critics therefore carry a heavy burden of analysis, and can be expected to invest some time themselves in researching the background of the work they are criticizing. For those who like to categorize, much of the writing on this list has not been critical writing at all: it has been reviewing."

We have been presented with the ~positive~ reviews of Monart and others, and we are asked to apply our professional expertise to...what?...justify or refute these positive reviews? Sorry. Positive reviews are not "critical writing" either. They are just gushing, just as negative reviews are carping. Is it our responsibility to explain what it is in the music that Monart likes?

If I had a strong response, one way or the other, to JMC's piece, I would naturally be intrigued to understand why it is that I had such a response. My curiosity would get the better of me, and my analytic mind would do the rest. However, when I get a rather ~flat~ response to a piece, I have no incentive to delve into it. If someone offered me a suitable incentive to do a thorough analysis of the COD, I could give a more detailed explanation of why I don't respond to it. But I think I can tell you the gist of it without a lot of technical razzle-dazzle. It's just too tame. It doesn't appeal to my sense of drama or my taste in melody or my taste in harmony or my taste in orchestration. It doesn't say "deliverance" to me. Not the way that pieces like the Finale of Shostakovich's 5th Symphony do, for instance. That's my thoroughly ~unprofessional~ judgment in the matter. To justify the time for a deeper analysis and explanation would require some serious green, because I am just not interested in the piece.

I am much more interested in why others like it so much that they wish to label it as having qualities that I cannot perceive and as fitting into a category of composition that it clearly does not fit into.

[Radcliffe] "The name of the work we are discussing is the Concerto of Deliverance. The name is both a reference to the literary inspiration of the piece--the description of Halley's Fifth Symphony in AS--and a literal description. Structurally, the work clearly falls within the definition of "concerto": there is an ongoing contention between a solo voice against a larger, orchestral voice. I use the term "voice" here deliberately, in its ordinary musical sense. If I were to say "instrument" then many things that have traditionally been called concertos (including all ripieno concertos) would be excluded from concerto-hood, and I'm sure none of us want that."

This is not even clear enough to be an equivocation. Monart, who explained his own understanding that a concerto is a composition involving an ~orchestra~ and one or more solo ~instruments~, wants JMC's piece, which includes songs by vocalists and involves ~no~ orchestra, to be categorized as a concerto. Such a "concerto," involving human voices and no orchestra, does not fit any of the historical variants of a concerto. Call me "anal-retentive," but I just can't get this kind of thought process to compute for me.

I think the definition Tom is trying to get at is: a concerto is a musical composition featuring a solo instrument or instruments accompanied by the orchestra as a whole. ("Accompanied" is intended in the broad sense that includes not only cooperation but also competition or "contention" between the orchestra and the soloist(s).)

Tom's usage of "voices" is ~not~ the "ordinary musical sense" of the term. In instrumental music, a voice is either one of the parts of a fugue (a polyphonic composition), or any one of the tones simultaneously produceable by a given musical instrument. It makes no more sense to speak of the "voices" of the orchestra than it does the "instruments"

of a vocal choir.

And if Tom wants to claim that the synthesizer in the COD qualifies as having "voices", then so does a piano in a piano-violin-viola trio, and so what? This does not qualify either composition as a concerto. There is no orchestra in either case. The piano accompanies and contends with the violin and viola, but that does not make the trio a "concerto." The same is true of the relationship between the synthesizer and the violin and clarinet in the COD.

[Radcliffe] "Given the intense focus of Roger and others on the purported mis-naming and mis-labeling of the Concerto of Deliverance, it is worth asking, "What if they were right?" What if the CoD was not, in fact, a concerto? If Monart and JMC were merely guilty of "conspiracy to commit concerto" rather than of the act itself? Would all of the emotion we've seen invested in this issue be justified? Is there, in fact, anything in ordinary musical discourse or standards of criticism that justifies or explains this concern for precision in naming? Trivially, the answer is no. One sees on rare occasions reviewers complain that a work is mislabeled. In both theatrical and literary reviews it is not unheard of for the reviewer to mention in passing that the title of a work should be revised because the existing title might mislead potential audiences. Critics mention this as well, especially in the musical world, where nominal mislabeling and curious titles abound. However, while reviewers often find minor fault with titles, I have never seen a critic say that the title of a work is wrong in an accusatory way: in general critics accept that the title was intended to express something important to the creator, and see their role as explaining what that is."

