This is an introduction. But I will not act or write like a schoolboy who will get in trouble for not citing all of his sources. My sources are scattered in a thousand books over a lifetime of thought and work. I can’t do better that give an idea of where principal notions come from, where I have sought sources of knowledge and information, whose thought has contributed to where I find myself. But they all are fused on a crucible of being a musician, being a composer, being involved in art. I know how to act like a scholar but I’m not one. I know how to be responsible without citations, without too many footnotes, without being afraid of what I will write or believe. This is a polemic. Ecce homo.
“Blut ist ein ganz besondrer Saft.”
Many people have not seen blood, by which I mean more than a cut; blood that flows and keeps flowing of its own volition and won’t stop without action being taken to halt it. Blood that doesn’t trickle but flows out and away, like floodwaters covering a delta. When a wound of that magnitude occurs, usually the victim is unconscious or unaware initially of just how serious the blood loss could be. Outside of war, it’s rare for anyone to watch or even feel their own loss of blood, and even in war a soldier may be far more aware of the pain of a wound than the visual aspects of the leaking blood. Real blood loss, active bleeding that has a beginning but no certain termination—will it stop in time? will it continue indefinitely? will it “bleed out?”; that’s a rich experience that has twists and turns, aspects that pull the emotions around but also cool the mind and focus reactions. It’s a meditative experience and, like all meditations, the focus is on the body and its limitations. The ultimate limitation is also before one; like the final cadence in a musical work, the end of a novel, the last bite of food or the excretion of the meal itself, death becomes the subject of our thoughts and even the desired object of our emotions. Death and dying: and the connection of blood loss and how exsanguination feels illustrates every moment of our lives and defines the elements of each moment we breathe. We contemplate the truth of ourselves and that truth gives shape to who we are and what we do.
The denigration of this experience in worldly matters, the lies we tell about it, the discursive philosophical bullshit that stains the academic toilet paper published in journals, these all serve to distract us from the simplicity that blood represents. Governments, aesthetics, mannerisms, attitudes, marketing strategies create happy, fat distractions that falsify the true aspects of continuity and change. That reality: that the world goes on when I sleep, that when I die only I am dead, that there is a world that gathers history, that creates responsibility, that demands respect and understanding. But we don’t want that, do we. We want the world to die when we do; an era comes to an end, a great cycle completed, a significant, sentimental moment that defines us.
We want to be present at our own funeral, to watch vengefully the faces of those around us—that one will be sorry; this one looks smug; those over there know they wronged me. The number of mourners shows love; the expense of the flowers shows respect; the size of the gravestone shows ego. The distractions and our opinions of those distractions have great importance and show how important we are—“where were you when ‘x’ was killed?” Forget it. When we cut our fingernails, we don’t remember how long they were. Only when we bleed and watch; then we see what is real. And that colour is the only red there is. No other red is as red. No other red can change colour and hue so easily. Only blood is red.
“Du bist am Ende was du bist.”
I have not been a bad man. I have not been a good man. I have tried to do good things. I pretended the bad things I did were meant well. I pretended the bad things I did were only little mistakes, the lies white lies—very white. I pretended the bad things I did were someone else’s fault or miscomprehension. I pretended the bad things I did were fate or unavoidable for cosmic reasons. I could rationalize the bad things I did as good things in disguise. I have much forgiveness to ask. I have much for which to atone. Who is left to whom I can make amendment? Is my best chance to stay away and not be seen, not raise the issue of my presence in the lives of others? Can I ask forgiveness? Can I ask your forgiveness, “fill-in-the-blank?” There have been second chances. There have been third chances. There have been fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth chances, and more than that. Each one was a last chance and there was always one more last chance. Truth is the fork in the road that was not chosen. Truth is hard and does not weather. Truth is eternal and so are the consequences of truth.
I am a sociopath. The reason for this follows directly from the society in which I find myself. A sociopath fights against the society that confines him or her; the sociopath does not recognize the rules that govern society. I have no objection to this label. A sociopath refuses to accept the tyranny of the ruling corporate oligarchy and wishes to bring it down. As true for Cinque as it was for Robin Hood; for Gudrun Ensslin as for Malcolm X. All sociopaths to varying extents.
I am a firebrand. I incite and entice others to action. I set no limits on the action that they might take. Why not burn down the structures that enslave us, from the cubicles of the controllers to the enforced slavery of the prison? Where has pacifism gotten us? Nobody is listening. Public relations and marketing take the place of democracy. We are too many and too ignorant. Burn it down and start fresh.
I know how to talk. I know how to read. I understand what I read and I know what I’m talking about. I’m done talking and I’m tired of explaining how to understand. I stay either above ground or go under.
I am a complete liar. Extremes are all I know and the sum total of how I think. Extremes lie and generate the statistics supporting all lies. More that this, telling lies is empowering, manipulative, and self-righteous. Nobody loves him or herself more than when they are lying up a storm.
I am completely honest. It takes time to wait until the hyperbole dies out and the literal and real take over. This moment, the moment of communication that cannot forever be postponed, brings us back to earth, from which we bounce up and back several more times before realizing that we are somewhere in between the grandiosity of self-hate and self-love, that we have no more or less right to the next breath than anyone else, that we are just as unnecessary to the continuation of the planet or its termination as everyone else, that the beautification each of us might bring to the lives of others is temporary, transferable, and inscrutable. We are fingernails that grow, get dirty, get cleaned, then get cut.
We are not who we say we are and have no internal consistency. The magnitude of our collective petty and mindless errors proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that there must be a God, otherwise we would have long ago ceased to exist because of our utter stupidity in the face of obvious destructive facts with which we are constantly confronted. This magnitude is also a sufficient condition not to believe in the existence of God. We are getting, and going, nowhere.
Now let us orient ourselves to the matters at hand, the questions we face: Is the past only where we have been or is it also alive in the present? Is admiration of the past merely nostalgia? The past and/or tradition have always been vexed matters. But the most substantive break yet has come from the real rejection of the past, culminating, unsurprisingly, with exact repetition of past events unbeknownst to the creator(s). This rejection stems, oddly enough, from academic as well as bourgeois sources—perhaps not so oddly since the majority of the bourgeoisie attend college and come under the influence of increasingly hip scholars who, seeing that the furrows of the past have been hoed down farther than necessary, seek other areas for research and investigation.
What role does the past play in our understanding of beauty? Does beauty involve structure or is it purely sensuous? Does the phenomenological concept of beauty manifest itself as a posteriori object or a priori appeal to a subject, or both? What of the notion of progress, if divorced from valorizing the present; is our present based upon an understanding of ourselves as historically founded or only in our present? Has beauty changed, become something different or has it always been driven by the tension between what has been done and what the present indicates as possible, as a means of reflecting the past, as part of a need to take things a step further?
Improvement is not the issue. In reality, improvement is a capitalist buzzword to motivate sales; the new-improved item will save your life, taste better, clean your toilet better. Improvement is the capitalist construct for contextualizing an inferior past to smooth the way for greater consumption in the present. Trade in the past for an improved and faster future; do it now before you lose out to your neighbours.
Equally, progress is not the issue. Progress in physical terms takes place over millions of years, in technological terms over millennia; in intellectual terms, no sure means of measurement exist. Progress in prolonging life so that the elderly can decline and suffer over a longer period of time is a highly questionable enterprise. Progress is most easily understood and measured in economic terms: the progress of one industry in accumulation of capital, the regression of one concern through competition, “starving out” a firm as it deteriorates and is accumulated by another, as one economy engulfs and expunges another. Once again, progress is the sum of various improvements that apparently take place and can be quantified, advertised as reality, and converted into economic confidence in the capitalist system and the governance structure it supports, indeed demands.
Capitalism means having all the answers or access to how to get them, and all answers are found in what will “sell.” It means market determinism and enforced consumption. It means a division of have and have-nots, where the have-nots can only be valorized to the extent that they can become “haves” and consume at an economically acceptable rate. The moral, mental, and spiritual good of the community can only be measured by its material wealth, regardless of distribution or access, and with no regard to the existence of any of those qualities in the producers of that wealth. The few direct the interests and beliefs of the many. If it is more profitable to go to church, everyone must go to church. If more advantageous commercially to drink a certain beer or support a particular team sport, then everyone must do so. Advertising insures that the power and range of the few will not be identifiable or discernible; no force is necessary when one appears to have chosen one’s own poison joyfully, democratically, unanimously even. There is no need for a Stalin to emerge and oppress an entire society; if needed, market capitalism can insure that a society of this kind can and will be democratically elected and its values enforced. The drive, the capitalist “will-to-power” stems from the ego of the one-in-charge, the one who prizes entrepreneurship over content, power in the marketplace over integrity, economic success over enduring value, exchange value over use value. The good succeed; the bad fail and are poor.
No art demonstrates commodification in a capitalist society more than music. The idea of popular music and popular culture are entirely commodity, sales-based, necessarily appealing to mass and target groups. There’s no need to go further in this; it’s all been said and the mere term music “industry” says all that needs to be said. Commodity music wants to be liked, loved, worshipped, clicked-on, downloaded, and app-ed. Composers outside of the pop culture have seen this clearly and want in; if you can’t be a rock star for physical or technical reasons, you can wear the clothes and use the sound; perhaps there will be a target market of bourgeois, high-brow consumers who want to be teased intellectually but also want to have something good happening in their pants. Thus the advent of the commodifiable “serious,” artistic composer who massages his or her ego by masturbating the public: a new form of invisible pornography that seduces the individual through promising modest immortality (at least for a while) founded on modest economic viability, downgrades the intellectual vigour of the performers who play this stuff, and shows to everyone that the “right kind” of education can make art and music “pay.” The purpose of education, of musical training is to find a way to score a touchdown in the hearts of Mr. and Mrs. Bourgeoisie, while their children listen to the overtly pop music that will be later re-commodified for them in future “art” works.
The performing or writing of music for reasons of ego gratification represents the anti-community, fundamentally bourgeois capitalist view of all society: economic repression in favour of the fortunate; unrewarding, non-interactive, and sterile. Success lies in being in the right place at the right time, in having a wealthy “angel” backer, in letting market analysis dictate a style that will “sell,” in catering to an existing market and pandering to its public; at bottom, the focus on the exchange value of the musical product with the corresponding ego inflation that comes with fame. Talent is measured in opportunism, in taking advantage of the aesthetic/economic environment the market presents. One establishes a “brand” that the public may purchase; if taste changes, then the brand must be upgraded or changed to fit the altered fashion. The use value is identical with tires, handbags, hosiery, or potato chips; once “consumed,” the music is equally as memorable.
