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#1147951 - 11/28/08 12:29 AM Dealing with elitism (what is art?)
Danny Niklas Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/08
Posts: 905
Loc: Switzerland
Lately I had an enevergating discussions with a group of composers. Someone asked an opinion about Einaudi as a modern composer. The composers violently attaccked Einaudi's music and the poster, resorting to corny concepts about art and artistic value.

Their arguments principally (cloned from Boulez, Stockausen and Babbit) are that Einaudi has no artistic value, that nowadays whatever music which please people is artistically irrelevant, that music has evolved and post-tonal formalism is the only acceptable compositive standard, that music nowadays needs noise and dissonances to be artistic, that nothing can be of artistic value unless it is innovative and new (meaning, reinventng the wheel -language- each time), that people shold educate themselves in music in order to understand the real modern artists and that if music fails to communicate with non-composers it's because non-composers are artistically ignorant and inept.

The discussione degenerated when I pointed out how fundamentally ideologist, fanatical and proselytist are these discourses and how closely they resemble the many personal political, philosophical artistic ideologies and postulates which have attempted to reinvent a new universal paradigm for the whole world.

In other word how close to militant fundamental mohammeddanism, christianity, communism, fascism and nazism their personal philosophy was. And therefore how dangerous (even if at a different level in a different context) that could be.

Eventually I tried to explain that "philosophy of arts" fails to determine standard objective criteria to determine what is artistic and what is not and actually several art filologics consider a drawing from a 2 year old child the maximum artistic expression possible.

I wonder.
Have you ever met artistic elitists like that? How do you deal with them?

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#1147952 - 11/28/08 12:46 AM Re: Dealing with elitism (what is art?)
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
 Quote:
Originally posted by Danny Niklas:

I wonder.
Have you ever met artistic integralists like that? How do you deal with them? [/b]
You certainly won't meet them on the internet. Google "artistic integralists" you get zilch.
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snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
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#1147953 - 11/28/08 12:52 AM Re: Dealing with elitism (what is art?)
Danny Niklas Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/08
Posts: 905
Loc: Switzerland
I get integralismo translated as "fundamentalism" but then I also see "integralism" on google as a proper english word. Fundamentalism seemed too religious in nature.

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#1147954 - 11/28/08 12:56 AM Re: Dealing with elitism (what is art?)
sudoplatov Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/14/08
Posts: 78
Loc: Near Dallas Texas
It's trivial to deal with such people. Ignore them. Similarly for those who want a "return to tonality" or whatever.

As a composer one can just write whatever one likes. (This usually guarantees amateur status.)

As someone in the music business, one must supply what the money people want (no different from other businesses.)

With luck, one can do both. (I amd an amateur.)

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#1147955 - 11/28/08 12:57 AM Re: Dealing with elitism (what is art?)
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
I think the word you're looking for is elitist.
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#1147956 - 11/28/08 01:12 AM Re: Dealing with elitism (what is art?)
quiescen Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/24/04
Posts: 215
Loc: San Diego
Leave the elitists in their ivory towers. That's where they're comfortable and can look down upon those who don't agree with their concepts on art.

Look ... the Beatle's were art. So is a single flute in the wind. And what does it all matter in the end anyway? All that matters is if the music touched you in some way.[/b] Something those from academia rarely experience ... if at all!

----------------------------------
Play New Age Piano
http://www.quiescencemusic.com
_________________________
Edward Weiss
Quiescence Music
http://www.quiescencemusic.com

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#1147957 - 11/28/08 01:42 AM Re: Dealing with elitism (what is art?)
twsuite Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/28/08
Posts: 2
Loc: British Columbia
Imagination at work - is "All in a day's dance". In this day and age the greatest tax should be on our imagination.
We should be encouraged to be resourceful and rewarded for our breakthroughs.
Google "allinadaysdance.com" for illustration.

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#1147958 - 11/28/08 02:12 AM Re: Dealing with elitism (what is art?)
Danny Niklas Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/08
Posts: 905
Loc: Switzerland
 Quote:
Originally posted by quiescen:
Leave the elitists in their ivory towers. That's where they're comfortable and can look down upon those who don't agree with their concepts on art.

Look ... the Beatle's were art. So is a single flute in the wind. And what does it all matter in the end anyway?[/b]
The problem is that you might disagree with a totalitarian philosophy, but still interact with the field where such philosophy is promoted. For example those who disagreed with nazism philosophies in germany, still wanted to have a role in politics and interact with it.

The problem with "leaving the elitists in their ivory tower" is that those ivory towers they have taken control of, are places in which others would like to interact as well. Leaving the elitists alone is a bit like claiming to leave the faith of "accademic music" to them and worry about other kind of music.

