My Approach to Art Criticism


Here I summarize my methods of criticizing the product of arts and entertainment media ("art", "art work"). My explanations and examples lie in music and motion pictures because I know almost nothing about other arts and rarely attempt to critique them.

One way I judge art is to critique its true value. I believe there is value in things independent of their being observed. However, our ability to know true value is limited by our knowledge and skill. So, true value is discovered by critics with varying degrees of accuracy. True value depends on the measure of three qualities: innovation, execution and purpose. Innovation refers to how new a method, structure, or mode of an art work is. Innovation is measurable against history, and we may determine what specific innovations a work brought, how important those innovations are to subsequent art, how different those innovations were from previous innovations, and to what degree those innovations assist music in achieving its aesthetic goals. Execution refers to how effective an art work is in achieving its aesthetic goals. Flawless execution can be called formal perfection. Purpose refers to how valuable those aesthetic goals are. For example, a target aesthetic of creating awful, derivative art is not very valuable.

Think of it this way. Psychologists use True Score Theory to measure unobservable constructs like love or self-esteem. Basically, True Score Theory states that any observable score we gather is the sum of a construct's true score and some measuring error, because we are not measuring the construct but some operationalized behavior we think is related to the construct. We're not measuring love, but displays of affection. We're not measuring self-esteem, but a self-reported scale of desire to harm oneself. We can never know a construct's true score or the amount of our error, but we theorize that constructs do have a true score we could observe with magical powers. Similarly, I believe art has a true value based on the criteria in the previous paragraph, but because we cannot know the amount of our error (due to incomplete history, incomplete understanding of relevant subjects, critic bias, etc.), we cannot know the true value of an art work. But I theorize a true, or "absolute", value of an art work exists. When I rate something with a number, or apply labels like "greatest" or "bad", I am usually referring to my best guess of its true value.

I also critique art's personal value: how does it affect me? A work of art's personal value may be good if it informs me, improves my mood, inspires me, etc. Its personal value may be bad if it deceives me, hurts my mood, etc. I can usually ascertain a work of art's personal value when I try, but a trained psychologist or God may occasionally be less wrong about a work's personal value to me than I am. Personal value is certainly more important than true value.

I also critique art's social value: how does it affect society? A work of art's social value may be good if the sum of its effects on society are positive and bad if the sum if its effects on society are negative. I am least interested about social value because causation is so difficult to determine, and because the aesthetics of the work rarely bear upon its social value.

True value is positive: high value makes it very good, no value simply makes it valueless (though I often use "bad" to describe a valueless thing). Personal value and social value may be positive or negative in varying degrees, or of no value (neutral). Also, true value is static after creation and modification has ceased, but personal and social value may change. Any of these critiques may be applied specifically to a segment of an art work, generally to an art work, or generally to a body of many art works, with decreasing accuracy and increasing efficiency & consumability.

Note that the value of an art work can be considered separate from the value of its artist(s). Personal value obviously says nothing about the artist(s), and social value (effects) may be unintended by the artist(s), or out of their control. An artist may create something that is a great innovation to him, but was actually innovated years earlier by someone whose work the artist never observed, and therefore the work is derivative even though the artist is a creative genius. Even execution may be an accident; it's possible that MC5 did not intend to record a masterpiece with Kick Out the Jams.

I'll illuminate my approach with three examples. First, "Clocks" by Coldplay. Even the most naive music fan understands there is nothing innovative about the music. Its target aesthetic is one that will sell records: safe, familiar prettiness. This aesthetic is of marginal value. So the song is of little true value. However, the song's beat energizes me. Its music - I don't usually listen to lyrics, which hinders my analysis, but even the best lyricists are mediocre poets at best - tells me that though there is sorrow and melancholy, life is beautiful. It reinforces positive emotions with the few lyrics I can't miss: "Home, home: where I wanted to go." I mentally finish "Nothing else compares..." with "to you, God", and thusly use it as worship. So the song has some positive personal value to me. The song's social value is probably negligible or neutral: though popular, its "message" approaches neither extreme of positive or negative effectiveness, and it has not been adopted by any powerful group for wide influence, positive or negative.

Second, The Birth of a Nation by D.W. Griffith. It brought many technical innovations and elaborated many previous innovations by Griffith. Its execution is often impressive with regard to scale and camera technique, and often weak or muddy with regard to story, character, and structure. It is probably of moderate true value. Released in 1915 and set in the 1860s, its racism had little relevance or influence for me. I was happy to see it once for its historical significance, but don't care to see it again. It is of no personal value. Wildly popular and effective in showing prejudice as heroic, Birth of a Nation is credited with helping to revive the murderous Klu Klux Klan and racism in general across the United States. It has immense negative social value.

Third, Harmonielehre by John C. Adams. Its particular use of unmelodic, atonal minimalism to achieve Beethovenian Romanticism is slightly innovative. I think it is quite effective in achieving this target aesthetic, with few major weaknesses. I'd guess that it is of good or very good true value. Perhaps no other piece of music has such power to awaken my soul and draw tears of emotional rapture, so it is of great positive personal value. It is only popular among fans of contemporary classical music, and communicates little "message", so apart from generally contributing to "the arts" (which many believe make life worth living), it has no social value.

I have never organized or stated this approach before, so none of my previous criticism may be held to this standard. Most apparent inconsistencies in my future criticism will likely spawn from language confusion or incompleteness on my part, which are inevitable.

Retreating to innovation in an attempt to found art criticism in some solid, empirical methodology strikes me as a desperate attempt to force a scientific method upon a medium that simply does not yet allow it.

In my not-so-humble views, innovation is a question for the historian, not the art critic. At the end of the day, nobody enjoys a work by Bach because of any innovation it might have had at some point in history. In fact, we cannot almost be assured that many classics were not the first to do much, they were simply the best to do what they did.

This is Scaruffi's biggest weakness. He is an excellent historian, but too often, mistakes his historical judgments with artistic ones.

My problem with your approach to execution is that the moment you seek out a non-subjective, non-emotional basis to judge an aethetic's value, you're pretty much stuck with nothing. I fear any attempt to seek 'intrinsic' value outside of subjective measures usually leads to a simple ranking of difficulty in crafting the piece, which is a rather artificial means to assign value. Some of the most labored-over works are the most boring and least moving. Additionally, I fear even these attempts are largely subjective. How difficult was Blake's poetry to write? Your answer could be quite different from mine.

Social value is a quality so independent of aesthetic quality I have difficulty seriously addressing it.

I certainly respect your right to hold these views. I just don't respect the actual views themselves much. I think many of these approaches are actually rather anti-art in nature, and thus I rather oppose them.

Is red or blue prettier? This is an aesthetic question, and like most artistic questions, I fear science won't get you very far, if anywhere... Being post-modern has nothing to do with it, since the idea that artistic judgements are largely subjective predates that supposed movement (I still think the very concept of post-modern is largely full of crap) by several centuries.

Subjective strings pull, and we cannot cut them without losing all.

I mean, heck, even your decisions to pull these specific elements out of art for criticism is highly subjective. Why not just take a poll and get some reliable statistics on what most people feel is great art? At least that is good, solid, objective science, even if it is horrible criticism.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Whatever would J. Evans Pritchard, Ph.D. think?

If he leaped from that mediocre movie to real life, he'd surely love my extensive charts on the value of Persona.

I'll allow him or her to respond for his/herself...

Do you know the gender? I'm having trouble finding accurate information about the good doctor on the net. ;)

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

I believe there is intrinsic value in art, so I want to find a way to uncover that intrinsic value. Innovation and execution seem to me the most sensible way to discover that intrinsic value. I suspect that most people who disagree with my approach to art criticism really just don't believe art has intrinsic value, in which case I consider their valuation of an art work under "personal value", which those people probably take to be a belittlement of their opinion. But I would much rather live without a work of great intrinsic value than a work of great personal value. I didn't list intrinsic value first because it is more important.

There are few pieces of art whose execution can be judged with a decent mix of objectivity and subjectivity. "A judgment on execution can be objective only when a target aesthetic is unemotional" does not mean that all unemotional aesthetics can be judged with objectivity. But I want to emphasize the difference between "I dunno, I just like it, and art is subjective so my opinion is just as valid as yours," and a well-thought, well-studied, well-informed opinion of an expert on the art. US culture has recently diminished the value of expertise, and increased the value of personal experience, far too much in my opinion.

I've never tried to rank the difficulty in crafting art works; indeed, I say that Trout Mask Replica, which I value greatly, may have been an accident.

Social value is indeed totally independent of aesthetic quality, and also my least favorite aspect to discuss. :)

I shudder at the thought of using popularity to uncover intrinsic value, as you suggest with polling. That would end badly, with The Eagles and Michael Jackson at the top of the list.

Is red our blue prettier? If we're speaking of intrinsic value, I think you know my judgments of execution are a little more quantifiable than that, even moreso for someone who has studied music theory extensively. If we're talking about personal value, blue is definitely prettier.

Finally, Scaruffi knows himself as a historian and not a critic (I call him a critic):

I consider myself a historian, not a critic... I tend to study the way a phenomenon, movement or product is created and develops. Some of my most controversial "opinions" (e.g., Presley and Beatles) are simply due to being "too" aware of the way they were created, established and propagated. I know the record industry too well to be trapped into thinking that a star deserved any credit for becoming famous and selling millions of albums. It is not terribly intriguing for an historian that a highly publicized (i.e., marketed) musician becomes a best-seller. On the other hand, the Velvet Underground benefited from almost no marketing, and still managed to become the most influential band of all times. Needless to say, this is a very intriguing fact for a historian.

Therefore, in principle, I am more interested in the flow of ideas, and tend to focus on how those ideas originated and how those ideas propagated. My statement that a certain musician did not invent anything is often taken as a negative judgement of his music when it is, in fact, a simple statement about what happened. My statement that a certain musician invented something is often taken as a positive judgement of his music when it is, in fact, a simple statement about what happened. The "negative" and "positive" values are often added not by me but by the reader, who compares the "fortune" of that artist with the role that s/he had according to my history of music.

Yet, he does make many artistic judgments, but that's because his approach to art criticism depends on history. Art does not exist outside of time.

Hmmm. Is there intrinsic value in art? I will admit that I do not know. I suspect there is, and that science has not found a way to deal with it yet in terms of quantity or objective measures, but I could be wrong. I don't think I am and will argue that I am not, but I am humble enough to admit a question mark when I honestly find one.

I think the study of innovation is a very valid, valuable one, but I also think we should not fool ourselves with thinking with have made inroads into art criticism when we have really added to an understanding of art history.

I wholly agree that current Western culture, inside this country and out, has devalued the expert. Perhaps it is a sad outcome of clinging to democratic ideas. I also am too much of an eltistist to hand over my artistic judgments to the masses; I suspected you are as well, which was my point in my suggestion. It would be scientific and objective, but only about describing subjective taste accurately, and I really would rather listen to my Trout Mask Replica than the Eagles compilation... I think you can note my observations elsewhere on this site to see I do value the art expert greatly.

I bring up red and blue in an attempt to make a point by reducing aesthetic reactions to their most simple form. I think it is not very instructive, but an excellent way to avoid extreme statements that fall apart in the fact of such simple, personal reactions.

I think it is dangerous to art criticism to fall into the Scaruffi trap (and have no doubt of my respect for Scaruffi; I think many have first discovered him after hearing my praises); his observations about The Beatles and Presley could easily apply to Shakespeare, and that would be a damn shame. To say a work of art was created for, at least to a large degree, financial gain doesn't get one very far in the way of criticism. As long as one recognizes (as he sometimes seems to) that his observations are historical and not critical, one can continue to enjoy Abbey Road as a better album than Twin Infinitives, which I certainly do.

To restate my main point, I think looking at art historically in terms of innovation is a valid way of studying it, as long as one never confuses art history with art criticism, two somewhat inter-related but still unique and distinct beasts.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs (in a huge hurry so I'm not proofing this at all...)

I wouldn't call my approach to intrinsic value, or even just to innovation, scientific. But I would call it objective because it's closer to that than it is to "subjective". You can't really measure and calculate how much more innovative Beethoven's 9th is than the madrigals of Carlo Gesualdo (they are both great, I think), but someone knowledgeable about such things could estimate what specific innovations each brought (according to available human knowledge), how important those innovations are to subsequent music (this is where Beethoven really pulls ahead), how different those innovations were from previous innovations, and to what degree those innovations assist music in achieving its aesthetic goals.

I'm certainly no literary critic, so I can't speak of Shakespeare (though I suspect he, like every popular artist except Beethoven, is overrated), but I do think Scaruffi is simply wrong about Twin Infinitives (and Hosianna Mantra, and The Good Son, and many other Scaruffi 9/10s that are merely "good"), and I'd certainly rather listen to Abbey Road any day.

It's natural that we disagree on how inter-related art history and art criticism are if you're not sure of intrinsic value in art.

I am absolutely an elitist.

"It's natural that we disagree on how inter-related art history and art criticism are if you're not sure of intrinsic value in art."

Well, now I'm not sure you read my comments very closely. In a nutshell, I tend to believe in it, but it is simply a hunch or matter of faith, and as I noted, I try to always be humble enough to realize either a hunch or matter of faith might always be wrong.

And don't mistake that for relativism. I believe there is a truth, where true relativists do not; I'm just not certain, in this situation, it can be proven either way beyond a doubt yet, and so I admit I could be wrong. Of course, I don't think I am, but I might be.