No art in and of itself need be bourgeois; the artist and the position he or she takes regarding the labour process for their work identifies the artist with a particular social configuration. The suitability or perishability of the work produced may determine how that work can or will be viewed, however, once the market forces take hold. Louis Andriessen began a career as an iconoclastic socialist with 20% political belief, 20% theoretical interest, and 60% shrewd market savvy. Time passes and the success of the rock-oriented, slash-and-burn minimalism gains an audience, Louis becomes lionized, a “great” composer, is imitated by people on both sides of the Atlantic, writes more works of the same type at an even faster rate than he had previously, reaps the rewards, writes books, and becomes pater familias to a number of composers who, like him, have centered themselves as good liberals writing “proletarian works” for the liberal bourgeoisie who can go to the designer-bar to drink beer and feel “elevated.” Louis, in reality, is now CEO of the Andriessen Corporation, turning out composers who dress like him, write pop-oriented works that have a symbiotic relation to the most despicable of the bourgeoisie: the liberal culture vultures who want to feel socially and artistically saved. No pop performer singing of moon and June ever pimped out their work with more desperate abandon than this lot.
Who runs happily in the wake of this Pied Piper? These are the entrepreneurs who look to capitalize (literally) upon the success of the Andriessen brand. They adopt the same musical materials, use the same sounds and techniques, vary from each other only slightly, hold to a style at all costs, and market, market, market. Change takes place through minor changes in the market, usually stemming completely from the pop market and its trappings. If the back-up vocals of the day move from feminine to masculine voice types, Louis and his company will follow suit. If electronic wind controllers replace the electric guitar, that’s what will be used. If conventional acoustic instruments must be used, they will be amplified. The market is not subtle; let the music not be subtle either.
This music does not seek to individuate or debate; it seeks only to dominate and to choke out competition. The anti-intellectualism (while yearning for intellectual; status) of the style reflects the lowest-common-denominator targeting that takes place in capitalist economic competition. The world is the world of advertising. When the sound-bite repeats for 45 minutes, it transforms itself from tag to “art.” It “sells” itself, and the consumer “buys in.” Once entranced (literally), the consumer can have artistic “feelings” while effortlessly drinking a beer, playing table football, playing volleyball, surfing the internet, or “working.” The music is a commodity that permits use while consuming other commodities. No special effort is needed or desirable. The “composer” has seen to it that the “musical experience” is no more taxing than eating a doughnut or watching TV. The consumer stays on the couch and can get up at any time to go to the refrigerator, knowing that nothing will have changed when they return.
This is the “art” of indoctrination and, in the use of music and visual imagery by the National Socialists in Germany, the Stalinists in Russia, in politically somnolent capitalist societies, and in the world of fundamentalist religion, equally capable of mobilizing a public for whatever purpose a corporate culture might direct. And to what purpose is easy to guess: exclude the “different,” the “outsider,” the one who objects or disagrees. Conflicting views that cannot or will not be harnessed do not increase consumption nor permit economic growth. These ideas and their holders must be eradicated, if possible by internal or external culture exile but, at all costs and in any manner necessary, eliminated. There’s nothing new in any of what I am saying. The level of industrialization, however, surpasses the worst fears or predictions of those who wrote earlier.
The past, which the music described above largely ignores and does not in any real sense depend upon, exists eternally in an artistic context, primarily for artists themselves but also for those who wish, in varying degrees, to penetrate the content of an art. This past is of no interest to capitalist enterprise because it’s content is not material and cannot be manufactured, bought or sold. Educational establishments, particularly colleges and universities, advertise themselves as both guardians of the past and the harbingers of the future. As so-called socialist as well as frankly capitalist governments squeeze funding of such institutions, the marketplace exerts increasingly economically driven demands, making these institutions of human reification: the commodities are student bodies enrolled, the competition is with institutions of similar curricula, the medium of support is a combination of feudal power structures attempting to act as CEOs of marketable ideas. When education becomes market-driven, education ceases to take place unless the result is wealth in terms of alumni, patents and grants, or material fame and glory. Increasingly, education has joined the marketplace, relegating the past to the status of an elderly relative who must be tended and gotten out of the way as quickly as possible. Only the marketable past (if any) counts; only the well-packaged masterwork performed by increasingly younger (and sexier) performers. The appearance trumps validity and truth takes a back seat to sales.
The ineffable and increasingly inscrutable past hangs in the air, alive but thought dead. The kitsch-makers, the artists in leather pants, the avant-garde hipsters decry it but cannot make it go away. These last are the most pathetic. Their object being only to find an identity that a public may view, the kitsch thus produced inflicts misery upon their “audience” (essentially, their immediate circle of friends) who come to admire that composer’s particular take on the use of 10 or 11 sounds over a period of 90 minutes, as opposed to their colleague’s use of 11-12 sounds over a similar period. A circle of like-minded “individuals” combine to create a hermetic unit of belief, similar in all respects to a closed religious community, for whom this dogma concerns the elevation of the individual uniqueness within the narrowly defined limits of self-hood: the “art” articulates each identity and only that identity, the auditor simply looking at, and only at, the individual composer, not the work. But either way, all one can do is wait. For what do we wait? For the end to finally arrive. For Louis Andriessen and company, we are stuck in a rut with just enough variety to allow for moments of escape within the broad parameters of escape given; for the avant garde hipster-kitschist, we just wait; and wait. In either case we are waiting with more or less entertainment, and when we wait we wait only for one thing. There is, after all, only one ending for which all other endings are a metaphor. And that is the one concept about which the least possible time need be spent. Oddly, the “commercially viable” and the “musical hipster kitsch commune” arrive at the same goals economically and aesthetically: survival with “fame” (or at least notoriety) and the lighting of the road to dusty death.
Sadly, the last to understand these channels of development are the composers themselves. Why sadly? Because the path is littered with the used-up who find that they have no connection to what has come before and do not possess the skill to revive the interest and patience to acquire what they never understood in the first place. Unlike so many consumers, they are aware of exactly what a society driven by capitalist interest has denied them and have as little chance to recover what has been lost as an obese 50-year-old has of running a marathon. More even than this, the absence of community beyond the commercial or in-crowd aspects, contribute to the same isolation and alienation as logically exists in all phases of capitalist enterprise. The rock-star composer and the isolano hermit, arrive at the same point for themselves as well as their audience: a dead end where either entertainment or sterility are the only possible outcomes. Either join the marketplace or isolate yourself within a closed group of narcissists who want to preserve their purity. Either the rapacious glamour of the fashionable cognoscenti or the closed sophistry of the purified few.
The capitalist present contains only emptiness of information and experience, and valorizes this. Past and future exist only with regard to economic stability, whether in a commercial or closed group. The real meaning of the past and its use becomes the property of those who can, sooner or later, grasp what it possesses and see the need for thorough assimilation, if only to negate in the recreation of new art.
I am not happy. Do not tell me that my task in life is to be happy. Anyone who moves, who looks, who strives, who believes in something worth believing in, who resists the social pressure of capitalist commercialism, who dissents from and decries the compromised values of a government that lacks principles cannot be happy. Indignation that stays in the mind is mere resentment and of no utility; indignation that motivates action, that aims for constructive, positive change has justification within itself.
“My country ‘tis of thee…”
America is holier than thou. America is holier than all. Bow down before the virtue of capital and the natural regulation of enterprise. God loves us because we are rich, strong, convinced, and arrogant. Our bible was written by the God of the Old Testament. Smite the little ones, javelin the pregnant, hack up the old and needy, starve the hungry, lay waste to all that lies before and around. We know no God; we know no religion; sacrifice is of others, not ourselves; belief is rationalization of the inequities we provide for others; for us, God is alive; for us God is dead. For us, there is no God; for us, God is always for and with us. We cause suffering and yet do not suffer. Through the mercy of God, we continue to lay waste and destroy all that we see and yet we survive. No greater proof of the existence of mercy need exist.
Let’s count how many times the CIA perpetrated coups in the western hemisphere. When I say CIA, am I saying we, or am I saying they? How long did I believe the official story, or did I never believe it at all? Sooner or later the truth, or at least an alternate story, or the argument from the other side, or facts, or the legitimate strivings of those whose voice has been torn out of them might possibly emerge from underneath the darkness that covers it….
How can we sit with our white skin and call every member of darker skin peoples our enemy, our adversary, ones who will be subverted by our enemies and adversaries, those not intelligent enough to resist the blandishments of the other side, who are unwilling to believe our lies, our stories…
All right. Let’s count them.
1954- Guatemala overthrow of Arbens and totalitarian aftermath
1955-July 26 movement goes to Cuba from Mexico and massacre of guerillas. 17/82 survive. 1958-Batista flees Cuba, 1/8/1959 Castro enters Cuba.
1961-Bay of Pigs
1962-Cuban Missile crisis, deal behind Cuba’s back, alienating Cuba and USSR, the idealist socialist society as envisaged by Che Guevara; Che as a source of favour for Maoism
1964-Vietnam coups begin
1964-Cuban military confrontations with the US (Congo-failure, Angola, later-success) begins.
1967-Bolivia, and the death of Che
1970-73-Chile and the death of Salvador Allende
1962-87-support for the South African government that assassinated every black African they could in the name of their fear, leaving—unaccountably—Nelson Mandela alive to teach white Africans how to try to live in peace; a government that we now ignore because we no longer have moral intimations.
70’s-80’s-El Salvador and the death of Roque Dalton
Now-Morales in Bolivia, Chavez in Venezuela, Lula in Brasil, Castro brothers still in Cuba
Those are only what we know. This information had to be dragged out of us. We did not want to say and most do not believe any of this now. Do not insult our emotional intelligence with fact and material contrary to the fiction we have officially created. We have a powerful military. We have great big weapons, bombs, and missiles. We have great big balls.
What of those who protest the actions into which the government and military have “led” us? What of the anti-government forces who wind up in jail for their beliefs, who take action against imperialist enterprises, who actively oppose an exclusionary society and privileged classism? These are vilified and reduced to derogatory categorization by all governing forces and the entire media. Not being taken seriously by anyone. No voice, no political future, necessary lying in order to be taken seriously until found out and then more vilification. Silenced in discussions where militarism is discussed. Denied any status other than spoiled, privileged, over-wrought, drugged and drunk, pampered.
I don’t begrudge the major civil rights heroes and heroines their due. But not all are treated equally and not all accolades are given unreservedly. How easily we seize on the lionization of a couple of people and forget the others. There are many heroes and victims who protested the injustice of the society in which they lived and live. The guilty will not raise monuments to them; that admits and exposes guilt. Governments will not espouse their cause because the government strove against them. They serve as no or negative examples for a society that prizes conformity and comfort. James Meredith, Medger Evers, the four little children from Birmingham, Rosa Parks, Emmett Till, countless others deserve attention far greater than any veterans monument. They represent accumulated national debt for suffering imposed by the nation on a people who were captured, transported, enslaved, “freed” and re-enslaved, brutalized and discriminated against, and given the least possible help while all the time merely asking—ASKING—for their so-called inalienable rights that were, in fact, far from inalienable. The received no pay, no free food or medical care, no free education, nothing. They received bullets, hoses (with and without water), prison, and worse, and begrudging acceptance in a community that was only willing to tolerate.