But there are many people who would still like to have a role and express themselves in accademic or "classical" music, even if they disagree with the totalitarian dogma.

Elitists claim that only as long as you're in their environment you can have a role in the history of more formal music and hence have the same role that , Schubert, Debussy, Stravinsky, Bartok and others had.

But what about all those composers that are indeed interested in formal music, that want to have a role in the real of contemporary classical music, that want a chance to work with the legacy of other formal classical artists of the past?

And what if you actually want to save such music from what you consider a threat to it, a flawed ideological philosophy who have created a regimen where dissent is censored?

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#1147959 - 11/28/08 06:15 AM Re: Dealing with elitism (what is art?)
mrenaud Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/29/02
Posts: 1315
Loc: Switzerland
Of course, nowadays, everyone can write whatever one likes. The idea that one should only write atonal/serial/whatever music is very 60s and not generally accepted anymore (except maybe by those who actually were part of it back then). But that doesn't mean that everything is good. There's good, original music in a tonal vein (John Adams comes to mind), but seriously, Einaudi doesn't belong in that category. His "music" is unimaginative drivel because it's unimaginative drivel, not because it's tonal. I strongly believe that one should be free to call bad music (i.e. what one believes to be bad music) bad.
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#1147960 - 11/28/08 11:01 AM Re: Dealing with elitism (what is art?)
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13818
Loc: Iowa City, IA
That kind of elitism only seems to exist in bubbles. Once you open your eyes, it quickly drops away.

Eric Ewazen has the respect and attention of many gifted composers and performers all over the US, yet he writes in a very tonal idiom. (Oh, and his day job is teaching at Juilliard.)

The highly regarded composition department at the University of Michigan has people who write ragtime and orchestral works about Superman.

Torke gets plenty of attention in concert halls with classical "rock" music.

Eric Whitacre writes beautiful music and is laughing all the way to the bank.

Lowell Liebermann put his personal stamp on Prokofiev and has entered the standard piano repertoire.

John Adams is also doin' fine.

And I don't care what anybody says, composers write music FOR people. Even the most transformational characters - Beethoven, Stravinsky, Schoenberg - wrote music for people to play and enjoy. They may have written for a broader or narrower audience, but none of them relied on academic philosophy to justify their work. They relied on the interest of other humans.
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

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#1147961 - 11/28/08 11:06 AM Re: Dealing with elitism (what is art?)
Zwischenzug Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/28/08
Posts: 77
I tend to have the opposite oppinion then the one mentioned in the OP. Personally, I feel like art in general is going down hill. I love the arts, but if you look at the trends I don't really see anything promising. What is considered art these days I personally find really sad. People trying to do something new and different and failing at it. I am not going to ask anyone to share my view, but there you have it.

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#1147962 - 11/28/08 01:53 PM Re: Dealing with elitism (what is art?)
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13818
Loc: Iowa City, IA
The funny thing is that people have been saying that for over a hundred years.

Consider Schumann's warning over the "Philistines" taking over the music world with vapid trash.

Consider the arguments between Hanslick and proponents of the "New German School."

Consider the differing opinions on the state of modern Russian music between St. Petersburg and Moscow.

Consider important articles on the direction of new music written by Webern and Babbitt.

Consider the raging debates on Schenker's ideas, "New Musicology," Debussy's exoticism, Stravinsky's primitivism, the nature of Church music during the Council of Trent, Monteverdi and the "Secunda Practica," etc...

In other words, music has been decried as being in decline for the last few hundred years. I'm reminded of the famous quote by Mark Twain:

"The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated."

I think we're fine.
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

www.pianoped.com
www.youtube.com/user/UIPianoPed

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#1147963 - 11/28/08 01:56 PM Re: Dealing with elitism (what is art?)
Danny Niklas Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/08
Posts: 905
Loc: Switzerland
 Quote:
Originally posted by mrenaud:
Einaudi doesn't belong in that category. His "music" is unimaginative drivel because it's unimaginative drivel, not because it's tonal. I strongly believe that one should be free to call bad music (i.e. what one believes to be bad music) bad. [/b]
But you said Einaudi is unimaginative drivel, not "I think so". You expressed an objective judgement. I can't agree with you. The value of Einaudi music depends on your personal paradigm. If you have for example embraced a paradigm of complex music, Einaudi will certainly not fall under the realm of your paradigm. But what might be the paradigm of Einaudi and its audience? Minimal music, simple music, repetitive music?