I find this distinction often separates me from fundamentalists of all sorts of creeds, be they philosophical, religious, or political in nature. They always try to paint me into a relativist corner, but they either do not understand me, wish to pigeonhole for ease of argument, or cannot conceive of a faith honest enough to admit itself for what it is, something somewhat short of a definite, proven, unmistakenable and undoubtable fact.

Truthfully, and I say this not to be rude but to be honest, I simply think your current efforts at locating objective criteria for art criticism is too simplistic and heading for a dead end. I think there are other avenues you should explore.

I fail to see how your approach is ultimately objective, but perhaps you are still working on that. I agree we should seek to discover to what degree innovation and other elements assist art in achieving aesthetic goals, but once you get there, you still have to evaluate those goals and that aesthetic, and I fail to see any proposal here for a truly objective yet correct way to do that.

Oh, and while many individual Shakespeare plays may be over-rated, Shakespeare most certainly is not.

IMNSHO, natch!

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

I didn't mean to paint you as a relativist. Really, I'm not sure how I did. And I'm not saying intrinsic value is objective, only that measuring innovation is somewhat objective (within the limits of human knowledge, obviously).

I appreciate you sharing your thoughtful opinion, L. Bangs.

I'll briefly mention that I think Sufjan's Illinois is quite good despite bringing no innovation. I have no equations to prove it, though I wish I did. For the moment, I'm overjoyed to have found the first truly good album of Christian music of which I am aware. (I know you disagree.

Hey, you discovered my list! I think it is probably the latest and most accurate top ten album list from me on the net.

I'm glad you enjoyed Illinois. I dig it, but then, yup, I dig Dig.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

I was thinking of sending Scaruffi my list to see if he'd put it on that page, but decided against it for two reasons:

1. Right now my top 10 is drawn almost exclusively from his top 25. I've looked high and low for albums I truthfully think are as good as some he's already listed in his top 25, and I can't find them. He has too much influence on my thinking.
2. I haven't heard enough recordings, particularly by Spirit, Sandy Bull, Harmonium, The Free Spirits, Klaus Schulze, Silver Apples, David Torn, David Borden, and Autechre.

I picked up Spirit's 12 Dreams for a buck or two on vinyl a few weeks back. It is a terrific album.

And I think you already know of my love for Autechre's Repetae...

Do keep working on that list, though; I anticipate seeing it as it morphs!

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Yes, Repetae is quite good, but I haven't heard their first two albums or Chiastic Side. I also definitely need to hear some Vampire Rodents.

Right now, my list looks something like:
1. Captain Beefheart - Trout Mask Replica
2. The Soft Machine - Third
3. Faust - Faust
4. Nico - Desert Shore
5. Third Ear Band - Third Ear Band

See? Pathetic. And all from 1969-1971!

You'd call Illinois Christian music? I had no idea...

Well, it's not as explicit as Chris Tomlin, but yeah.

Where are you getting that from? Seriously. I searched all the lyrics on the album for a mention of the words "Jesus," "Christ," "savior," "salvation," "cross," "Hallelujah," or "trinity" and found none. It mentions "God" and "the Devil" but not in a particularly Christian light. I think the album is much more about the apotheosis of Illinois than about Christianity. I certainly think it's much less of a Christian album than Jeff Buckley's Grace, and I know you think that album is good too.

It is better described as a modern folk-rock album by a Christian songwriter who waxes poetic about Illinois and his own upbringing and feelings about the world. To my mind, the lyrics look at the world from a Christian perspective, but maybe that's just because I read them that way as a Christian, myself (or maybe not). Perhaps you're right, and I shouldn't categorize it as a "Christian" album, though the artist professes to be Christian. But then I'd have to continue agonizing over the neverending black hole of contemporary Christian music! I'd much rather just rejoice that good Christian music has finally been written. Grrrrrr. Thanks for sacrificing my joy at the altar of accuracy. (No, really.)

I'm not saying that some parts of the album aren't written from a Christian perspective (although other parts are written about night zombies). I'm just saying you're not holding a particularly high standard to define something as a "Christian album." Under that standard, I'm sure you can think of plenty of other good albums that qualify. Surely you can come up with other good albums that have some lyrics that, while they don't contain overt references to Christianity, seem to see the world from a Christian perspective, even if other lyrics on the album talk about something like night zombies.

Well, I haven't found any yet. I've listened to far more secular albums than Christian ones, partly because secular music keeps rewarding me and Christian music keeps disappointing me. But yeah, "Hallelujah" from Grace, though not "a Christian song", sees the world from a more Christian perspective than many "Christian" albums. (But, perhaps that song speaks to you just as powerfully as a Jew, and you're probably right.)

Well, I'm not talking about the genre of CCM. I mean, you can find that Christian perspective in other secular albums, as I would certainly not call Illinois CCM. But maybe I don't fully grasp how prevalent you think the Christian perspective is in Illinois.

Hmm, for straight-up CCM, Danielson looks promising.

I've thought about this a little, and I am backing off one of my views here. I am starting to doubt that art has any intrinsic value at all. It is always a collaborative effort, and the reaction of the viewer / listener / reader determines to at least some degree its worth.

The sticking point I keep coming back to is, for example, novels. Books are made out of language. Language by itself is utterly meaningless; sounds are assigned to concepts and markings that do not necessarily (and outside of otomotopia and other potential subtler psychological effects that may be subjective in themselves) have any connection together. It is an agreed upon system that allows meaning to take place. There is nothing intrinsic about it.

If literature is made up of such an arbitrary system, then I have immense difficulty assigning intrinsic worth to a work where even the very medium of the art used to convey the meaning that creates the artisitic effects is subjective in nature.

Now, to some degree, this strikes me as deceptive hair-splitting. It smacks of the deconstructionist who points out the subjectiveness of language and the eternal possibility of meaning breaking down and then dances about and declares that communication is impossible. Perhaps under the microscope it seems like it should be impossible, but it happens successfully a billion times a day. There is a nearly magical (only though, I'm convinced, from our viewpoint) yet real apparent "contradiction" here, much like examining a solid object under intense magnification and noting that on an atomic level it is more space than matter. True, and yet, it still has all the characteristics we associated with solidity. If we treat such an object as a solid, 99.9999% of the time, we shall not be disappointed with its behavior despite all its gaps and spaces.

Art has no intrinsic value, but we might as well act like it does, because it certainly does act like it has it nearly without fail.

Why am I thinking of Newtonian physic all of a sudden?

I just woke up and have no idea why I decided to type this out, but there's ya goes...

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Let me suggest to you that you - and many philosophers - have confused two concepts, conventional and arbitrary. They are two, not one. Language is indeed almost entirely conventional, but it is not arbitrary. Let me explain.

The first thing you have to understand is that the only things language directly expresses are concepts, not things in the 'exterior world' (the world outside the mind). Most concepts are cognitive (they involve thinking), but some are pre-cognitive (they are ingredient to thinking). The latter come from perception of the 'exterior world' - perception is knowing-as (e.g. knowing some sensations of green and brown as a tree).

So, language does express the 'exterior world', but only indirectly, only via concepts via perception via sensation.

And so another thing language expresses is cognition (thought), the ordering and synthesis of complex concepts.

The point of all this is that the ultimate reference of language is indeed outside of the mind, but indirectly.

Now I said language is "almost entirely" conventional - the actual sounds and words of language are almost entirely agreed upon, having a socio-traditional origin. What are the exceptions? Consider words like 'cuckoo' and 'burp' and 'thud' - such words are hardly conventional in meaning because they mimic the sounds they express.

We all percieve the same 'exterior world' but our individual experiences of it vary greatly and our thinking varies a lot too. But, as I said, the ultimate reference of the langauge that expresses our concepts is that exterior world. And so, although most langauge is indeed conventional, it is not arbitrary. Something that is arbitrarily chosen or assigned is chosen or assigned for no reason at all. Such is not the case with language. The fact that most words have many dictionary meanings shows that uttering a formless and contextless bunch of words would be an arbitrary use of languge. But forming words into sentences and sentences into arguments - and all the other uses of sentences - is clearly not an arbitrary use of language. Words do mean, sentences to mean, language does mean. And the ultimate reference of language is the world in which we all participate.

Language is arbitrary in the sense that the words or sounds we have agreed upon by convention to mean certain concepts have no especial link to the concepts except in the cases we both note. Our use of language, the ends we wish to achieve in utilizing it, certainly is not arbirtrary, and I did not mean to suggest otherwise.

Where I think the deconstructionists have a point is in the fact that even with a coventionalized language, the possibility for a number of miscommunications, via words with multiple meanings, ambiguous context, or other means, is possible. How do we know we have agreed upon the same conventions when the only means we have of communicating about the convention is the convention itself? Can we ever, then, know for sure we are all using the same language the same ways? Sure, it is hard to prove. Where I disagree with them is that I think when the speaker speaks well and the hearer listens well, communication usually does take place. How? I'm not always sure. I've only experience to tell me that it does, not a ton of logical proofs to explain to me how it does.

I hope that clears up any confusion my poor use of our conventional language engendered. :)

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

I think I understand you now :-D

Speaking of philosophical attacks on communication, language and meaning - the irony is that they are all ultimately self-refuting. The more carefully they are written the more they are understood and thus the more obvious is their self-refutation.

That is an irony that certainly has not escaped my notice. ;)

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

It's long past time that I commented on this article. But better late than never.

First, I consider it to be a very worthwhile contribution to philosohy of art. I admire very much the thought and care that has clearly been invested in it. I do, of course, have some critical comments; but I hope you will find them to be constructive criticisms, as intended. I'll give them in the order they occured to me - not in order of importance.

I'm not sure your use of the "If a tree falls in a forest" reference makes the point you want it to make. My understanding of the philosophical point of that question is that it is used to distinguish between 'sound' and 'sound waves'. Sure, the tree-fall produces sound waves, but the absence of hearers means the absence of sound, and this is because sound itself occurs only in the minds of hearers. To think that sound and what is produced by the treefall (science calls it sound-waves) are one and the same thing is to think that we humans have the 'God's-Eye View' - that we can perceive things 'as they really are', when it stands to reason that we can only perceive things as we are. We only have access to the human's-eye view.

But that's a point about perception, and it might not apply to evaluation, so it might not impact upon claims about 'intrinsic values' - to tell you the truth, I'm not sure whether it does or not.

I have recently posted the outline of a revision of my Philosophy of Art article, and in it I distinguish between (G1) positive aesthetic value (G2) novelty [I'm going to steal your term 'innovation' which is classier], and (G3) technical skill. I hold these to be the three main positive values involved in the critical evaluation of artworks. But I'm not sure you mean by 'execution' what I mean by 'technical skill'. It may be that your term is better if it includes both, say, being a skillful wielder of the paintbrush and skill at expressing what you want to express. I disagree, however, that the value of the 'target aesthetic' is a factor in the value of the execution.

Your claim that innovation can establish the objectivity of an artwork's evaluation confuses, arguably, objectivity and intersubjectivity. The measure of innovation using the standard of history is a good idea [another one I'm going to use], but I would only claim that such a measure is intersubjective (or, conventional) rather than truly objective. Even a small amount of honest disagreement over the evaluation of something calls the objectivity of the evaluation into doubtful question.

Damn! I have to break at this point, but I'll get back to this again today, I hope.

Thanks for clarifying the "tree falls in a forest" metaphor; I've never understood it that way. I'll have to revise or excise that point. It is a bit off-topic and I had considered cutting it originally. Or I may find a better way to express what I mean about intrinsic value existing seperately from its being observed.

My term of execution includes both technical skill and skill at achieving the target aesthetic, which I need to clarify. An example might be that while Yngwie Malmsteen clearly possesses greater technical guitar skills than Lee Ranaldo, Lee Ranaldo may be better at expressing his art with the guitar. Perhaps I should split this into two terms. It is confusing to combine them.

I looked it up and still don't quite understand what intersubjectivity is. What I want to say is that there is absolute truth about the innovation of an art work because some element of the art has either been done before or it has not. (An obvious example is Beethoven's 9th symphony, the first known work of music in symphony form to use a chorus.) The problem, as stated in my following paragraph, is that humans can never know for sure whether something is innovative or not because our understanding of history is incomplete to the point of approaching (as in differential calculus) nonexistance. So anyway, where does intersubjectivity fit in?

You disagree that the value of the target aesthetic is not a relevant positive value of art criticism. That is one of the messiest parts of my approach to art cricism. I suspect Scaruffi agrees with you and that is why he loves Twin Infinitives by Royal Trux and I do not. He writes of the album: "Derailed by pseudo-jazz and pseudo-avantgarde pretentions, its delirious pieces sounded like nuclear bacchanals via spastic jamming. Lacking any sense of order or purpose, the album was a colossal chaos of musical detours. The anarchic and illiterate art that had been foreshadowed and incubated throughout the 1980s by the works of punk-rock, the no wave, industrial music, and so forth, had reached the terminal point. The two devastated psyches had forged a hyper-psychedelic form of cubism." Now, I do love lots, lots of chaotic music, but I do not highly value "pseudo-jazz and pseudo-avantgarde pretentions" and in this case do not highly value "anarchic and illiterate art." (I think Scaruffi correctly describes the album with these terms.) My opinion on this may change, though. For example, my love for Trout Mask Replica and now Parable of an Arable Land are bugging me, as many of the terms Scaruffi applies to Twin Infinitives could stick to those albums, too.

