Author Topic: Greatness  (Read 2401 times)

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Online Mandryka

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Greatness
« on: November 10, 2020, 06:00:03 AM »
Here are some thoughts about greatness in music, stolen with slight modification from Italo Calvino's Why Read the Classics? I'm curious about what yous guys think of it all. Hence this thread.


1) The greats are the pieces of music of which we usually hear people say: “I am relistening …” and never “I am listening….”

2) We use the word “greats” for those pieces of music that are treasured by those who have heard and loved them; but they are treasured no less by those who have the luck to hear them for the first time in the best conditions to enjoy them.

3) The greats are pieces of music that exert a peculiar influence, both when they refuse to be eradicated from the mind and when they conceal themselves in the folds of memory, camouflaging themselves as the collective or individual unconscious.


4) Every relistening of a great piece of music is as much a voyage of discovery as the first listening

5) Every listening of a great is in fact a relistening.


6) A great is a piece of music that has never finished saying what it has to say.

7) The greats are the pieces of music that come down to us bearing upon them the traces of listenings previous to ours, and bringing in their wake the traces they themselves have left on the culture or cultures they have passed through (or, more simply, on language and customs).


8 ) A great does not necessarily teach us anything we did not know before. In a great we sometimes discover something we have always known (or thought we knew), but without knowing that this composer said it first, or at least is associated with it in a special way. And this, too, is a surprise that gives a lot of pleasure, such as we always gain from the discovery of an origin, a relationship, an affinity. From all this we may derive a definition of this type:


9) The greats are pieces of music that we find all the more new, fresh, and unexpected upon listening, the more we thought we knew them from hearing them talked about.

10) We use the word “great” of a piece of music that takes the form of an equivalent to the universe, on a level with the ancient talismans. With this definition we are approaching the idea of the “total work of art” as Mallarmé conceived of it.

11) Your great composer is the one you cannot feel indifferent to, who helps you to define yourself in relation to him, even in dispute with him.

12) A great is a piece of music that comes before other greats; but anyone who has read the others first, and then reads this one, instantly recognizes its place in the family tree.

13) A great is something that tends to relegate the concerns of the moment to the status of background noise, but at the same time this background noise is something we cannot do without.

14) A great is something that persists as a background noise even when the most incompatible momentary concerns are in control of the situation.
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Offline Florestan

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Re: Greatness
« Reply #1 on: November 10, 2020, 07:17:21 AM »
Sound great to me! (pun).
What is Music? How do you define it? Music is a calm moonlit night, the rustle of leaves in Summer. Music is the far off peal of bells at dusk! Music comes straight from the heart and talks only to the heart: it is Love!  --- Rachmaninoff

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: Greatness
« Reply #2 on: November 10, 2020, 07:44:02 AM »
Here are some thoughts about greatness in music, stolen with slight modification from Italo Calvino's Why Read the Classics? I'm curious about what yous guys think of it all. Hence this thread.


1) The greats are the pieces of music of which we usually hear people say: “I am relistening …” and never “I am listening….”

2) We use the word “greats” for those pieces of music that are treasured by those who have heard and loved them; but they are treasured no less by those who have the luck to hear them for the first time in the best conditions to enjoy them.

3) The greats are pieces of music that exert a peculiar influence, both when they refuse to be eradicated from the mind and when they conceal themselves in the folds of memory, camouflaging themselves as the collective or individual unconscious.


4) Every relistening of a great piece of music is as much a voyage of discovery as the first listening

5) Every listening of a great is in fact a relistening.


6) A great is a piece of music that has never finished saying what it has to say.

7) The greats are the pieces of music that come down to us bearing upon them the traces of listenings previous to ours, and bringing in their wake the traces they themselves have left on the culture or cultures they have passed through (or, more simply, on language and customs).


8 ) A great does not necessarily teach us anything we did not know before. In a great we sometimes discover something we have always known (or thought we knew), but without knowing that this composer said it first, or at least is associated with it in a special way. And this, too, is a surprise that gives a lot of pleasure, such as we always gain from the discovery of an origin, a relationship, an affinity. From all this we may derive a definition of this type:


9) The greats are pieces of music that we find all the more new, fresh, and unexpected upon listening, the more we thought we knew them from hearing them talked about.

10) We use the word “great” of a piece of music that takes the form of an equivalent to the universe, on a level with the ancient talismans. With this definition we are approaching the idea of the “total work of art” as Mallarmé conceived of it.

11) Your great composer is the one you cannot feel indifferent to, who helps you to define yourself in relation to him, even in dispute with him.