I have seen for example read criticism againt composers who don't develop their theme. They propose a theme and repeat it over and over.
But what if the author does that on purpose, what if that his personal way to express himself artistically?

We just can't compare oranges and apples. The best apple will never be "enough orange".

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#1147964 - 11/29/08 01:07 PM Re: Dealing with elitism (what is art?)
Terimr Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/22/08
Posts: 100
Loc: Rochester, MI
I don't mean to be rude here...but what is the purpose of this post? Deal with elitists by simply ignoring them. In my opinion, music is the soundtrack of life. Who is to say one composer is better than the other?? geez..who really cares?

Einaudi "rocks" my world..so does Chopin, Gershwin and Eminem.

Where music is involved, there are not only oranges and apples, but bananas, onions and tomoatos...among others.

Perhaps I'm tired of reading this topic over and over again in this composers forum...It just goes on and on and on..

I suggest that we not perpetuate this discussion (as I just did.. sorry!). Modern composers should rise above this nonsense and embrace the diversity of other forms of music out there (or at least not use slamming terms to describe their works).

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#1147965 - 11/29/08 01:35 PM Re: Dealing with elitism (what is art?)
Steve Chandler Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/18/05
Posts: 2790
Loc: Urbandale, Iowa
Hi Danny,

As usual there are valid points on both sides of this debate. I believe even Scoenberg admitted there was still plenty of great music yet to be written in c major. OTOH pastiche is still pastiche. Every composer comes up with an individual answer to the to the question, "What is my unique voice?" Some people earnestly wish to bless the world with more music that sounds like Chopin, though usually their efforts are not as skillful they are entertaining at least to their originator. Others strive to be totally new and different and invent a new language which only the most learned of musicians can understand. It seems to me that neither accomplishes much of value to mankind in the long run.

The greatest music seems to have a way of engaging many less sophisticated listeners and yet continues to yield surprises and meaning to those more learned. Such music has many layers so that it can be enjoyed at a superficial level, but if listened too many times with attention still engages the active mind. The human brain seeks to find order. If music contains only unrelenting dissonance it sounds like noise or chaos. It is in the variations between dissonance and resolution, between chaos and order that the listener finds art.

Kreisler mentioned many excellent composers that work within a relatively tonal idiom, yet their work would never be mistaken for Schubert. These composers have found a way to be original without relying on that old standby shocking dissonance or rhythmic chaos. In a sense I find that those who earnestly believe that only dissonance can express our modern world are simply unimaginative.

So Danny try that argument on these folks, the avante garde is both pastiche and passe.

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#1147966 - 11/29/08 01:48 PM Re: Dealing with elitism (what is art?)
epf Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/13/07
Posts: 658
Loc: Central Texas
From my perspective the answer depends on the context. Clearly if this discussion takes place in the world of academia it has to be addressed appropriately. If it takes place in a more general context one is free to ignore any position that seems to be extremist (unless, of course, one agrees with such a position).

The composition of music, like literature, offers an infinite realm of possibilities. I happen to prefer music that has a clear rhythmic base, melody and harmony. I find most atonal music or music that has no rhythmic base to be incomprehensible. At the same time I recognize that there are people who like such music and I would not deny them the pleasure it brings them.

In short, there is room for many different types of music. I find that opinions that would limit music to a particular genre, era or instrumentation to be self-serving and certainly not worth my time to discuss -- I'd much rather be playing or composing music!

Ed
_________________________
"...a man ... should engage himself with the causes of the harmonious combination of sounds, and with the composition of music." Anatolius of Alexandria

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#1147967 - 11/29/08 03:39 PM Re: Dealing with elitism (what is art?)
Danny Niklas Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/08
Posts: 905
Loc: Switzerland
I think the problem is that contemporary modernist music focuses on "form", whereas most of us when listening music focuses on the "content".

I think there are alternative levels of appreciation other than what could be defined as a "primitive emotional and sensorial" appreciation, but such levels are usually dedicated to the experts of that field.

Now consider fitness. Consider the feelings one normally gets from working out and the motivation to improve one's health and body. One might casually witness two expert trainers, in awe like young children, about a new set of plyometric coordinative forms that might address the miofibrillar spreading of the interesetion of the deltoid by decreasing the normal sarcoplastic growth.

Clearly you would not share their enthusiam and focus again on the psychophysical effects the working is having on you.

Considering this scenario there are two things I'm sure of:

1) Even though the experts find new stimulus in discussing and exploring technical aspects they still enjoy the more "primitive" feelings of working out

2) No trainer would ever claim that the "stupid average person" should "follow a course in motory sciences" in order to be "less blind" and start "appreciating" physical activity at a more "technical and knowledgeable levels" instead of being "entrapped" in an "ignorant primitive superificial appreciation".

