Well, one thing has come out of this debate decisively (or has it?).
That is, that Chris is not Parla and Parla is not Chris.
I think enough evidence has been presented to substantiate this claim, and not merely subjectively!
However, Vic, if your requirement for objectivity is the possibility of falsification, then I'm afraid that within the rules of anonymity that form an impoprtant part of the framework of this forum, falsification will be impossible, so I suppose for you Parla and I may always remain 'one'.
Now back to work (but don't expect anything falsifiable!)
Vic, In the fourth paragraph, you come Victorious with your own beloved assessments of the triumph of logic, about the demolition of the "right" of the "experts" and my desperation! Ole! For your information, though it won't make any difference to you, the last thing I feel is desperation. I've studied music, I've dealt, for years, with various aspects of activities of Classical Music, in different parts of the world and I have enough good friends, acquaintances and long-standing relations with the people in this business. So, I have enough knowledge and full confidence in what I claim.
As for the "credentials" of the "pedant", I will expect your meticulous presentation.
So it not just me who has thought Vic probably walks around his kitchen in his jimmy jams 'high fiving' himself after a night on the forum relentlessly reading and re-reading his own posts.
Once again you display a misunderstanding of the concept you attempt to use: it is the possibility of falsification, not the actual falsification that is the point.
There's a great line on reading philosophy in "A Fish Called Wanda" that springs to mind here. But never mind.
Have a good day.
High fives Vic. Right hand over left hand, well done Vic, you're the best. Time for brekky
Vic, In the fourth paragraph, you come Victorious with your own beloved assessments of the triumph of logic, ....
Used as I am to the tortuous logic of our two most prolific contributors, I have to admit that I fail to see the connection you make, Mr. Brodsky - though I'm sure you will enlighten me in time.
However, the thought of you picturing me (chastely, I trust) in my "jimmy-jams" made me smile.
More from Chris as promised/threatened.
(but nothing that will convince Vic, who I think is primarily interested in the ‘bottom line.’ Following Hugh’s recent interventions, I wonder, if you read it at all, will it be whilst walking around in your pyjamas!)
IS THERE AN OBJECTIVE MEASURE OF GREATNESS (IN MUSIC) OR IS GREATNESS PURELY SUBJECTIVE?
Yesterday I opened by suggesting that we may feel uncomfortable with the assertion that, for example, our ranking of composers in greatness is purely subjective. (If you didn’t read the previous post, it’s still there).
The critical question is, if it is not just our subjective opinion, where did we get this ‘knowledge’ from, or how did we receive this information.
I gave an example in a previous post and Tagalie has discussed it extensively in one of his, that was the Schubert Lied ‘Der Doppelgänger’ (better know to some in its Brodsky version ‘Der angeblich Doppelgänger’). I gave just one example of an instance where we can find a non-subjective explanation for a subjective response. But that was never intended as a full analysis of the song [In passing I don’t ever remember a thread on ‘Lieder’. Perhaps after this we should have one]
Parla wrote yesterday, quoting Vic “"The agreement of a significant number of interested and informed people who believe a phenomenon is 'great' is sufficient” is absolutely true. However, there pop up a couple of questions or observations: Even if, let say, "they" cannot "prove" why the work in question is "great", why we cannot try to find out why (on which grounds, on which criteria) and which are the common features of this broad agreement?’
The fact is that there is a substantial body of literature, from the scores themselves, to the detailed analysis of the music, to the more general literature, and which despite significant differences (as Tagalie noted), is much more remarkable for its consistency. One could go into detailed arguments ad nauseam without necessarily advancing much further and so, (except for one very personal example which I’ll give at the end, in an appendix), I’ll try a different approach.
I’m not a musician, I’m a biologist by profession. In biology (as in other branches of science) when we want to investigate a phenomenon, a commonly used approach is to measure changes in parameters of the phenomenon over time (Global Warming is a topical example). From the changes we measure we can draw conclusions about the phenomenon itself.
We can use the same approach in examining the study of music and musical works. There has been a sea-change in the approach to analysing classical music, much of occurring during my lifetime, and the direction is overwhelmingly clear: from subjective to objective.
