Friday, December 26, 2008

Film Music or Concert Music?

In an earlier post, the question of which music is better has been
brought up: film music or concert music?

Concert music has been around for hundreds (perhaps even
thousands) of years. This type of music was perfected from the
baroque era to the romantic period. Many new techniques were
developed and the concert halls became large attractions. This
kind of music was written to be listened to on it's own, and
therefore had a much higher standard to follow. Opera was soon
to come after concert music, and had to follow a similar standard.
However, instead of entirely having to hold it's own, opera music
had to be written to encompass the singer as well. The concerto
soon evolved from this, as music soon had to encompass the
solo instrument.

Film music has come about very recently. When the silent films
came about, the music played wasn't even written specifically
for the picture. Classical and early popular music was usually
played until the films became more sophisticated. The music
that was used here closely followed the contemporary concert
music of the time. In fact, it followed the concert styles for many
years, even until the mid eighties perhaps. Then the music began
to be written to match the picture more and more. In the past
twenty years, film music has become very sophisticated, and
could even be said to have become an art of it's own.

So, which is the more noble? In concert music, it can be as noble
as the composer chooses. In film, it can only be as noble as the
film allows (which is hardly noble at all in some cases). But music
written for film has the potential to serve an extremely high
purpose: to bring souls to God. With the rise of many Christian
filmmakers, this is becoming more and more of a possibility.
Perhaps we will even see Catholic filmmakers on the rise.

While you are pondering these questions, I will subject a film-like
piece of mine to your professional opinions. Enjoy!!!!

Sunday, December 21, 2008


So I’m sure you all know by now that this blog is called Disciples of Diotima. It is a subtle compliment to me for you to be so trusting of me as to be looking at it without knowing a great deal about the woman, or what her ideas were (alright, I had one very short post on it a while back). Eventually, all of you really ought to be a little curious about this. I certainly am! So, what does Diotima actually say about beauty?
Diotima is mentioned by Socrates in the famous philosophical dialogue the Symposium, a dialogue that deals with love and beauty. Socrates, who, though he called himself an annoying gadfly, was evidently liked well enough to be invited to banquets, speaks after several other speakers. Asked to give speeches In praise of love, the first few detail and praise numerous desires. Stating that he speaks what he thinks is true about love (as opposed to merely praising it with half-truths) and saying that he gained his wisdom from the woman Diotima, Socrates gives a radically expanded definition of love, including within it (as far as I can remember) all forms of human desire and attraction, including but not limited to friendship, hunger, and romance (Agape, Christian and Divine love, is understandably not, included; love is even “proven” to show that the beloved has something the lover lacks, which cannot be the case in Divine Agape).
The part we are concerned with, however, is one of the most central statements of desire. Diotima says that what humans most desire is “Birth in Beauty, whether of body or soul.” Furthermore, she paints the birth of one’s own children as a type of this most-desired birth, and also says that all that is desired [loved] must be good. What does this mean for beauty?
The sensible listeners in Socrates’s time could have inferred a few things. Drunkenness and other sins, obviously not beautiful, will not fulfill the greatest desire; the making of things: children, the Parthenon, poetry, ourselves, is much closer. And these things must be good things, or they will not satisfy the desire. But this sort of inference gives no definition of the noun “beauty” as distinct from the noun goodness, only a definition of the phrase “birth in beauty.” What the phrase would mean (unless it meant goodness) if the “birth in” were removed is unclear.
Another method of analysis only confirms the near-equivalence between beauty and goodness. In his Ethics, Aristotle teaches us that the object of our greatest desire is happiness, which consists in contemplation of (and, for the Christian, loving of and union with) the Good. If Diotima is not to contradict Aristotle, beauty and goodness must be more or less equivalent.
Then why is beauty associated with making in the Symposium, while goodness is not? Perhaps it is because when we make a thing for its own sake (such as a poem) we are concerned more with seeing of the goodness of the perfection of the thing than we are with things that we did not make. Language sufficient to get an idea across is good, a poem about the same idea is closer to perfect because we make it with care; emphasis is on the making of the thing in addition to the thing.
This coincides with Aquinas’ definition of beauty as well as the word’s common usage. Aquinas says:

“ Beauty and goodness in a thing are identical
fundamentally; for they are based upon the same thing, namely, the
form; and consequently goodness is praised as beauty. But they differ
logically, for goodness properly relates to the appetite (goodness
being what all things desire); and therefore it has the aspect of an
end (the appetite being a kind of movement towards a thing). On the
other hand, beauty relates to the cognitive faculty; for beautiful
things are those which please when seen.”

If the things were not made especially to approach perfection, why would they please us when seen in any special way? Take this example from common experience:

Consider that sort of rock that is called a Potato Stone. On the outside, it looks like a potato, but on the inside, it is filled with shining agate. Both are good, as both exist, but the inside is more beautiful than the outside because it is more obviously made to be special and perfect by God. The outside is just as Divinely fashioned, but this is not obvious, it cannot be seen.

In conclusion: Diotima coincides with Aquinas. Is she not a good person for us to be disciples of?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Republic (Plato), Aesthetics of

Most scholars agree that the writings of Plato have two periods: the first is where he is merely repeating the words of Socrates, and the second is where he is expounding his own views. Most also agree that the Republic is in this second category.

Plato begins with the assumption that the purpose of art is to help in the training of the philosopher-kings of the ideal state. Rightfully, he excludes things such as indecency and erroneous depictions of God from art. There are also some more doubtful exclusions.

Exclusion: Reason

Anthropomorphism God is not anthropomorphic.

Laments/Comedies/Drinking songs These things are not conducive
to the training of leaders;
they are irrational/dangerous.

Imitation/Pantomime By imitating a thing, one becomes like it.

Perhaps others that I cannot remember.

Plato's fallacy is the assumption that just becuause these things are what they are, that they will have the psycological effect he thinks they will have or becuause they are dangerous/useless, they should not be. But no child ever really became more like a dog because they pretended they were. And the sorts of things that he forbids are all legitimate human activities: Crying, laughing, drinking, etc. Their absence could be worse than what is prevented by their absence, an aspect Plato never even imagines.

Plato's other repbulican aesthetical views, however, are very sensible. They consist in the fact that that beauty and truth and goodness are allied, and that by seeing beautiful things, one can learn to recognize what beauty is, and that this is conducive to goodness.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Harry Gregson-Williams

In response to my previous post, I will open for discussion a composer
who is apparently free from the Ecumenical Philosophy: Harry

I have noticed a new style of music emerging. My theory is that it
evolved from various television drama shows (not that I have seen
many). This style is a very rhythmic and driven style designed to keep
the audience on the edge of their seats. I am no expert on this
particular style, but I have definitely noticed it's emergence. It
appears to be accomplished with heavy accents and fast-paced moving
parts, primarily in the strings. A few movies that appear to have used
this new style extensively would be: The Lion, The Witch, and The
Wardrobe, Prince Caspian, All three of the Pirates of The Caribbean
movies, and National Treasure one and two. Now that you have these
films called to mind, you might be thinking that this is just typical
action music, right? Well, it's my opinion that until at least the
seventies (probably until even later), action-music was scored in a
neo-classical way. That's right, if you think about the harmonies
used, this will make at least some sense. But the turning point is
Lord of The Rings.

I myself have seen very few of the movies made in the eighties to
the present. However, I think this new action style might have
emerged in Lord of The Rings. The score to Lord of The Rings
has many moving parts in the action sequences, but still appears
to use many of the old neo-classical harmonies. There are heavy
accents in some places of course, like the Isengard theme, and this
set up the development of the new action style (which in my
hypothesis was already being developed in the TV dramas).

So, what do you all think? Is this a good style? It's true, it doesn't
seem to place the accents on the weak beats (yet), but how good
is it for your blood pressure?

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Expressionist Poem

Transfixed, I gaze upon a lovely lemon on the table
That seems an ancient honey-stone from some dark ancient fable.
Across there sits a Man of Night, like a disembodied smile,
Who has with thongs unbreakable chair-bound me for a while.

"The Lemon's booby-trapped" he says.

Then, as I watch in hypno-horror, worrying for his life,
Toward the perilous citrus fruit he moves a Subtle Knife
That is engraved with verbal curves of cultured anarchy
That tries to hide a destroyed thing behind existent being.

"No knife is a punishment" he says.

