Wednesday, October 19, 2011

re: Does music need to communicate something to be considered intelligent?

     Becky-Jo recently asked a question of intelligence in music, whether music needs to communicate something to be considered intelligent.  I do not think it does.  I think that music most likely always communicates something to each individual listener, but it may be something different than the composer intended to communicate, which may have been nothing.  Yet even if nothing extraneous is communicated, the music remains.  I believe the music, if music, can stand on its own and retain its intelligence without needing to communicate something. 

personal music

     I saw an old friend this weekend that I hadn't seen in over ten years.  We were always very close, and very connected with music.  We talked about music all the time, and searched for meaning in it, and for the meaning it held for each of us.  She made me a cd of songs I hadn't heard before, and I've been listening to it a lot the past few days.  It inspired me to take a look at my cd's and search for those songs I used to pore over, the ones that got me through.  I put together a cd of these songs, and I was led through a journey of my life, and the meaning of those songs for me.  I think that experience, and this weekend, were cathartic, indeed.
     One of the songs she gave me was of a girls choir singing a popular tune.  It is so beautiful, both because it is done in a different way, and also because she gave it to me.  Those things can change the quality of a song, a personal connection, and a new performance of it.  It is an example of ascribing emotion to music, but in a different sort of way; not in saying that something is happy or sad, but that the experience of it carries with it personal emotion.

Does a personal connection to a piece of music speak to the aesthetics of that piece in any way, or merely to the listener, or the performer?

Friday, October 14, 2011

re: If one's philosophy is both debunked and aided by a single topic, does that increase or decrease the credibility of said philosophy?

     Peter's question brings the answer that perhaps the philosophy in question needs elaboration.  Any philosophy that can both prove itself, and contradict itself, is fascinating, but needs more attention.  Something like that that will receive such attention, and conflicting ideas surrounding it, perhaps can go either way.  Such a situation puts the philosophy's credibility into question, but does not discredit it entirely until further thought can be given.  The evolution of the idea may not have ended, and there may be new circumstances available to shed light on the particular philosophy.

How do we resolve the irony that music exists and is clearly recognizable, yet we find it difficult to define?


     In watching and reading this slideshow Dr. Johnson posted, I started thinking about how very affecting art is, and how it is the same for music specifically.  There were so many quotations in that slideshow that got me thinking, I cannot even choose just one to showcase here.  Creating is like an escape, and a great place to be, unlike any other.  Experiencing music and performance can be life-changing, and unlike any other experience.  It is so compelling, to create, to watch, to listen.  It is unfortunate when we are so busy that we are unable to give in to that compulsion, for we miss such wonderful opportunities in thought. 
     How creating music, or anything, stimulates and excites.... it is a passion, and like an illness, a force all its own.  Music can make you think about things in an entirely new way, or even just to think about something at all, that you may not have before.  Music does reflect our world, and how wonderful that it endures, and continues telling that story.  All that music takes in us to create, to experience; how it sustains us, and all that it gives us all, emotionally, intellectually, socially - how can it be anything but Art?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Q and A, 5

     The significance of Hamilton's desire to defend an aesthetic conception of music lies in its past and present views.  Music has historically been regarded as aesthetic, but only secondary to natural or mathematical or ethical.  These distinctions take away from the actual intention of music as a means to an aesthetic end, and Hamilton means to bring that intention to the forefront, and define music correctly.  Also, perhaps more importantly, music for aesthetic purposes has been viewed as natural, or godly, and thus outside the realm of human experience, whereas the human experience of creating music has been viewed not as an art, thus lowering its status and claiming it is not aesthetic in nature.  Hamilton means to prove that practices of craft are still aesthetic in nature, that art and aesthetics are not always synonymous.
     Yet Hamilton talks of music as being art with at least a lowercase 'a', which means to signify music's aesthetic intention.  It is important to defend this claim because music is indeed a human activity with aesthetics at its core.  As Hamilton says in his introduction, " is abstract in form, but humane in utterance - and utterance is essential."  However previously or contemporarily viewed, music is and always has been humane in utterance and experience, and that speaks directly to determining the aesthetics of music.
     And so, Hamilton's desire to articulate and defend an aesthetic conception of music is significant because this conception is actually the link between all the differing views of music, yet not always apparently, and it needs to be made apparent.

Is music merely craft?  What is the distinction between a craft or skill, and art?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

re: Do you think computers can create music?

     Sean's question asks if computers can create music, and I think that's complicated because, like he said, computers only put out the programs that humans have entered.  The physical computer, that box sitting on the floor, obviously can't create anything but a surface for a modem and dust, but if you think of a computer as a human composer's tool and instrument, then maybe.  How is programming the computer to make sounds any fundamentally different than plucking out those sounds on a keyboard?  Obviously, the sound quality, and aesthetic quality will be different, but is that enough to discount the computer's sounds as music? 
     If the person programs the computer to make music, it's making music, as an instrument, but not as a creative being unto itself.  But as an object, a computer cannot create music, any more than a rock can.

Q and A, 4

     Adorno was an ultimate non-conformist, and felt music should change the world in some way, should be intelligent and decisive and independent.  I think what he loved about music was that it needn't follow society's rules, or anyone's rules.  And he found, with modern music, that music didn't even have to follow music's rules.  Being free of these confinements, music could be autonomous, and exist on its own; and the more autonomous it could be, the truer and more important, to music, it became. 
     Breaking all the rules, and seeking contradictions, produces musical dissonance, and in that sound lay reflections of society, according to Adorno.  It could make a true and profound statement.  Unrest, harsh truth, need for change - contradictions in society, as in the music.  An autonomous art reflecting social truth.
     I think this is why more conforming music was troubling and unappealing for him.  Having less autonomy, this music became less important and less skilled, and reflected only conformism.  He found that boring, and worse, it said something sad and negative about society to him, like music had let him down.

Can music affect societal change?

Is there something valid in Adorno's point that you don't even have to be paying attention to popular music to listen to it?  Is that unfortunate for us as listeners, for society, for musical culture?