In every field expertise allows to see stimulating technical aspects that would be invisible for someone who doesn't have such expertise. This is also true for composers.
They might have the kind of expertise to appreciate music at a more technical level, but they keep experiencing all other human activities and task at a more basic level.

It's no wonder then that we hear so often that a musician enjoyed a cryptic piece of music because he listened it while reading the score. Hence he noticed in the score all the technical nuances that the ear alone couldn't tell, suddenly seeing the "structural beauty" of the piece.

Most of contemporary music concerts are exactly like a lecture on new models of radiatior circuits and their installation. They're about the form, the structure, the technical aspect of someone area of expertise. They can be stimulating at a technical and intellettual level as long as you're an expert and interested in that kind of exploration. But you wouldn't expect anyone except technicians to attend it. You wouldn't expect anyone except technicians understanding and appreciating the lecture.

The problem is that the essence of music is not just in its form. And while I have the knowledge to appreciate the technical aspects of a composition, I'm still more interested in its emotional and cultural content.

That's why I'm not convinced at all buy the very snob argument that people should educate themselves in music in order to understand new art, or that "those who don't understand" should be blamed insted of "those who don't make themselves understandable"

To blame a person for looking at the content of music and ignoring the structure is like being a linguist and blaming a person for caring for the content of a discourse rather than the structural analytical syntax and the evolution of language. Or like being a technician blaming a kid for caring only about the content of the videogame rather then the pixel resolution solution in one particular frame.

I think that videogames are appreciated both by simple players and experts at a basic level: playing. There is another alternative level of appreciation for the experts which is the whole creation of a video-games, the technical aspects and nuances.

I believe that there could be lectures about the technical aspects of how certain videogames are structured which would be cryptic to the most avid video game players. But I believe they can't become the standard of what creating video games is supposed be.

Imagine if videogame creators startet to create videogames devoid of content and unplayable but nonetheless works of technical genius. Imagine that instead of selling and distributing them, they would discuss these "games" in boring high-technical lectures.

This is exactly what I believe contemporary music has done. They created highly-technical musical lectures for experts and blame the ignorance of people, who still look for content.

It's no wonder then that the contemporary music ideologies have become so dogmatic. When you focus exclusively on form and neglect content and viability, you can't recognize any value in music which utilizes technical aspects only as means to convey ideas.

If you still care about content and consider technical nuances an "interesting intellectual game" for experts, you can appreciate that someone might use lot of colors in painting because he needs those, and that someone might ditch colors because he doesn't need those for his black and white painting.

But if all you care is the form and the compositive structure, then "lack of colours" doesn't appear anymore as a style choice to you but as an obselete and unoriginal lack of complexity and technicism. That's understandable, the piece indeed lacks in that departmente but only because its focus is the content.

So when I read that Einaudi is a drivel and inimaginative I can't help but think that the "problem" of Einaudi is that his music lack "colors" because he doesn't need them, because he wants to write in black and white.

That makes Einaudi a true artist who has understood once and for all that technical means are tools we use or not according to our creative needs, and not the focus of some highly-technical and over-intellectualy game.

 Quote:
I don't mean to be rude here...but what is the purpose of this post? Deal with elitists by simply ignoring them. In my opinion, music is the soundtrack of life. Who is to say one composer is better than the other?? geez..who really cares?
[/b]

Do you study composition in accademy?
When you belong to the accademy environment you feel a lot of pressure. Many students are praised for their elitism and advantaged even if they don't have much talent, while many are thrown out of the accademy in the middle of their formation because they are not elite enough. A lot of public money from the minister of arts are given to meaningless avant-guarde (anyone remember the violinist who perform naked underwater and the man who filmed himself while cutting off his penis?) Audience is made to feel inferior and brainless and you have to fake many accademic behaviors just to maintain your position and have a chance. And in Europe the situation is worse than in America.

So I still need to discuss this, to find alleys, to find strategies to employ in dealing with all this closed-mindedness and artistic snobbery.
Ignoring issues never work. You can't heal a disease from ignoring it. You can't save yourself from wild beasts by ignoring them. You can't solve an economic problem by ignoring it.

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#1147968 - 11/29/08 04:05 PM Re: Dealing with elitism (what is art?)
epf Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/13/07
Posts: 658
Loc: Central Texas
Nicholas,

I minored in music in college and only took a couple of classes on composition so I never faced the problems you describe. At the same time, I did note in my previous post that if this discussion takes place in academia it needs to be addressed seriously. Unfortunately, I suspect that there is no real way in which this can be adequately discussed as it will degenerate into a religious argument. When positions such as you describe are espoused it is clear that such an individual has taken an extremist position and rational arguments will not sway such a person.