What of those who protest war and strive for peace? I’m not talking pacifism but those who simply want to fight only if there is a reason, if the government and the people follow the rules in declaring a war, those who do not believe in imperialism and don’t defend imperialist war. They are the lowest of the low; cowards; bums; intellectual snobs; lily-livered; every homophobic term and every means of insult. It takes more courage to swim upstream than to go with the flow. Here also: no pay, no free food or medical care, no free education, no job skills, nothing. And no future, nothing but public shaming, and remember the vet. Nobody has forgotten the vet. The vet has all the PR on his and her side and all the bloody shirt bully ranting. Nobody will forget the vet because he and she will keep themselves out in front and on top of everything.
And coming in last, dead last, is our own private genocide: Sand Creek, the Black Hills, Wounded Knee, the Trail of Tears, all of the indignities, calumny, unconscionable stereotyping, government-imposed alcoholism, government-imposed poverty, government-imposed homelessness; the noble savage, Injuns, Red Men. We have no shame for this: reservations formed in the least habitable areas where the buffalo are all dead; allowing tribes to rot penniless with worthless treaties and limited options. Because they are their own “nations,” no need for representation. Because we took all of their valuable and arable land, they have no voice in what we will continue to do to them. On this alone, the indictment of our deeds commands atonement in the highest degree, and the odour of our iniquity is enough to choke the life out of our self-satisfaction.
My country ‘tis a fraud. My country ‘tis a scandal. My country ‘tis a killer. My country ‘tis a racist. My country ‘tis an oppressor. My country ‘tis a bald-faced, twenty-four caret liar. My country has no shame for its guilt. My country will make sacrifices when the pay is good, when food and medical care are free, when education is free, when you agree with everything it says and does, when you believe all the PR, when you question nothing. I have nothing but pride in opposition to my country ‘tis of thee.
Nur der verdient sich Freiheit wie das Leben
Der täglich sie erobern muss
Dante tells me that my soul is drawn toward what I am in my self. The level of my perfection (measured in the amount of my lack of perfection) identifies the deadly sin or deadly sins to which I am called by what I have inside me, known or unknown. To the extent I know, I can ask forgiveness and also make atonement. Forgiveness is meaningless; forgiveness only has use in the moment of death when no more possibilities exist, when amendment can no longer be accomplished. Do I have to confess to be forgiven or do I only have to ask for forgiveness; do I need a priest or holy man? Why does it have to be a man? Why does it have to be human?
An objective reality controls the world and the laws of truth. Truth has laws. Reality is not subjective. There is good and bad; there are crimes against society and crimes against art. Responsibility belongs to everyone. When truth is mocked, there is no truth and all things may and must take place. If there is a single crime then all crimes exist. To maintain that truth exists in isolation renders all truth useless. Yes, I’m serious about this. Crime has implications. If I fulfill the implications of one, there are ramifications for many more. They can’t be legislated or waved away. There are no statistics that prove them. They do no change. Not ever.
There are absolutes. There are immeasurable values that exist both in their perfection and in their imperfection. Imperfection does not and was never meant to nullify the existence of an absolute. The relative quantitative measure of the “amount of imperfection” exists only as a means of battening upon unhelpful categories of behavior when the quality of perfection, as measured by conscience, is evident to all. We need not be all or nothing, Anton Schmidt or Jakob Leikin, Kurt Möll or Sophie Scholl, Judas or Jesus; we each possess the capability to recognize and hear the voice of conscience and to act in accordance or against it. To act against conscience with vigour is crime; to act so out of fear shows an all-too-human timidity; to talk big but fail to act shows all-too-human cowardice; to act the best one can with variable results shows striving; to act from principle with or without aggression shows both indiscretion and endeavour; to act calmly from principle manifests the power of a saint; to ignore or deny conscience is a form of pathological insanity. We see these things and recognize these behaviours. Too often we act on instinctive, emotional impulses that, while perhaps motivated by conscience, generate actions that may transgress intentions; nonetheless, we ignore the impulse toward principle at our peril. When we lie down for injustice, we experience difficulties in later, often more unjust circumstances and become cowards. But never—NEVER—do we fail to see where our shortcomings with respect to conscience bring us. And never do we damage the eternal truth of conscience: we only damage our private conscience, and that sometimes to a dangerous degree.
To those who pretend that all is relative, that “who are you to assert these things as if you could define them all,” to these I would say, the truth is not relative, that quantity is not quality, and that principle does not change. Slavery is as wrong today as it ever was, and yet we relativistically tolerate slavery in our own society. Murder cultures a few thousand years ago are no more tolerable then or, as exist in many places throughout this country, now. Freedom may have limits, but it is morality and conscience that govern those limits and not law by itself; law is merely the mechanism through which a community determines the level of punishment to be meted out to offenders, with such success as punishment usually attains. Some trace their morality from God—not the dogma of religions but the existence of Supremeness—others from traditions passed down, but all such morality exists, whether it be in Ten Commandments or the practical phenomenology of Sorge. These absolutes lie behind what we consider to be “the Good,” and we question, degrade, demote, or deny them at our peril.
I have to say, with Kierkegaard and others, that the existence of God is a function of faith. There is no proof of the existence of God or gods or any form of divine presence; only the demonstrable need for an explanation; the need to have the intolerable, inescapable “why” questions answered in some way. Empiricism can express physical qualities: that is, qualities that can be seen and evaluated, as well as any form of sensuous measure that can receive a direct quantitative correlate. Empirical comparison, either through direct observation or numerical data, yields direct information and also the illusion that such ability to measure either can be extended throughout all sensual categories, or that irrationality and matters of taste (such as, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”) govern everything that cannot be so-measured, rendering such subjects areas of less significance. But products of the imagination do not succumb to quantitative analysis, nor are they matters of strictly personal belief; if that were so, any product of the imagination, no matter how absurd or horrific would have equal value. Equality of the value of individual perception, after all, or comparisons balanced around provable averages, cannot describe the value or significance of imaginative truths.
“Die Zeit ist kurz; die Kunst ist lang”
Language can’t help clarify the gathering confusion. Language by itself turns quickly into ideology and dogma, or into games of meaning, the outcome of which results in the elimination of any meaning; a proliferating fog of meaninglessness. The search for answers aims to develop a taxonomy or at least a provisional analytical system through which positive truths can be identified. Most such approaches are sufficiently complete unto themselves that they give the appearance of definitive meaning, pointing out optimistically the road to truth, or, pessimistically, the absence of any truth. This extreme opposition is not dialectical: one is Pangloss to the others’ Frère Martin, irreconcilable attempts to create or destroy truth on empirical grounds and each thereby necessarily relativistic and undermining the very grounds they wish to establish.
A curse on all who denigrate meaning, who prefer reductio ad absurdum to a desire to speak truth! A circle in hell for the prevaricators in the name of logic, the ideologues whose only triumph is the annihilation of evaluative structures! Just because a decision cannot be made of the present in the present is no reason to eliminate all valorization in all times. An attack upon truth yields nothing but the presumption of the existence of truth insofar as the iconoclasm of “truthlessness” attempts to supplant the positive value of truth with its negation, in itself only one-third of dialectical reality. Language games are the play of bored professors and their privileged pampered progeny. To all who indulge in these self-referential attempts to replace universal with particular, LEAVE!
Logical consistency, symbolic logic and truth tables, deductive logic, the generality of sense perception and causality, none of these have anything more than a tenuous connection to the notion of truth being expressed here. The nature of truth goes well beyond the verification of deductive or symbolic mechanisms that create equivalence and relative value. That which possesses relative value only has quantifiable value, and that largely in terms of raw equivalence (a tonne of feathers, a tonne of steel) or perceptive equivalence (Hegel’s pile of salt, which then and now would be equal to the same expressed in cocaine, sugar, drain cleaner, etc.). Measuring the world and labeling it create relative knowledge that can be empirically verifiable but that is not the only value and knowledge that exists. Metaphysics cannot be waved away with the back of the hand because the Good or the Bad (or the Ugly, for that matter) cannot be measured quantitatively; value in non-relative terms exists whether or not we have logical mechanisms through which to demonstrate them. Consistency may, in fact, be an imposition upon an unstable world of free will that is governed only by the tenuous hold we have on the absolutes that keep us in some kind of moral balance. Consistency creates comfortable playgrounds through which we can delude ourselves that forces exist that we can control. The reality is the inconsistency, the accident, the inequality of life that guides us to areas of manageability, or that we egocentrically ignore as we take on things for which we are often not merely completely unsuited but also highly incompetent. When we are in balance, we have recognized our qualities in relation to our calling, adjusting as needed to bring out our best or failing to adapt to the truth of our abilities and being crushed.
Inequality is as much a part of existence as equality; further, inequality is more than the dialectical negation of equality. While we can express our equality under the law and our physical inequality in the face of people more physically strong or coordinated than ourselves, we are unable (or unwilling) to describe or even accept inequalities of thought and power of expression. Instead, we denigrate or minimize such areas of confusion, largely because they require us to accept inequality as a condition of our lives and to admit that our individual talents are, in truth, relative both in the present and, insofar as we see ourselves in an historical pattern of any kind, to the past. We may ask why this must be so, but we receive no answer because the answer is not empirically derived. When we do accept, if we can, a placement of our intangible capabilities, it is often with a sense of confusion and fear of derision, often very grudging and graceless. We look for answers instead of recognizing that, when these factors impinge upon us, we are confronted with the unanswerable and physically unexplainable. ”Why am I not better at ‘this’ than I am?” we may think or even cry; “Why is this other person better than me or perceived to be better than me?”; perhaps most of all, “Why should I have to work so hard if all ‘this’ is meaningless anyway.” The answers to these complaints lie outside of our knowledge; at the very minimum, they cannot be physically quantified or altered. Even if they could, by what criteria would such alterations be made? If brain implants could be inserted to render every mind equal, whose thought processes would be taken for models? Who would be chosen to decide such things? We fear the answer to this on the human plane, and rightly so; equally, we fear stating directly that we cannot know or explain what we are given; we can only attempt to grasp what we have received by our reaction to the product of our individual imaginations. Once grasped, we meet another barrier; how can we understand the value of what we have produced?