I am thrilled that your agile and experienced mind has taken an interest in my article. I want this to be a work in progress and I am always greatful for feedback that helps me further clarify my ideas and my expression of those ideas.

I will work on continually revising my article, and I will read your Philosophy of Art article. I look forward to continuing this dialogue!

This a continuation of my earlier post.

I should have said at the outset that I have only read your article, not the other comments and your replies to them. So you may already have answered some of my points above and to come.

As I read on I become less sure that you are using the term 'intrinsic value' in the way it is generally used in philosophy. My understanding [and I don't claim my understanding is infallible] is that something that has intrinsic value is, as Kant put it, an end-in-itself. An end (goal, purpose) in itself is an end that does not depend upon the ends of valuers (except to the extent that the end-in-itelf is a valuer). The moral point Kant makes using this concept is that each individual person is an end-in-him/her-self, and thus can never, with moral rectitude, be treated as merely a means to the ends of another person or of society. I think you are using 'intrinsic value' and 'objective value' as synonyms, but they do not have the same meaning. If you are using them to mean the same thing, then I'm afraid what I said about the 'God's-Eye View' in my previous post does apply to your claim to be able to assess the 'intrinsic value' of an artwork. No artwork can have intrinsic value because none can be an end-in-itelf, it can only be an end for valuers - the artist and audience. And no assessment of the critical worth (as distinct from the monetary worth) of a work of art can be objective, in the usual philosophical sense of that term, because its objective worth would be 'its real worth' and, if there is such a thing as 'its real worth', only God could know what that is because only God can see things from an unqualified point of view (also referred to in philosophy as 'the view from nowhere').

However, there remains the point that if there is no such thing as 'the real worth' of an artwork, then perhaps we can use the term 'objective worth' to mean a worth that all sufficiently educated critics can agree upon. But does even that worth exist? I think yes, it does, but it can only be attributed to a very few works of art - say, the best of Shakespeare or of Bach or of Rembrandt.

On the less elevated level, I think your distinction between the personal value and the social value of an artwork does have possibilities, but, as you know, I always look for a third alternative, and I nominate my alternative definition of 'objective worth (or value)' as outlined in the paragraph above.

Further, I suggest that the most satisfactory estimation of the worth of an artwork will turn out to be the result of a social / historical process, the process that has long been called 'the test of time'.

To sum up, in terms of my Three Groups:

G1: Objective worth (as redefined to include the 'human's-eye view')
G2: Social / historical worth (the test of time)
G3: Personal worth

Later: I'll have to think further about it, but I might have the G1 and G3 concepts mixed up here. I might decide that Personal is G1 and Objective is G3. It isn't always easy to make the correct allocation into those Groups.

Since posting the above I have written and posted an article on Subjective, Intersubjective, and Objective. It isn't very long and I'd be grateful if you'd set aside five or six minutes to read it some time. I need to know if it makes sense to anyone other than me.

Oh, and I did put my three sorts of artistic value or worth in the correct Groups (I'm referring to the end of the above post).

The trouble with this absolute value of art falls apart immediately, since in order for anything to have value it must be observed. Value is an opinion, a designated, assigned choice by living beings with the ability to observe and to assess against what effect they would like to experience. There is no absolute here, aside from the consideration thereof from the individual, otherwise an album would have to sound the exact same way every single time you hear it. But, you'll notice it fluxuates, even if slightly. Sometimes you'll enjoy it more than others. But it's still the exact same album isn't it? If it had an absolute value you're opinion of it would never increase or decrease in likeness or affection, but you can't possibly tell me that it doesn't. This occurs because there is fluxuation in your observation of it according to your desire to experience it at that given time. Value is placed based on this and not some objective view. Without you there listening to it, it is only music, it is only a guitar playing, it is only Lennon singing, it is only a horn solo. You add the value. When you attempt to go outside of this and develop rules and the field of "art experts" (which really don't exist in truth, unless they only consider themselves "historians") than you've blown the entire idea and fact that "art criticism" is an opinion, the opinion of anyone, and really doesn't require an "expert" at all. When you go outside of your own opinion you are handing over your own self-determined thought to that of another and may eventually lose your ability to listen to and judge the quality of an album for yourself.

One's personal enjoyment of an art work changes, but that is personal value that is changing. Absolute value is its static value apart from being observed. That is; it is not valuable to you or me through absolute value, but it is valuable of itself. If you do not believe things may have value apart from being observed, then you will disagree with me on this point.

If you take too extreme a position on the side of the the subjectiveness of evaluation you run the risk of seeming to claim, as AfterHours is seeming to claim, that we only value a piece of music in the act of hearing it. If that were true, there would be no CDs, no recorded music at all, because a CD would be a mere plastic disc of tiny value. The fact that we don't enjoy an artwork with the same intensity every time we expose ourselves to it is purely an effect of various and varying psychological factors and has nothing to do with the value of the artwork. Just as a word repeated a thousand times seems to lose its meaning, a CD played in one's ear for a thousand hours would become a kind of noise and not be heard as music at all - a psychological matter, not an aesthetic or evaluative one.

We value our favorite CDs because they have the potential to let us expose ourselves to music that we have gradually come to value or have valued from first hearing. What's more, a recording allows us to not only evaluate a work of music but also to re-evaluate it. Suppose you inherit your uncle's CD collection and you don't really value it much because you know it's mostly, say, J.S.Bach, and you never did 'get' what all the fuss over Bach was about. Then, years later, after you have matured somewhat, you dig out Uncle Bob's old CD's and play Bach's 'Goldberg Variations' and really 'hear' them and 'get' them for the first time. They have always had the value you now recognize in them - it is you who have changed, not them.

That's a good illustration. Those Bach pieces always had some great absolute value, independent of one's appreciating it. What changed when one started liking Bach is its personal value to that listener. The absolute value remained the same.

Greatness is determined by people, not music. People play and hear the music, the music doesn't play by itself. There is no musical value of a written note until it is played and communicated.
It is not predetermined fact that a violin played using chord X is great or that Van Morrison's voice is great, or that Elvis' falsetto is amazing. They are amazing because those artists thought so, delivered, and we agreed. They connected with something we wanted to experience and we like this experience. This is why they are great, and they are great to the degree we assess them as so.

It is this simple: a sound is great if you find it so, and it is bad if you find it so. If you want to judge by popularity then it is great if many find it so, and it is bad if many find it so.

I don't know about you, but a piece of music has never meant squat to me until I've heard it. Do you own any great albums you haven't heard? Have you ever thought an album was great that you hadn't listened to? Sorry, but neither has anyone else. Saying sound has value before it is played, before it is heard is a bit of a stretch. It's sound. The idea and the sound are two separate things.

It is true that certain sounds connect with more people than others, but to confuse this with absolute value is a mistake. There is no sound anywhere that everyone would think as genius. There are definitely people who find Bach's Goldberg Variations boring and unexciting no matter how many times they've heard them and think of The Beatles or The Clash, or perhaps Nine Inch Nails as having far greater masterworks.

But I bet you that if they started taking harpsichord or piano classes and learning the Goldberg Variations and gaining insight and experience with them, they would likely begin to enjoy them much more. Now, I am almost re-stating your last point there, just as you did with me, but each of us mean to say something differently. It's not that the music always had value, it's that the person now has a closer connection to the music so that that value is created by his newfound observation of it. A test of my points can be done easily. I'll use this as an example: go listen to Joni Mitchell's "Blue", or Nick Drake's "Pink Moon". Assess how "great" they are. Next, go break-up with your girlfriend or boyfriend, and play them again in the immediate aftermath of the break-up. Guarenteed those (or some other favorite album about breaking up) will mean far more to you and be far "greater" now than they were before. What happened to this so-called absolute value? It was never there to begin with. Value is determined by people and their observations and understanding of those observations. Understanding is determined by experiencing something or being a part of something or communicating with something or agreeing with something, and thus having it for your own.

There is no unheard music anywhere that possessed a sound that was "great". All "great" music has been determined "great" by someone, and it wasn't great until someone experienced it's sound, whether in their mind or in an auditorium, or on a set of headphones.

Your post reflects a fundamental difference in our understandings of art. I believe art can hold value independently of its being observed (though of course, we only become aware of that value once we have observed it). When you say "a piece of music has never meants squat to me until I've heard it," I'd interpret that as "a piece of music never has personal value until I hear it."

I do think there is a difference between music and sound, though the lines became blurred in the twentieth century. And music can be great before it is heard. I like to think Beethoven knew he was writing a masterpiece while composing his 9th symphony, though he could hear none of it. And it was a masterpiece on the page before it was performed, and would have always been a masterpiece had it never been performed. But I understand we agree on this issue.

I'm glad you brought that up. Let's see if we can see where our differences lie and then perhaps we can go wherever this conversation is going to go from there.

The following is exactly what I have to say without any further complications or misunderstandings:

I would define art in this context (music) as: an attempt at communicating ideas through sound or the combination of sounds.

Communication is basically an interchange of ideas.

Greatness of art would therefore depend on that interchange of ideas which the receiver connects with the most.

It goes like this:

1. Beethoven has an experience.
2. Beethoven wants to share this experience.
3. Beethoven writes a musical work to communicate this experience.
4. To Beethoven it is already becoming or has become a masterpiece as he is writing it. He is a very gifted composer and musician and can already hear it in his mind, and can probably play it out there as well. There is a good rendition of this of Mozart in the film Amadeus. I suspect Beethoven had a similar skill of foresight and prediction when writing.
5. Beethoven completes the work.
6. Beethoven plays the work for another.
7. This person connects with Beethoven's ideas as communicated by the work and thinks it is a masterpiece.
8. It is now a masterpiece to 2 people and that is all. It is not a masterpiece any further than that. The "absolute" value is between two people. There is no absolute outside of those two people that this work is a masterpiece.

What your post seems to be claiming is that there is an overall "absolute" value to a work of art, when infact it's "greatness", not existence, as a musical work, is wholly dependant on living beings having received it's communication. Beethoven's 9th is a musical work regardless if anyone or noone hears it, but it is not a "great" musical work until someone thinks it is, and it is only great per that singular observation and whoever else agrees, and to what degree of agreement. There is no single work in the history of music that has ever had "absolute" greatness or value outside of the opinions, certainties and agreements of individuals capable of perceiving it.

Your points 1, 2 and 3 do not apply to the composition of all works of music - that is, not all music is written to communicate a non-musical experience had by the composer. I admit that points 1, 2 and 3 do apply to a lot of compositions (paticularly in Beethoven's case). But equally, a lot of compositions originate in a purely musical experience had by the composer. A lot are simply musical *expression* of musical experiences and are not primarily communications at all. For some composers - Mozart was one - music just bursts out of them, they can hardly keep from composing and need no reason do so other than to be rid of it from their irrepressible musical imaginations.

At this point I want to ask a question you do not ask. Where does musical imagination come from? Why did Beethoven know - as surely he did - that he was writng 'a masterpiece' (apart from knowing that he, a master of music, was writng the piece)? I want to suggest that the very evolutionary processes that resulted in the existence of his mind, and, of course, of that second hearer, and, of course, of us all, resulted in minds that are inevitably 'in tune' with the mathematical sub-structure of the world as described in mathematico-science. That math sub-structure common to everything in the universe is at once the source of musical imagination and of musical perception and evaluation. We love music because it carries within it the mathematical sub-structure of the world and thus also of our brains and minds.

I didn't realise it at the time, but the quotation with which I prefaced my article on philosophy of music already goes some of the way towards saying what I have just said:

"Music is the effort we make to explain to ourselves how our brains work. We listen to Bach transfixed because this is listening to a human mind." - Lewis Thomas

What I am suggesting is that listening to music is not just listening to a human mind, it is listening to something that shares with Bach's mind and our own the common mathematical substructure of our world.

Btw, speaking of the movie Amadeus , here's a quote from it:

Salieri: "I was staring through the cage of those meticulous ink strokes at an absolute beauty".

Perhaps they don't all derive from a full-bodied experience, but they definitely derive from some part of an experience either had or wanted. They could derive from urges, or a sudden romantic swoon, or the wish to fly, or to destroy, to run amok, or that horrible day in the Vietnam War. It doesn't matter, there is always an intention with the music to communicate something, even if that something is a confusion to perplex the audience. And music certainly is a form of communication-in all cases.

Beethoven knew he was writing a masterpiece, I suspect, simply because he knew he was precisely rendering his emotions/experiences through the music he was creating. Not everyone can do this. He was extremely good at it. The more this is done, the more likely it is to connect with his audience, as it would be closer to an exact communication, and closer to producing understanding within those receiving it. I think we love music because it's a form of communication and brings about an understanding. Everyone responds to communication in some way or another, and the music we love most tends to be the communication we'd most like to receive or be a part of either directly or indirectly. Whether this is in line or not with your "mathematical sub-structure of the universe" proposal, I am not sure, so I don't know if we are agreeing or disagreeing here.

When you say: "What I am suggesting is that listening to music is not just listening to a human mind, it is listening to something that shares with Bach's mind and our own..."(I'm not going to include the last part since I can't really comment on it) I think you're absolutely right. That is communication: an interchange of ideas.

Saying "We love music because it carries within it the mathematical sub-structure of the world and thus also our brains and minds" is a bit too general I think. If this were true as stated, we would love all music, but none of us do. I think it is more precisely put as what I've previously stated, written above and in previous posts.