From an academic standpoint it's necessary to avoid close-mindedness as that precludes learning and interferes with teaching since it precludes dialogue.

I'm afraid I don't have any real advice for you.

Ed
_________________________
"...a man ... should engage himself with the causes of the harmonious combination of sounds, and with the composition of music." Anatolius of Alexandria

YouTube Channel

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#1147969 - 11/29/08 10:50 PM Re: Dealing with elitism (what is art?)
Danny Niklas Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/08
Posts: 905
Loc: Switzerland
I thought about the topic of this thread a little more. The basic problem I believe is that there are two opposed philosophical perspectives in modern music making and composition.

One perspective (mine) is that a composer is a music maker. He uses technical means to create music according to his creative needs and intentions. Music is created to fulfill a personal and collective expressive need, to communicate at a personal and social level.

The other perspective is that a composer is an acoustic experimentalist. He discovers new technical means for the pleasure of analyzing the nature of sound itself. He is more a scientist than an artist. Music is created to fulfill a scientific need of dwelling into the acoustic structure of sound particles. It's no wonder that a composer like Xenakis had practically no music training and such ample scientific training. Taken to its extreme this perspective would create musicians that needs intensive scientific training but no music training, in order to be composers.

Those of us who still think of a composer as a music maker, a writer in the language of music, and not a laboratory scientist of sound, are considered obsolete ruins of romanticism and anachronistic reactionaries.

Lately a famous university teacher claimed that the modern composer will be able to thrown away his piano and whatever musical instrument. Music will be made with the computer and spectrum analyzers.

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#1147970 - 11/30/08 12:01 PM Re: Dealing with elitism (what is art?)
Terimr Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/22/08
Posts: 100
Loc: Rochester, MI

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#1147971 - 11/30/08 12:11 PM Re: Dealing with elitism (what is art?)
Terimr Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/22/08
Posts: 100
Loc: Rochester, MI
 Quote:
Originally posted by Danny Niklas:
I think the problem is that contemporary modernist music focuses on "form", whereas most of us when listening music focuses on the "content".

Do you study composition in accademy?
When you belong to the accademy environment you feel a lot of pressure. Many students are praised for their elitism and advantaged even if they don't have much talent, while many are thrown out of the accademy in the middle of their formation because they are not elite enough. A lot of public money from the minister of arts are given to meaningless avant-guarde (anyone remember the violinist who perform naked underwater and the man who filmed himself while cutting off his penis?) Audience is made to feel inferior and brainless and you have to fake many accademic behaviors just to maintain your position and have a chance. And in Europe the situation is worse than in America.

You can't heal a disease from ignoring it. You can't save yourself from wild beasts by ignoring them. You can't solve an economic problem by ignoring it. [/b]
Yes, I have studied composition at a university level for a 2 year period (then privately for 1 year)..and I have never experienced the need or desire to defend myself or other artists' music. The competition and economic pressures you describe are issues I am not familiar with. Perhaps a European professional composers' society would be the better place to discuss this topic. Having said that, there are "elitists" from all parts of the world who occationally express themselves in this forum.

I maintain giving attention to "elitists" does just that and nothing more. Unfortunately, your very well articulated arguments will not change the mind of the artistic snob no matter which part of the world he or she resides. Ignoring irrelevant critiques in my opinion is the only way to deal with this problem.

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#1147972 - 12/01/08 02:00 AM Re: Dealing with elitism (what is art?)
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5976
Loc: Down Under
 Quote:
Originally posted by Danny Niklas:
Those of us who still think of a composer as a music maker, a writer in the language of music, and not a laboratory scientist of sound, are considered obsolete ruins of romanticism and anachronistic reactionaries. [/b]
There may be people who believe this. You can't stop them believing this. You have no control over what people believe. When the chance comes, you can argue with them. But in my experience - and I even studied composition in the 1960s, when serialism was The Big Thing - I can't say I never heard that view expressed, but even then it wasn't the majority view, and I don't think it is now. So I don't think you need to feel you're fighting some huge battle against the forces of darkness, Danny. Cheer up. Let the laboratory scientist composers have their fun, and realise that perhaps they only make their point so strongly because it is a minority view.