Just before it breaks ths skin, I am changed suddenly,
At the prospect of a deadly fruit I am filled with agony
Wonder of wonders! Actually two agonies in fact!
An agony that does repel, and one that does attract!

"Are you caucasian?" he says.

For I know that when the yellow ball is touched by the blade,
The resulting effulgence of juice will be as a sculpted jade
Contorting all my features into squinted forms horrendous
For the juice will be in my very eye and cause a pain stupendous.

"Eight hundred million dollars for the man in the Ford!" he says.

But the aspect of the pain-cordial has its fascination
Am I a sadist to desire that juice plus eye equals elation?
Verily, I even see it as a sun-hued reaper grim
Even as in salty joyful draughts my lifted spirit swims.

"Your mother needs a hired helper" he says.

Of this fair free United States I am a full free resident
Shall we have a joyful martyrdom when Obama becomes president?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Ecumenical Music Philosophy

Over the centuries, western music has been roughly of one style.
the Baroque, the Classical, the Romantic, etc... But since the evolution
of many new styles in the twentieth century, music has not been as
clean cut as it was in the nineteenth century and before. We have
now what I will call:

The Ecumenical Music Philosophy

This philosophy incorporates every last style, and as a result, many
hybrid styles are formed (isn't the twentieth century all about
hybridization?). The result can be quite messy, but also quite beautiful
in the rare gifted hands.

So is this a good philosophy? I myself have partially fallen into it
(although there are many "musical" styles I will never incorporate
into my music [or even listen to]), but is it a good philosophy? Was
music better when there was only one dominate style? If there was
only one style, then it could be enriched by all composers and
continue to be enriched in the future. On the other hand, couldn't
all of these new styles enrich music as a whole? Could it be boiled
down until each style is interchangeable with the others? I won't
answer this, since I do not have the answer. But there must be
benefits to both sides.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


I would highly encourage all new visitors to investigate the labels list on the right side of the screen. It is an excellent way for you to see what sorts of older articles we've got that might interest you.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Parodic Request

O give me a subject
To which I cannot object
For a disturbing, Expressionist poem

For in my S.S. class
(The one I was in last)
They told us 'bout this idiom.

Friday, December 5, 2008


Just wanted to point out the somewhat high level of internationalism on this blog. Although all its contributors are American citizens (at least the last time I checked), Don Pedro wants to obtain Argentinian citizenship. Additionally, we have two international commenters: Hans Lundahl (France) and Relentless (Canada).

Notice that this required no affirmative action or propaganda or even conscious seeking.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Rules or Fulfillment?

Here I have a topic similar to "The Goal". In music, which is better?
Following the rules? or fulfilling the goal that was intended for the
piece of music? There are several rules currently being discussed,
and every one of them has a valid point. But what if someone was
composing a piece for a specific purpose? For example, what if
someone was composing a film score, and there is a very disturbing
scene which he must write music for? Obviously, the technique he
will probably use is general dissonance, which is generally against
every rule I've heard of. And what if this film is a film that intends to
give glory to God by spreading one of His messages? Would it be
better for that composer to follow the rules instead of fulfilling the
purpose? Do the ends justify the means?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Metaphysics Backwards

One of the things one learns in Music Theory is the idea of musical forms (Sonata form etc.). Such things are useful, of course, and even understandable, but one thing always bothers me when I am in a philosophic mood. How is it possible to say whether a piece of music has the qualities necessary to give it the nature of a sonata when it has a few exceptions to the rules that define the form? For example, if a piece has everything required by the form except that the second theme in the first section is in the same key as the first theme in the first section, is it still a sonata. Common sense would seem to say yes, as would a music teacher. But what about the metaphysician? Similarly, if an animal had everything that an elephant had except that it was orange or could jump get the picture, would it still be an elephant? A biologist would say no, common sense would say yes...what would the metaphysician say?

Quite honestly, I don't know what the metaphysicians of the world say on this fine point. (I know what Chesterton said: that exceptions should be treated as exceptions and then ignored.) But I suggest this: that the analytical methods of music theory could possibly be applied in an analogical way to metaphysics to give us a way of handling the natures of exceptions. Any thoughts?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Book, Part VI

But what makes a good melody? How can a melody be crafted to a higher degree of purely musical perfection than other parts when it is not even required, in purely musical terms, to exist? To answer this question, it must be noted that the non-melody parts in a piece of music are not constructed to emphasize the fact that they are things-in-themselves with an identity of sorts. They do not exist for any purpose besides the harmony of which they are a part. A melody, on the other hand, does have a purpose beyond the harmony; it exists for itself as well. If there were no harmony, the melody might still be.
Because it exists for itself, it is imperative that melody have a distinctive nature. Harmonic notes are made what they are because they “fit” the harmony. Melodic notes are made what they are, however, not only because they “fit” the harmony but also because they “fit” they melody. Our ears tell us when notes belong to the wrong melody, so this does not need to be discussed. Our ears also tell us when a melody is not a melody; such as when it is merely chaos, or merely a mathematical equation.
Metaphysically, there are four divisions of quality of melody. Now God knows all possible sequences of notes, therefore all melodies have an identity and can exist as a combination of matter and form insofar as they can be identified with an Exemplar in the Mind of God that results from God’s knowledge of their possibility. Some melodies only have this level of existence, but some have higher levels. The higher the level, the more melodic the melody and the more suitable they are to play the role proper to melodies in music’s section of the Divine Economy.
Now among merely possible melodies, there are two types: the kind that can be extended indefinitely without repetition while remaining the same thing (such as the alto parts of Bach chorales), and the kind that cannot (such as the soprano parts of most Bach chorales). The second type has more identity and is the higher melody because there are far more things that it is not.
But some melodies have a higher existence still, namely, they exist because they are good melodies, intended for or especially deserving of the sublime, actual mode of existence that composers provide (Veni Creator Spiritus). These are the highest melodies of all, as they have both non-limitless identities and an Exemplar that exists as more than a possibility. Any sort of melody can also be a corrupted or imperfect version of any of the previous three types, occupying the place below the place occupied by that which it is a corruption of.
Also fascinating, however, is the problem of the foreign melody: the melody that does seem crafted to one group of people, but not to another. This is my piano teacher’s complaint with eastern music and my mother‘s complaint with Han Chinese music: that it all sounds the same; or, in other words, that it is not crafted to be its own unique thing. But to the Han Chinese, this is obviously not so, as it would not all be popular if really was all the same. For popular implies unpopular, and when music is all melody (as Han Chinese music is) the fact that the other melodies were of inferior quality would be the most probable explanation of why the popular ones had the status they did. How can both perceptions be?
It is really quite simple. If we spoke Chinese, we would find Chinese words to be intelligible. We don’t speak Chinese, so we find it to be random noise. If we heard music “In Chinese” we would find it to be intelligible; we don’t, so we find it to be monotonous noise. Alternatively, the first Chinese composer perceived music as “Chinese” and composed in “Chinese,” just as the first Greek composer perceived music as “Greek” and composed in “Greek.” But chaotic melodies are not based on any such self-evident tradition; they are based on nothing of any musical value. All we have heard is the music of our own tradition, so all other traditions seem foreign to us. But music that is based on no tradition can probably be judged fairly by any of us. Most likely, we would judge them to be worthless. The melodies of music within our own tradition give self-evident testimony to their value as individual beings. But this perception is not a perception of goodness, emotion, or quality, merely a perception of unity.
How this unity can be achieved is beyond the scope of this work. Many of the conventional methods, such as motives, repetition, dramatic and melodic shape, etc., may prove to be valuable tools. In the final analysis, however, it is the perception of those within the valid tradition that is the final judge of the quality of a melody.
These are guidelines of reason; those who follow them ought to achieve a level of musical beauty that is reasonable. Hopefully, they will make themselves, their listeners, and their music more like God in the process and product.

End of Part One.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Greatest Era

I will ask a simple question: which era in musical history is
the greatest? Now hold on! Before you say the baroque era
was the greatest, let's examine what we are judging these
eras on.

I think there are two key factors in this comparison.
Intellect and emotion. Now, which is the greater of the two?
Is one really greater than the other? Those of you who are
mathematicians would probably say intellect is greater.
However, I will leave this be, since I do not really have the
answer. Christ said to open our hearts instead of our minds,
but I 'm sure I can think of thousands of quotes from the
Bible and writings of the saints that would lean in favor of
the intellect (what the conditions are for either one
presiding, I do not know). So I will let more knowledgeable
people than I answer that.
What I will do is analyze the musical eras. For the sake of
simplicity I will say there are six eras. The Baroque, the
Classical, the Romantic, the Impressionistic, the Contemporary,
and the Modern eras.