I guess I'm not a critic, then, because I don't see what "concerto" was intended to express for the COD's ~creator~. It was not JMC, but ~Monart~ who did the hard sell that it had to be a ~concerto~ of deliverance. (This is painfully obvious from the correspondence Monart posted on his website.)

And what is the "important" thing that this title (rather than suite or trio) would express for Monart? ~Nothing~ that I can tell. Except that it is important to him that this piece of music he wants to market be tied as convincingly as possible to Rand's work and stature, presumably so that it will sell lots of copies. I can certainly understand his reluctance to sink a lot of time and money in promoting a piece that is called simply "The Deliverance Suite." But facts are facts. It's a suite. Or a trio. Not a concerto.

[Radcliffe] "With regard to music, anyone listening to "serious" music on radio will be aware of how much effort is put into explaining the background and title of works, which are often obscure to say the least. To take a random example, I recently heard a work entitled "The Bulls" on CBC Radio 2. Given the title alone, I might have expected that the work would be dynamic and powerful, with perhaps a Spanish flavor and hints of the combat of bullfighting. In fact, as explained by the commentator, the title is a reference to a line in a book on composition from 1946, in which the author complains that pieces calling for mutes on violins annoy him because of the shuffling in the orchestra that ensues, reminding him of a herd of bulls. The piece itself was rather pretty in a quiet way--as un-bull-like as can be imagined. No shock or outrage was expressed--music lovers tend to see this kind of naming as part of the endearing humanity of music history."

It was an obscure and not terribly funny joke. About as funny as a "fugue" for brass quintet that involves the players lapsing into hysteria or seizures and loss of identity. (Please don't tell me someone has already done this!) Perhaps a less "random example" would help to make your point? Because this example suggest a smart-aleck pulling the audience's leg, rather than a serious composer. (And I'm not sure that a composer borrowing, or being pressured into borrowing, lofty connotations in naming his piece is in all that much better of a position.)

[Radcliffe] "As with titles, so with classes. A quick search on the literal phrase "not really an X", where X is any musical form, will rapidly show that nominally mis-classified or mis-named pieces abound. No one seems to much mind, or get all worked up about it."

This implies that the opponents of calling the COD a "concerto" were the only ones who got, or the ones who got the most, "worked up" about the controversy. It is not ~we~ who are emotionally and financially invested in the piece being a concerto, regardless of its factual attributes.

Beethoven's publisher never pressured him into calling his piano trios (piano, violin, viola) "concertos." If his publisher had asked Beethoven to write a concerto on a particular abstract theme (such as triumph or deliverance or victory), and Beethoven's best inspiration for dealing with the abstract theme was to cast it in the form of a piano trio, Beethoven wouldn't have been uncertain about how to categorize his work (as JMC was, according to his correspondence with Monart), and he would never have acceded to his publisher's urgings that he go along with calling it a "concerto."

[Radcliffe] "It is worth asking, then why there has been so much heat generated on this list over the use of the term "concerto"."

The implication here is that the "heat" has come from those objecting to the use of the term. In truth, the "heat" ~first~ came from those who didn't like the objections. Starting with Carolyn's wise crack about being "anal retentive" in one's own concept of what a concerto is. OK? Does that qualify as "heat"? If not, then we have a serious enough double standard going on here that further discussion is probably useless. But if so, then please realize that buttons get pushed, by "expert epistemologists" who should know better, and that people react heatedly to such needlessly provocative statements. Nuff said?

[Radcliffe] "I would ask Roger and others to explain this, and also to point out where they have posted critiques of other pieces that they believe to be mis-named or mis-classified. If they have not done so, I am curious to know why they are investing so much in this aspect of the criticism of this particular piece."