When other subjectivities enter the picture, our understanding becomes still more obtuse, contentious, problematized by argumentation embroidered on the imaginative original to the extent that meaning becomes less tractable the more embroidery is put on. Throughout all times, certain artists have been recognized for their abilities. We see, hear, and/or understand them to have more; more pith, more sensitivity, more technique, more depth: more. Some artists may be said to be more or entirely of their time: that is, they exist within a certain time without defining it. We can say what these artists are doing without necessarily being able to identify what gives their work less weight as influence. It’s not just being able to do something entirely new or being “the first” that makes an artist significant. If that were so, our valorization of the first cave paintings would eclipse that of Leonardo da Vinci. Neither is production in enormous quantity a factor; while quantity may assist in understanding the fecundity of Haydn, the quality and diversity of his imagination cannot be founded on this alone. Inevitably, we come to the expression of value. Quality of thought, of clarity of expression, of the ability to combine what would appear to be opposite, the ability to transgress when transgression is the most successful, but also the most difficult and forbidding, path: these notions for which we cannot find descriptions outside of nearly irrelevant historical comparisons or absurdly quantitative-to-qualitative conversions, much less approach defining upon what they impinge and why they appear so important. Increasingly, knee-jerk nostrums are taken for granted regarding such evaluation of quality: the young react against the old-fogey-ness of assuming that such categories even exist while the old hold onto them as moral laws handed down on tablets by their own teachers. We do not help ourselves in the way we use visceral reactions to control our decisions of value.
But such issues won’t go away through ignoring, diverting from, or cursing them. If they did not matter, we would never discuss nor address historical matters in art. We would never need to study them or, if we did, there would be no significance to the differentiation between the work of one artist and another than the kitsch of individual identity—my shitty bird sculpture is just as lovely as your shitty bird sculpture; we are all beautiful in our own way. We would neither need nor seek examples, only materials and, if this were the case, art would necessarily be entirely the object of those who produce it, for and about them: in short, kitsch. The very evaluation of “kitsch” bespeaks a qualitative “understanding” based upon some aspects of quality, well about and beyond aspects of economic purpose. Counterfeit is a fear as much for the artist as it is for the acquisitive connoisseur; the desire to express is as much a value for those who create as for those who observe that which is created. Not only do we believe that the products of thought are not equal, we are driven—and yes, this is the correct word—to discover what has greater benefit, expressivity, value to us, and we feel let-down or dumfounded when confronted by an object that is considered vital but to which we cannot relate. Despite our personal vanities, we see failure to connect with what has value as a personal defect on our own part.
More than this, we take it for granted that imagination, thought, and the ability to bring forth discernible, sensual objects from these areas of the mind are not all equal, nor measurable quantitatively, nor necessarily relative to their historical place. We consider these creations valuable and necessary often because we cannot measure them or comprehend them in their totality. Try as we might, we cannot break things down into recognizable or analyzable categories. With literary figures like Homer, Virgil, Shakespeare, Dante, Goethe, Baudelaire, we can ask many questions regarding areas of their accomplishment, matters they address, new ground each broke, new forms created or improved, new sensations explored, the number of areas of intellectual concern each addressed, but these and other notions are merely a quantity of boxes that can be checked off, and the number of them tells us very little about the real worth each author has in the world we live in today. We can compare the thoughts and works of Ferneyhough, Lachenmann, Sciarrino, and Feldman, making statements about how each differs from the other and what areas each addresses, but none of this scholarly endeavour leaves us any nearer to how we can understand any of these composers in relation to ourselves. Even the most informed, most educated, most scholarly observer cannot put their finger on anything more than a clever observation, a bon mot for another scholar to quote. The ruthlessly post-modern reduce all of this to the irreducible “I” of subjectivity, leveling meaning into minor categories of etymology laden with Glassperlenspiel connections that tell us only about the observer, not about the object under observation. Glibness or pithy expression, while entertaining, only skirts the issues under consideration. The object, despite our analysis in service of praise or ridicule, remains: inscrutable and yet of a permanent vitality not only to the cognoscenti but to anyone approaching it.
“Grau, teurer Freund, ist alle Theorie
Und grün des Lebens goldner Baum.”
This is the place where truth enters the picture: unwanted, picked at, discredited, critiqued, ridiculed, denied; Truth with a capital “T.” Quantification and analysis prove nothing. Weight is not measured in mass; E does not equal mc2. There is no data that alone speaks to the infernally frustrating “Why.” When Beethoven appeals to the revolutionary and the bourgeoisie, to the literary solipsist and the sentimentalist movie-lover, when reasons can be found to support a positive social view of the Symphony III and also the bourgeois charm of the Symphony VI, where can we take our desire to know or understand or at least grasp at things that stand for us and against us at the same time? Neither Marx nor Caudwell deny intangibilities, although neither find value for this area in the market place, probably because the market place is not a place for this type of exchange of value. Truth has no exchange value any more than the labour required to produce results from the dialectic of denying and asserting the presence of that truth in history and philosophy. Truth has no place in an institution and has no price; truth has no dogma attached to it and no system of government.
The truth of sensuous experience is merely analytical data; labels for the sake of labeling that may help discussion but does not describe the object of the experience. This is knowledge of the most factical kind. The existential Truth lies in the dialectical relation of that perception and the negation of it that lies between the subject and the object. The inscrutable Truth rests in the area in which the object and the subject meet and describe each other. One need not tilt toward Hegel or Marx in this; the central focus can be the history of humankind or spirit itself but the Truth lies at the exact point where the subject and object touch. What can be said about this contact point, this mysterious area of vapour? Whatever that may be, no theory of relations can explain it. Hegel trips and falls in the effort to categorize these things; no less Kant, Schopenhauer, or Wagner. The terms of music have been applied to painting, the language of painting to poetry, poetic terms to music, and so forth and so on. This tells us that there is no supremacy or ranking of artistic endeavours; only that we speak of them experientially the same way, fluidly and almost without requiring effort or thought. The progression from one to the other is natural, in the sense that there is no direct logic demonstrable except through the need to communicate with others and create a common experience. The richness and contradictions lend credence and weight to the commonality.
Truth does not equate to a series of propositions; rather truth lies more in the questions that phenomena of any kind provoke. The answers are less important than the questions because answers contain temporality, whether overtly or far below the surface. The kind of questions that are asked also indicate whether the truth is involved or only the means to gathering data: to ask “for what purpose” merely individuates a causality without having the possibility of yielding even a small grain of truth. The only questions that lead to truth are begun with the interrogatory: “Why.” These questions cannot be answered (outside of the parental reply “because”) and therein lies the heart of truth. To ask why means that a principal motivating force (or forces) lies behind the phenomena interrogated and that there is, indeed, an answer to be found. “For what purpose” applies to the instigator of an event; “Why” looks for answers that underlie purpose, essentially for the “good” that supports an occurrence. To ask “for what purpose were the Jews massacred in the Holocaust” invites an historical response; a number of purposes can be identified, any of which would be a viable answer. To preface the same question with “Why” assumes all the answers that could be given previously but yet hangs in the air after all of the purposes have been identified. We want to know “Why” precisely in order to get past the answer “because…” We ask the question “Why” because we not only would like to have an answer but we presume that something of any magnitude must have a reason, or has a reason however inscrutable it might appear to us.
Again, we ask “Why” not for the purpose of finding an external reason or answer but because, by asking “Why,” we are looking into ourselves for something that we may not even suspect we would or can even find. Religions proliferate from asking “Why;” societies are undermined and fall when force has to be used to prevent these questions from being asked or when obfuscation, both in the academy and in popular media, renders all such queries antiquated harpings for the old and conservative in the pursuit of continuing intellectual and political hegemony. Again, questions of faith or of any questions that cannot receive a ready, sensory, definitive answer justify a belief or, for some, the positing of God, or a universal entity from which value flows; not the values of Marx but value in a sense that has no exchange possibility. The Venus de Milo could have value as a commodity placed upon it but no such figure would or could account for its real value: that it exists to provoke an eternal “Why” from those who behold it. The same can be said for the richness in any art. It’s no use denying the existence of masterworks; that is the rallying cry of Lilliputians who do not possess the skill and imagination to produce anything of quality. Masterworks exist and we know what they are precisely because we cannot answer the question “Why.”
Das Wunder ist des Glaubens liebstes Kind
A miracle lies beyond our capacity; it demands faith and, once appearing, credibility. Miracles do not happen predictably and do not happen to only certain kinds of people. In fact, miracles occur frequently unknown to the recipient and can even pass unnoticed throughout the lifetime of a beneficiary, a tragedy for the individual who does not discover that he or she has received a gift that is to be used but that they cannot find. Miracles create faith, but not only under religious circumstances and events. There is no reason to ascribe any or all miracles to God, or the gods, or a force other than nature; the distribution of gifts would hardly be so randomly assigned were they to be divine in origin. God is a choice that can be made, but not the only choice. Nature is a choice we make, but again not the only one available. Geist is a choice, history is a choice. But all of these are only labels for the origin of miracles. Whatever label is placed, a miracle comes from somewhere else; it lies within the recipient but the beneficiary does not create it.
The most typical, effective, cruel, and, oddly, controversial miracle is talent. Anyone can be an engineer but some take to it and grasp it like the discovery of a vital element within themselves. A talented athlete possesses exactly the correct physical characteristics needed for his or her sport. People have talent in varying degrees but most lack talent of any kind. Those with talent often are unaware of what that talent might be, or that they have any talent at all. Combinations of talent can cause internal conflicts or, in the case of some, great servants to humankind. But a single talent lying within a person is an enormous gift in and of itself. Once, and if, recognized, and once recognized, supported and trained, the beneficiary of this miracle discovers within him- or herself purpose in life that they carry as a miracle that has been turned into a utility. Talent represents the “above,” the spirit to which Beethoven and Nono (respectively) refer and that Lachenmann queries in his essay on “Philosophy of Composition.” This is the miraculous “where” from which talent comes, any talent.
The talent to create exists in everyone, but in very unequal and inevitably very sparing amounts. The talent to create then must be developed—rarer still; and then opportunities need to present themselves to display, deepen, and refine that talent. Aleatoric music as devised by John Cage is ludicrous; any musical talent that has the opportunity to display itself is rare to the point of unpredictability. All talent development and display is largely aleatoric, in the same way miracles are.
Talent does not respect wealth, does not indicate social or financial affluence, does not always become recognized in a timely manner if at all. Talent of a substantial nature that is developed to as near capacity as possible is as rare as 1:1,000,000,000. Talent can be suppressed or destroyed by adversity, politics, random historical events, economic or physical disasters, parental or social cruelty. More often than not, talent is over-estimated by teachers, parents, and the talented person themself. Financial rewards can and usually are used as a measure of talent whereas, more often than not, capitalist success indicates either documentable commercial viability as determined by market surveys or popularity by drawing upon commercially viable sound material so that the commercial sound is reified as an artistic consumable product for the bourgeoisie; in short, monetary gain is usually in inverse proportion to artistic merit and, therefore, talent.
Talent, then, is distributed randomly, but those who possess it and develop that talent represent the top tier of artists; they are the elite, a concept denied and denigrated by those who lack talent and therefore desire to reduce the importance of talent and to belittle those who possess it. The talented artist is usually too busy working to defend him or herself; that or incapable of comprehending the condescension received from lesser talents and lesser minds. The bitterness, the lashing out that artists may display or the extremes of reaction through induced narcosis result from incomprehension meeting the battery acid of “criticism,” from the assault of the inept when confronted by the thoroughly prepared and conscious craftsperson working in their element.