I just want to say I've had a helluva time with this conversation, and I appreciate your willingness to ask questions and pose your opinions, regardless of whether or not I've agreed with them. You too Lukeprog. These types of posts are the best, since they actually stimulate a new or reinvigorated look at who and where we are, and what things mean, and what they're made of. And I think it obviously took some balls to grasp what was perhaps an entirely new subject for you in "absolute value". While I obviously don't agree with it, if it works for you to greater or lesser degree, you should use it to greater or lesser degree.

In the end I just think art criticism "experts" are a falsehood. This isn't to say I don't enjoy reading reviews or that I am not influenced by Scaruffi or Bangs or Christgau to go out and purchase their next big thing. But if I listen to some album rated 5 stars by Mr. Critic and I don't like it, then it's just as true that it's bad to me, as it is considered good to them. I honestly don't consider Scaruffi any more qualified to review music than you, bertie or myself. This isn't to say that Scaruffi isn't intelligent or that he doesn't know a lot about music, but evaluating music requires just this: willingness to listen to the music, and deciding to what degree one likes it or dislikes it. If other factors are to be added to it then it's up to you, but once you pass into the field of objectivity it isn't entirely your rating of the album anymore, it's to a certain degree somebody elses, and the truth is: you'll never quite hear it from their ears, so why is their opinion so necessary as to comprise yours?

Innovation means nothing in music if it doesn't sound good. Difficulty of a composition means nothing in music if it doesn't sound good. Social value means nothing to me if it isn't of personal value. And who cares about whether absolute value exists at all when all you need to do is listen to the piece to discover whether or not it's great.

My suggestion is as follows: Work out the points you look for in a work of music. And add the correct amount of weight to each of those points. Rate an album per this and you'll reduce all confusion over what's best and what's not.

Most people who like Beethoven tend to like overtly emotional, climactic, well-structured, conceptually driven works. A simplistic example in rock music could be Abbey Road by The Beatles (Scaruffi would scoff). A better example could be Kid A by Radiohead (another scoff). Perhaps an even more accurate example would be A Love Supreme or The Black Sinner Saint & The Sinner Lady.

Anyways, there's my 4 cents. I'm ending somewhat abruptly because I have to go.

I just want to say I have also had a helluva time reading this conversation. I appreciate everyone's willingness to ask questions and pose opinions, regardless of whether or not I agree with them. This includes everyone; it is beautiful.

I might throw my three coins in once the fountain runs dry but it is so dense, so wondrous that I can't add anything to it. I am not sure that I understand everyone's perspective but I want to.

It isn't much advertised, what I'm about to tell you, because referring to it is considered to be 'elitist' and being 'elitist' is always a bad thing in this age of the common man - but the fact is that human life is ruled by the inequalities that, when measured and graphed, always produce a curve called either 'The Bell-shaped Curve' or 'The Normal Curve'. Measures of intelligence on a statistical scale always produce a nice neat Bell-shaped Curve, a curve that shows that (I forget the exact percentages) 70% of us are within one standard deviation of the mean, while 15% are below that level and 15% are above it. The upshot is that 70% of us are fair-to-middlin', intelligence-wise, and the other 30% are either quite smart or dumb as dodos. The saving grace is that there isn't just one sort of intelligence - you, and I, can be relatively smart in one sort and relativley dumb in another.

My point is that one of those sorts of intelligence is aesthetic - including musical - intelligence. Some of us are better qualified to evaluate music than others. Generally the wider the range of different musical genres you like the higher your musical intelligence is. People, even very smart people, who say only one genre of music is worthwhile are decieving themselves.

Sorry, I have to go now too.

This is truly an almost saturated discussion, but I feel strongly compelled to contribute my 1 pence.

I have to vehemently disagree with Afterhours' idea that anyone is qualified to critique music simply by listening to it. While I agree that innovation in music must still "sound good", I don't think that the converse is true, that something that "sounds good", IS good. Besides which, what "sounds good" is, to some degree, dictated by the type of music that we're exposed to. An open fifth sounds dissonant to our ears, but sounds consonant to pre-Baroque listeners, and to Scottish people (or the ones who like bagpipe music, anyway).

And I have to passionately agree with Bertie that some people are better qualified to critique music based on musical intelligence. Those who know about music tend to appreciate a very broad variety of styles, and listen to a broad variety of elements in the music to judge whether it's "great" or not.

The reason I felt so strongly compelled to speak up about this is that one of my pet peeves is the fact that everyone thinks they know about music, simply by virtue of "listening" to some. (I put that in quotation marks because there are many degrees of listening, and most people don't hear much of what goes on in music). This is simply not true, and is another example of the erroneousness of the old adage, "Everyone is entitled to their opinion". Not true. No one is entitled to an uninformed opinion. Opinions are a responsibility to be earned by critical thinking.


Listen, you sound like you might be educated in the terminology of music. How would you like to read my philosophy of music article - when I've given it some more 'body' - and correct my misuse of the musical lingo? There's a nice shiny co-authorship in it for you :-)

Ooh, I like recognition. Count me in! I'm the type of person who will put 2 pieces together in a jigsaw puzzle and say, "We did that puzzle". (Kidding.)

And yes, I am educated in the terminology of music; I have a degree in it. Music, that is, not just the terminology. I don't think there is a degree in music terminology, but I bet it would be hella boring.

You're hired :-) I'll let you know when I've done all the damage I can do, then you can help me repair it. Or, if you like, you can read what's there already and make comments - either musical or philosophical - might as well start learning the ropes.

Oh, yes, it's this article

Welcome! Glad you could join us!

I don't have time to respond to you directly but read my latest to bertie. This probably responds to you as well.

This is great (:

Either you didn't quite understand what I meant or I didn't put it well enough because, believe my I was typing at a ridiculously fast pace, and I didn't get a chance to edit my rather long statement before I left.

Let me qualify, and perhaps we'll agree, and perhaps we'll continue to disagree:

"People, even very smart people, who say only one genre of music is worthwhile are decieving themselves". They're not deceiving themselves so long as this is what they prefer. They may be not be someone you or I would listen to though.

Obviously, a prerequisite to what I said (though it's my bad for not including it) is to give adequate attention to what you're listening to before judging its merits. I think the cutoff point to reviewing an album would be when one really feels like he knows it. The sound and songs seem familiar to him.

You need to realize that I am speaking from a viewpoint of personal value so of course the most qualified person to judge the album is the person himself. That's really all I meant.

I do agree that intelligence does seem to play a factor as to what kind of music one likes. I've rarely found less intelligent people to like Bob Dylan (this doesn't mean if you're intelligent
that you have to like Bob Dylan to prove your intelligence). This is simply because they have a difficult time understanding him, and his songs don't hold as well outside of the lyrics aspect, for the most part. You'll often find that poets love Dylan. People who like classical music will easily turn to Nick Drake, Love, Radiohead. Jazz aficianados will get enthusiastic about Astral Weeks, etc.

"Some of us are better qualified to evaluate music than others:" This depends on what you mean by evaluate. If you're referring to other factors, aside from "how much do I like the album", then I disagree. If you're referring to other factors, of course someone who knows a lot about jazz technique would be able to communicate what chord changes took place, what model of saxaphone was being used, what sub-sub-sub-genre the album was, how influential was it, etc, etc.

If you're referring to other factors, aside from "how much do I like the album", then I disagree.

The line is supposed to be:

If you're referring to "how much I like the album", then I disagree.

AfterHours, you've been increasingly outnumbered in this debate, and I hope you are not deterred.

Pointing back to random points in this long discussion, I'd like to clarify a few things. One way to understand my view of absolute value is that absolute value is not assigned, ever, but rather discovered by those few who are adequately intelligent, vigorous, experienced, exposed, and honest. It is because these adjectives fit Scaruffi to the nth degree that I hold his opinion so highly. And if I could get God to tell me whether Sgt. Pepper's or Twin Infinitives is a greater work of art, I'd place bets on Scaruffi's choice, even though to the best of my limited knowledge, Sgt. Pepper's is better. I might not do the same if it was Sgt. Pepper's vs. The River, though. (Truly, 0dysseus, that's not aimed at you.)

I also insist on valuing the opinions of well-qualified art critics over lay observers. But neither can stop me from enjoying "Beautiful Life" by Ace of Base.

Pointing back to random points in this long discussion, I'd like to clarify a few things. One way to understand my view of absolute value is that absolute value is not assigned, ever, but rather discovered by those few who are adequately intelligent, vigorous, experienced, exposed, and honest.

So basically what you're saying is the eventual listen one attains once he fully duplicates what he is hearing in the music?

Example: for me Forever Changes by Love would be in the top 5 greatest albums of all time if I had stopped playing it after the first 2 times I heard it and rated it solely on my opinion of it at that point. Astral Weeks would've maybe cracked my top 50 after 2 listens.
For a long time since I've considered Astral Weeks absolutely superior.

What I've understood by your "absolute value" is that there is a sole greatness to an album that exists outside of personal observation.

I would say there is a personal absolute value that would be attained once total duplication concluded one's need to even listen to the album. This has probably only been attained by the artists themselves, if at all.

The unique are outnumbered by definition... that should be enough to deter anyone.

I promise you I'm not being sarcastic here, but I'm really very grateful to you for the stimulus your post gave me to think further about the links between mathematics, music, and evaluation.

But before elaborating on that and attempting to convince you that your outlook is mistaken, I want to correct you on a couple of things you have apparently taken me to have said but that I didn't say at all.

First, I did not say that we can declare some (or any) music great before we have heard it. What I do say is that if it is great we can, or some of us can, recognize its greatness when we hear it (though we might not recognize it on first hearing).

Second, I did not suggest that there is only one legitimate kind of musical evaluation. You persist in ignoring the distinction lukprog and I make between three kinds of evaluation, the personal (e.g. your 'breakup songs' example), the socio-historical (the 'test of time'), and the expert (which might or might not agree with either of the other two).

Now, since reading your posts and thinking further on these matters I have discovered what I think is a quite plausible set of reasons for the conclusion that music does have objective value and that, on all three levels of evaluation, recognition of that objective value is possible, indeed likely, if the listener has sufficient aesthetic intelligence.

First reason. There is a strong triple link between mathematics, music, and values. The links can be seen by considering the concept of scales. The scales I refer to are the valency scale, the ordinal scale, and the cardinal scale. Numbers, music and values can each be defined with reference to these three sorts of scale. For the detail on this you will have to read the section called 'Why do we like music?' in my article on philosophy of music, which, forgive me, I am still in the process of writing.

Second reason. As mathematics developed, two main kinds became increasingly apparent, pure math and applied math. Applied math is the math of science and technology. It has become so important to the development of science that one scientist, Paul Davies, recently referred to math as 'The Mind of God' in his book of that title. (As a philosopher, I think Davies underestimated God by limiting His mind to math, just as the religious consider that 'the God of philosophy' is an inadequate account of the God they believe in.) But, to get to my point here, just as math is central to the scientific description of the physical world, it can also provide the core of an account of such aspects of the human world as music and the evaluation of music. Music is readily describable in mathematical terms. And the 'scales' links between math, music and evaluation strongly suggest that the core of an account of musical evaluation also might be given in mathematical terms.

But where does objectivity come into this? It is generally agreed among experts in the study of knowledge that mathematico-scientific knowledge has by far the strongest claim to objectivity of any sort of human knowledge. No one thinks it odd that religous fundamentalists from a hostile foreign culture came to the U.S. to study how to fly airliners (which wouldn't exist without mathematico-science) into their enemies' iconic buildings as part of an attack on their religious and cultural enemies. They did so because they knew as well as their enemies did that mathematico-scientific technology would work as much to their ends as to those of their enemies. In other words, they knew that such knowledge is objective knowledge, or as nearly so as humans are capable of.

You can see where I'm going with this. If a math-guided accont of the world, including music, is objective, then perhaps also a math-guided account of musical evaluation can be equally objective. But, forgive me, I'm still working on that.

First off, I rarely have a lot of time when I go on the internet. I'm a pretty busy fellow, so if I missed some aspects of what you and/or lukeprog said then I apologize. It happens to me occasionally in my urgency to bust out my comments. Please read the above answer to lukeprog and we'll go from there. It is a more concise delineation of what I have been attempting to say so maybe it will come across more understandably.


I think that the very fact we are each individuals and live individual existences (although capable of interchanging and interfering with those of others), makes it impossible for music or anything surrounding us composed of space, energy and existing through limited time, to possess an absolute value. In order to possess this quality it would have to be infinite/unchanging, and this universe does not allow this. Everything is changing all the time. So long as it is changing it is not being interpreted exactly the same at any time, and so could not possibly have a totally, uniformly, "absolute" value. It will have separate values, even if slightly, to everyone, and will appear differently to greater or lesser degree via the perception of each individual's universe.

Don't think of it as being outnumbered, think of it as unlimited target selection.

* ) I don’t understand how valuing a piece of music (only) “in the act of hearing it” means that cds are valueless. If a hat only has value to someone when she is wearing it this does not mean that hat racks are worthless. Hat racks store our hats until we can give them value “in the act of h[w]earing it.” If you don’t wear a hat what good is it? In the same way musical notation does not become worthless because it isn’t being heard. I would argue that any piece of J.S. Bach that gets lost in a drawer somewhere would be worthless.