The Baroque

The land of fugues and cantatas. Some of the most intellectual
music was written during this period, and the intellect was
usually of higher priority than emotion. Music was considered
more of a science then. So (in my opinion. Feel free to offer
alternate opinions), I would say on a scale of 1-10, that the
intellect would number 8, and the emotion 2.

The Classical

Here comes the symphony!!! Music was still very intellectual,
but emotion was beginning to be applied within the rules.
Music was still a science however.

Intellect: 7

Emotion: 3

The Romantic

Opera was in full force by this time, at least in Italy. It's hard
to define when the Romantic period first began. Many people
think it started with Beethoven, but I'm not sure when it ended.
Music was still somewhat of a science, but many composers
began to compose with feeling instead of following the rules exactly.

Intellect: 5

Emotion: 5

The Impressionistic

Emotion was pretty much all out in this period. It's true that
there were new ideas and rules that were followed, but
emotion was at it's height.

Intellect: 2

Emotion: 8

The Contemporary

The contemporary period presents us with an unbalance.
Perhaps music was very intellectual, or maybe not. Emotion
might not seem to be a part of the music, but it could very
easily be. The contemporary period was more of a radical
conversion of the Baroque period, so it strikes me as martian
music. :-)

Intellect: 7

Emotion: 1

The Modern

Here we come to film music, jazz, Broadway, pop, folk, and
many other different styles (including rock, but I won't
analyze that). Much of this music (depending on the style of
course) seems to have returned to the essential roots of
music (believe it or not). The hardcore rules are used extensively.
But emotion is now a top priority because music is no
longer enriched scientifically (to a certain extent).

Intellect: 6

Emotion: 9

So which is the greatest? Is it the period that is perfectly
balanced? And who is to be the judge of that? Learned scholars?
Experienced musicians? Knowledgeable professors? God is of
course the ultimate judge. So, which era would He pick?

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Goal

I'm sure we've all heard the reasoning that "the ends justify the
means". Well, how much of this is true? I'm sure those of us who
take an active role in this blog would say it is not true or just. But
is it all black and white? Do higher goals justify more less than
savoury means than lower goals? Again, I would say we all would
reject that. But when it comes to the highest goal - namely
salvation - is this still true?

Now, logically, you can't use immoral means to get to Heaven.
So, that means the ends don't justify the means in this particular
case. But, maybe you can use means that people would find
distasteful for salvation, right? So the ends justify some of the
means? Well, let's see:

What exactly do we define as "the means"? The means are the
action(s) used to bring a certain outcome. Okay, so what means
are distasteful? Who is the judge; and how do we know if they're
allowable? Is this question really worth asking? Maybe not. But I
think it's worth mentioning in our day and age, when we can be
deceived into using immoral (not distasteful) ways to bring a moral
outcome. But, since God uses trials and evil times to bring good,
is it still true that the ends don't justify the means? Maybe it's just
that we can't use that philosophy.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

My Humble Acession to Mr. Lundahl

If any of you have been following, Hans Lundahl and I had an extensive debate about something. It boiled down to this:

OFL: You cannot trust commonsense's approval of "dissonance only up to so far," because this judgment is of a nature that is easily changed by experience and because other things that people react to in the same way are things that people who have not been jaded by exposure to vast varieties of music disagree upon.

Lundahl: You can trust this because the fact that experience causes the approval of the more dissonant music points to such experience being a sort of jading that dulls the perceptions of common sense.

The argument hinges around whether or not the perception of the non-jaded falls under the ground of undeniable common sense. (Undeniable common sense also includes such things as:
Our 5 senses tell us useful things about the world, the rules of logic are valid, etc.; but not things such as things always fall when they are dropped, it is good not to offend people, etc.)

Now perhaps it can be proven that this judgment is common sense (and thus Lundahl wins). But even if it cannot, unless it can be disproven, it can be proven that it is more likely that the statement is true rather than false. Here's how:

1. Consider any statement that has no evidence for it being either true or false. (example: Our senses provide us with useful information about the world outside ourselves.)

2. You cannot consider this statement, by itself, to have less than a 50% chance of being true.

3. Theoretically, it is possible that you could construct multiple proofs (or prooves) based on another statement that has no evidence for it being true or false that, if the second statement were true, the first would also be true. (For example, the statement in part one would be true if common sense were a valid guide of human thought OR if there is a Benevolent God Who would not fool us by giving us senses that didn't do anything real. This assumes, of course, that there is no evidence for or against God, a statement that is quite false but that we are pretending is true for the sake of argument.)

4. Each of these statements and proofs also cannot be considered to have less than a 50% chance of being true.

5. For the original statement to be true, any of the secondary statements must be true. But for the original statement to be false, ALL of the secondary statements must be false. Therefore, it is more likely that a statement that has no evidence whatsoever concerning it is a true statement than a false statement. This argument ought to hold up (though not convince) under the fire of any musical modernist skeptic.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Debate. An Allegory

In the hall of he’vnly king, a sumptuous feast is spread
With many foods, del’cacies, and also wine and bread.
One by one, the stewards bring dish after subtle dish
The rich beef, taste-soaring birds, and all-important fish.

Two people stand at either end of this table fair
Woman with a mind of truth, to call foods rich and rare.
A man also who, well-schooled in all of reason’s ways,
Tests all foods for poison, that no lives may be erased.

For in the palace dwelleth, in diseased shadows hid,
An evil, scheming villain, who for men’s lives does bid.
Hidden as great high chef, he inserts substance vile
Into his favorite dishes, such is his treach’rous style.

With malice black as shadow formed by sea and ink a squid
This schemer does in fact intend to world of happiness rid.
For this feast is part of the Fair Woman’s wedding-day
And over one great feaster’s his heart she, so lovely, sways.

First come the primal hors’douevers, more basic than they seem
With loving care they are designed men’s appetites to preen
They cause the food-prude to forget future foods ‘gainst his taste
So that his enmity toward them may glad’y be erased.

Next comes an antipasto bar, within whose domain good
Are meat and cheese and vegetables, bare essences of food.
With comprehension of these things the meal must begin.
If you don’t know what food is, how shall you reach el fin?

One small bite of everything both man and maid must take
To see if its nutrition is genuine or fake.
Is poison in the deli ham? Is it in roast beef?
If one takes a bite of it, shall he complete the feast?

Next comes a bowl of oat-grain gruel, with grayness all entwined
Which fills temporal human mouth, and boggles every mind.
One might conceivabaly eat, and never ever cease
Unless one knew that other things were at this gracious feast.

Next comes a tow’r of fat and dough, a sav’ry funnel cake
Which in the shape of Nile-tomb has been masterf’ly baked.
On mind-seen bottom layer this great edifice does lay
But without this bread-foundation the rest would exist, stay.

Of these foods, these life-givers, that have come by so far
Which ones of goodly stuff are made, which ones of poison are?
With loving heart and cloudy head and aching, burning eye,
They must needs wait and watch the twain as the meal goes by.

Next comes a visual tour-de-force, a gift of vine and grape
A bottle of red Riesling wine blown into peacock’s shape
With each fair feather carved and fine, and seen in high relief
And filled with inf’nite bubbles, charming, random, and brief.

Then, from an artful, loving hand comes a sea-fish with sauce.
With aroma heavenly it puts expression at a loss.
The meat’s fair hue is equal to the sands of lands of Jew
And vegetables, in profuse life, surround it cooked just through.

In the flavor of the sauce, one tastes essence of fish
(The way to make the fluid is to cook them in one dish)
The sea-creature flavor, moreover, is lent its unique taste
By the azure, living waters where all fish do always baste.

(One course is left, and still the guests are hanging in suspense
To know which foods the poisoned are, and where evil ferments.
For perhaps the poison’s small and slow, will not show its face
Until time is passed far by, love’s healing is too late.)

The final course, the sweet dessert, is fruits of marzipan
Which please the tongue with magic spun of dolce sugar-sand.
All the pastries like pom’grante look, each more than one before
Lovely and lov’lyr still, till fecund’ty our eyes sore.