Good question. Why do we bother? Because we were ~asked~ to offer our opinions and participate in discussion of the so-called "concerto." If we had been asked to critique a painting of the Hudson River Valley and been told it was a "portrait," and others passionately objected that it was a portrait in a broad sense of portraying the scenic vista along the Hudson, I hope you can understand that the discussion might bog down a bit and not move on to a discussion of the technical merits of the painting.

We weren't asked ~not~ to critique various aspects of the COD, including its name or classification, and we weren't required to certify that we had previously engaged in criticism of the names or classifications of other pieces. Monart ~invited~ us to give our comments.

[Radcliffe] "I can, obviously, speculate, but I'm all too aware that my speculations (some of them admittedly remarkably mean-spirited) have no basis in fact, so I hope that Roger et al can enlighten us directly."

Gee, Tom, I'm glad that you refrained from making outright snotty comments like your pal, Carolyn. Instead, you can simply ~allude~ to the ones you'd no doubt ~like~ to make. Hmmmph. Please take more care with Part II of this piece than you did with Part I. [2006 note: Tom Radcliffe did not submit Part II of his critique of the COD's critics.]

REB

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Roger,

I have to depart for an evening engagement like in about six minutes and I had to leave off part way through your post with excerpts from the COD discussion, but what I've read has done that thing of making me want to fume. EEEEKKK!

I am surprised to learn that Carolyn was on Monart's side in the issue. I'd have expected better musical taste from Carolyn. Every now and then people do surprise me.

More later, I expect (though maybe not tonight: Larry and I have to practice for our Thanksgiving performance for the two friends who spend Thanskgiving with us; I guess I'd best be glad Carolyn isn't coming for dinner, since her tastes are more complex than the likes of Mozart and Beethoven).

Ellen

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As a host of a weekly radio music program, I find it important to keep expanding my knowledge of music so that I can educate listeners in the appreciation of music, much the way my protege, Karl Haas did.

I expect you mean "mentor" not "protege." Haas was much your senior in age. I loved that man. We got his program here for a few years, though it was then discontinued for budget reasons. I still miss the glowing love of his attitude to music, and his imaginativeness, and his wonderful voice. He was my ostensive definition of what a benevolent human being is.

I can't say I agree with you that rock isn't music, but I haven't time for philosophic debate now, so I'll leave that issue to others.

Ellen

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Yes, sort of a mentor. He does have a few years on me, after all, he's already dead for over a year now and I think he was born in 1913. But I try to carry on the presentation style in my own program, as I revered Haas' delivery and explanatory techniques which were understandable to both the musician and the layperson.

My earlier understanding of Objectivist esthetics with regard to music held that in order to be considered music, a piece had to have melody with context, not just a collection of random notes strung together and fed through a distortion/fuzz box. :)

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Roger,

A few remarks on your (post #57) preliminary comments re the COD discussion, taking your points out of order:

3. Monart is usually not acerbic, his arrogance and presumptuousness seems to be more clueless and innocent than Carolyn's, but his condescension is just as real and galling.

You're right about "acerbic" not being a good adjective to describe Monart's tone. That was a hastily and ill-chosen word in his case. He's often seemed to me gentle, and with a wistful longing quality, a loneliness -- as in that piece about his childhood which he wrote under a pseudonym. But he does, as you agree, take "quick offense at people who he thinks aren't sharing his 'vision.'" He'll start to accuse those people of lacking boldness, passion, the romantic spirit. In my own few exchanges with him, he seemed particularly touchy when the issue was his starquest. He didn't seem to understand that people could be intensely passionate romantic strivers without sharing in his enthusiasm for his beloved dream. As it happens, I do see the romance of space exploration, and I have a yearing to know what's out there. But that doesn't mean I'm going to throw my efforts into Monart's StarShip, and it doesn't mean I expect everyone else to be equally interested in wanting to know what's in the rest of the cosmos besides earth. I felt that I was walking on eggs trying to tell Monart that I thought he was being unfairly disappointed in others. I felt that one misplaced word would result in his being disappointed in me, too. The exchange lasted only a brief time, and I imagine he was disappointed -- if he even remembers it. I didn't follow his forum after that -- and hadn't followed it before that. It was maybe no more than three months in which I had some correspondence with him.