The artist of talent has the capacity and, more important, the desire, even need, to attempt the answer to the eternal “Why.” Many, perhaps most, true artists do not recognize this question, as involved as they are in the process of creating; introspection of that kind usually happens much later when a body of work takes shape and a sense of purpose can be identified. But the search for this answer lies behind all artistic endeavor, no matter what the talent level; and talent identifies itself through the work that raises as many questions as it may answer. A body of work develops from those questions and the new answers that follow. Lesser talents never pose questions that are complicated; they have too much of a desire to be liked, to entertain, to give “the audience” something of themselves, just as at a craft fair or flea market. The product is simply “this is me, my little statue of myself, my little poem about myself, do you like it?,” an easy enough question to answer with yes or no. No artist of talent and vision would see the need to ask or answer such a question; would not understand it. No real artist would spend the time to understand the nature of his or her art and to develop what he or she has received only to ask such pathetic and puerile questions. From this it is clear that there is such a thing as quality, that quality is important, vital in fact, and that there is a top drawer of artistic endeavor, that the best do exist, that an elite does exist, and that in an egalitarian society, elite individuals and groups exist that must be held and respected as models for where to aim in terms of individual personal goals.
These are the truths that flow from the miracle of talent:
Talent arrives at random and is developed at random, and in sufficient quantity that the un- or under-developed talents do not entirely eliminate the presence of those evident, developed and developing talents.
Talent realized does not operate or act for the purpose of wealth or gain, even if this is a factor in an artist’s thinking. Ultimately, artistic decisions are made regardless of financial ramifications. Despite Schoenberg’s desire to succeed as a film composer, when faced with the opportunity, he could not conceive of actually following through with a film contract; it simply couldn’t be done by him.
Talent need not be recognized for what it is or in its own time, or possibly even ever. Yet talent always has an effect, whether through acting as an example or creating works of immeasurable imagination.
Works reflective of talent aim at the question of “Why,” and resonate this question in the minds of those who behold it. This resonance induces non-verbal as well as verbal communication amongst the beholders as well; all great works and good works contain these elements of universality.
Talent need not always succeed in every artistic effort; in fact, that is hardly necessary. Knowing where the risks to take may be found and embracing them will not always result in success, or success in all parts in a work. To risk is to travel down the road of “Why;” to bring all of one’s talent and craft to bear in the service of meeting these risks indicates, whether conscious or not, that “Why” is the object of what has been created.
As much as it feels warm and friendly to say that we are all equal, we are anything but. And when it comes to artistic endeavor, nowhere is inequality more ruthless or more the norm.
Dass sich das grösste Werk vollende,
Genügt ein Geist für tausend Hände.
Artistic work, as opposed to entertainment music, commercial music, MUZAK or any other of atmospheric accompaniment that exists to be ignored, involves labour process and use- and exchange-values that cannot be measured in materialistic terms. Labour time is not only measured in terms of personal skill but also in experience with the medium involved, dependency on other artists, innumerable issues that, when quantified, transcend materialism and engage collaboration, unless the social values of a community are literally communistic, or socialist to the extent that income levels are in reasonable balance throughout the social structure. Expressed in purely capitalist terms, art has no use-value measurable in commercial terms; it cannot be reified within the temporal context of its own creation. Remuneration of any and all practitioners, expressed in exchange values, either runs rapidly past the expenditure potential of any organization presenting new work (making the art available only to the upper class that can afford and also wants to be seen at these kind of events) or cannot be compensated in proper measure since the amount of time and effort that would be required for production is only what an organization can afford, not what the labour is worth; that is, not sufficient to subsist the artist(s) involved.
When the cost of attendance at an artistic event surpasses what the majority of a community could afford (never mind would afford), the art itself becomes enslaved to those who can pay, losing a measure of the potential for universality that it may possess. Cost becomes a limiter of access, and therefore cost empowers the rich and offers that class an element of control over artistic content. Fame and glory are endowments from the top of the artistic bureaucratic administration, offered by them and ratified by the ruling class, and form an actual exchange value for some artists. What is worth paying top dollar for, regardless of appeal, becomes lionized in a capitalist society; not commercialized in the entertainment sense but symbolically identified as an attribute of wealth. This has nothing to do with the actual value or quality of the artwork itself; works of the highest quality may or may not receive deservedly high valorization by the rich. This is another significant difference between commercial work and artistic endeavor: the commercial work is worth what the market will bear; although a market exists for artistic creation, value cannot be measured in definable, economically measurable terms. An answer to “Why,” the purpose of which is to indicate a direction in which answers may be sought, has value whose universality comes from the fact that the appeal of the work is different for every beholder; and therein lies the universality of the work for the community. A pop song has measurable value through affording the same consumable product to everyone who attends to it, and thereby has no lasting value and no universality owing to the thought control intentionally exerted in order to induce consumption; the community becomes a crowd with the same attitudes and attributes, humanity being lost in de-individuation, ultimately de-humanization; there is no communication between members of the crowd, only hypnotic self-focus. A truly artistic work of music offers an individualized experience for each person in attendance, inviting not only internalization of what is heard but also inviting communication and exchange of views between those in attendance; expressions of personal valuation certainly, but also communal description and assembly of a common experience from a multiplicity of perceptions. For the commercial work, the money is the reward and the equation follows Marx in all particulars. For artistic work, the money has no value in relation to the experience which is transitory, focusing, communizing (much like life itself), and creates visually or mentally the visual or aural image of an object with dialectical relation to the subject(s) that behold it. This is more Hegel than Marx, and properly so; Marx’s project exists to free all from the bondage of valuation via use and exchange. In so doing, other spheres of activity, normally closed to all but the wealthiest individuals who can purchase leisure by saving time, open up to those who seek them. Whether in a capitalist or a socialist environment, the use-value of art is spiritual, not material, and judgments of value are not only contemporaneous, but trans-historical. The purpose of art is to create that which is beyond value and ask questions that go beyond answer; again, “Why.”
Marxist analysis of capitalist economic structure, in its ideal as well as actual form, addresses the negative moral and social result of assessing all things produced on the basis of capital gain. Art lies in a different place for him; as labour, artists can be assessed in the capitalist scheme but the actual value of the product, possessing a non-financially measurable use-value, lies outside of Marxist analysis, by his own observations. To the extent that a spirit exists or may be asserted, the dialectic returns to Hegel but need not follow his aesthetic model. Marx was quite correct in asserting that the dialectical result in Hegel begs the question in regard to the formation of a dialectical proof of the existence of God: God as a terminus, a magnet assumed for the sake of wholeness directing the destiny of the ultimate Subject. No such terminal point and no such belief is necessary to be human; whether God or spirit or consciousness or communal values, an answer to “Why” is far less important to being human than asking the question itself. By asking the question, human beings are brought together. When brought together, exchange of subjectivities takes place whose goal has no specific object but reinforces the value of the subject in its individuality and communality. Were this not the case, artistic activity would have long since ceased.
Artistic reality has nothing to do with economic reality. The need for a work such as Beethoven’s Op. 131 cannot be measured in financial terms and cannot be compared economically to other of his late quartets through any form of income measurement or marketing success. Art has no price and price is inhibiting to artistic endeavor. The two polarities, these two opposites combine not at all, ironically, or through utter coincidence, absolute accident. Economic appeal has to do with the physical necessities of life or our perception of them. Artistic appeal has to do with the spiritual necessities that we either perceive dimly or not at all. Physical necessity lasts a few seconds and disappears; succeeded by other physical necessities but all equally perishable. Spiritual necessities persist throughout time, hardly ever disappearing but resurfacing within new work and re-emerging as itself but seen or heard with fresh eyes and ears. Economic activities require exchange, use, sale; artistic activities cannot be bought or sold but, rather, shared.
These notions flow from dialectical logic and the purpose of that logic is to arrive at truth. Truth may find support empiricism, but, as Hegel says, mere sense perception only yields pieces of data that can only be unified through the subject, which brings context and progression to the motion of the logic. In art, truth lies in the question, and the ability of the question to persist through a work expresses a work’s endurance.
Mit gierger Hand nach Schätzen gräbt
Und froh ist, wenn er Regenwürmer findet!
The cruelty of art is that only a very small elite can attain the level of technical ability so that their talent can be effectively used. A host of imitators, glory-seeking pedants, academics who conflate security with ability, entrepreneurs who make small profits pandering to everyman and everywoman who wants to grab an intimation of intellectual glory proliferate throughout societies. Those who do not possess talent or don’t possess it in sufficient quality try to secure a place in some kind of bureaucracy where they can fasten themselves onto the art world as or in service of culture vultures. These are the unfortunate parasites who take up space; they are not inconsequential since they consume resources necessary to sustain the truly talented; literal parasitic activity. Whether they are aware of their inferior ability or not, they are a danger to truth and art. Like copies of the Mona Lisa printed on placemats or doilies, they make parodies of the art of others, creating nothing and reducing appreciation for what is true by flooding the art world with what is spurious.
The defense of the inept is to demand a list of qualities, a checklist for what is real art. Once made by fearful pedants, the less-than artists either attack lists of any kind, taking refuge in post-modern subjectivity and semantic argumentation, or show that they too have attained all these objectives, however pathetically, and so are artistically valid. The truth is: no one who makes inferior work is unaware of its inferiority, and no one who possesses a developed talent in a high degree is unaware of the quality of what they produce. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that Wagenseil was not the equal of Beethoven; only a dilettante with a commercial background could discuss the music of Michael Gordon in the same conversation with the music of Helmut Lachenmann. Education in any fine art is geared toward recognizing these differences just as the ethical basis of education is to assist us in recognizing the “better angels” within ourselves. This is as true for artists as it is for those who appreciate what the arts have to offer.
Let us not spend too much time on this assertion. Grant that talent exists, that talent is rare, that recognition of talent need not be public and irrefutable in its time period, that egalitarian notions, particularly those sponsored directly from the capitalist system or institutionally motivated through self-congratulatory public relations techniques over-value their assets (that is, in order to raise money also), and that talent, once awakened and developed, becomes driven to create and, consciously or unconsciously, pose the “Why” for themselves and for others. The desire to possess talent, to claim it, to fail at developing talent, to competitively deny recognition to those who possess talent or have none illustrates the existence of a Subject and also an Object that can be observed. Granted these notions, the talent as Object can be recognized within a Subject by itself as well as by others and, dialectically, Subjects can indeed evaluate themselves and others with regard to the success of what has been created. No personal attributes attach to this: a thoroughly repellent person may yet possess and know that he or she possesses extraordinary talent, pushing him or herself to the front of any column and hurl calumnies upon other highly talented competitors; equally, a fine human being may stay well in the background and let their work have what destiny it will. The talent is as much outside its possessor as inside.
