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?