2. In my experience with Carolyn, stretching over 11 years and various topics, I have found her to be alternately acerbic, arrogant, and heavy-handedly condescending, seemingly as suits the situation.

LOL. Yeah, well, I know what you mean. I never got any of those modes directed at me, since the occasion of my primary exchange with her was helping her with some editorial details on her thesis. But judging from remarks she made about others in emails at that time, I was aware that she can be..."caustic," is that a good summary description? I only met her in person twice, at the 1999 and 2000 TOC summer seminars. Larry had met her on several occasions prior to that, at various IOS gatherings. She always liked him, and respected his "I.Q." and his knowledge of physics and of philosophy, so I might have seen her in her most pleasant modes.

(My favorite anecdote about her: about 5 years ago at Nathaniel Branden's house in Beverly Hills -- before he and Devers split up, before Carolyn and Diana Hsieh dissolved their Enlightenment partnership, and before Diana Hsieh decided Nathaniel was not her friend, but her and Objectivism's mortal enemy -- a group of a dozen or so Objectivists were gathered to talk about ethics and personal relationships, and Carolyn gratuitously opined that she could have any man in the room that she wanted. Some such as Nathaniel found it amusing; I was less amused and had to restrain myself from saying "Think again, sister.")

Chuckled. Thing is, Roger, she probably wasn't too far from the truth in the boast. At both the summer seminars I attended, I think the guys were lining up following along in her wake. One expection disproves a rule, but the "rule" wasn't that far from true...

4. Monart had another high-IQ ally, Thomas Radcliffe (then Carolyn Ray's "special friend"), who also weighed in on his and the COD's behalf, taking particular aim at us critics for our shortcomings.

Does that mean that Thomas is no longer Carolyn's "special friend"? And has he gotten his degree, btw? I've lost touch with what either Carolyn or he is doing.

Ellen

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Ellen, I'm out of touch with the current doings of Carolyn Ray and Thomas Radcliffe, too. So far as I know, she is still down in the San Diego area, and he somewhere up in Canada; if either or both of them have relocated, it has not been widely advertised.

As for Thomas and his degree work, I thought that he had received a Ph.D. over 10 years ago -- but maybe I'm confusing him with some other Canadian Objectivist named Thomas that was on discussion lists about 10 years ago.

"Caustic"? Yes, that's a very good word to describe Carolyn when she's not being nice. And your amended description of Monart is very accurate and fair, I'd say.

REB

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My earlier understanding of Objectivist esthetics with regard to music held that in order to be considered music, a piece had to have melody with context, not just a collection of random notes strung together and fed through a distortion/fuzz box. :)

Again, I'll leave others, if they want to do so, to debate the accuracy of that description of rock.

I don't recall a specific statement on Rand's part that "in order to be considered music, a piece had to have melody with context," but this isn't to say there isn't such a statement. It's been a fair while since I read most of her essays on esthetics.

I should probably tell you explicitly -- I think that most of the others here know this, but, your being new, you wouldn't know it -- that I don't consider myself an Objectivist. Thus, even if "Objectivist esthetics with regard to music" does say what you describe it as saying, this is by the wayside in terms of my own views.

Ellen

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As for Thomas and his degree work, I thought that he had received a Ph.D. over 10 years ago -- but maybe I'm confusing him with some other Canadian Objectivist named Thomas that was on discussion lists about 10 years ago.

Thomas Gramstad? But I think he's Norwegian and lives in Norway. Maybe I'm mixing Radcliffe up with either Bryan Register or Rick Minto...or...??

Hard to keep track.

Cheers,

E-

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No, it was Thomas Radcliffe, all right. I went back to my old MDOP files and I found correspondence with him in 1995 when he was in the physics department at Queens University (?) at Kingston, Ontario. A mutual friend of one of his college classmates told me that they had been in college together in the 80s, so I assumed that by 1995 (and by now, of course) that he had his Ph.D.

Interestingly, Thomas R. and I had very similar views on abortion: pro-choice, but against third-trimester abortions (as being murder, if not to save the mother's life or to terminate a brain dead fetus) -- while Carolyn Ray very vitriolicly attacked me for being willing to coercively prevent an abortion by a pregnant sixth grader who had made it into the third trimester before being counseled to abort. (Talk about artificially stacked thought experiments!)