The ever-better sequence bright places in mystic trance
Anyone whose fort’nate eyes upon them happ’ns to chance.
Till in our bott’mless hunger for the true reality
Over a real pomegranate deadly war fought would be.

The meal is all over, the plates are put away
Slow comes the moment waited for long through trying day
When love and food and life and death will come to be unveiled
And who is dead and who is live will sol’mly be beheld.

But first the lib’ral man must speak, his verdict to pronounce
About the merits of the food (if there were no poison pounce).
Only with Ladies Taste and Health is his stomach in love
Their importance may be small, but naught should we be above.

“Friends and neighbors, Man and minds, hear my judgment,” he spoke,
“These marvelous means of sustenance our faculties have awoke
But two things at this meal large ought not to satisfy
The grayish slop so infinite and the funnel fried.

For any food that can be made in such great quantity
As the pudding ought by mortal man never eaten be.
And though the taste of funnel-cake may please the human bite
Fat in the hole need not be stored to cause the same delight.”

Then comes the final find of night, when the maid shall speak
And say upon whose beings poison has worked its freak.
Upon all men a silence falls, for to them, death is all
Unless they are her allies great, for then in love they’ll fall.

“You all know of what I like,” the terr’ble woman said
“With riddle I like to tease you, tho’t seems I’m on my head.
Come up to my dais, where a second feast’s bespread
The greatest feast of all, for it has both wine and bread.

Your thrice-frail minds are now quite like the taut string of drawn bow
As you wait for regal Death his hell-curse to bestow.
You ask me rightly which of you my ’ternal lover be
To which I only answer: come up and taste and see!”

And so to Berlioz tune they march, thinking its double-speak
Wondering if they shall be now proven strong or weak
Wondering if there will be a mystic marriage-join
And wondering if from them their life shall be purloined.

With nervous hearts and hands in dreadful careful craze
The diners sad on whom fate rests bread to their dry mouths raise.
The bread that holds the golden key to antique Book of Life
The bread that holds the final test to gain Her as a wife.

And as we watch we see with dread the secret now revealed
Those who ate of the pudding grey: their blood shall be congealed!
Even now, upon these future dead unlucky souls
They cannot eat the common bread, nor drink wine from common bowls!

Only those gallant hon’rable men who dwell within the pay
Of the logic of the man who pronounced earlier today
Were graced with wisdom great to see the fall’cy of the oat
And have been deemed wise enough to wear a handsome marriage-coat.

For divine bread and hevn’ly wine they are able to drink
And with these common food elements they are able to think.
Praise be the LORD Who, always wise, gave us a test so true
Through which we might find the thrice-blessed measure of what we do.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Something More Relevant

I will discontinue the Phantom and Les Mis discussion for now, as it
hasn't really gotten anywhere. I'll try to post something more interesting
(and relevant to philosophy) this weekend.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

"The Book" part V

All this of course seems very conservative, a seeming which is, in fact, false. Although we assume no tradition whatsoever (a very foolish thing to do), and although we give tradition no quarter (a very liberal thing to do), tradition has shown itself to be not merely tradition but truth, beauty, and goodness as well (a very irrelevant to conservativeness set of things). What else do the “Conservatives” say? Are they right?
In particular, let’s take a look at the aesthetics of Andrew Pudewa.

Music must be:
Unified but complex. (empirical observation of all of creation applied to music)
Melody-dominant, harmony 2nd, rhythm 3rd. (Sequence based on the fact that melody strengthens the mind, the governing human power, harmony strengthens the emotions which are secondary to the mind, and rhythm strengthens the body, which is lower than either one.)

Music must not be:
Monotonous or chaotic (both were shown to be harmful to life).
Non-melody dominant (rhythm dominant music is harmful to life).
Persistently syncopated (harmful to life).

Obviously, Mr. Pudewa has a very practical system of aesthetics. It is useful. It works. However, its great weakness is that the last three points have nothing to do with the music itself, but with the effects of the music on earth-life. Whether or not syncopation, chaos, monotony, or dominance add beauty to music is ignored. The only thing considered is whether they add beauty to us. This is a very worthwhile thing, but it is artistically flawed. If it is good, true, and beautiful, do it, and let the viewers make prudential judgments about whether to view it. The relationship between this prudential judgment of the viewer, the prudential judgment of the artist, and the existence of beauty in the music will be discussed later, as will the unified-but-complex element. Melody and rhythm (we have already discussed harmony), however, deserve to be mentioned now.
It is obvious that melody must exist, for music, as an arrangement of sounds in time, not only has simultaneous sounds, but also has consecutive sounds. This “thing” makes up a melody.
From this, it is obvious that each “part” of a piece is its own melody. Therefore, music is always melody-dominant (unless non-pitched sounds are included), as it is always made up of melodies. If non-pitched sounds are included, melody/rhythm dominance would be determined (in our case, not in the psychological case Mr. Pudewa actually uses) by whether the behavior of the melodies directed the behavior of the rhythms or vice versa. As pitched sound is more ordered than non-pitched sound, melody ought to be dominant over rhythm to place justice in the music, although if the rhythm is part of the melody, there is no conflict.
When we ask the question “Ought melody or harmony be dominant so that the music itself may have justice?” however, we come to a much more difficult problem. As has been demonstrated, harmonies may never actually have dominance over melody, as the harmonies are made up of melodies and behave as the melodies behave. However, there is a twofold difficulty with this simplistic interpretation. One particular melody may be dominated by or dominate the harmonies, and though individual harmonies never dominate the melody, the harmonic system can do so.
The difficulty with the first question disappears, however, when we remember the role of the composer in relation to his music. The composer is related to his music as God is to Creation. God is the Maker and Author of Creation. As such, he made one species, the humans, to be the lord and master of creation, disposing of it as they see fit as long as they do not offend its dignity. The composer, therefore, may choose one melody over the others to craft to a higher degree of perfection that it may rule over the others. If such a melody exists, it must be dominant by nature. There is, however, nothing in the nature of music that requires it to exist.
On the other hand, melody should not be so independent of harmony that it ruins the harmony (not harmonies) by making them move in non-harmonic fashion, for this is an evil done to the harmony (which is greater than the melody, as the melody is a part of the harmony). Nor should the melody disregard the harmony altogether, for the melody is a part of the harmony (yet supreme over the harmony besides itself), and cannot ruin what it is a part of without doing evil to a thing greater than itself. Nor should the melody be a decorated version of the harmony, for if it is, it does not display higher craftsmanship (merely different, fancier craftsmanship) and is a part with ADD, not a melody.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Sarcasm on the Symbolism of a Popular Work of Art

And I mean really really really popular! What is this work, you ask? The Obama O!

And yes, it is art, after a fashion. It is filled with subtle symbols that only the aesthetician would care to read.

In the first place, consider the fact that it is a sun over the horizon. At the Constitutional Convention, George Washington sat in a chair with a sun over the horizon on its back. At the end of the convention, Benjamin Franklin said something along the lines of: "Throughout the convention, I wondered if it were a rising sun or a setting sun. I see now that it is a rising sun." Now, however much we might want to, we don't live on Tatooine. Therefore, the sun has to set after it rises before it can rise again. Therefore, the sunset in Obama's O is a setting sun.

Second, consider the fields below. They are red and white. I can think of two sorts of fields that are that way. Obviously, there are those fields that have blood on snow. Less obvious is are the red and white fields of communist China. (Explanation: in the opera Nixon in China, the proletarians sing "When we look up, the fields are white with harvest in the morning light." White for harvest, red for communism.)

Finally, consider the overall shape of the picture. It is round, and at the core of its being lies the shape that is roundest of all: O. Chesterton says that the snake eating itself in the shape of an O is the perfect symbol of pantheistic fatalism.

Therefore, what does the symbol mean? It means that Obama wants to put America into decline by killing people and turning the country into a Communist agricultural powerhouse. The end result? The eventual taking over of the world by pantheistic India.

It's amazing how much you can learn by reading the inner secrets of art. Or can you? Hee Hee!

Monday, November 3, 2008

A Request, a Falsehood, and a Wishful Thought

In response to Dr. Thursdays request posted on "The Flying-Ins," I have written a work of verse fiction, "The Writing of the Ramayana."

Background info.