What good is a bunch of manuscript in a drawer? Or a cd under the passenger seat? Or my trumpet in the hallway? Or the symphony orchestra beneath my bed? Or the Van Morrison behind my fridge? No good, that’s what. If the music is in Uncle Bob’s drawer I have trouble seeing how it has any value until it is discovered and for goodness sake check behind the fridge. It may be a lack of imagination but I can’t see what value unheard music has to anyone.

(* ) If Bach pieces... and aren’t they great? My favourite are the chocolate toffees. If Bach pieces have a “great absolute value, independent of one's appreciating it” does that mean a value is immediately attached to it which remains unchanged? The original price tag is never marked up or reduced for quick sale? Is it possible that someone can overvalue Bach... I mean, he’s nice and all that but he’s no Ace of Base.

(* ) I actually don’t think that anyone is trying to “judge by popularity” and, squatting with albums aside, I do think that AfterHours did conflate greatness as a measurable value with greatness as an experience. Think of Frosted Flakes. I always found Tony the Tiger much more convincing when he said, “They’re great!” after he had eaten a spoonful. That showed me that he was speaking from personal experience and not making an objective measurement.

While I’m thinking of it: Wasn’t anyone else bothered when Kellog’s upped the raisin count in Raisin Bran and declared, “Now with two even bigger scoops!” Shouldn’t that be “Now with three scoops!” not two? When the back of the cereal box tells me to use four cups of the cereal when I make breakfast bars should I believe the recipe or should I use my “even bigger” measuring cups?

Moving on.

I really like the idea of music’s value changing as one’s emotional state (as well as experience and training) changes. But I think that according to the absolutist camp’s conception this would mean a different level of recognition on the part of the listener. Ol’ Uncle Bob’s cds “have always had the value you now recognize in them - it is you who have changed, not them.”

(* ) lukeprog’s distinction between “meants squat” and “has personal value” is a sophisticated and subtle one. I am confused by the perspective that a composition “would have always been a masterpiece had it never been performed.” And unless it is/was a typo I cannot understand how he thinks that he and AfterHours “agree on this issue.” How does one know greatness until one is in its presence? How could you (or you or anyone else) determine that it was great?

All of this brings to mind Schrödinger's Magnificat. While still in the Bachs how can greatness be measured? Some people think that greatness exists and can be measured without an observer. Some think that only an observer (listener) can let the Magnificat out of the magnifibag.

(* ) I mostly agree with your 1 thru 8 process although I have no idea what scale “’absolute’” is being measured on. I’m not sure about your focus on communication. I may be cutting the cake too fine but I think that artistic intent (and a communication between artist and audience) makes art. An audience alone can make an artistic impression/reaction. The well-worn example is, “My kid could paint that.” Well, yes he could, perhaps. But the emotional life would live between the audience and the piece of art. The artist himself is probably off looking for chocolate pudding. (Note to self: Become an artist.) For true art there has to be intent on the part of the artist (living, dead or in between.) This is what puts a premium on education, the awareness of tradition and the beauty of communication... for artist and audience. This is just one of the many and infinite reasons that jazz is the greatest art form ever invented.

(* ) I am intrigued by the distinction made by bertie. On the one hand is Beethoven (1) having an experience, (2) wanting to share and (3) communicating it. On the other is “a purely musical experience”, “musical *expression* of musical experience” and then “music just bursts out of” Mozart. I’m a little fuzzy on the difference(s). Is a musical experience not an experience? Is a desire to share not musical expression? Can music bursting out of someone be thought of as communication? Can it be anything else? Couldn’t they just keep it to themselves?

I am very sympathetic to mathematical structure helping us to understand (and value) the world around us. In fact I believe that mathematics is the universal language and the best tool we have for understanding the world around us and ourselves. But this math needs to be expressed in different ways. But I think that people can compose, make, listen to and appreciate music without knowledge of mathematics.

It seems that lukeprog and bertie are arguing that an artist’s intent (and execution of same) are what determines greatness in music. The response of an audience and popular/critical acclaim have little or nothing to do with musical value. What if a musician has no understanding or appreciation for the underlying mathematics? Is their music less great? Or is their music better because they can solve differential equations?

(* ) I am befuddled by disagreement with the “idea that anyone is qualified to critique music simply by listening to it.” Does “critique” mean to decide what one likes or does it mean to analyze? Or something else I haven’t thought of. It seems to me that music is made to be listened to. Some composers might write mathematically but I believe that the goal would be communication. Not just communication to those with enough education to judge but music that bestir the souls of those who had no idea that music could speak this way. Or that way. From my perspective music that is great should transcend technical understanding. I, too, get frustrated by people who say that they “just know what I like” when it comes to music. But isn’t that what music is intended to do? To have people like it.

(* ) I realize that bertie are claiming (at least) three kinds of musical evaluation. I may not understand any of them and I might be misunderstanding AfterHours but it seems that all evaluation is done on the personal level of experience. Objectivity (whatever that means) is by definition inapplicable to the arts. In my mind that is relativism and, unless a piece of music is handed out with proofs and theorems, that is how everyone individually judges all music great and small.

Yup, I'd meant to write "I understand we disagree on this issue."

What value is art before it is observed by anyone? Little or no value to humans, surely. But just as the Eagle nebula pillars were beautiful before Hubble found them, Beethoven's 9th was a masterpiece before anyone heard it, and many great works of art have immense value in a similar way before that value is ever discovered. They cannot be valuable to humans until they are discovered, but they hold value in themselves. It might be clearer to others to call this "latent value," but that's not actually how I feel about it.

I've been slow to consider what role the communication between artist and audience may play in giving value to art. This is one of many potential holes in my approach to art criticism caused by the narrowness of my art exposure (music and movies only). You don't say "my kid could write that symphony" or "my kid could make that film" ...or sculpture, or novel, or choreography, or poem. You can really only say that about some abstract paintings. And I know nothing about abstract paintings.

Are you claiming that the Eagle nebula pillars are art? Or that the Hubble telescope is art (or an artistic instrument)? Or the colourization process that space photos go through to show contrast? To hear you describe how "many great works of art have immense value in a similar way before that value is ever discovered" makes me think that the Grand Canyon must be considered one of the greatest (terrestrial) works of art. And that the buffalo were works of "latent value" to European culture before Manifest Destiny almost plowed them under.

I'd be interested to know how your thinking develops (if it does) about what is communicated between artist and audience. I don't think that it is "one of many potential holes" in how you approach art criticism. No one theory can encompass every aspect... at least I hope not. "My kid could have made that" is just an allegory for not understanding artistic technique and intent.

A symphony could be " tuneless modulations without structure," a film can be called "that's not acting, it's just mumbling and wandering around in a ripped shirt" and a poem can be said to be "a mental patient's stream of consciousness ranting." "It's just a huge spoon with a cherry on top of it!" "it's just a bunch of memories about cookies and stuff!" "it's just a bunch of crooked arms and legs with vulgar thrusts of the pelvis!" or "the punctuation is "all ove"r the-pla!ce

Well... at least you can visit the giant spoon.

Whether I claim the Eagle nebula pillars, the Grand Canyon, or buffalo as works of art is irrelevant to my illustration. I was merely trying to show how entities may hold value of themselves before they are discovered, in addition to having value for humans when they are discovered. Do I need more illustrations?

I'm starting to think the communication between artist and audience may be important. I'll have to read what smarter people have already written on the topic.

BTW, a brief article on how they colorize space photos is here. But of course, you already know all about that.

AfterHours, I offer an apology. After chastising you for ignoring the distinction between levels of evaluation I proceeded to ignore it myself, most culpably at the end of my 'musical intelligence' post. I should have said that someone who has high musical intelligence but, on a personal level, claims to prefer only one or two genres, is suffering self-deceit.

Odysseus, ask yourself what, ultimately, is the nature of a work of musical art. In what does it consist? Is it a physical thing like a painting, a sculpture, or...a CD? No, a musical composition can exist wholely in the mind of its composer. In the scene in Amadeus in which Salieri mentions "those meticulous ink strokes" he is appalled at finding that Mozart's scores show no evidence of the process of composition. The scores are mere recordings in musical notation of works of music that were composed entirely in Mozart's mind. And then Mozart died, as he would eventually have done with or without Salieri's help, but his music lived on. In what form did it live on? In the forms of Mozart's original score AND accurate copies of that score. Now, Da Vinci's La Giaconda is a unique physical object located in one place at a time. Such is not the case with a work of music. Where is Beethoven's 5th Symphony? It is scattered in thousands of places all over the world, whereever a copy of the score is. Sure, we could go further and ask Is scattered papers with ink on them what we mean when we refer to Beethoven's 5th? Does not the 'real' Beethoven's fifth consist of sound?

To this latter question I say, much as it seems to contradict what we mean by music, no, music is not sound. Sound is merely the 'human's eye view' of something that ultimately exists not even in mental form but in mathematical form. And, as a thing that is ultimately mathematical in nature, it is as objective as the entities of mathematics are.

Further, since mathematics is the non-physical sub-struture of the physical world, a work of music is part of that non-physical sub-structure. A work of music is the form, and the physical score and the physical sound-waves and the mental sounds are merely different sorts of content that clothe that form.

The functioning of the physical world produces stars and planets and human brains, and the functioning of human brains produces, among other things, works of music. They enter the world first as purely mental things, produced by the functioning of the brain (the functioning called 'musical imagination'), but are expressed in such physical things as musical scores and the sound-waves we hear as sounds. Is music mere sound-waves? - is it mere ink strokes on paper? Is it even the 'sounds' our memory can replay for us in our minds? No, it is something more basic than any of those things. It is part of the mathematical sub-structure of the functioning physical world. As such it is as objective in nature as the entities of mathematics are. Ask Isaac Newton whether mathematical entities are static Platonic entities.

Consider that Western classical music was purely mathematical until just before the 20th century, but subsequent music has often been non-mathematical (where's the math in a Pauline Oliveros piece?) or even aleatoric.

Whoa, there! While Western classical music certainly has mathematic elements (and many, if which you can see in my post in Bertie's Philosophy of Music article). However to say it was purely mathematical is to completely miss the point of such composers as Brahms, Schubert, even uber-mathematical Bach. I'm quite certain they never considered any of their compositions "purely mathematical". Subsequent to the beginning of the 20th century, I would argue that "art music" got a whole lot MORE mathematical. Shoenberg and his 12-tone style was nothing if not mathematically driven. It was his attempt at sorting, mathematically, the 12-tone scale, and giving it more mathematical structure than was available in the traditional tonal scale.

Also, if you have a look at my above-mentioned post in Bertie's article, you'll see that most music does have mathematical structure, whether the artist is aware of it or not. Unfortunately, I'm not familiar with Pauline Oliveros, so I can't comment on her music.

I meant that early Western classical was written as math: rhythms (time) and pitches (frequencies) and dynamics (decibels). Later music was not able to be mathematically expressed, for example jazz music, "chance" music, texture music, ambient music, musique concrete, etc.

Ah, I see. I got clouded by the "Classical music is purely mathematical". Sorry if I misunderstood. I have, however, seen "chance" music geometrically expressed, and wow, is it ever cool. One piece was called "Raindrops" or something, and was expressed with apparently random clusters of 3 differently-sized circles, connected by a vertical line (above or below) a horizontal line. Its distance above or below the line determined the note's distance away from a note at about the centre of the instrument's range. The size of the circle indicated its volume. The placement of the line connected to the horizontal line indicated its rhythm. Much easier to express if I could draw a picture, but alas, we're not quite that technically advanced yet on message boards.

I see no essential difference between music-by-chance and wind-chime music. They both derive partly from the artist's design and partly from the behavior of the physical environment. They are both examples of what I have called 'contextually allographic' art. Where does the math element come into this? Ever heard of Chaos Theory?

There's too much here to comment on in the time that I have. Jesus...


The functioning of the physical world produces stars and planets and human brains, and the functioning of human brains produces, among other things, works of music. They enter the world first as purely mental things, produced by the functioning of the brain (the functioning called 'musical imagination'), but are expressed in such physical things as musical scores and the sound-waves we hear as sounds.

Don't mean to be nit-picky but the above isn't true. The brain and mind are different entities. The brain is influenced in action by the mind basically for the purpose of controlling the body's nervous system. The mind is composed of energy making up mental image pictures. You, as a living being, not a physical organism, have the ability to produce mental image pictures at will and rid them and change them and look at them at will. Try it. You do it all the time, everyday. You may or may not have realized how fantastic or miraculous an ability it is. Especially given the fact you have the capability to produce these at will, instantly, in full color, three dimensions, whatever you want. Where do those pictures come from? If you were to cut open a brain would you find mental image pictures? Of course not. You'd find pink goo and blood and, well, more brains. The brain is affected by thought, but it does not produce it. You do.

You are an individual. You exist in your own universe. Not the same as this physical universe. The universe you exist in does not rely upon mathematics or structure or the logic of this physical universe. You can create thoughts, considerations, ideas, opinions, beliefs at will, and these can, and do, alter physical objects and material things according to your discretion. One's experience in this physical universe tends to define his thoughts, beliefs, considerations, ideas, etc., but does not have to, since these experiences are largely physical, and can easily be disagreed with or disregarded since in truth one is not actually a part of them, though most every person living here incorrectly identifies himself as physical, as a body, as a brain. Just another idea or consideration we've nailed ourselves to over time, and it has therefore changed our opinions of ourselves.