Commodity art and the so-called serious artist who strives to be “accessible,” to be “liked” (not loved; that would bring him or her far too close to the beholder), to “give the public what it wants,” are only one form of the inferiority that can affect the real value and mission of true art. They point out the road most traveled where the going is easy and, while the rewards are minimal, they are at least predictable. In addition there are those who aim to tackle huge philosophical and social problems in their work; in fact, the aims are avowedly higher and more lofty than any other aspirations. Articles are written and research performed by scholars that discuss, critique, and valorize the principles that lie behind the art work. But the emperor (that is, the philosopher, the social activist, the do-gooder) is naked, boney, and shriveled. The weight of the words written by the composers and scholars crush the art work. The critiques written by John Cage are far more vital than most of his works, the best of which can be counted easily on any human beings digits. Michael Pisaro’s notions of time, while actually quite simple when stripped of the polysyllabic vocabulary, are bearable when read or discussed; in concert, a musical prison of stultifying aspect prevails. Pauline Oliveros has founded a kind of music making and so-called “deep listening” that recreates a form of narcosis ideal for aging baby-boomer hippies who can still fit into their jeans and smoke dope, but want to have something “arty” to groove on. These and other examples of simple to play, impossible to want to hear work thrives only on the composer and his or her immediate circle of friends who strike an anti-establishment pose with a slight under-pinning of half-digested philosophy; in other words, avant-garde kitsch.
Alarmingly, a whole school of composing predicated on the “appearance” of music has developed; that is, the attraction of visually interesting scores that create unique notations (often a result of working with computer software specializing in the creation of visual images and not sound). The composers to whom I refer do not know what the sound content of their work will be and are content, even ecstatic, to impose their design art upon (often highly talented) performers who must then adapt to these shapes and signs, essentially interpreting and improvising something that may correspond to what is on the page. These composers are not at all concerned with sound, except insofar as an image may stimulate a performer to do something. This kind of activity does have a social import, but not the one the composer intended. The performers are forced to come to terms with the rubric the composer has placed on them; to learn not a new way of thinking about music but a whole new way of thinking about the composer him or herself. Thus the work does not and cannot attempt to reflect the tradition of music but only the composers image: cultural narcissism where the performers are not artists but a mirror. Listeners are then subjected to a performance in which they are invited not to remain themselves but to hear the reflected sound-image of the composers musical “face” only, thereby stripping the listeners of their identity as well as the performers. The composer is the high priest of……nothing. The sound is secondary to the appearance, the performers to the composers intention, the audience hardly needs to be present. The result takes Xenakis’s critique of total serialism to the nth degree, the performance experience not even generating an imperfect realization of what a composer thought.  All that is present is the refusal to hear, to choose, to commit. If the composer cannot commit to an idea of sound, which is after all the foundation of the art of music, then no commitment or intention, no matter how virtuosic or heroically executed, can even put a drop of worth into the vast emptiness of this form of “composing.” In both this and the previous case, even a worm is over-stating the value of that for which these gold-seekers settle.
Ein Teil von jener Kraft
Die stets das Böse will und stets das Gute schafft.
The force of negation yields new areas of speculation, of understanding, and of art. Capitalism drives itself logically forward to its own destruction—both in Marx’s idealized form as well as through Marx’s thoroughly documented oppression of the working class—but the eventual result Marx foresees is the liberating force of socialism. The path to this end contains much misfortune, as Marx himself documents and the history of revolution from 1848 onwards tragically displays; yet even the reality, falling far short of socialism as it does, shows a movement in the direction of a yearning for social justice and equality. While the end of capitalism has yet to take place and governments attempt to “fix” capitalism through social half-measures, the inexorability of capitalism’s decline and Marx’s perspicacity (along with Rosa Luxemburg’s analysis and refinement) in identifying capitalism’s means of attempting to right itself remain as correct and pertinent today as they were when first made.
Negation in artistic matters is essential; the old has its influence and then must be swept away and recast. The history of the practice of an art constantly renews the artist and forms the basis of an artistic education. The talented artist seeks to discover as much as possible regarding the past, not in order to repeat it but in order not to repeat it; that is, to negate and overcome it. This is labour but not labour for gain in measurable ways. Spiritual and cultural values are not based upon common measures and use or exchange has different equivalences from one person to another. The essence of exchange and use values in artistic creation and perception is as unequal as the distribution of talent; the success of an artist is as immeasurable immediately as the magnitude of talent when it first makes an appearance. I am not reckoning in terms of greatness and genius, though these concepts may enter the picture.
Let it also be said, for those not versed in the ways of dialectic, that negation does not destroy but rather clarifies sensuous perception, placing what is observed into a relation with a subject outside of that which is perceived. The reckoning builds a new, rational, subjective but determinable entity capable of further observation. This is only to say that what is created must then be observed, in light of artistic history, of the present realities of sound, of the technology of the medium and its history, by the artist progressively as the materials to be used clarify and arrive. This process is easy to observe in all arts.
***Digression on the dialectic of artistic endeavour
Interesting to behold, the artistic creative process consists of dialectical relationships between 1) an artist, 2) where necessary, intermediary artists who perform and interpret an artist’s work (actors, performing musicians, construction workers executing a work of architecture), and 3) those who behold the work. The interaction of these subjectivities and the objects they produce depending on purpose, create a continuity over an historical period dependent upon the “reach” a work has with regard to artists, performers, and beholders beyond the immediate time in which a work was created. These elements and this continuity may be expressed in terms of: INTENTION, EXECUTION, INFLUENCE. Any work of art created for any purpose whatever involves these aspects in the transmission of negation and synthesis throughout the dialectical process. Measurable talent is required no matter what kind of art is created.
Beyond talent and training, the artist manifests intention. On the part of the artist, Intention is neutral, and also direct and indirect: direct intention as a conscious endowment on the part of the artist; indirect insofar as other intentionality, permissible and impermissible by the artist, including pure accident may be present. Indirect intentions are typically identified by someone other than the artist, such as an entrepreneur using quotes of Beethoven’s Symphony V, mvt. 1 in a soup commercial, and may occur with or without the artist’s consent. Even more complicated was the association with the head motive of that movement with Allied victory in World War II. In the present study, indirect intention is an endowment from without, external to the artistic intention; that is, a determination, even if complicit, after the creation of a work. From this, the artist’s intention steers a work, even in the conceptual phase, toward an object, whether through intermediaries or directly to a group of beholders.
What are these intentions for an artist? Intention is not a clean category, the possibility of overlap between one category and another not merely possible but entirely unavoidable. In fact, these categories have a dialectic within them that ultimately moves from one intention to another with considerable fluidity; the actual result of intention, equally, may vary or even contradict an artist’s avowed (or concealed) direct intention. The categories of direct intention, in no particular order of temporal succession, may be represented as goals, enumerated as follows:
To apply talent to the highest degree; this may be limited by the time required to create as well as the real talent an artist possesses. There is no reason to assume that the creator of a telephone ringtone or of a string quartet intends anything but the best that time permits.
To receive acclaim, in whatever measure, for the work created; the audience for this acclaim is not important. In essence, there is no particular audience for any work of art because, despite probabilities of interest, no artist entirely controls the factors that determine the diffusion of their work.
To receive a sense of artistic satisfaction; relative to talent, any artist desires to be satisfied with the result of their work, that satisfaction being measurable less in a sense of accomplishment than in the accumulation of experience for future projects.
To receive financial compensation commensurate with their effort; for certain works, this could be a paramount concern and measurable according to Marxian strictures. Using the ringtone and string quartet examples, a ringtone composer would expect compensation well beyond effort and cost of distribution; a composer of a string quartet could have no such expectations, financial reward being more a function of customary levels within different societies.
To answer artistic questions generated by previous work and experience; this may effectually become indirect with commercially driven work and of paramount importance in endeavour that aims more into the work than outward. Ultimately, however, this intention impacts the overall issue of general meaning in a work, at least as it affects the artist’s sense of purpose in the context of the art itself. The generalization of this category concerns the artistic contribution to the history of the art in question.
In all these cases, the intention has internal and external aspects. The more the intention impacts the work itself as opposed to its reception, the less material goals affect intention and drive the material and form through which the work is transmitted. Again, this says nothing regarding the potential quality of the work in question, either within the framework of the intention itself or the eventuality of the work. A thoroughly unsuccessful work with commercial intent has no greater or lesser chance of being an acceptable work of real artistic merit than a completely successful commercial work. Intention concerns the “for whom” a work is created regarding goals and aspirations; the “commercial success” through excerpting and “snippeting” takes nothing away from Beethoven’s Symphony V, mvt. I, demonstrating only that political and commercial interests are aware that music contains the possibility of powerful symbolism, regardless of meaning from the standpoint of the composer. The direct and indirect intentions, really internal and external, may be in conflict but they do not nullify each other. If that were so, no music of Wagner could ever be performed since 1945, and that music intended the exact symbolism for which it has been associated ever since.
The area of Execution does not pertain to all arts. While bad print can harm a novel or poem, a poorly lit gallery can render a painting or a sculpture difficult to perceive, these arts do not, strictly speaking, depend on an executant for the very existence of the work itself; the converse is equally true: a poor poem will not be improved by being embossed in gold leaf. Music, regardless of media, theatre, and dance all require execution in multiple aspects of performance that are of equal artistic value to the artist who creates the art work to be produced. In that transmission to a public is involved, Execution adds a new and significant social aspect to artistic enterprise. The instrumental musician adds talent and, among the most talented performers, interpretation of their own to what was composed. If electronic, the performance aspect has less mediation but the quality of diffusion, clarity of sound, and appropriateness of the performance environment act in much the same manner for interpretation. Along these same lines, there is something to be said for a publisher or printer who takes pains over the appearance of what they produce that can foster or detract from the artistic object. Similarly, a committed displayer of painting and sculpture can be of great assistance to the projection of a work and assisting viewers to grasp the artist’s intention in the best possible way. These aspects do not rise to the level of artistry that an actor, singer or instrumentalist, lighting designer, costume maker, set designer, stage director, or music conductor needs to possess. The difference lies in this: there is no accident but mainly professional experience and imagination in publishing and exhibiting; as such, the learning of the principles of these professions is within the capabilities of most people, quality often having to do with the availability of financial resources that may correspond to produce a certain level of reproduction. The executant function in theatre, dance, and music, however, fall directly into the artist category and, as such, have intention engaged in their functioning as well. The same categories of intention as described above pertain to these artists.
To return to the newness of this category, the phase of Execution assists in demonstrating the dialectical progression from subjective to objective polarities and, at the same, time illustrate the social foundations of art in the clearest possible manner. Art is not produced in a vacuum; art for art’s sake has no need to be shown, read, or performed. Art is produced for…others. In the case of a book of poems, the audience receives the work directly; when spoken aloud the effect may be enhanced, especially if the poet is speaking, in which case an intermediary enhances things. But this is not necessary for the poem to exist at all. In Marxist terms, the labour of the poet becomes labour for the reader, although this is not immediately apparent at first. In musical performance, the labour process manifests itself clearly as a progression from the artist/composer to the artist/performer to the listener. In this model, there is a transmission from subject to object three times and, because the audience is self-contained, the possibility of interaction between listeners and any of the other artists not only adds the possibility of a reciprocal subjectivity but also reveals another level of artistry: that of the audience as more or less talented observers of each phase of the artistic experience.