In real life, the Ramayana is one of the great poems of Hindu India. Ostensibly written by the poet Vlakimi in a drugged stupor, it recounts the story of Rama's rescue of his beloved, Sita, from the devil Ravana. Traditionally, Rama is seen as one of the seven incarnations of Vishnu (one of the three cheif deities of Hinduism and one of the three chief symbols of Brahma, the pantheistic deity).

When I read an abriged prose version of the tale, I was very impressed by the story, but I thought the Hindu theology ruined it. Therefore, I have written a fictional (but not historically impossible) account of the real intentions of the author (I misspell his name throughout both here and the poem itself), and the circumstances of the poem's writing.

The poem is filled with Chestertonian allusions, especially to The Everlasting Man

The Writing of the Ramayana
By Old Fashioned Liberal

Canto 1:

With trumpet blare and flourished flare
Elephants bouncing round the square
Heralds cried, selling verbal ware:
�Behold, our king shalt be sat there;

Returning home in majesty,
From conq�ring rival Rajahstie,
He commands joy and minstrelsy
From all you standing here!

Make merry, wear the colored cloth
Saris, uneaten by the moth
Rejoice as at a plighted troth
And then your lord revere!

� Another herald, swift and sleek,
From eating vegetables, not beef,
Came to the house of Vlakimi,
The poet, old and sage.

�Great sir, I speak great news� he said,
Our king is vict�rous, live, not dead,
Feast of his power you must bespread,
For the people, for a just wage.�

Vlakimi locked himself inside,
While lab�rous mirth took place outside
Ritu�ls ornate by law implied
Laws local, neither just nor fair.

Canto 2:

With travels wide and knowledge great
Poet Vlakimi�s mind was sate.
Both things of will and things of fate
Things of early and things of late.

Of word and wonder this poet knew,
Of myths and gods in magic zoo
Convoluted. Color and hue
Men, women, justice, and evil�s lair.

Of one thing other, Greece in name
Vlakimi knew through word and fame.
In search of wisdom�s hidden flame,
He had sent a scholar there.

Cross marches wide of oven sand,
Mountains, valleys, and fertile land,
Where man first looked, and found him Man,
The learner bore his gift.

Beauties, arts, and cogitations,
Traditions of generations,
Subtle thinkers� generalizations
He listened for to sift.

From these, he picked one precious pearl
Good unfurled, but with evil swirled
In drama great to shake the world
The Odyssey was its name.

Bearing this seed of mind and gladness
Good, bad, and poetic madness,
Cross mud and mount and musty sand-dust
The traveler finely came.

Possessing eagle-poet-sight,
Vlakimi pondered days and nights
Pondered on wrongs, and pondered rights
The epic work revealed.

Then, by reason�s mannerism,
He saw his culture�s aneurism:
Deathly-sweet slav�ry: pantheism!
Occult by rite concealed.

So when the man with burnished belly
Told him to start �story-telly�
No meats from this psychi-deli
Would this tale relate!

Canto 3

Who walks in robes of fleshy green
Through halls of occident court-scene?
Whose thin chests, heads near burst at seams?
The Brahmins, wise men of the king.

Their presence makes a fair court foul.
Their heads that bear the dot, not cowl,
Have schemes to beat Greek Female Owl.
And the king carries them out.

They are the prop behind the throne,
Under them, royal pow�r has grown,
So even kings are overthrown,
Their armies all in rout.

Under them, lower castes chafe,
With arrows they the children strafe,
High taxes make the land unsafe
For thieves are everywhere.

Lands near and far this fear have felt
(Sometimes their towns have badly smelt
Of burning flesh, dead human pelts)
When they fall in the snare.

So deplorable is this state,
That even beneath soul-crushing weight
Of pantheism, they feel hate!
Of revolution, some do sing!

Canto 4
With Greek treasure, and skill assured
And knowledge of pol�cy deplored,
Vlakimi took his writing-board
And his imagination soared.

No praise-song to Brahmin war-king
In fact, would this sage minstrel sing.
Of Rama, great in everything,
Would he speak instead.

As praise of war-chief would they see
This poem, but one thing would not be.
This time, from Hindu triune three,
Rama would not be descended.

Whate�r as praise to Rama cried
Would by the people be descried
To the king! Politic suicide
Would sadly be prevented.

For if the king was seen as god,
More of the people�s hard-worked sod
Would be put under tyrant�s rod
In worship perverted.

But if with hints subtle with pow�r
Vlakimi hid in poetic flow�r
Links twixt king and Ravana, devourer
Goodness could return upboard!

Canto 5

After the poet had racked his brain
Every Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain
Into the night-aired town-square came
To hear the epic be proclaimed.

And on that moistly summer night
When carn�val torches mixed their light
With mithril moon and stars so bright
Vlakimi began his lay.

He told of Rama ruddy-brown
Who, on a quest to holy ground
Learned of the soul, of earth flat-round,
And where his heart would stay.

Past tale of jungle fierce and green;
And rite heart-stealing (A Catholic�s dream);
And piquant god-fight, where magic screamed
Its wrenching war-cries; Rama traveled.

And then, enchanted, Rama sees,
Fair Sita among her fair lovelies.
Like a gazelle among the trees,
He saw her; and his heart unraveled.

Simple, sweet solitude they chose
A forest life near woodland rose
(The tale seems done, but on it goes)
Distributist in form.

One tingling day, when He was out,
And She was wringing laundry out,
A Brahimin came, with begging pout
Seeking a dry dorm.

When she acceded gen�rously,
However, it was not to be!
The Brahmin�s form changed swiftly
Into Ravana�s shape!

His powers carried her away
The god-fouled wind, not fair airway,
Proved dec�dent bed, nightmare of day
And she, unwilling freight.

With aid of beasts both smart and strange
Rama a war on the god arranged.
With monkey-king and bird free-range
He crossed the water to Ceylon.

From sapphire water, fertile-deep
He raised the sand-bars from their sleep
Their swirling forms above waves peeked
Summoned by spell long-gone.

And crossing forth, to Rav�na�s isle
Where Sita languished in ill style,
Rama, filled with male warrior-bile,
Began the epic charge.

First came arrows by Euclid tamed
Next, flung siege-stones of burning flame
Third, the chief part of the war-game
The clash of armies large.

The bright sway-clash of steel on steel
Where fear and courage dart and wheel
Is where Lady Vict�ry does conceal
Her two-edged draught of blood.

A Eucharistic cup that makes
Two things of those whose thirst it slakes
For some, their honor bends, then breaks
Others find their perfect good.

Rama, in the last part of fight
Was one of these, the second type.
With aid of magic good and bright
He brought Ravana down.

(In the fair world of fantasy
Magic need not occultic be.
Rather, it reveals nature�s glee
In �laws� within it sown.)

Bright stars of every color fair
Came hurtling down from sky. Beware
Ravana! In that land there
Space-sparkles shall explode thee!

And when one hit him�Pouf! He went!
In blinding spark and smoke�s ascent
He vanished, never more to fret
The world and you and me.

From that day on, the dark-fair twain
Kept their love through sun and rain.
As king and queen with endless train
Of children, so they lived.

And so they died, and then, and then,
Eastern Beren and Luthien
Spent their days in thrice-high heaven
Every sin full-shrived.

The tale then ended, the crowd then sat
In lesser ecstasy thereat.
Still lost in lit�ry �rolls of fat�
Only the wind then stirred.

Then came applaudic rain of sound
Swift as wind over the ground
Into the poet�s ears they found
Their way, and they were heard.

And then, in terr�ble surge undue,
Another noise wormed its way through
The sound of Brahmins grew and grew
In evil, vile word.

�Blasphemy!� their mouths proclaimed
�Incorrectly the story�s framed!
Against our dogmas you have claimed
More than is your pay!�

A plot it was (of course); the crowd
Was silenced from their applause loud
No praise for blasphemy would be mouthed
This night of yester�s day.

Up to the podium Brahmins brought
A potent dose of opium-draught
Up to his place to seal the plot
Why must the Brahmins win?

As they came, the poet pondered
How he could escape. He wondered
What to say his fate to sunder
From their coming sin.

�Friends!� the poet cried �Have a care
Fall not into pantheism�s snare
Come breathe the fresher, purer air
Of paganism, rich and rare!�

�Against the king you thought you rose�
They said, raising drug to his nose,
�You did so well. May we impose?
Sing the song again!�

Saturday, November 1, 2008

"Les Miserables" or "The Phantom of The Opera"? - Part One: Music

Okay, I changed my mind and decided to be lazy. I won't post anything
about the individual numbers simply because this post would be a
hundred paragraphs long if I did. I'm guessing you have all heard the
music to both Les Miserables and Phantom of The Opera.