I know Thomas Gramstadt, too. He's a fine fellow, but I haven't heard from him in over 5 years.

Rick (another physicist) and Karen Minto (of Full Context) have similarly disappeared beneath the radar, though I assume they are still in the Detroit area.

REB

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[section from the material REB posted from the debate on Monart Pons' list about the "Concerto of Deliverance"]

I will remind you that those of us who were approached because of our ~professional qualifications~ have not only expressed our value-judgments and feelings about COD. We have also expressed them about the ~claims~ made about and ~labels~ attached to the COD by those who expressed ~favorable~ opinions about it. And by far the majority of our negative comments were expressed in regard not to the COD itself, but to the claims and labels -- i.e., not in regard to the creation, but to the ~characterizers~ of the creation.

[....] we were ~asked~ to offer our opinions and participate in discussion of the so-called "concerto." If we had been asked to critique a painting of the Hudson River Valley and been told it was a "portrait," and others passionately objected that it was a portrait in a broad sense of portraying the scenic vista along the Hudson, I hope you can understand that the discussion might bog down a bit and not move on to a discussion of the technical merits of the painting.

We weren't asked ~not~ to critique various aspects of the COD, including its name or classification, and we weren't required to certify that we had previously engaged in criticism of the names or classifications of other pieces. Monart ~invited~ us to give our comments.

Roger,

So is what happened that the COD was submitted to several professional musicians for their opinion? You, Doug, Eric Nolte (is he the "Eric" mentioned), anyone else? And the musicians said, Well, it's not a concerto, and we don't hear the "deliverance" description. And this answer wasn't acceptable. So the argument ensued. Is that how it went?

I'm reminded of a similar incident on Old Atlantis. You might recall that Jason Alexander became interested by the fundamental-entities physics theory of Stewart Hall (the theory being touted by Everett Allie); but Jason knew he wasn't competent to judge the details of the physics. So he asked if Dennis May and Larry would take a look. They did and were negative. So Jason proceeded to discredit, as hidebound and unable to see the new and different, the experts whose opinion he'd asked .

Ellen

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Rodney: "Barbara, you're a bit off! It's

'Whether near to me or far,

It's no matter, darling, where you are,'"

You're a mean person! Here I was doing my best to show off -- and you burst my bubble. But don't think I won't try again.

Barbara,

Yeah. He got me, too. I came out with this gem about Cole Porter's lyrics: "It is very difficult to change a word in them without feeling something is off."

I suppose it wouldn't help to say that I felt there was a little something that was off in your quote and was relieved when Rodney posted that?

Yeah...

Right...

I didn't think so...

Michael

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Sorry, it's not meanness--it's my own brand of showing off. It's an oh, such a hungry yearning burning inside of me!

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  • 1 month later...

My own personal Concerto of Deliverance.... Its both "Joy" and "Darkangel" by VNV Nation.... Joy especially because of its more literal lyrics.... that song tells the story of the battle for ownership of one's own soul... a battle I have fought tooth and nail for my whole life.

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  • 1 year later...
Am I the only one on this forum who hates all pop music and rock music?

I think that at least in this regard I'd have had an ally in Rand.

Dragonfly:

Western art music (aka classical music) is my great passion...it is incomparable music--the greatest music ever created. That doesn't prevent me from enjoying some pop and rock (some, not much). What is essential, I think, is to OBJECTIVE and realize the vast qualitative difference between the art and popular music and, if one enjoys popular music, accept it for what it is: entertainment not art. It is the musical equivalent of fast food: at its best it can be tasty and enjoyable to consume, but there really isn't much, if any, 'nutritional' value there.

What I get out of the popular music I like is nostalgia and fun...it reminds me of a certain time in my life, etc. On a purely musical level it has nothing to offer. When I want to hear MUSIC I listen to Monteverdi, Bach, Haydn, Stravinsky, etc.

I can, however, understand someone not liking pop/rock music at all...so you may consider my a 'semi-ally'. :D

Best,

Ken

Edited by arete1952
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