This transmission from subject to object and back again several times further distinguishes artistic endeavor from conventional labour processes. Commercial artistic productions deny this circuitry, and necessarily since the exchange and use values here correspond directly to any other labour process discussed by Marx. Where the intention either is not or cannot be financial gain, the exchange of energy that takes place in this labour transfer empowers artistic growth, motivating all involved not to greater financial gain but to move toward greater depth in the exploration, the challenging of each artist’s reserve of talent. This includes the audience, since the audience that gains within its own subjectivity in an artistic presentation, regardless of whether or not any member of this audience communicates with the artist behind the stage or on it, gains in insight and experience so that they enhance their talent as audience members individually and collectively. This leads to the phase of Influence in which a work, as published, displayed, or transmitted in performance, gains expression and scope, entering a cultural milieu that may be of transitory or iconic value. And in this phase of the artistic process, increasing separation between commercial use and artistic creation takes place: where the difference between the questions “Why” and “How much” takes place.
Influence reflects back onto intention through identification with the principal artistic goal. In this area, commercial motivation yields direct results and, barring an iconic jingle that lasts for a number of commercial seasons (the “Jolly Green Giant” tune, the Gillette razor theme, etc.), conforms to a particular advertising campaign. The appropriation of non-copyright-covered material from serious endeavors (an “animated” Mona Lisa, the above-mentioned Beethoven Symphony V example, etc.) reflects upon the taste and commercial intention of the advertiser (to attract a “high-brow” or “cultured” audience) and not upon the intentions of the original artist. Unless the artist directly aims for commercial success and works toward a mass audience in a genre for which a mass audience already exists, it is rare for works that do not aim primarily for financial gain to attain commercial success. Even so, the success must be a part of what is aimed for, part and parcel of the materials and the structure and instrumentality of the work; without a significant amount of intention in the area of popular success, the necessary commercial forces (public relations, agencies, record companies, etc.) will not be engaged.
Commercial success, of course, influences the commercially intent artists and, as indicated above, conforms in all respects to the Marxian economic model. They sell and success or failure to sell their product is the only valid measure of their worth. Compensation is based upon well-understood models with well-understood compensation structures. The purpose belongs less to the artist and far more to the employer, the capitalist enterprise that commands the product, be it an advertising agency, a hotel chain, a greeting card firm, etc.; intention concerns only the corporation or firm that pays for the work. The intention, thereby, belongs to the capitalist with success or failure being based upon their judgment. Speculation is confined to “staying ahead of the curve” or “anticipating the market,” success being measured in terms of historical sales performance internally and against the competition; in short, totally rational and comprehensible in Marxist terms. Labour is measured, therefore, in conventional use- and exchange-values, the “audience” simply being the consumers whose expenditure makes up the measurement of success. Everyone knows what they are getting, the intention being always to increase consumption and therefore production.
Other-intended works have a speculative nature; there is no certainty of success, no matter what the level of talent of the creative artist. The other-intended work is presented, essentially without preamble, to observers who have specifically chosen—never mind if the purpose of the observation was not any single work—to be in a particular place or environment in which observation of this kind takes place. The observer has come to the art work to be influenced, without knowing the precise nature of the work in question; there can be no other reason than a desire beyond financial gain on all parties involved in the presentation for this transaction to take place. And the transaction is one of consciousness, of object turning into subject, of the dialectical reconceptualization that takes place when artist and interested observers (along with attendant executant/artists as need be) come together for an artistic experience. All parties are asking the same question: again, “Why?” The question is asked dialectically, externalized and then re-internalized, moving between art creators and art observers. They are all performing labour. The audience performs the labour of internalization for the purpose of being influenced, changed, brought to a different understanding of self and the world in relation to “Why?” Labour, in fact, is the primary element that separates commodity art from real artistic work: commodity art (the motivational poster, the pleasant MUZAK, the pop music concert, the comedy skit, greeting card poetry, consciously or unconsciously composed) accompanies labour and is, effectually speaking as art, consumed absent-mindedly, like potato chips while watching TV; true art presents the beholder with tasks to be performed that are both individually and universally determined—El Greco’s Crucifixion exists on many levels which can be experience separately, in tandem, or all at once, and each observer adds their own relationship to the accumulated (centuries old) labour of discovery. When I say that we know the difference between work of lesser and greater quality, I am asserting that we all at least have access to the knowledge that we are performing labour and that labour is to bring the work into our own range of experience—shared with other subjectivities—from which a dialogue results, spoken or unspoken, that, in turn, yields meaning and adds new subjectivity to the work itself. The labour thus performed contributes to, supports, and reflects the observing subjects, the work itself, and the work in the context of its historical perspective. All this is only to say that the labour adds cultural weight only to those works capable of generating labour in those who experience it.
A cycle of labour is created. This cycle eliminates the alienation of labour since labour is the means through which communication takes place; far from being alienated from any member of the dialectic engaged in this process, artistic activity makes practitioners of all who participate. This participation exists outside of economic concerns that may be involved: the inflated wages of an orchestra, the excessive cost of an art gallery as opposed to the miserable wages paid to employees and guards, the politics of so-called “art administration” (really, art castration) that valorizes what it believes it can sell; all of this may exist but the art work remains. Though the wealthy may “purchase” a work and deny access to it, the work itself possesses its own value and virtue—whether seen or heard or not, it retains the potential to cause labour (to move, to anger, to excite, to confuse) those who behold it just as a human being is a human being whether they are free or imprisoned. The politics of the orchestra cannot erase the impact, value, and demand of Beethoven’s Symphonie Nr. 7 or Lachenmann’s Tanzsuite mit Deutschlandlied. These works call for our attention, and our effort to take them in.
The greatest single distinction between work intended for financial (i.e., Marxian commercial) compensation and artwork that focuses inward on itself as well as outward to a specified or unspecified audience (that is to say, presented for interpretation or not requiring such presentation) concerns the demand that labour be performed on the part of the beholder of the artwork. Commercial advertising operates on the conscious and unconscious: a TV commercial need not be directly identified because repetition assures knowledge of its content; motel art and MUZAK has success almost in inverse proportion to how much it is even noticed. Real artwork cannot be consumed in this manner. The phases of perception and assimilation are much the same as meeting a person for the first, second, etc. times, each requiring work, patience, assertion, and a measure of suspension of ingrained attitudes in order to be successful. In essence, all experiences on the part of the beholder are successful simply as a result of being experienced: the amount of presence is endowed by the beholder and they receive in large part through their willingness to participate. Quality assessments are part of this process, although again the more discussable these evaluations are the more the beholder gains. Perhaps most important of all is the reciprocity of the labour cycle that takes place; an enactment of the dialectical process itself where the beholder’s ideas transform to an object addressable by the artist and, as appropriate, executant artists. Professional criticism may enter the picture, but the entrepreneurial aspects of this adulterate and even confound this aspect of critique. The often unnoticed or unrecognized dialogue that takes place over years (even) between artist(s) and audience represents an object to be ingested, essentially thusly negated, by the artist(s), which in turn may (or decisively may not) influence their own thinking.
Taking the above factors into account, the amount of money involved need not and usually does not represent an outcome that has an artistic effect. When financial compensation does become an issue, the result is most often deleterious to the artist and can undermine the artist’s practice through the creation of an inartistic direction of focus. A work that, for one reason or another, becomes a “hit” in the non-commercial world says nothing about the artist themselves but, rather, more about some social aspect that a community or society encounters that such a work identifies, articulates, or espouses. The danger lies in the attraction of this success, the desire to repeat and recapture it: in short, the artist’s desire, fed by various commercial concerns on the sidelines, to convert a public and possibly artistic success into a commodity or brand. Artist “branding” of this kind represents the single most destructive trait an artist may aim for and also the single most artistically destructive element in the growth and development of young artists in any field. The primary motivation of material—be it financial or in fame—success taking over from artistic growth and development has usually proven to be the graveyard of artist’s talent.
The arrival of material success to a true artist usually has little affect on the nature and content of their work, although it can almost equally suppress or stimulate their output. For a composer or a performer, recognition may increase greatly the number of performances in which their work may appear without necessarily permitting time to write or learn new works. Picasso was criticized for capitalizing on his fame by increasing his output enormously, especially with regard to multiple versions of the same subject. In the first case, the distraction of success may be difficult to balance with the need to continue to create; indeed, in music and theatre, this is a constant balancing act for composers and performers alike. When an artist possesses the talent of a Picasso, fecundity would be an indication of great scope in imagination; speed and ability do not nullify quality, even if a commercial component is involved. There can be no doubt that neither Picasso, nor Mozart, nor Goethe, nor Shakespeare, nor any true artist intended to market their trash as though it were genuine. Moreover, there is a randomness to fame and fortune that history often does not rectify. The notion of historical importance changes depending as much on the emotive viewpoint of the times (as expressed in the general media) and the desire of scholars to re-evaluate, re-define, or re-invigorate the work of their discipline, often with little regard for or faith in the notion of artistic value. This can lead to false comparatives (Mozart v. Haydn, da Vinci v. Titiano, etc.) and investigative approaches that focus on a scholar’s identity rather than the work of an artist.
Does this imply or even demand that only certain material content can be considered as worthy of artistic treatment, that only certain stylistic approaches possess sufficient provocation to make real art? There is no justifiable basis for this historically, although there are indications that mere repetition within an existing status quo has far less appeal—calls for less labour, the material of the work having been already performed by other artists and other observers in a more authentic way. But a mere lack of breaking new ground, whatever that might entail, does not exclude a work or an artist from the authenticity a true work of art should possess. Helmut Lachenmann’s three-fold formulation (expanded beyond composition of music to all arts) of art as reflection of art in history and society, as the invention of new or newness within the media of the art, and as experientially permitting artistic impressions—whether as images and sounds, forms and structures, and/or analogous projection—to come to, arrive in the artist may be the most dialectically authentic expression of not only what the artist goes through but also the dialectical syntax for the work to be accomplished by executants and observers. Through these processes, art that addresses those issues, the spiritual use-values that drive artists and beholders and also keeps a community and a society self-aware, self-critical, and participatory. All art that strives in this manner—and make no mistake, real art does strive; it is not furniture nor meaningless solipsism nor kitsch, whether familiar or avant garde—serves a social purpose that radiates outward from the artist and through the community, ultimately returning to the artist as a stimulus to perform more labour for the same purpose. The labour thus performed demands further labour from the artist so that beholders may continue to perform their labour.