I'll wait a week until I post the next part.

"Les Miserables" or "The Phantom of The Opera"? - Part One: Music

The first category in this discussion is music. The music to both is
very well done, and quite beautiful in many places. I personally love
the music to both. But is there more than meets the eye? What is
the philosophical background here? Let's look at the composers first:

Claude-Michel Schönberg:

Here's the link to a short biography in Wikipedia:

It doesn't tell us much about his philosophical background, but one
thing that jumps out at me is his work on a rock musical. If you ask
me, much of Les Miserables' music also has a rock influence. It
would appear that Schönberg has more of a rock influence than a
classical one, or maybe even more than a Broadway influence.
However, I haven't heard the rest of his work, so this is merely my

Andrew Lloyd Weber:

Here's what Wikipedia has to say about him:

Well it certainly looks as though he has a lot of classical influence,
and he is definitely much more prestigious and accomplished than
Schönberg. Unfortunately, though, I don't know as much about
Schönberg as I do Weber, and neither does Wikipedia. So that
doesn't leave us with much except that Weber appears to have
musical roots in classical music and Schönberg seems to be
a rock songwriter (please post a comment if you know anything
else about either of them). So let's move on to some of the major
numbers. I'll put these in a separate post.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

"Les Miserables" or "The Phantom of The Opera"? - Introduction

"Les Miserables" or "The Phantom of The Opera"? These two are the
greatest and second greatest musicals of our day (according to public
opinion). So, what do you think? There are so many aspects of each
to discuss. So to make it easier, I will narrow it down to four categories:

I - Musical Qualites
II - Positive Moral Values (how positive is it?)
III - Negative Moral Values (how negative is it?)
IV - Balance of Moral Values
V - Overall Beauty

I will state my objective opinion on both musicals in each category.
Then, you are welcome to give a different opinion (or support the
same opinion) in the comment section.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Music For Comments

I think you've heard this one before, Old Fashioned Liberal, but I'll put
it before your sharp criticism as you asked. Just remember, theory is
not my strongest area (probably because it's related to math).

Let me know if it doesn't work.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

My Favorite Subject

As you know, Old Fashioned Liberal, the four temperaments are probably
my favorite subject. So, to start the Psychology category, I'll give a brief
overview of the temperaments:


– Quick to react, reaction of long
duration and strong intensity
– Extroverted
– Rational


– Quick to react, reaction of short duration
– Extroverted
– Relationship oriented


– Slow to react, reaction of long duration
with intensity increasing with time
– Introverted
– Rational


– Slow to react, reaction of short duration
with weak intensity
– Introverted
– Relationship oriented

These are the most important characteristics. Now there's a new field of discussion.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

'twixt the Charbidys and Scylla of Emma and Godzilla

Ah, the comic book. That chalk-on-brown paper colored podium where penny-dreadful myth-makers and philosophers zing, boom and pfft morality into little boys. That world where imagination is one step lower than supreme. That state of being that is loved by...well, I think that's enough now. I think you get the picture. In short, just in case you didn't notice, a comic book is where good and evil meet in pure exaggerated melodrama (at least, that would be ideal), and where one encounters, in almost nauseatingly pure form, other things which deeply move humans; things like loyalty and adventure and victory.

There is one problem with it, however. Comic sagas are, by necessity, unpleasantly long. One story gets the idea across, and after that, we can say, with Shakespeare "A Rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Just because you change the name of the monster and the hero and what they look like and what order the events happen in doesn't really make something new: it makes it look different to the superficial observer. Like a Vivaldi theme and variations, there is no point to the iconic repition of defeating yet another brightly colored monster by some trick of wit or cunning.

What does a certain half-species of sensible person occasionally do to counter this? They find refuge, by reading those sorts of things (and the more finely-crafted and rare (un comic-book like) the better) that take place in the complex world of the combinations of psyches that we call society. These things, which must by necessity be 'real' to have any sort of merit and which pleas the higher and more sophisticated parts of humanity (I am politically correct only as an undesirable by-product of the slight subtle satire that this sentence contains), bear not the mark of ever-greater same throw-ups from the fertile but unvaried and insensitive-to-the-nature-of-thingsish imagination possessed by the comic-book author. Yet, these books do not deal with exactly the most important issues of life. Survival and virtue are necessary prerequisites to the nature of and best techniques of finding a good husband or wife.

Of course, one could read or write things that are midway between these two options. Which is a perfect description of what The Oddessy does.

First of all, the Oddesey doeals with elemental, comic-book issues, particularly survival and the attaining of goals (it is the Adventures of Odesseyus, after all), in a fantastic, magical, incredibly imaginative and sensational fashion. To reach home and live, the hero has to deal with creatures (and yes, the pagan gods count as creatures) that are the equals in power of the villians of the comic-books. How does it do this without falling into the monotone and anti-realistic iconism of these same books? After all, iconism is useful for getting at the essences of things (as Chesterton demonstrates in A Piece of Chalk) but the iconic monster-after-monster, hero-after-hero time-after-time sequence tells us nothing about real monsters, heroes, or stories.

Homer's moderation, attitude toward his situations, and variety in which Odessyus acts in them help to explain this. There are not a numerical great deal of monstrous situations in the Odessy. For the increased attention span of the times, they all seem to fit nicely into one story. It must also be kept in mind that all the super-characters in the story were seen as real by the people of the times, including possibly even Homer. Hence they do not bear the mark of poorly-done imagination-objects, but of either facts or tried-and-true folk tales. Finally, Odesseyus does not act like the superhero who only thinks subtly when he must think his way out. This hero's dialogue with even the stupid Cyclops is not the simple: exchange-of-insults, "You will die" splat-boom-et cetera (obviously, the fact that it is in verse helps). Niether are the situations solved in at all simple manner. At one point, he escapes by strength, another by wit, another by magical aid, another by 'divine' compassion. It still sounds monotonus, but this sort of varied repition bears much more repeating than the modern comic kind.

Of what use is this for us on Disciples of Diotima? Well, there's a lot more to beauty than the essence of things (as if that wasn't enough!). All artists can use subtlety of technique to get points of truth and morality across to the uncooperative listener. The Odessey is an excellent example of how that can be done.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Absent-minded me...

Oops, that last post was supposed to be on The Flying-Ins...


Yesterday was the Lincoln City Libraries booksale, and I bought an illustrated history of philosophy for fifty cents. Unfortunately, there is no chapter on Chesterton. In its mixed-blessing pages, however, there is a chapter on Shopenhauer, Chesterton's archtypical enemy, and it paints the philosopher in metaphorical glowing colors. I must find out where this history is in error. You will find out too, do not worry. There is one painting of the philosopher in the book, however, and in its literally glowing colors, I see not only a picture of the evil fatalist, but also a resemblance to Supreme Chancellor Palpatine. Coincidence? Of course not. Either St. Pio or Fr. Grochel said "There are no coincidences," an observation I subscribe to wholeheartedly.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

"The Book" part IV

And here we come to the great practical insight of western tonal music. It ought to be obvious by now that music, for maximum musicalness, needs to have a perfect 5th driving behavior and a second driving behavior. With one melody (or a melody and a drone), insofar as the music acknowledges one, it ignores the other. But where accompaniment (the first great part of the insight) is involved, there must be some sort of system that insures that the two are not parts that are randomly thrown together. Arrangements based on consonant intervals allow the whole music, at any one moment, to be arranged around order while the existence of melodies allows the arrangement of the music around the other order (the second great insight). Hence, it is clear that in this regard, western tonal music, which is based in the Catholic culture of Christendom and is a completely unique and different music in all the world, is philosophically superior to all other musical traditions. Of course, there are other parts to music, such as the complexity of the scale, the expressive qualities, et cetera, but we have not considered these yet.
Along with the conventional musical idea of the scale, however, comes the ideas of mode, tonal center, and progression versus retrogression. The definition and making of mode has already been discussed, but the other two related topics have not yet even been defined. The three all revolve around the idea of Tonal Center. We will resort to a Socratic dialogue to explore the questions of tonal center.

Characters of the dialogue:
St. Thomas Aquinas
Oliver Messiane

Aquinas: Welcome to Purgatory, sir composer! May the grace and peace of Jesus Christ be with you!