Music is physical. By itself it is arranged, organized or disorganized notes, violins, guitars, instruments A, B & C played in this and that sequence to this and that rhythm, and so forth. You have the power, at will, to have great affinity for the work, oppose it, listen to it unintently, committ transgressions against it and seek out reasons to hate it in order to justify your behavior, decide you don't like slow music, fast music, piano music, or jazz music, decide you like every kind of music, etc., just as you could, right now, create a symphony using your imagination.

For this reason, there is no singlular, overall absolute value of a work of music. Somebody composed the music based on, influenced by his own imagination, mind, whatever you want to call it. You've heard it based on the your own mind, beliefs, considerations, etc. You each have a different take on what you hear and perceive, on what you think is great, on how much you like instrument A, B & C.

Now, you say, well it has value all by itself. No it doesn't. It doesn't even exist by itself. It was created by someone in the first place. Someone put those notes together, and produced all the components of this work on his own or with the help of others. This person created the work based on his own wants, needs, imagination, and his intents at communicating these. He instills the value into the work, not the work by itself. Once someone else hears it then they too may find they have an understanding of what he's saying through these instruments and will then apply his own idea of it's value to it.

Each of us inhabits a universe totally separate from that of another. I will never live your life. I cannot physically occupy the same space as your physicality, trudge through your days and see things from the dimensions of your point of view. In this universe, two things cannot occupy the same space. No two things are exactly alike.

This may be hard to believe at first until you think about it, but the 5th symphony I hear and the 5th symphony you hear, are two separate pieces of music. Two things cannot occupy the same space. This applies to sound waves even, as they are composed of energy and exist in space, through time. Even if we are in the "same" room, listening to the "same" recording, here I still am listening to the 5th from my viewpoint in a separate universe than yours.

In this universe absolutes are unattainable. There is a limit to everything here. There is a survival and a decay to each separate particle. There is a change constantly occuring, so fast that often you can't even see it. The molecules that form any object, wave or thing are constantly, continuously moving.

I have to go...thank you Odysseus and everyone else for the contributions. I didn't even get a chance to read it all, so I really don't know who I am answering and who I am not, aside from Bertie. I'll catch up later I guess.

This sounds silly to me because of how much I'm enjoying this, nevertheless:
You're more than welcome.

...but whatever it is was done out of pure self-interest.
As for me, I think I've given up trying to hold the collective conversation in my mind. I'm having enough trouble understanding individual posts in their entirety.
At the risk of putting the kibosh on it I must say that, even setting aside this page, the intellectual level, length, detail and civility of posts at this site has been... stunning.

AfterHours, I think you are letting your enthusiasm for your position get in the way of your reasoning. So I don't think you are arguing honestly.

Do you honestly think I don't distinguish between the brain and the mind in my argument? If you re-read carefully and honestly you'll see that I do.

I agree with you that mind is distinct from brain, I agree with you that mind is something in the world that is additional to the brain. I even agree with you that some aspects of mind (will, in particular) are in some degree independent of brain-function. However, I think you give way too much independence to the mind.

So we each live in a separate universe that is independent of mathematics, do we? If that is what you hold then, although you don't realise it, you are holding nothing. If we each live in our own universe independent of math, then our universes are also independent of truth, since math is the most truth-like thing we have.

I take it that you do assert your claims as being true, or as a struggle towards truth? Yes? So you must hold that our different universes are also different ways things are (not just different ways things appear to different individuals in the one universe). So, is it true there is more than one correct account of how things are? Not in my universe it isn't. And not in yours either, because you are saying both (i) your account is true (true for all) and, (ii) there is no 'true for all' because truth is diffferent for each of us. Don't you see that you are contradicting yourself?

I reread your post and I can see how you could be saying the mind is separate. I missed it the first time though. So just disregard my disagreement.

Arguing honestly? Jeesh I don't know. I'm definitely communicating honestly. Whether or not I am arguing, sometimes I'm uncertain. As Odysseus said, it can be difficult to hold the entire cycle in the mind all at once. Some of the things you've stated using various jargons throw me into a lesser understanding of what you're saying, and in the limited time I have on the internet daily, it can be tough to quickly assimilate the exactness of what you're saying. You're obviously a very intelligent person, as are all those who've contributed to these posts. When I'm not sure about whether I am stating a disagreement or not, I think I've stated that uncertainty at a couple different times.

Forget about arguments for arguments sake.
Forget about the battle considered to be part of this. I am not trying to go against you as a person so don't take any of this personally. I can tell by conversing with you that you are an incredible person. I don't have anything personal against any of you. We merely separate views on things and want to express them as certainly and fully as possible. In order to refer to various aspects of the posts I am commenting on, I am forced to point various phrases or paragraphs out within their contexts, and then proceed to say the way I feel towards it, in order to keep what I am saying understood by those reading it, since this has become so long-winded (in a good way) a conversation, and thus, so difficult to keep up with.

Now, on we go...

Actually I did realize I was essentially
holding nothing. Nothing is truth. Nothing is all that really could be true, as everything else is quanitfiable and limited. An actual "nothing" would be limitless and simultaneously "nothing". No space, quantity, mass, etc., but with the ability to produce all these things. Completely illogical, unmathematical, unbelieveable, but it's true. I'll continue...

If you think up a mental image picture of something you can prove this for yourself. Think of any object, anything easy to think of instantaneously. A basketball, a dog, your bed, anything that is not in the vicinity of the space in which you are right now.

The picture there is your mind. It is composed of a low level physical universe energy. It's
not necessarily the same weight and energy as something in the physical universe but it is an approximation of it. To see this easier you can think of a harmful or emotional experience and it will reinflict to greater or lesser degree
the harm or emotions you experienced once again.
You can also think of something really amazing or exciting and this will be experienced as well. You can think of something you've never seen or experienced, or something you have. This will show that it has a similar affliction of an experience in the physical universe of the same type.

Now a good question to ask yourself is who's looking at the picture? Are you seeing it with the eyes on your body? Look around where you're sitting right now. If you thought of a cat or a basketball, are those in front of you right now? Well then, it can't be the eyes which are seeing this.

The answer is you are looking at it. Not your body or anything in the physical universe.

It's interesting to point out that you just created an object of some mass, some slight weight, some energy, some space, some wavelength, some molecular structure, and you did it without using anything. You just did it. Think about that. Isn't that incredible!?

And what about the fact you're creating something from nothing there? One moment there's no picture, then you decide, then there's the picture you decided upon. The decision there is nothing, yet it has the power to ignite creation of whatever you want. It has the power to redirect all energies in your life. Right now, you could make any decision you want and from there go about doing that decision. The decision is nothing. The action and experience thereafter is something.

That decision is truth. It cannot be measured, weighed. It has no position, no mass, no space, no time, no anything. It just is. It comes from and is, defines you without actually being anything at all in itself.

You can make any decision you want. You can decide and dictate the fate of your life at will. You could get up in the middle of the night and go hula hooping through the middle of a park if you really wanted to.

Your most powerful ability is the ability to decide. Entire days, weeks, months, years, decades have been influenced by your decisions.

A decision cannot be found in this physical universe. You can't open up a chest somewhere and find where all the decisions went off to. A decision cannot be quantified on a calculator. You can make and unmake decisions independant of anything existing around you. You can make as many decisions as you want. The power to do this is infinite. You could decide and undecide,over and over again, as many times as you want, what you want to do, following the decision. You can make a picture appear instantaneously with full energy, space, object and have it pass through as much or as little time as you want, without physically doing anything.

This is you operating independant of your body, sort of like a person drinking a coke independantly while inside his car, independant of driving. You are a separate entity from the physical universe and actually exist independantly of it, in your own universe. As written above, your universe doesn't follow mathematics or the laws of the physical universe. It is unquantifiable, yet it clearly exists. It is you, it is individually yours, and each individual has this, and each individual can have total control over it, as proven by the above exercises.

As for the last two points you make at the end of your post, I said absolutes are unobtainable in this universe. This universe is referring to the physical universe, where music is also located. The truth lies in your own universe. The truth is within you and you only. The creations of the physical universe are attempts at recreating truths, but the decision just prior to creation is the truth, as it itself is not quantifiable, yet the picture or action which follows, is.

You-->decision: "to eat an apple"-->creates
a quantifiable taste or maybe a picture of an apple (so far this is all action within his universe)-->uses body to find a physical "apple".
(now the physical universe).

The actions within your universe do not need to follow physical universe laws. You can make a mental image picture of an apple that is black, or even a color that you've never "seen", or a mixture of colors. You can change the picture without switching pictures. You can make it slow down or speed up, disappear or reappear.

Perhaps the most concrete and basic reason the decision is the truth is because you can put anything you want in it, make it real, and what you put into it: "I love her", doesn't even have to exist in the physical universe. You can create any object, any data, any science, anything, and actually experience having or seeing it.

This is not mathematics. It is not logical. It is above both. Remember, mathematics was created by us. It is a science. There was a decision before mathematics was created, and that was the truth, not mathematics itself, which is a variation thereof. The physical universe holds within it's entirety, the product of every attempt to make a truth out of a decision, but infact it is all mere approximations passing through the tides of survival and decay.

I'm laughing as I write this because, I swear, I drafted a lecture for us about philosophical argument and deleted it for brevity's sake. Now I find you lecturing me on what I was going to lecture you about. So I'll give my version of it:-)

A philosophical argument about X is a contest in which the contestants defend their different hypotheses about X. They agree, however, that the goal of the contest is not that one of them 'win the case' but that they all arrive at an account of X that (i) takes into account all relevant considerations and, (ii) is the least implausible (or most belief-worthy) account of X.

A philosopher's hypotheses are not candidates for the office of 'plausible and shown to be true', they are candidates for the office of 'plausible and not shown to be false'. Thus they are entries in a co-operative contest aimed at an account of X that is supported by the best available reasons.

Arguing honestly is giving your opponent the benefit of the doubt when he seems to be saying something contrary to what you understand his position to be. It is also being prepared to admit it when your reasons are less plausible than his.

Since your misunderstanding of me was a misunderstanding, I take back my suggestion that you have been arguing dishonestly.

We are arguing two Xs. One is the nature of music, two is the evaluation of music. And, I trust you'll agree, our account of one must not contradict our account of the other.

The following are my main hypotheses:

(a) Mathematics, music, and evaluation are structurally related.

(b) Mathematics is our best candidate for objective knowlege, and to that extent, music also is objective, and perhaps also it is possible for the evaluation of music to share in that objectivity.

I have, in previous posts and in my article on philosophy of music, outlined my arguments for (a). Next I'd like to say something about (b).

You say, in effect, that mathematics is invented. I say math is discovered. It is the discovery of a pre-existing substructure that is, in part, applicable as the sub-structure of scientific knowledge. Together, science and applied math are our best candidates for objective knowledge.

How do we know math is discovered rather than invented? We know because parts of math, parts that were originally 'pure' math (math without practical application) have since been found to be applicable also. A prime example is non-Euclidean geometry, which was developed *before* Einstein found that it applied to his account of the physics of space-time, which account was proved by experiment to be a closer approach to a truth-like account of things than was Newton's account before it.

Since music is so closely related to math, I say also that music is not invented, it too is discovered. It is the discovery of pre-existing abstract structural combinations. It's true that music has more than form, it also has content, but musical content can also be described in mathematical terms.

Applied math is about three things: precision of content, precision of form or structure, and precision of location (both spatial and chronic). So it's basically about precision.

No matter how untidy or un-Bach-like a piece of music is, it can still be given a very precise description in mathematical terms.

I repeat that your argument for the subjectivity of truth violates the logical law of non-contradicition, which can be stated as

not (true and not-true)

As Aristotle pointed out, nothing can be said unless non-contradiction is observed. And, as later logicians showed, what logically follows from a contradictory proposition is no particular proposition, rather, what follows is all conceivable propositions. So when you utter a self-contradictory propostion you saying nothing and implying everything.

I admire your perseverence, both of you. I've fell off the wire a while ago.

Alright, I'm back...

(a) Mathematics, music, and evaluation are structurally related.

agreed on mathematics and music, but you'll have to expound on the evaluation aspect to get an "agreed" or "disagreed".

(b) Mathematics is our best candidate for objective knowlege, and to that extent, music also is objective, and perhaps also it is possible for the evaluation of music to share in that objectivity.

As to whether or not mathematics is invented or discovered, is an argument where I don't know how I could prove it to you across the internet, but if I think of a way I'll let you know. Plus, it has nothing to do with the original argument which is basically "value of music: personal or absolute?", so I feel little obligation to spend time on it.

The number of rhythms or notes occurring in a musical work has little to do with the quality of the music, and to the degree that it does, is still always determined by that or those people who've perceived it in some fashion, whether by hearing it directly, or by creating it in the first place and hearing it in whatever medium during that process.

Self-contradictory? Did you read this?

As for the last two points you make at the end of your post, I said absolutes are unobtainable in this universe. This universe is referring to the physical universe, where music is also located. The truth lies in your own universe. The truth is within you and you only. The creations of the physical universe are attempts at recreating truths, but the decision just prior to creation is the truth, as it itself is not quantifiable, yet the picture or action which follows, is.

The main point to get out of this is the following:






I've made these points extremely clear. If you continue to dismiss them, I don't know what to tell you, except good luck on subjectively determining the "objective value" of a work of art.

The final evidence is as follows:


Alright, now we're getting somewhere. Who said there's no progress in philosophy?