Because he is both my favourite composer and the one I have studied the most, I will concentrate on J.S.Bach. Wagner would do just as well (and Parla could do a much better job than I on that). As a teenager I read Schweitzer, then Schering, then Geiringer; more recently Alfred Dürr and Christoff Wolff. You cannot fail to notice the shift in emphasis from eloquent subjective flowing prose in praise of the music at hand to drier (and ultimately almost entirely objective) analysis of the music. Both approaches yield great rewards for our appreciation of the greatness of the music. Interestingly, in Wolff’s recent Bach biography he does not even cite the more subjective writings of Schweitzer, Schering or Geiringer in his bibliography. It’s interesting (if you love Bach’s cantatas) to compare the delightful but highly subjective prose of W. G. Whittaker (mostly written before 1950) with the later, drier, objective analysis of Alfred Dürr, in the books on the Bach cantatas. The former is long out-of-print, the latter the current standard work. The same trend, from subjective to objective can be found wherever you look. The magnitude of the change provides convincing proof of the significance of the ‘objective’ in the assessment of great music.
But to see this for yourself, you do not even need to have read a word of these books, the evidence is there for all to hear in the change of performing style that has taken place over the same period and much of it is documented on the recordings that we all listen to. I suppose the beginning of the change came with Toscanini and Klemperer.
Vic (if you’ve read this far), I wonder whose interpretations of Mahler you prefer, Klemperer or Bruno Walter. Both conductors knew Mahler personally and when asked once how they could possibly perform his music so differently from one another, Klemperer famously retorted “I am an objectivist, Walter is a subjectivist.” Toscanini’s famous comment ( can’t remember the example precisely, I think it was about the pastoral symphony “ Some see rivers, some see bird song, I see allegro con brio [sorry: one of you must remember the proper quote]. From those beginnings, conductors have been using more and more objective means to convince us in performance of the greatness of the music they are performing. For me personally Pierre Boulez is the supreme exemplar of this his masterly supremely analytic, objective exposition of any work for which he has sympathy is for me the outstanding practical demonstration of the possibility of objective measure of greatness in music. That this mastery is at its most impressive (and least controversial) in music of the second Viennese school leads me to my final point (for now at least).
From performance of music, now to the music itself: the move from subjectivism to objectivism is starkly illustrated in the music of the 20th century and nowhere more so than the music of Berg, Schoenberg and Webern, and then on into the so-called ‘Darmstadt School’ to which one might add some of the later music of Stravinsky (ever one to climb aboard a bandwagon, and then out-do the ‘opposition’). The degree of subjectivism these composers leave for the listener is much reduced (but see Tagalie on Stravinsky). The extent of the truth of this statement is best seen, in practical terms, in the reaction it has already set off, a discussion of which I will leave in the safe hands of Tagalie.
In summary, I submit that the substantial and (I believe) undeniable shift from the subjective to the objective to be found in writing about classical music, in performing it, and in composing it that has taken place over the last century is powerful evidence in support of the proposition that:
THERE IS AN OBJECTIVE MEASURE OF GREATNESS (IN MUSIC) AS WELL AS A PURELY SUBJECTIVE ONE
A purely personal indulgence this.
In discussing the possibility of detecting a measure of greatness in a piece of music by close study of the score itself I want to share with you the following experience.
I’ve been lucky enough to have had access to a good music library for many years of my life and have frequently studied the scores of works that interest me, as well as ones that I thought I should try to understand.
Although it was not the first classical music I heard and liked, one work has remained central to my love of music longer than any other. It is the St. Matthew Passion of J.S. Bach. I suppose I’ve known this music for getting on for 60 years. My first memories are sitting on my father’s lap during evenings in Holy Week and listening on the radio to performances on the Third Programme, and (it was AM radio, not FM then) after dark, from France, Germany and, most of all, the Netherlands. Amongst my first lp purchases was, of course, the St. Matthew Passion (Karl Richter’s earlier recording - I still have it on CD and prefer it to his later one (but you don’t get Janet Baker)). I suppose because I had come to think that I knew this music like the back of my hand I had never thought of buying a full score of the work. Just before Holy week this year I came across the Neue Bach Ausgabe editions of both St. Matthew and St. John at a very good price, so I bought them and they arrived just in time for Holy Week.
As I sat down and started listening with the score in my hands, I cannot begin to describe first the shock and then the amazement when time and again I saw for the first time so many details that explained an effect I had noticed but (obviously) not fully understood. And this in the work that I thought I knew better than any other. For me, if ever there was a “Damascus moment” this was the one that would convince me that there is an objective measure of greatness in music. It’s a moment I’ll never forget.
famous comment ( can’t remember the example precisely, I think it was about the pastoral symphony “ Some see rivers, some see bird song, I see allegro con brio [sorry: one of you must remember the proper quote].