Messiane: And with you, good sir. I was told that I would be released soon. Already I can feel the pains lessening. But why do you come to visit me?

Aquinas: It is your last purgation. I was sent here to tell you where you succeeded and where you had room for improvement in pleasing God in your music.

Messiane: I always intended to please God when I composed.

Aquinas: Of course. But regardless of your intentions, what did your music actually do?

Messiane: I see. Go on. I am sure that the Angelic Doctor would know about the perfect music much better than I.

Aquinas: Very good. Now, of the things that were musical conventions or traditions in your time, what did you omit?

Messiane: There was very little tradition in my time. Tonal center had been denied, …

Aquinas: Stop. What is Tonal Center?

Messiane: Harmonious music has, at any given moment, one note that it is organized about. If these organizing notes have any particular direction, the Tonal Center is the place towards which they move. I denied the phenomenon in my music.

Aquinas: So tonal center is evil?

Messiane: No.

Aquinas: Then why did you deny it?

Messiane: I did not write harmonious music. Therefore, tonal center was nearly impossible.

(Aquinas proceeds to demonstrate the goodness of harmonious music)

Messiane: The time had passed for tonal center. I would not have used it even if my music were harmonious.

Aquinas: As Catholics, we both know that good, true, and beautiful ideas do not fade away.

Messiane: Not in a theoretical sense. But in art, everything that can be done in one way can be done. The artistic community was no longer so prudish that they would not accept music without a tonal center. I wanted to compose music without a tonal center, and they let me with their money.

Aquinas: I never did enjoy accounting. But I still wonder: lack of tonal center lacks the goodness of tonal center. What virtue does this lack possess that would even make you desire it?

Messiane: A wider variety of music can be composed if a tonal center is not required.

Aquinas: But even the violent musical iconoclast Arnold Schonberg (who I interview as well), admitted that “There is plenty of music to be composed in C major.” You still could compose music with a center. If a tonal center is in fact good, I do not see the point in denying it for purposes of “freedom.” If a tonal center is integral to music, then you cannot deny it anymore than you could deny harmoniousness. Tell me, what determines harmonies if there is no tonal center.

Messiane: The composer, of course. His will is free to write any chord he wishes.

Aquinas: But how does he choose? What are the goods toward which his will can move?

Messiane: There is the tonal center system, of course. But if he wishes to disregard this, then he must look to a not-harmonic thing, such as his whim, the melody, the psychological effect he wishes to produce, et cetera (if there is an et cetera, which I doubt).

Aquinas: I can see the logic of choosing according to the melody. But, being a disembodied spirit, I cannot see the logic behind whim or the psychology. I have no psychology of course, so that reason is out for God and I.

Messiane: So, considered by itself, music without a tonal center provides no opportunity for the composer to make a worthwhile choice. It is like the conviction that all special actions are good that leads to nothing.

Aquinas: Is this an evil?

Messiane: No.

Aquinas: Is this a good?

Messiane: No.

Aquinas: So, would you admit it is preferable to have a tonal center?

Messiane: No.

Aquinas: Why not?

Mesianne: The center must be chosen just as arbitrarily as the chords without a center. And even though (in Pythagorean tuning) the other notes owe their existence to the center, the chord-progression behavior is not a necessary response to this fact. And in equal temperament, there is rarely any owing. A child is not constantly required to be with his parents, nor is it good for him to do so.

Aquinas: But the Lord says “Honor your father and your mother.” Unless the origin is given a special place (and if a key is chosen in equal temperament, this origin is implied) how is this done?

Messiane: One could make that note louder, or accented.

Aquinas: But would not that merely increase its importance in the eyes of the listener? We want something that actually increases its importance regardless of psychology. Loudness would merely make it different. A goal (which is reached by either progressions or retrogressions, in any mode) would fit the bill. Just as if you tried to be like your parents, you would be honoring them, but if you spoke their name louder than all other words, you would merely honor them psychologically.

Messiane: Something else could honor the center as well.

Aquinas: I challenge you to find it.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

An Addendum to "The Book, part III"

I wasn't planning to put this in. Beware, for if you're not a theoretically-trained musician, you probably won't understand it!

One could even take this argument as far as the musicians of the Renaissance took it: that the second simplest interval deserves second place, third third place, etc. If this is done, one of the possible results is what is called functional tonality. Obviously, the interval of the perfect (major) fifth directs the entire piece through harmonic motion, while the second most similar interval of the major second directs it through melodic motion (the minor second, a far less simple interval, is also used frequently in melodies, but, like the interval of major second, it is self-evident and unnecessary to be proven mathematically that it is good to use this interval in melodies). The intervals of minor and major third, the third and fourth most simple intervals, play the lesser role of determining what notes are used along with the fifth motion through the consonant intervals of harmonies. As inverting all these intervals gives all the possible diatonic and chromatic intervals, except the incredibly distant and very infrequent tritone, the system of functional tonality is an excellent way of acheiveng this element of musical perfection (the inversion of the minor second has no justificaiton whatsoever, but it is rarely used).
However, it is not necessarily the only way. Any form of music in which the intervals of perfect fifth, major second, minor third, and major third, are used in that order as elements of behavioral significance would be just as perfect in this manner. Why the thirds have to be used 'vertically' and the seconds 'horizontally' is beyond me.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Sheldon...Again.

Are any of you epileptic. If you are, do not do what I just did. I went to yet another exhibit at the Sheldon, this time the exhibit that explores the transience of time.

Upon entering an artificially darkened room, I saw a completely lit square pillar and three bright spots on the walls. Upon these surfaces shone pictures of trees and geysers. These pictures, however, were not one, but many, and they constantly changed, so that the room was filled with visual chaos. One might see one tree for half a second, and then see three. Hee Hee.

Of course, all this constant, pointless change echoes the words of Ecclesiastes very well "Vanity of vanities, all things are vanity...the rivers flow into the sea, but the sea is not full." Their randomness and the large number of mental associations and the dark room all contribute to a threatening feeling, appropriate for the contemplation of the transience of time. But as Christians, we hope for God when time is done, and time's passage is a bittersweet flow that leads to ultimate happiness.

Why anyone would look at the exhibit long enough to need a bench (for there was one in the room) is beyond me.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

"The Book" part III

I "must" have your comments on this, as it is probably the most important part of the book. The reason is because it is the one thing in the that nobody in music academia today is going to believe. It only used to be a truism. Now it is as vibrant as...well, I'll let you decide.

This should be sufficient to demonstrate that it is in the nature of music for
there to be a relationship between notes a fifth apart. So what? One could
totally disregard this, as Schonberg did, and the relationship would remain.
This note progression: C-Fsharp-Dsharp-G-Csharp-Gsharp-C, still incorporates
the relationship in a hidden, albeit real, form by its existence as members of a
scale based on the fifth motion. Similarly, the non-usage of the second
relationship does not necessarily deny its existence. One could also use
dissonance to deny the fact that a chord is an ordered arrangement of notes
around a center without actually contradicting the fact that such a thing
exists. How then, can reason compel us to any sort of ordered music?
Here is the answer to the question:

Is it important for music to behave as if
the perfect 5th relationship exists?

Obj. 1 It would seem that it is not necessary for music to behave in a manner which
brings out the perfect fifth relationship, for the musical scale already
contains the relationship implicit in its very makeup.

Obj. 2 One might argue that it is necessary for music to behave in the manner because
it gives the music a sense of direction and a logical method of proceeding. Is
the sense of direction really part of the music or is it merely psychological?
Why is the perfect fifth method the legitimate logical method of proceeding?

Obj. 3 It would even seem that it is good for things to behave in a way that would seem
to contradict their makeup, for example, a Twister ® champion is said to have a
talent, not a defect.

On the contrary: Although during the time of non-harmonic music the second was
given precedence and the fifth was somewhat ignored, as soon as both elements
could be incorporated together with harmony, the Catholic composers made music
behave in a manner that included the perfect fifth.