We agree that math and music are structurally related. You are prepared to agree that math, music, and value are all related in the same way, but you want my reasoning for that. Before we can proceed, however, I have to unconfuse you about (i) value concepts and (ii) the process of evaluation in which such concepts are used. I am confident that you will realize that (i) and (ii) are not the same things if you think about it for a moment. I do have the evidence that math and value concepts are structurally related, and that's coming right up in the third paragraph. But I don't yet have the evidence for you that the process of evaluation of music can be assimilated to that structural relationship.

You want (lack) the option of being able to undercut my whole argument by being able to argue that math is not discovered but is instead invented. The ball is in your court on that one, and I claim the advantage.

Here's my reasoning for the structural relationship between math and value concepts:

Values and scales (or, what values have in common with numbers)

The valency scale

The valency scale is simply the scale of positive and negative numbers: ... -n, -3, -2, -1, 1, 2, 3, n... Since the number zero is neither positive nor negative it is not on this scale. The numbers on the scale are absolutely either positive or negative. Compare these with rights and wrongs that are held not to depend upon concequences. Such rights and wrongs are held to be absolutely (rather than relatively) positive or negative. Consequence-independent rights cannot also be wrongs, and vice versa. (Compare this with rights and wrongs that are held to be relative to good or bad consequences. In such a moral theory, an action that's morally right in one circumstance can be wrong in another - it depends upon whether the consequences of the act are foreseeably good or bad.)

The ordinal scale

Numbers on the ordinal scale are used to show the linear position of something - e.g., your position on the employee performance chart at your office. First, second, third, nth....are numbers on this scale.

Suppose your office has 100 employees and you are in, say, positon 72. Your boss is not unhappy with you and treats you well. Then suppose you are distracted by a family problem and your position drops to, say, 3rd. Your boss is an unsympathetic bastard and starts giving you a hard time. Your family problem over, you resolve to show the boss what you are really made of. Your position rockets up to 97th. But although your boss is officially very pleased with you, secretly he has put you on his short list of those who are obviously (to him) after his job. Before long he finds an excuse to have you fired.

Compare this with the values called virtues and vices. In terms of Aristotle's model of virtue as a middle position between two extremes (vices), as an employee you have gone from the virtue of being a good but not too ambitious worker, to the vice of being a slacker, then to the vice of being a hard but dangerously ambitious worker.

The cardinal scale

The cardinal scale of numbers is used to indicate sizes and durations. Measurement is in terms of units. One unit, two units, three units, n units...are numbers on the cardinal scale. The sizes of the units themselves are notoriously a matter of convention and are sometines also quite arbitrary (but usually not). For example a yard is longer than a metre. There are no absolute measurements, all are relative to the choice of unit-size.

Compare this with the values termed goods and bads. The goodness or badness of a thing is purely relative to the individual. Whether the individual is one person or is a group being counted as an individual, its ends (aims, goals, functions, purposes, needs, wants, whims) are goods relative to its point of view and may be bad from another's viewpoint. Further, goods and bads are relative to the individual's present or foreseeable circumstances. What I see as good today I may see as bad tomorrow, not because I am fickle but because my circumstances have changed.

There is an apparent difference between the structure of the cardinal scale of numbers on the one hand and goods and bads on the other. It is that, on the one hand, goods are positive and bads are negative, but, on the other hand, sizes and durations are all positive - there are no negative sizes, no negative durations. But this difference is only apparent. It comes of confusing the measurement of the thing with the thing itself. Consider measuring a piece of timber with a tape-measure. Certainly there is no such thing as a negative-sized piece of timber, but there is such a thing as longer (positive) and shorter (negative). And whether a piece of timber is termed 'long' or 'short' depends entirely upon how its length compares with the measured length of another measured object. Just as whether a thing is good or bad depends entirely upon who is evaluating (= the unit of measurement) and the circumstances in which it is evaluated.

Okay, to sum up, I have showed you that math, music, and value concepts are structurally related. I have showed you, previously, that math is objective in that it is discovered by us, not invented by us. I owe you an account of how the process of evaluation of music can be as objective as math is.

Your remaining objection will still be that evaluation is purely subjective (an objection you unwisely make in terms of 'truth' and 'different universes'). Before you can get over this you have to realise some more confusions you are suffering from.

First, you seem to think that evaluation can only proceed in terms of goods and bads, and because, as I have shown above, goods and bads are relative to (i) the valuer, and (ii) the circumstances of the evaluation, you think that all evaluation is relative.

Second, you confuse evaluation with truth. Truth is objective but it is also an ideal - it is something we can approach but not possess (or, not both possess and know that we possess it). This is why I say that math is our best *candidate* for the office of truth or objective knowledge. But, because you see evaluation entirely in terms of goods and bads (and thus as subjective) and yet also confuse evaluation with truth (which you know is objective in that it is the way things are), you are driven to your confused and self-contradictory talk about 'different truths for different universes'.

To sum up, evaluation is wider than goods and bads, and the evaluation-as-truth we *can* have is, like the truth we can have, only an ideal, only the human's-eye-view, only an approch to the 'God's-eye-view' or 'the view from nohwhere'.

This sense, the human's-eye-view sense, is the sense of 'objective' in which I will be arguing that evaluation of music can be objective.

I read your entire post and while I found it interesting, nothing you said supports objectivite value of music. Even if you formulated a way to see music objectively, it is inescapable that this would still be being done subjectively.

As an idea is truth, it always comes first.

An idea, by definition is initially subjective. You see, while it's an interesting read, and you certainly know about mathematics, it really doesn't matter what your argument is towards objective value, because no matter what you come up with, it is subjective beforehand.

You've continued to claim that I am being self-contradictory, yet haven't once said anything legitimate to support this. It is as if you haven't read what I've said or you don't understand it, which is fine: I can expound further on any point you may have a question on.

You claim I'm 'confused' which is utterly absurd.

I've expounded and delineated clearly each of my points in very simple, practical fashion, along with easy to understand, real-life examples, and yet, this is confusion? What about it exactly do you find confused?

Truth is objective but it is also an ideal - it is something we can approach but not possess (or, not both possess and know that we possess it).

Explain this to me. You say this as if it is a truth, yet you don't believe that you can possess and know that you possess it.

I have showed you, previously, that math is objective in that it is discovered by us, not invented by us.

Where do you show this?

But, because you see evaluation entirely in terms of goods and bads (and thus as subjective) and yet also confuse evaluation with truth (which you know is objective in that it is the way things are)...

What exactly did I say that led you to this conclusion?

According to Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary subjective means, in definition 2b: relating to or determined by the mind as the subject of experience. In definition 3a: peculiar to a particular individual: PERSONAL.

And you oughtta answer my last post: name a couple albums you've never heard and what their objective value is.

Perhaps even more specifically: name an objective truth.

And you oughtta answer my question from my last post:

Oops. That last sentence isn't supposed to be there.

Okay, I think I've hunted down the source of our disagreement. I'm a Representative Realist and you are an Idealist. These are two different accounts of what's going on when humans perceive (see, hear, smell, measure, locate, etc.) things.

My postion is that there is a reality that is external to our minds (and thus external to our perceptions), and that our perceptions are mental representations of that external reality. The metaphor I like to use is 'mapping'. Our perceptions 'map' reality. But just as a map of a place is not the place itself, neither is our perception of a thing the thing itself. We can only perceive things from the human point of view (the 'human's-eye-view' as I have called it). Further, all perception (unless the perceiver happens to be God) is perception from a point of view. Humans have human's 'maps', dogs have dog's 'maps', and bats have bats 'maps'. Only God, if He exists, can see things from no point of view (and thus see reality as it really is). There is only one way things really are, and thus there is only one truth. But we can only ever have a map of that truth, a map that can be more or less accurrate. Sometimes that map can lead us astray, particularly when our brain-function is abnormal due to a high fever. But misperception can happen even in normal circumstances, such as when you 'recognise' a friend at the mall who on closer approach turns out to be a stranger.

Your position, correct me if I'm wrong, is that there is no reality outside of perception, that perception literally is reality. In saying the 'idea' is truth and is 'first', you are saying that 'idea' literally is the way things are, that 'idea' literally is truth. Further, you hold that because there are several perceivers there are several ways things are, and thus that truth is several rather than singular. But, if this is your position, how do you account for your corrected misperceptions? Do you hold that when you mistake the stranger in the mall for your friend the stranger literally is your friend until the moment when you perceive correctly?

I need to get clear on whether this is indeed your position before I can proceed any furher.

FYI, I've picked up these threads again and am following along but wouldn't dare interject when you two are doing so well and (goodness!) still making progress. Full steam ahead!

I'm not so sure we are making progress, but I hope AfterHours does reply to my latest attempt to get clear on what it is he thinks he's saying.

Tell me honestly, do you understand my position - as I have thus far explained it?

Answer carefully, there'll be a test later :-)

Uh... I understand some of your position. :-)

Your position, correct me if I'm wrong, is that there is no reality outside of perception, that perception literally is reality. In saying the 'idea' is truth and is 'first', you are saying that 'idea' literally is the way things are, that 'idea' literally is truth.

This is where you don't quite have what I am saying so I'll respond from here:

There is a reality outside of perception, but it is not quite true, and is illusory to varying extent. The reality outside of perception occurs when agreement is struck, but it would be an agreement lower than full understanding, or truth, due to the individual truth present in each being sharing agreement. Individual perception is true, but is not of this universe, and is wholly of one's own universe.

But misperception can happen even in normal circumstances, such as when you 'recognise' a friend at the mall who on closer approach turns out to be a stranger.

This is simply a case of not actually perceiving. The person is distracted in some way or another from perceiving. Perhaps he is wanting to speak to his friend so badly that he, if only for a moment, sees his "friend" when infact it is another person. This is "perceiving his friend" and not what is in front of him. To that degree, it is not perception in present time, but in a different time and place altogether.

Further, you hold that because there are several perceivers there are several ways things are, and thus that truth is several rather than singular

Truth is totally and wholly singular. There are several perceivers of the physical universe, not the truth.

If necessary, I can expound considerably on these points, even more so than I already have in my previous communications across this conversation, but first, let me know if you 'get' what I am saying so far.

Now, it's your turn to address what I've asked for. I'll go ahead and repeat them:

I've expounded and delineated clearly each of my points in very simple, practical fashion, along with easy to understand, real-life examples, and yet, this is confusion? What about it exactly do you find confused?

Truth is objective but it is also an ideal - it is something we can approach but not possess (or, not both possess and know that we possess it).

Explain this to me. You say this as if it is a truth, yet you don't believe that you can possess and know that you possess it.

I have showed you, previously, that math is objective in that it is discovered by us, not invented by us.

Where do you show this?

But, because you see evaluation entirely in terms of goods and bads (and thus as subjective) and yet also confuse evaluation with truth (which you know is objective in that it is the way things are)...

What exactly did I say that led you to this conclusion?

According to Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary subjective means, in definition 2b: relating to or determined by the mind as the subject of experience. In definition 3a: peculiar to a particular individual: PERSONAL.

And you oughtta answer my last post: name a couple albums you've never heard and what their objective value is.

Perhaps even more specifically: name an objective truth.

Don't spend a lot of time, unless necessary, on the above ones. The key one is last: NAME AN OBJECTIVE TRUTH.

I do not have to name an objective truth because I have never claimed to know one. You show me where I have made such a claim.

You admit there is "a reality" - that's one, count it, one - outside of perception. Now, suppose God exists. God, having perfect knowlege, would know *the truth* - that's one, count it, one - about that reality. We, however, do not have perfect knowlege, we can have only human-point-of-view perception, so we can only know a human-point-of-view version of the truth. God's truth is objective, ours is not - ours is, at best, intersubjective, as it is in science and technology - our best version of truth. Why best? - because it works. It works for Americans, it works for Osama Bin Laden - hell, it doesn't care who it works for.

But you and I agree on these points. We agree there is only one reality: "There is a reality outside of perception", we agree there is only one truth about that reality: "Truth is totally and wholly singular".

That's me and you-A who agree. You-B tells a different story. You-B says such inexplicable things as "reality... occurs when agreement is struck". If you-B'd said "human truth...occurs when agreement is struck" I could have agreed with you-B.

You-A need not answer the stranger-seen-as-friend objection to Idealism, because you-A is not an Idealist. However, you-B, rightly, feel the need to. I have to admire you-B's ingenuity, but still, "not perceiving in present time and place" is utter nonsense, as, hopefully, you-B will realize by referring to your own experience. Ask yourself: (i) who am I? answer: I perceive I'm me; (ii) where am I? answer: I perceive I'm here; (iii) when is it? answer: I perceive it's now. Thus demonstrating that there can be no such thing as "not perceiving in the present time and place".

Now to my bit about the possibility of "knowing truth but not knowing we know it". I should have left it out, it isn't needed for my argument, but it does make sense, as follows. I conjecture that some of our knowlege about X can be so close to being like God's knowlege about X (which is, if God exists, objective or ideal knowledge) that it could be called 'knowing truth'. This, I conjecture, is only a possibility because even if we did hit upon such an item of knowlege we could not know it was true that we had it. We could not know (i) that it was true, and (ii) thus neither could we know we had it.

You've already forgotten my lecture on philosophical argument? Although my claims might sound as if I'm claiming to know the truth, they are conjectures. That is, they are not candidates for the office of truth, but for the office of being more plausible and making better sense than yours do. Than both of yous's do.