12) A great is a piece of music that comes before other greats; but anyone who has read the others first, and then reads this one, instantly recognizes its place in the family tree.

13) A great is something that tends to relegate the concerns of the moment to the status of background noise, but at the same time this background noise is something we cannot do without.

14) A great is something that persists as a background noise even when the most incompatible momentary concerns are in control of the situation.

Enjoyably rich, thanks!
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
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Boston MA
http://www.karlhenning.com/
[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends.
His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

Offline some guy

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Re: Greatness
« Reply #3 on: November 10, 2020, 10:10:04 AM »
For my part, I would encourage everyone to read Calvino's essay itself.

Online Mandryka

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Re: Greatness
« Reply #4 on: November 10, 2020, 10:27:47 AM »
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Online vandermolen

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Re: Greatness
« Reply #5 on: November 10, 2020, 10:49:01 AM »
I think that greatness implies a timeless quality.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline Dry Brett Kavanaugh

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Re: Greatness
« Reply #6 on: November 10, 2020, 10:53:25 AM »
Here are some thoughts about greatness in music, stolen with slight modification from Italo Calvino's Why Read the Classics? I'm curious about what yous guys think of it all. Hence this thread.


1) The greats are the pieces of music of which we usually hear people say: “I am relistening …” and never “I am listening….”

2) We use the word “greats” for those pieces of music that are treasured by those who have heard and loved them; but they are treasured no less by those who have the luck to hear them for the first time in the best conditions to enjoy them.

3) The greats are pieces of music that exert a peculiar influence, both when they refuse to be eradicated from the mind and when they conceal themselves in the folds of memory, camouflaging themselves as the collective or individual unconscious.


4) Every relistening of a great piece of music is as much a voyage of discovery as the first listening

5) Every listening of a great is in fact a relistening.


6) A great is a piece of music that has never finished saying what it has to say.

7) The greats are the pieces of music that come down to us bearing upon them the traces of listenings previous to ours, and bringing in their wake the traces they themselves have left on the culture or cultures they have passed through (or, more simply, on language and customs).


8 ) A great does not necessarily teach us anything we did not know before. In a great we sometimes discover something we have always known (or thought we knew), but without knowing that this composer said it first, or at least is associated with it in a special way. And this, too, is a surprise that gives a lot of pleasure, such as we always gain from the discovery of an origin, a relationship, an affinity. From all this we may derive a definition of this type:


9) The greats are pieces of music that we find all the more new, fresh, and unexpected upon listening, the more we thought we knew them from hearing them talked about.

10) We use the word “great” of a piece of music that takes the form of an equivalent to the universe, on a level with the ancient talismans. With this definition we are approaching the idea of the “total work of art” as Mallarmé conceived of it.

11) Your great composer is the one you cannot feel indifferent to, who helps you to define yourself in relation to him, even in dispute with him.

12) A great is a piece of music that comes before other greats; but anyone who has read the others first, and then reads this one, instantly recognizes its place in the family tree.

13) A great is something that tends to relegate the concerns of the moment to the status of background noise, but at the same time this background noise is something we cannot do without.

14) A great is something that persists as a background noise even when the most incompatible momentary concerns are in control of the situation.


It seems to me for the many points listed, the cause and effects are mixed up. People with flu cough, but the coughs didn’t make them infected with flu.

For instance, 1) and 2) are about the popularity, which is after-effect, rather than the cause, of greatness.  There must be some great works while remaining less-popular.  Also, emotional elevation among the listeners is an effect, not a cause.  Greatness could lie in significance, including historical significance, aesthetic enhancement, theoretical innovation, creation of a new form, etc.

Online Mandryka

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Re: Greatness
« Reply #7 on: November 10, 2020, 11:29:30 AM »
Calvino ignores the social foundations - something is great if and only if a select group of experts say it’s great. I think this a promising line of investigation.

« Last Edit: November 10, 2020, 11:32:26 AM by Mandryka »
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Online Mandryka

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Re: Greatness
« Reply #8 on: November 10, 2020, 11:31:57 AM »
I think that greatness implies a timeless quality.

Can you spell it out a bit? I don’t know what timeless means really.
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Online Mandryka

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Re: Greatness
« Reply #9 on: November 10, 2020, 11:33:41 AM »
.  Also, emotional elevation among the listeners is an effect, not a cause.

How do you know this?
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Offline Florestan

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Re: Greatness
« Reply #10 on: November 10, 2020, 11:39:39 AM »
]
It ignores the social foundations

What it do you refer to?