I just don't have such a gloomy perspective as you. If anyone was to think that melody was dead, it would have been us in the 60s. I think few of us would have predicted the way things went in the 80s and 90s. And yet there were composers (here in Australia pretty high profile ones) who were writing melody then and are still writing it now. Sure they dabbled in electronic music and soundscapes, but just as another compositional tool, like all the others.
_________________________
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#1147973 - 12/01/08 06:22 AM Re: Dealing with elitism (what is art?)
RogerW Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/10/08
Posts: 439
And don't forget that some laboratory scientists of sound have managed to created some truly wonderful music. Just as in any other field of sciense, most experiments fail to give pleasing results, but sometimes you might get lucky... \:\)

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#1147974 - 12/02/08 12:11 AM Re: Dealing with elitism (what is art?)
Danny Niklas Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/08
Posts: 905
Loc: Switzerland
I was to share with you few examples of the proselitist I encounter daily:

______________________________

"The process of creation is the focus; not the glorification of the superficial sounds that only mimic real music. The reinstatement of Xenakis', Nono's, Scelsi's and Estrada's ideals to preeminence was crucial. The recognition of these trends, in preference to those of the more facile and easily attractive ones espoused by Penderecki,
Ligeti and others, had to be ensured.

Modern music is the music composed that results from research into the attributes of sound, and into the ways we perceive sound. It usually
involves experimentation; the experimentation yields special discoveries that bear fruit in the act of composition. Innovations such as atonality, klangfarbenmelody, chord-coloration, granular sounds, near-inaudibility, ataxy, the continuum.

There is so much glitter in the world, and so much noise pollution that we are being rendered incapable of reflection and of creative thought. We become mortified at the thought of a little challenge. We are paralyzed when faced with the challenge of keeping our evolutionary legacy in focus. We cannot afford to trade away quality
for mediocrity, just because mediocrity is easier and more enticing. This would not be an acceptable social outcome. To live we must thrive. To thrive we cannot rest.

Entertainment is a laudable pursuit in certain settings and times. It cannot be the force that drives our lives. If a composer desires to
write entertaining music, that is all right. But that composer must be honest about his or her motives for doing so. Do not write entertainment and then try to con the public by claiming this is great music. It is best to be able to discover the key to the writing of a music that can fulfill a need for tomorrow. By understanding nature, the nature of sound and the human condition, we can write music capable of conveying something essential. That goes beyond
entertainment. It fulfills music's most crucial purpose: providing a teaching role.

It is all right to find beauty in old sources. Even Respighi can be very charming, engaging. It is also just as good to listen to
soothing, euphonious music as it is to write such music. But can't we as composers do better than this? Why can't we give something besides pleasure to tomorrow? Young composers today are at a crossroads. They can fulfill a vital mission by helping fulfill a tradition that carries on a cultural legacy"
_____________________________


_____________________________

"It is in no way surprising for any people, to have witnessed the ever increasing decadence and compartmentalisation of all artistic mediums.
More and more these mediums tend to move towards entertaining the masses, rather than expressing eternal truths accessable only to a group very small in number. These people could be called an
intellectual elite, however their elite status is no longer recognised, because of the inversion of a hierachy which by its very nature should not be inverted.

It is undeniable that music has suffered as much as any other art, to the point where the artistic side is now entirely separate from the entertainment, and whilst the latter enjoys enourmous success, the former dwindles and barely even exists at the current time. These two
groups of music can be traced back to two elements within the music itself, these are the intellectual, and the sentimental. The intellectual element generally corresponds to the overall structure of a piece of music, although a particlar element can be intellectual in
itself this rarely occurs in any western music since the renaissance. The sentimental aspect is more concerned with the character of
particular melodic and harmonic features, these can vary in complexity, but without intellectual guidance they have no actual purpose of meaning. Most recent western music is a blending of the
intellectual and the sentimental elements, resulting in music that, whilst still accessable to the masses, retains an esoteric, inward
nature that is hidden from all but a few. The works of many well-known composers, most notably Beethoven, have a strong sense of sentimentality but ultimately still recognise its subordination to the intellectual. It was only towards the end of the romantic period that the hieracy was inverted, causing works that lost their esoteric
meaning in favour of creating pointless humanistic art, guided only by sentiment.