'Some see unemployment, some see crime, I just see glorious liberalism' It was Nick Clegg
Vic: Re: Chris is not Parla and Parla is not Chris.
Re your reply: "Once again you display a misunderstanding of the concept you attempt to use: it is the possibility of falsification, not the actual falsification that is the point."
I think it was a superb, brilliant, contributor to this thread that wrote that a few posts ago. Modesty prevents me mentioning his name.
Anyway, can I take it that you agree that there is enough objective evidence that Chris is not Parla?
It's a fiendishly difficult issue, as Dubrob once said, and a lot of thought-provoking points have been made.
My only issue with the objective school of thought is that, as I have said before, we could at worst end up with a tick-box sheet of criteria, and if a work ticks all the boxes, then it could conceivably be classed as great, despite what it sounds like!
When you speak of the move from subjective to objective, and the importance of the second Viennese school in this respect, if we consider an example of Webern's a moment: the Symphony opus 21. It is scored for nine instruments only, lasts about nine minutes, and is very intricately put together. Thus the 12 note row contains symmetry, in that the second six notes are a transposed retrograde of the first six. The texture never exceeds the classical norm of 4 part writing, the first movement is a double canon in contrary motion, and the second a theme and 7 variations which display connections between themselves - thus the first and seventh variations are double canons etc...
(I only have two scores of Webern's - the Symphony and the Passacaglia - but I do have the Boulez complete works set. I am indebted to the introductory notes in my Philharmionia score for the analysis!)
To put it another way, it is a pure and distilled miniature symphony of classical norms and forms. Although in one sense I marvel at the intricacy of the compositional methods in miniature, how many people would rather hear this piece than Beethoven's Pastoral, brooks and streams and all, and its joyous feelings on arriving in the country in the 1st movement?
I do admire very much Webern's cerebral methods of composition and microscopic detail - his pieces are like poems written on the back of postage stamps.
But do we really place his symphony up there with Beethoven's pastoral, Mahler's third, Sibelius' seventh et al...?
One could go into detailed arguments ad nauseam without necessarily advancing much further
Well you've proved that to be correct at least.
I submit that the substantial
and (I believe) undeniable shift from the subjective to the objective
to be found in writing about classical music, in performing it, and in
composing it that has taken place over the last century is powerful
evidence in support of the proposition
But this debate is not about the subject or objective approach to writing about, performing or the composing of classical music. It is about the the subjective or objective evaluation of the concept of "greatness".
Yet again, Chris, you have completely and utterly missed to the point.
And wrong again on both counts. It was not me who suggested you and Parla are one and the same. And a quick check back will show that your false modesty is unwarranted.
Is your memory, Vic, getting weaker and weaker? Check your post of April 30 at 5:16 p.m. (it's some time ago, I understand) and see by yourself who initiated the idea of Chris and Parla being the same person. Of course, your seed worked well enough to turn on the imagination of other posters, so that a short saga may have been created on the phantom(s) of objectivity.
In any case, I won't contest your modesty. It is warranted, anyway (due to short memory).
Tagalie, I fully agree with you about Nina. She truly "delivers to the ear and heart" as a great performer, but the "music on paper" counts too.
In this case, I prefer Ella, since, apart from delivering brilliantly whatever she had to sing, the music on paper contains some of the greatest songs of the American Songbook.
Jazz is what happens when 'music' gets drunk. We've all had some great nights out on the booze but we wouldn't want to play them over and over again.
Is your memory, Vic, getting weaker and weaker? Check your post of April 30 at 5:16 p.m. (it's some time ago, I understand) and see by yourself who initiated the idea of Chris and Parla being the same person.
Yes, I'll put my hand up to that one. I was wrong in claiming to Chris that it was not me. Apologies to him. And while I'm in this conciliatory mood I'll desist from listing the reasons for that bit of poetic licence. (Ooops, must be careful with that word now the sun's over the yardarm and you-know-who might be reading.)
On the modesty question, it was Chris' (false) modesty I questioned. As for that esteemed virtue, I don't think either of us could lay much claim to it, could we?
Oh, and in passing, glad to see you praising the greatness of Nina and Ella. Great singers, great music. Great judgment on your part. (So greatness does have an existence outside the classical world then? Who'd have thought it, eh?)