Where do I show that math is discovered not invented? Where I informed you that non-Euclidean geometry was developed as pure math *before* Einstein found it applied to his theory of space-time - a theory that predicted, for example, that rays of light would be observed to be 'lensed' around gravitational fields, a prediction that was promptly confirmed by observation of light being lensed around the planet Mercury.

Finally, you have confused two different meanings of 'subjective'. But don't be embarrassed about this - even very experienced philosophers have sometimes confused them.

Meaning one:

In matters of reality or perceptual knowledge, the 'jectives are used as follows:

1.(quantity: singularity): subjective
2.(quantity: grouped plurality): intersubjective
3.(quantity: totality): objective

1. The subjective, in this sense, is me. There's only one of me.

2. The intersubjective, in this sense, is selves. There's only one of me, but there are several selves. Selves are a grouped plurality.

3. The objective, in this sense, is whatever is other than me and other than selves. But, from God's point of view, the unqualified point of view (the 'view from nowhere'), the objective includes me, selves, and all.

Meaning two:

In matters of truth and propositional knowledge, the 'jectives are used as follows:

1.(quantity: singularity): objective
2.(quantity: grouped plurality): intersubjective
3.(quantity: totality): subjective

1. A claim that X is objective, in this sense, is a claim that X has an absolute nature, that there is exactly one way that X is.

Most philosophers hold that contingent truth is objective in this sense. Another way of putting this is to say that there is only one way the world is, so there is only one true account of how things are or were.

2: A claim that X is intersubjective is, in this sense, a claim that X has a relative nature, that its nature is relative to how it is held to be by different groups. Thus it is a claim that X has several different natures.

Moral Relativism is the claim that morality is, in this sense, intersubjective. It is the claim that there is no single correct moral code; that what is morally right and wrong depends, not merely in fact but also in principle, upon what different groups hold to be morally right and wrong.

3. A claim that X is subjective, in this sense, is a claim that it has as many natures as there are minds that have the concept X. It is a claim that X is relative to each and to all conceptual instances of the concept X.

Aesthetic worth is often claimed to be subjective in this sense. A Latin phrase expresses this claim about aesthetic worth: De gustibus non est disputandum - It's pointless to argue matters of taste.

Definition 2b you cite is my Meaning one. Definition 3a you cite is my Meaning two. The lexicographers gave them two designations precisely because they are two different meanings. Can you not see the difference?

This is great bertie, isn't it? I just skimmed over your response and thought "oh brother, here we go". Based on my first, 5 second impression, it seems like we've finally got some firepower going. I've been getting rather bored in my endless repetition and I was seriously considering just bailing out and that it's just not worth it anymore.

Before I even think about responding I must say that last night when I answered I was hardly there, bored and really tired, and I was thinking today that I may have made some errors in my response. I'll check it over and see if I can reword if necessary.

Don't know if I'll have the time to respond tonight though...

But you and I agree on these points. We agree there is only one reality: "There is a reality outside of perception",

No, I said "There is a reality outside of perception. I didn't mean one.

we agree there is only one truth about that reality: "Truth is totally and wholly singular".

We actually don't. There isn't an actual truth anywhere present in the physical universe, which is what I am characterizing as "a reality".

That's me and you-A who agree. You-B tells a different story. You-B says such inexplicable things as "reality... occurs when agreement is struck".

I think I'll start over and keep it as simple as possible. Sometimes I get eager to go further than basics but this time I'll keep the lid on, as it obviously creates havoc. Don't add anything to what I say. Read it for exactly what it is:

1. You are truth.
2. You exist in your own personal universe, independant of a body.
3. There is the physical universe of objects, bodies, trees, etc. Matter, energy, space and time. Your body exists here.
4. As truth, you have the capability of inflicting upon the physical universe, good or bad, small or little, through your ideas, decisions and so forth.
5. These are your ideas, not your body's or the physical universes. However influenced, ideas do not come from physical means. They are created by you-truth.
6. There is no actual truth in the physical universe as anything in it can be changed by anyone, and thus made different to that degree.
7. A thought, idea, decision, etc. can be easily self-proven to change the course or appearance of anything at will, so at the very least must be considered closer to truth than anything physical, as it clearly takes higher rank.
8. Music exists in the physical universe.

This seems like a good place to stop for now as I really have to go. Respond to the above with agreement and/or disagreement and we'll go from there. Also, I'll take up the latter points in your post tomorrow.


As I've remarked before, you give way too much independence to the mind. Not even the Existentialists are as willful as you. You are something like the diametric opposite of an Epiphenomenalist (who holds that the mind/will has no causal role in things at all but is a mere effect of brain function). But your experience should tell you that the mind-matter relationship is not a one-way street in either direction. I agree with you against Epiphenomenalism that the mind/will is does have a causal role in things, but I disagree with you that that it is the cause of all things - unless this is God I've been arguing with.

How do you account for frustrations of the will? How do you differ from a Solipsist?

No, wait, I take back the 'solipsist' - I don't think you're that. I don't think you're anything I've ever read of before. So either you are brilliantly unique or just another nonsense pedler and/or seriously confused.

If you intend to reply at any length, I'd start again at the bottom of the page. If you don't reply, thanks for an interesting exchange.

Okay, self: "What, ultimately, is the nature of a work of musical art?"

My first inclination is to say that the nature of musical art is sound. It is a physical thing, although fleeting, in the form of soundwaves. I'm also inclined to say that an original, the original, act of musical art is unique and unrepeatable. However, for all practical purposes, "pieces of music" have a longer life than the last fading chord of an original performance. I cannot bear the thought of trying to distinguish every single time I have heard "In Your Eyes" even though they were all singular experiences.

Hearing the song on the radio, while driving in the car, playing the record, playing the cd, playing the cd in the car, the times I've watched Say Anything, the times I've seen Peter Gabriel in concert, the live version on the Secret World Live cd, the 'same' version from the Secret World Live dvd... Pre-break-up, post-break-up, post-another break-up, David Sancious on keyboards, Jean Claude Naimro on keyboards, in the theater, at home, in surround sound, on headphones. There are too many permutations for me personally and, if I took all of them into account, I would be unable to discuss the song with anyone else. Even if each of us settled on which experience to remember they would be distinct from one another.

Taking notice of all those variations and deciding to discount them enables us to communicate about a work of musical art. This work is transmitted over and over through time (and space and listeners and all that neat stuff) through media. Cds, dvds, vinyl, 8-track, composer's musical notation, transcription, verbal instructions, musicians' memory and more all serve to transmit a work of musical art to different audiences. In the same way L Gioconda can be disseminated through pictures, artist sketches, jpeg files, X-rays, video tape and more

If one insists that physically viewing the object itself is the only way to truly experience the painting there are still distinctions to be made by individuals who make up the audience. The frame, the hallway, the Louvre, the Metropolitan Museum, my rumpus room (very briefly), pre-restoration, post-restoration, post-post-restoration, by gas light, by electric light, by daylight, while sleepy, while hungry because you don't want to take out a loan to buy a lousy brioche and more. I could even make a case that the only people who saw the genuine work were those in da Vinci's workshop who saw each draft as it was made. Or the master himself 'cause I think it took years because he belonged to a union.

Be that as it may.

You make a good case for the nature of a work of musical art to exist in the mind of the artist. You might then ask the question, "Which mind?" "Born to Run" has certainly been fluid. The age of twenty-five is certainly different than fifty. The E Street Band is certainly different than an acoustic guitar. Are there infinitely many version of a musical work of art in the mind of an artist. Or a composer? Or a conductor? Or an arranger? Or a producer? Or the members of a band?

One of the staggering qualities of Ellington is that, as Billy Strayhorn noted, "Duke plays piano. But his real instrument is the orchestra." But Cootie Williams is different from Bubber Miley, Arthur Whetsol, Ray Nance, Clark Terry, Willie Cook and (oh my goodness yes) Cat Anderson. Johnny Hodges is a unique sound in the universe and even he got older. Pianos differed from one gig to the next. So did clubs, dance halls, concert halls, studios, radio feeds, churches and more. Not to mention the drunkeness of the musicians, the fineness or royalty of the women in the audience and the nation all of them were in.

In spite of the strength of your case for the intellectual location of a work of musical art (or perhaps because of it) an argument exists for the nature of a work of musical art to be the sound itself. This definition of sound is loose enough to encompass subsequent performances after the original, recordings and other media. If a work of musical art does not exist in this conceptual space then it is impossible and futile to try to discuss art with others. The performance now exists solely within our own individual consciousness. Unique. Inexpressable. I say that this cannot be art. )I think this is where AfterHours' and my conception overlap. But AfterHours might feel differently.) Art is something that moves and affects us all. It is, by definition, an experience that we can all share. It is an event which we can all express to others. Perhaps not well. (I'm not sure how well this piece is going... but I do know how long.)

I like and admire your sound reasoning. For me your case for mathematics is weaker. Whether because of execution, logic, my disagreement, my confusion, my sleepiness or inexpressibility I don't really know. ("Inexpressibility," if you know what I mean.) I'm of a mind that it's possible that everything can be expressed in terms of mathematics. If so then this is the ultimate collective understanding. We tag are spacecrafts with sodoku graffiti. (In my opinion) Mathematics is as close to a universal language that we will ever invent. This would suggest that the underlying foundation of a work of musical art is something that can be shared. Newton might argue for an infinite, continuous nature of art while Plato could advocate for a countable number of forms but both interpretations can be shared.

I say that they must be shared.

I can sympathize with your disinclination to go any further than sound in defining music. But I am proposing two things to be defined, (i) music in its ultimate nature and, (ii) music as an evaluable entity. My dissussion of music has ranged across that distinction without much emphasis on the distinction. I need to make that emphasis. Thanks for making me realize that.

Musical entities defined as math entities is repulsive because math is the ultimate abstraction (see my article on the levels of abstraction). Sound is much closer to home because it's at the very first level of abstraction, the level of sensation (the zeroth level being 'the external (physical) world'). There are, arguably, at least five levels of abstraction, so when I say math is sub-structure I am understating - it is at least sub-sub-sub-sub-structure.

Think of it this way. Math is the naked form which is clothed in at least five layers of content. (I'm very pleased with that metaphor, I think I'll use it in my article.)

The first layer (I knew I'd end up rehearsing them), or underwear, if you will, is the 'the external world' or physical environment; the second layer, or foundation garments, is our sensations, the third layer, or costume proper, is our perceptions and simple concepts (our knowing-as); the fourth layer, or accessories, is our compounded concepts and propositions (our knowing-that); the fifth layer, or topcoat, is our math concepts. (If this seems to go from nakedness back to nakedness, keep in mind that we abstract (verb, subjective mode) while math entities *are* abstract (adjective, objective mode).

Do you really want to evaluate music at the level of sound as sensation? I don't think that would get far. How about the level of sound as perception? This is better, but although it would capture the basic musical contents it would be unable to handle musical structures and quantites. For a reasonably full picture you need to evaluate at the compounded conceptual level. To say what music ultimately is, we need, I claim, to go all the way to the math concepts level; however, the level below that is sufficient for evaluation (it can relate language about music to language about math.

Oh, and my point about Newton cf. Plato was, of course, that the ancient mathematicians had a strictly static concept of math; they had no idea that math could describe motion and change. And this remained the case up to and including Descartes' discovery of coordinate (algebraic) geometry. "Then God said, 'Let Newton be!' and all was light."

Whoa! What a discussion! Alas, I'm too lazy to read it all.

Oh me, oh my.

For the first time I have nearly run out of colours for text to help me keep track of a complicated discussion. Even using a 10pt Bell Century font I get two dozen pages. Excellent pleasure reading. Thank you.

lukeprog: you are usually a highly saturated colour, in this case blue.
lbangs: you are olive.
AJDaGreat: you are meadow green... I’m not sure what to call it. (“Dusky jade”? which was my stripper name.)
bertie: you are a brick, an umber one at that.
AfterHours: receives the honour of cadet blue.
buddy: in a break from tradition gets pumpkin.
1922: you close it out with scarlet.

As always, I am purple.

Ooh, I like being party to a break from tradition. And with a foodie colour too! How appropriate.

Buddy, I haven't abandoned out Phil. of music collaboration. I'll get back to it when the spirit moves me.

No worries. My boyfriend just got approved for immigration to Canada, so the next month and a half or so will be pretty hectic anyway in preparation for our big move. I'll be popping in here as always, but I'm limiting my involvement slightly. I'll still give that article my attention, but take your time in getting your spirit moved.

Interesting. You're moving and I'm waiting to get moved. May both our movements be happy...all we need is a third movement and...tra la!

I'm moving to the U for classes soon. I claim the "tra la"! :)

It's yours. La tra La...allegro, andante, presto!

Royal or tumescent?


maybe I oughtta start wearing that blue suit everyday to work that Adam Sandler donned in Punch-Drunk Love.

On second thought, I'm not a big fan of Swiss Miss pudding, I don't call phone sex lines, I'm not insane, I don't have any sisters, I've never
been to Hawaii (yet), and I don't think I'd stand up to Philip Seymour Hoffman, or fall in love with Emma Thompson...wearing a bound-to-be-odorous blue suit.

Scarlet(t)? Why can't I be Rhett?


Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.

Sir, you are no gentleman.

Has my revision of the section "absolute value" (now "true value") improved the concept's comprehensibility, or did I make things worse?