I answer that: In the making of anything chaos (the absence of order) must
always be avoided. Now in intervallic organization in music, on can organize
according to chaos or according to order. If a composer bases the music on any
intervals he likes, or on intervals according to extra-musical concerns, than
the music itself will most likely be chaotic, unless the composer’s will is not
as random as free will is likely to be. Alternately, the composer may state
that the music is based on a freely chosen interval, say, a tritone or a minor
third. Although the ensuing music will not be chaotic, the reason that it is
the way it is comes from freedom, not from reason, unless the based interval is
a perfect fifth or a major or minor second (the major or minor second are on a
par with the perfect fifth because it is self-evident that notes a second apart
have a relationship). Freedom is freedom to choose the good and the reasonable.
Consequently, it follows that music based on intervals other than fifths or
seconds is less good than music based on fifths or seconds. Such music is not
necessarily unbeautiful, but it is assuredly less beautiful. There is a
possibility that it is actually unbeautiful because it may be that music that
disregards the relationship actually denies it by its very existence, outside of
the perception of the listener.
It can further be demonstrated that the perfect-fifth is not only an essential
element in the finding of pitches (as has already been demonstrated) but is a
sort of aesthetic imperative that is supposed to drive pitched sound and make it
behave, not just exist, as if the relationship existed. The relationships of
fifth and octave are building-block relationships from which the pitch structure
of western music is made.# A human who behaves as if his cells do not exist
dies. A house that behaves as if its pieces do not exist falls down. Music
that behaves as if the perfect fifth does not exist ceases to be musical.
It could be objected that a scale could be constructed with any interval chosen
at random as long as this interval was used consistently. If this were done,
however, the second relationship would be distorted in the scale, destroying it
and making the music unmusical.

Ans. Obj 1: See paragraph two of “I answer that…”

Ans. Obj 2: It is irrelevant whether the sense of direction is merely

Ans. Obj 3: If something behaves in a way that contradicts its makeup, it
ceases to be made of what it is made of and thus ceases to exist. Therefore, it
is impossible for anything to behave in a way that contradicts its makeup,
including a Twister champion.

That was a poor argument. This one is much better.

Obj. It seems that the perfect fifth has no necessary place in the behavior of
music, as, try as a composer might, unaided music cannot contradict the fact
that notes a fifth apart have a special relationship, as the relationship exists
whether it is incorporated into the music or not. Therefore, the perfect fifth
is a crutch that enables the composer to easily make pleasing sounds with less
thought as well as a limitation on the artist’s freedom.

On the contrary: Usage of the perfect fifth as a very significant musical
factor was frequent in the Age of Faith, while the most violent atheistic
musicians have denied its role. These are both important sighs of the aesthetic
merit of the interval.

I answer that: It would be absurd to suppose that each individual piece of
music did not possess its own essence: that one piece and another were just the
same identical essence of music with accidental qualities added. However, it
would be just as absurd to suppose that each individual piece of music did not
possess the essence of music, to some degree, despite the fact that each piece
has its own essence.
Now in the essence of music, it is clear that the relationship known as a
perfect fifth occupies some primacy of place, as it is the closest of all
relationships except the unison and the octave, intervals which have such
limited use and misuse that we need not consider them here. It is clear that
this relationship is essential to the nature of music because music is pitched
sound, and if the perfect fifth was not this prime relationship in pitched
sound, the nature of pitched sound would be different enough that the essence of
music would be substantially different from what it is.
Therefore, it is clear that each individual composition has two essences: that
of music in general and that of itself in particular. Further, it is clear that
the essence of music includes the primacy of place of the perfect fifth.
Now a perfect fifth can exist in music in two ways: that of melodic or harmonic
existence, and that of existence generally. For example, a C and a G played
simultaneously or consecutively have the first type of existence, while a C and
a G played at two random points in a piece have the second type. If we define
beauty as “The splendor of form (essence) shining upon matter.” (Jacques
Martrain), it is obvious that it is at least practically impossible that the
perfect fifth can not exist in a beautiful manner in the second sense. However,
music that does not incorporate it in the first sense as well, whether it be
thru chordal tonality or other means, has thus ignored a significant way of
letting the form of music in general shine its splendor upon matter. In fact,
one could make a case (although I doubt it could be proven) that one actually
goes so far as to commit an offense against music by composing music that has
behavior that behaves in a way that seems to contradict the relationship. In
summary, it can be proven that music that incorporates the perfect fifth into
its behavior is better than music that does not, although it cannot be proven to
the same degree of certainty that music that does not do so is bad music.

Reply to objection: Music, it is true, cannot contradict the relationship. It
can, however, ignore it, thus preventing beauty from shining through. Though
it may act as a crutch by accident, the true composer will work for beauty, not
accolade, and the pleasure of the audience will be but an accidental result of
his work with the perfect fifth. The last part of the objection is less
answerable, as the form of the individual piece of music is the artist’s
concern. However, the truly rational (and thus, truly free) artist will
consider that the form of music in general is God’s own form, while the form of
the individual piece is the artist’s addition. It is incredibly unlikely that a
form of the artist (indirectly God’s) would be superior to the form designed
directly by God, especially if the two were in conflict. Although the artist
may be right in putting the form he is discovering in the primary place, it
would be incredibly imprudent from an artistic perspective, unless the work had
some purpose it was supposed to fulfill.

Ending note: The second is not implicit in the makeup of the scale. One might
object that the scale is full of seconds, but a scale does not exist as a string
of seconds unless it is played in order. If it is not played in order, it
exists as something else. Here, scale is used to mean “a set of usable notes”
not what is meant by scale when musicians use it.
The merit of the second is self-evident, but it cannot and need not be proven by
the methods above.

Friday, September 19, 2008

How to Enjoy a Trip to the Sheldon

Currently, there are at least two limited-time exhibits at the Sheldon musuem of modern art in Lincoln, NE: The Purpose of Labor by some faculty member whose name i can't remember, and The Sizes of Things in the Mind's Eye by Elizabeth King. Whether you like modern art or not, it is useful, for purposes of this blog, for us to examine it to develop our command of aesthetic thought.

The Purpose of Labor is a collection of artist made Islamic-style painted porcelain. In the center of the room sits a tresure-chest shaped object. On the walls hang a wallfull of golden dishes about two inches in diameter, a wallful of foot-wide identically shaped but differently painted bowls (probably about 100), and six other dishes with highly detailed paint-work.

It is obivious that this exhibit is a work of talent and skill, as is apparent by the high level of detail in the paint-work. The meda, porcelain and paint, is fulfilled, not contradicted (how one would contradict porcelain is beyond me, but I know it was not done here, for if it was, it would be unbeautiful to have or to make fine china, which is so non-commonsensical that I will not even think about why it is so). The one possible complaint with the exhibit is the wall full of dishes. One might become bored with such a thing. The title of the exhibit, however, explains why this is not something to worry about: the more dishes, the more labor, and as all the dishes are good dishes, and as the way they are made and displayed showcases this, one sees and wants to accept that the purpose of labor, in all its drudgery, is to make good things. Which is, of course, a true statement.

The Sizes of Things in the Mind's Eye consists of a collection of artist-made hairless mannequins (one has the potential to be very inappropriate, but I do not know enough about such things to tell you yes or no) and mannequin parts displayed in unusual ways. For example, one exhibit has two hands inside a black box, one of which is attached to a rod that is near a spinning magnet. The vast majority of the pieces, however, are mannequin heads (and sometimes shoulders) in glass cases. They all look like the artist herself, to some extent (one also looks like Fr. Kipper, but as the artist is from Virginia, this is probably a conicidence).

It is somewhat difficult to interpret the message of this exhibit (the medium itself is fulfilled very well, as one gets to see very lifelife mannequins in about as close to their pure essence as you can get). However, given the fundamentally morally neutral modern prevalent cult of self-expression, the complete lack of distraction from the faces of the mannequins in many of the very austere and highly detailed exhibits and the fact that the faces are all of the artist, it would seem that she is trying to explore and express the esssence of herself through her main soul-window, her face. Whether she succeeds in her well-intentioned, aesthetically valid endevaour is open to debate. Some of the exhibits, especially the ones with machinery showing, appear to reduce the human represented to an intelligent machine, while others appear to be the faces of those who have seen free thought commit its suicide (read The Maniac in Chesterton's Orthodoxy to find out more about this). Other faces, however, seemto be looking very intently at something, like the pictures of Christian saints that Chesterton says somewhere else are very different from the closed-eye Buddhist pictures, for the saints look at God Himself, as some of these mannequin faces almost seem to do.

One final note: for those of you who live in Pennsylvania or South Dakota or wherever, neither of these exhibits are worth making a special trip here to see.