Quote
- something is great if and only if a select group of experts say it’s great.

False.

"Something is not great if a select group of experts say it's not great" is also false.
What is Music? How do you define it? Music is a calm moonlit night, the rustle of leaves in Summer. Music is the far off peal of bells at dusk! Music comes straight from the heart and talks only to the heart: it is Love!  --- Rachmaninoff

Offline Maestro267

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Re: Greatness
« Reply #11 on: November 10, 2020, 11:46:18 AM »
TL;DR

Online Mandryka

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Re: Greatness
« Reply #12 on: November 10, 2020, 12:06:54 PM »
]
What it do you refer to?.

The ensemble of Calvino’s definitions.
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Online Mandryka

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Re: Greatness
« Reply #13 on: November 10, 2020, 12:07:39 PM »
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Offline Florestan

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Re: Greatness
« Reply #14 on: November 10, 2020, 12:14:31 PM »
The ensemble of Calvino’s definitions.

I will read his essay tomorrow, thanks for posting it. At first glance, though, it seems to me that the resume you made is quite far from "it's great because experts say it's great" --- on the contrary, he presents a set of features which have got far more to do with how readers/listeners react to a work than with how musicologists/literary critics see it.
What is Music? How do you define it? Music is a calm moonlit night, the rustle of leaves in Summer. Music is the far off peal of bells at dusk! Music comes straight from the heart and talks only to the heart: it is Love!  --- Rachmaninoff

Offline Dry Brett Kavanaugh

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Re: Greatness
« Reply #15 on: November 10, 2020, 12:18:19 PM »
How do you know this?

Some stories in news articles, some Sumo and soccer games, and some historical documentation alter the audiences’ emotional state and sentiment, but they are not great art works. Also, there are many great art works that don’t exert any effect on the audiences’ emotion.

Online Mandryka

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Re: Greatness
« Reply #16 on: November 10, 2020, 12:18:25 PM »
I will read his essay tomorrow, thanks for posting it. At first glance, though, it seems to me that the resume you made is quite far from "it's great because experts say it's great" --- on the contrary, he presents a set of features which have got far more to do with how readers/listeners react to a work than with how musicologists/literary critics see it.

We’re agreeing - I don’t know what’s going on here but YES. My beef with Calvino is he ignores the way forms of life give concepts their meaning.
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Online Mandryka

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Re: Greatness
« Reply #17 on: November 10, 2020, 12:22:40 PM »
Some stories in news articles, some Sumo and soccer games, and some historical documentation alter the audiences’ emotional state and sentiment, but they are not great art works. Also, there are many great art works that don’t exert any effect on the audiences’ emotion.

I have no doubt that music can cause an emotional state. Is your idea that when you say “x is great” you’re expressing an emotion like when you say “I love you”?
« Last Edit: November 10, 2020, 12:25:41 PM by Mandryka »
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Offline Dry Brett Kavanaugh

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Re: Greatness
« Reply #18 on: November 10, 2020, 12:30:54 PM »
Calvino ignores the social foundations - something is great if and only if a select group of experts say it’s great. I think this a promising line of investigation.

The label of greatness maybe vested by religious, governmental, or academic authorities.  However, this is a (correct or false) recognition of greatness ex post rather than greatness itself. Greatness must lie in the artwork (object) rather than the subject who observes it. Secondly, Greatness must be present at the moment of the birth of an artwork rather than the subsequent time.
« Last Edit: November 10, 2020, 12:38:12 PM by Dry Brett Kavanaugh »

Offline Florestan

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Re: Greatness
« Reply #19 on: November 10, 2020, 12:41:16 PM »
The label of greatness maybe vested by religious, governmental, or academic authorities.  However, this is a (correct or false) recognition of greatness ex post rather than greatness itself. Greatness must lie in the artwork (object) rather than the subject who observes it. Secondly, Greatness must exist at the moment of the birth of an artwork rather than the subsequent time.

How can you/we make the difference? An artwork-object without a subject observing it and assigining value and meaning to it is no more conceivable than an artwork-object without a subject creating it and supposedly investing it with value and meaning. The values and meaning of the subject-observer might or might not coincide with the values and meaning of the subject-creator but there's no escape for the essential subjective nature of art at both ends --- and in the case of music there's actually a whole triangle of subjectivities: composer-performer-listener.
What is Music? How do you define it? Music is a calm moonlit night, the rustle of leaves in Summer. Music is the far off peal of bells at dusk! Music comes straight from the heart and talks only to the heart: it is Love!  --- Rachmaninoff