We have now reached a point where only the sentimental is recgonised, the intellectual being thought of as too complex for the modern
listener, it is hard to imagine how anyone could fail to recgonise decadence is this, but yet it goes largely unoticed by our contemporaries. Looking back it is possible to see, within the realm of what came to be known as art music, some attempts to restore a genuine hierachy in the musical medium. Against the tide of late-romanticism, the serialists attempted to restore a purely intellectual formal structure to music, unfortunately most who followed this school still wanted to create sentimental works and this showed in their compositions.
Only Webern really succeeded in creating true serialist art, that transcended the decadence of the times, because from this particular school, only he understood what it meant to create purely intellectual music. One will notice the
complete absence of anything accessble to the masses in his music, in other words, a complete detatchment of the intellectual from the
sentimental, it seems that in modern times, this is the only way to avoid infestation and eventual destruction of universal hierachy by the chaotic tendancies of the Kali Yuga"
____________________________

Talking about snobbery, elitism and narcissism.
The reason I don't share your optimism is that I see dozen of books every years militantly promoting this morally superior position all accademists should embrace, if they don't want to be ostracized. But I have never seen a book in defense of other alternative modern philosophies in accademic music except formalism and concretism. I have seen no book attempting to defend the audience of being "stupid" just for being disinterested about an highly-technical dimensione devoted to experts alone (as it is in every field of human creativity and knowledge).
I have seen no book recognizing quality criteria even in the content and edonistic viability of music not just it's structure and form.

A brilliant friend of mine has been thrown away from the conservatory where he studied. He had three years left before graduating in composition.
His teachers realized that he is embracing an "anachronistic language" and his works are devoid of formal innovations. The teacher who admitted him in the first time has been accused of blindness as it should have been evident that he didn't belong to the accademy. When he was told he had not been admitted to the next year, he has been strongly advised to "focus on pop music" as that "the max his music can aspire to".
You can imagine his frustration. After leaving education in the accademy his teacher contacted him to collaborate as he thought he was the best element of his composition classroom.
His blog is read by 2000 users a month.

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#1147975 - 12/02/08 01:32 AM Re: Dealing with elitism (what is art?)
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5976
Loc: Down Under
 Quote:
Originally posted by Danny Niklas:
A brilliant friend of mine has been thrown away from the conservatory where he studied. [/b]
I don't mean to sound flippant, but maybe he should look for somewhere else to study where his style is appreciated. Things may well be as you describe where you are, but I'd be surprised if they're universally so. And if his music is "reactionary" he'll probably have more chance of finding an audience than if he was aiming to alienate, like the academics you refer to. If he wants to be a composer and he's good at it he'll keep on composing, won't he? And try to find his niche, like the rest of us.
_________________________
Du holde Kunst...

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#1147976 - 12/02/08 10:45 AM Re: Dealing with elitism (what is art?)
epf Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/13/07
Posts: 658
Loc: Central Texas
Danny,

Your first two citations appear not to be elitism per se but, rather, musical gnosticism! Indeed, the comment that "eternal truths [are] accessable[sic] only to a group very small in number" is precisely the definition of gnosticism.

I went over to the college where I studied and had a brief conversation with the composer in residence who claimed that the attitude you noted does not exist in American academia, at least not to any significant degree.

While it is certainly true that there are composers working in what I would call "experimental music" (computer generated music based upon mathematical formulae) and in the continuation of serialism and atonality, and that these composition skills are taught does not mean that these are the "elite." Rather, they are part of a well-rounded set of courses designed to bring the student as much exposure to different forms and styles as possible.

Understanding the nature of sound and how it is perceived cannot but help one to be a better composer. Such knowledge was available to composers of the past who took advantage of it to create the perception of notes that are neither scored nor played, yet which the mind manufactures -- and this reflected an understanding of the mind and the perception of sound.

Yet, in my mind, if music is "organized sound" then the nature of that organization is also a subject for study.

And, as I've said, I doubt that one can argue with those who take such dogmatic stands with regard to music. Their positions are as immutable as those who espouse fundamentalism in religion, physics or any other field of human endeavor.

Ed
_________________________
"...a man ... should engage himself with the causes of the harmonious combination of sounds, and with the composition of music." Anatolius of Alexandria

YouTube Channel

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#1147977 - 12/02/08 10:47 AM Re: Dealing with elitism (what is art?)
Steve Chandler Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/18/05
Posts: 2790
Loc: Urbandale, Iowa
Danny.

The folks you've described can only survive within academia and then only with occasional support from arts grants and commissions from the like minded. This style of music is a dead end in that it will never garner any public support beyond that. It is irrelevant and far removed from music making by musicians from concert level performers to students just starting out. This music will never emerge from its ivory or ivy encrusted towers because nobody but these folks themselves cares about it. The idea that they are researching human musical perception and psycho-acoustics is laughable. The only response would be to tell them to "get a life."

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#1147978 - 12/02/08 01:08 PM Re: Dealing with elitism (what is art?)
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13818
Loc: Iowa City, IA
While the folks Danny described only seem to exist in academia, the composers they idolized often did not:

Xenakis wasn't a professor.
Bussotti wasn't a professor.
Scelsi wasn't a professor.
Boulez isn't a professor.
Sorabji wansn't a professor.

If you want a real zinger, tell your elitist composer friends that if they really want to be bold, tell them to quit being sissies who need to have their experimentation subsidized by universities and go get a grant from Bell Labs (like Varese), work for the military (like Theremin), work in the publishing business (like Webern), or convert their own followers and start their own institute (like Stockhausen.)

Or if they insist on working in academia, tell them to take ownership of their position and generate interest in their work (like Cage) instead of whining about how nobody cares.

If you're passionate about what you do, you can make people care. I know someone who was very interested in combining his interests in Ethnomusicology, multimedia, and 60s/70s experimental and electronic music.

Instead of complaining that nobody understood him, he developed a program that's generated a lot of interest and activity in the subject:

http://www.csf.edu/academics/contemporary_music/program

They even have a summer camp!

And if you ever feel like doing a degree in atonal electro-acoustic gamelan with dancing and poetry, they'd probably give you a big scholarship.
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

www.pianoped.com
www.youtube.com/user/UIPianoPed

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#1147979 - 12/02/08 01:14 PM Re: Dealing with elitism (what is art?)
Larisa Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/03/08
Posts: 498
Loc: Philadelphia
 Quote:
Originally posted by Danny Niklas:
I wonder.
Have you ever met artistic elitists like that? How do you deal with them? [/b]
Yes, I have. This was my primary motivator in staying away from the music departments of any colleges I attended (other than to use their practice rooms).

My first exposure to such indoctrination was when I was a child in Russia, writing cutesy little waltzes and minuets (what else is a 7-year-old girl supposed to write?), being disapproved of by my teachers because I didn't use dissonance and because my music was "too traditional". I didn't want to use dissonance just to please my teachers. I wanted to write the music I heard in my head. At the time, yes, the music I heard in my head was cutesy - but it was my own music, and my own voice.

As a college student, I audited a few composition courses at the music department (even though I was majoring in something else). By that time, my style was very early-Romantic, vaguely resembling Mendelssohn. Everyone else in the class wrote very dissonant music. This was deemed to be the only style worth pursuing. No one actively disapproved of my (consonant) compositions, but I was not expected to know very much anyway - I was just an engineering student. But I really wondered how a class designed to help the students develop their individual musical style (as per the syllabus) could produce so many near-identical - and very dissonant - works. (it appeared to me that many of the students were just setting down notes at random...)

The sentiment I found especially infuriating, which is all-too-frequently expressed by those who really ought to know better, was "Why write in the style of Mozart when Mozart has already said all there is to be said?" If that is so, why must I write in the style of Stockhausen when, presumably, he has already said all there is to be said? Is every composer supposed to invent an entirely new musical language? Presumably not (given the identical works I heard in the composition class) - so why is dissonance all that much worthier of imitation than consonance?

There is a happy ending to my story; I found the ragtime community, where a lot of people compose music in that style. I have been writing rags ever since (on average, one every two months); my music is heard, played by others, and liked by the audiences. And - even though I am writing in an established style - I have my own individual take on that style. My compositions are identifiably mine.

And now that I compose regularly, hear other people's compositions, and see what happens when an old musical style is resurrected and reinvented by a new group of composers, I really wonder what the composition departments think they're doing.

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#1147980 - 12/02/08 01:22 PM Re: Dealing with elitism (what is art?)
Larisa Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/03/08
Posts: 498
Loc: Philadelphia
 Quote:
Originally posted by epf:

While it is certainly true that there are composers working in what I would call "experimental music" (computer generated music based upon mathematical formulae) and in the continuation of serialism and atonality, and that these composition skills are taught does not mean that these are the "elite." Rather, they are part of a well-rounded set of courses designed to bring the student as much exposure to different forms and styles as possible.

[/b]
Oh, but if that's what they were doing, wouldn't they also teach their students to write fugues, sonatas, minuets, and other classical forms - in the consonant style that existed at the time these forms were created? I actually did that - I studied composition privately and tried to work my way through the history of Western musical forms. My composition list includes some fairly respectable fugues (that actually sound Baroque), a couple of sonatinas (that actually sound Classical), an early-Romantic sonata, a string quartet, some more modernistic-sounding stuff (I stopped at the early 20th century). But this is not what I saw in the composition department of the college I attended. There, yes, you were supposed to write atonally - but that's all. If they talked about fugues or sonatas at all, it was atonal fugues and atonal sonatas. There was no exposure to any musical language other than atonality, which basically meant that a lot of the students were just setting down notes at random and getting A's for it.

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