The talented artist, whether a conservative or avant-gardist, brings technique and imagination to bear in such a way that all three areas described above are addressed. The difference between a JS Bach, a KPE Bach, and a Pachelbel are manifest and evident far beyond the platitudinous notions retrogressive style and summation of a praxis. The quality of Bach’s imagination showed not only consummate craftsmanship but also the challenge of imbuing process with immense power and subtlety far beyond any expectations and even perceptual capability. Against this, the lesser efforts of his son and the still less impressive work of an immediate precursor may be of historical interest of an arid kind, but clearly not of the standard of the old master. In a work like Die Kunst der Fuge, Bach demands the utmost attention (labour) to follow the later variants and new forms of fugue that appear, as well as to stay abreast of the transformation (not in chronological order) of one subject into another. The contemplation is inner, immediate, and individuating, inviting introspection probably in silent contemplation for long after a performance. This is the work Bach demands. Just a few years later, FJ Haydn presents an entirely new set of issues. He invents, perfects, and then undermines a new and dynamic form, constantly asking new questions of it, testing it, stretching it as far as he can, and making us follow each new work with great care, noting similarities and differences, seeing how flexible the sonata principle is in his hands. The labour is different from that demanded by JS Bach, external more than internal, comparative more than contemplative, more vertical than horizontal, more associative socially and connected with the time in which he lived rather than other-worldly. The richness of these artists, so close in time yet so different in sound ideal and method, demonstrates clearly that these artists both in their own ways address the question of “Why” through means both individual to themselves and individuating to their auditors; the labour tasks are different and the use-values of each also different, but they simply approach the question from different points of view and reflect differing trends in where music had been and what music had become.
Scholarly research has cluttered salient issues almost to the point of idiocy. The different stylistic issues, so easy to list but so meaningless when applied as categories, may make acceptable program notes but tell us nothing about the experience of being an artist or being an observer of art. Most pernicious is the tendency to cite aesthetic purposes without investigating what those experiences entail. Nothing is more confusing that the notion of “pleasing” an audience, such as has been ascribed to most composers of music throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. This has often been equated to writing to the taste of an audience and the attempt to “make them happy” and thereby enhance the financial value of the artist. The act of “pleasing” applied to the patron who, in many cases was demanding exactly the kind of labour—demanding it—that I have just discussed. This set a true aesthetic standard within a given style: that pleasing meant challenging and that the challenge—the labour demanded—could grow with each new work by composers working during that time. Because art addresses all of the faculties—emotion, intellect, the body, personal experience, memory—and that pleasing means placing all of them in operation and making them work for no other purpose than the exercise of those powers in the service of the “Why.” The exchange value can be measured in individual labour power, as each listener engages all of themselves to take on what has been presented; the use value is the spiritual currency of enlightenment, individually received and communally shared. This is pleasure of an entirely different order than the common, the commercial, or mere sensuous satisfaction. There is no clearer distinction regarding the nature of true artistic work between the spurious and the genuine, than the “currency” in which use- and exchange-values are computed.
Christopher Caudwell’s contribution to socialist literature provided and still provides an acute analysis of the character of capitalist culture and the effect capitalist society has had on the development of the capacity for critical judgment of this society. As applied to the topic of aesthetics in general, his polemic “Beauty” from the second volume of Essays on a Dying Culture, Caudwell begins to address the vexed issue of artistic purpose and function, beginning with the Keatsian formulation of the essential nature of beauty and constructing a critique of the nature of beauty in a capitalist world. When taken with the direct aesthetic critique of Adorno and Horkheimer, with particular emphasis on the commercialization and commodification of all of the arts, the absence of any social purpose beyond sales and marketing in the art world, and the negative consequences thereof, are abundantly clear in their analysis. Commodification and mass production inevitably addresses consumption, in essence the sole measure of value in any society in which utility takes priority over inner value. The use of language at all in the discussion of art has become so vexed that semantics governs most discussion, avant garde anti-art being as much an endeavour to reduce discussion to helpless solipsism. The upshot: if art serves no purpose, it will not make money; hence, it has no social value. Additionally, in the absence of social value, artistic endeavour is an anti-value in and of itself; no beauty or truth can be defined, hence seeking for such is fruitless and, worse still, elitist. Beauty becomes reducible to inarticulateness, the process of producing art being a matter of artistic vanity, not a legitimate search of any kind.
This reductio ad absurdum argumentation, however, plays into the hands of the capitalist. Everything not capable of being mass-produced and consumed has no reason to exist except as a vanity on the part of the artist. Buying into the anti-art critique of meaningless meaning, no need to produce art that cannot be easily defined, reproduced and sold can be found. Thus, only the factory and the playpen are necessary. No truth, no social meaning, no “higher purpose” can be identified and so need not be sought. The avant garde and the record producer go hand in hand, the one to his or her immediate circle of friends, the other to his or her focus group surveys. Who even knows that artistic production even exists? Does anyone sense that something socially necessary is missing; that artistic labour possesses value that has not been determined as yet; that the relationship between the production of art and skilled labour has yet to be adequately explained or explored?
Marx’s relative silence in this discussion, the primary aspects of art (for him, literature and poetry) being compensated by the act itself, is largely consistent with the still largely aristocratic world of the production of all art throughout its history and certainly the greater part of the 19th century. Patronage, whether from the bourgeois or the nobility remained the primary form of survival for any artist of nearly any kind. For example, Brahms and Dvorak represent, perhaps, musicians who lived from the earnings of their work through commissions, royalties and publication, and performances. Their existences were rather tenuous for all that, composers almost inevitably doing far less well than performers; assessment of and compensation for technical skill is always a more objective matter than assessment of imaginative ability. Performers bring objectivity to musical judgment. Compositional explorations eventually run into critical evaluation, moving from aristocratic patron to the bourgeois critic who informs the bourgeoisie itself (and eventually also the patron, confused by the plethora of “styles”) as to what is “good” and “moral,” or “dangerous,” ugly, and “bad.” The notion of taste takes over from truth, arbitrated not by the open mind but by what will sell newspapers, ending up with what will sell an artistic product itself. Why else would Wagner found a journal? To hedge his bets, of course, reaping the rewards of a fabulous patron while singing his own praises (to the detriment of his rivals) in his self-reported “news.” The journalism of the 19th century, clearly superior in its musical preparation and thus more careful in its judgments eventually gives way to the salesmanship of the 20th century newspaper critic, sharpening his or her word skills (as Frank Zappa noted) on the artistic efforts of anything new or different. Taste is what can be explained in a few sentences.
Left out by Caudwell but clearly implied by Horkheimer and Adorno is the immensely labour-saving role of the critic in bourgeois capitalist society. The critic functions as artistic baby food. Read so you do not have to decide for yourself. Don’t spend money listening to things you might not be able to digest. The effect on composers who wish to “make a living” at writing music is clear: please the critics and you will be a successful musical manufacturer. The reward is not only journalistic success but a reasonable piece of the pie. The popular entertainer and rock star will make far more money, but without the artistic “prestige” of the “concert composer.” Of course, the two artificial worlds are hardly divided at all, the skill level of either one being far less different or complicated than most people realize. Hence, the “cross-over artist” who reaps money and prestige. The labour of artistic creation has no place in this discussion. Any search for beauty or truth is “romantic,” “sentimental,” or certainly an elitist illusion. Talent is the talent to make money; not the talent of synthetic reasoning and creative quest.
There have been some efforts, mainly in Western European societies though also quite vital in Latin America and even the US, at investigating and seeking out Caudwell’s notion of a socially responsible kind of artistic philosophy. The aberrant manifestation of Socialist Realism has nothing to do with this; as a use-value, this kind of artwork has meaning only in a totalitarian context where all must serve the purpose of propagandizing the movement. The question of individuation within a society, and also of artistic work as a kind of specialized skilled labour type, forms an at times direct, at other times ephemeral aspect of socialist inquiry. The validity and purpose of artists in society is the question needing to be resolved, as well as the meaning of art in an environment where both freedom and equality co-exist.
Much less clear in any socialist literature is what the “better” purpose of art may be or the real nature of a socialist art product. No serious commentator in this area implies that merely not following a directly commercial path will result in music, or painting, or poetry in a more viable artistic product qualitatively, nor even an “answer” to the idea of capitalist, commodified art in general. Nor is a direct critique of the labour process as applied to artistic creation analyzed in such a way that a clear distinction can be made between the capitalist and socialist technical means of production. Cardew’s tragically trivial effort in Stockhausen Serves Imperialism only demonstrates the futility of totalitarian prescriptive commands, resulting in pandering to a public for mainly political rather than mainly economic rewards. The artistic results are no less unfortunate than commercial Kitsch-art, the tragicomedy of the artists’ own self-humiliation giving a touch of shame that the capitalist artist does not experience. In fact, the tension between avant garde political meaning and avant garde artistic directions manifest an area of conflict both degrading to art and artist on the one hand, and culturally shallow mocking of the present on the other. These extremities, polemical and irrational opposites, only serve to manifest a desire to create (or destroy) the connection between the social realm of community and the creative drive of the artist. Must this gap, and its attendant antagonisms, exist at all?
Despite some remarkable insights (and like many philosophical investigations of aesthetic issues), Caudwell’s effort to find a proletarian core central to a work being socialist cannot achieve success, largely because the nature of that which is bourgeois or that which is proletarian rests less on the isolation of essential elements, one way or the other, than on intent and purpose, as discussed above. The desire to make an artistic contribution may succeed or fail, depending on the talent of the artists; the works that succeed, however, do so because a community of labour is formed by them, within the time period of the work’s creation and, often, well-beyond that. Equally, the desire to create a commodity reflects the intent to be part of the economic process, alienating the labour of the beholder and participating within the Marxian formulation of use and exchange. In this sense, the analysis of Walter Benjamin, Max Horkheimer, and Theodor Adorno comes much closer to the mark: art does not sell. Put another way, the narcosis of advertising or provoking sentiment and “intimations” on the part of a deliberately-addressed mass audience (film music consumed in the same manner as popcorn sold at the cinema) has the result of creating an absorbing, non-thinking environment in which emotion defeats thought; a non-catharsis of mass feeling replaces the labour of attention, internalization, relation, and reflection. Mass media is and can only be propaganda; whether pedaled by a government or a corporation (if a difference between the two can be said to exist anymore), the design is to satisfy consumer wants. There is no exaggeration in the idea that art—in this case, the non-bourgeois intent of art—intends to dissatisfy the beholder so that it is shared, not consumed. To create art that is not bourgeois means just this. The pandering to a “proletarian” audience—the simplification of the listening task by importing popular music directly and undigested (or, better, un-reflected) into a work with the purpose of bringing “proletarian values” into the concert hall—only insults the proletariat and actually panders to the consumers of such works so that they can “feel” more proletarian.
But cannot there be some music, some art, some dance that is simply for nothing more than pleasure? Is there anything wrong with simple emotional fulfillment and release? Cannot there be a time when we just consume and relax? Indeed there is nothing wrong with this. But let us not pretend that simply because we like something, enjoy it a lot, feel drawn to it, that it is addressing our artistic needs. The mind and spirit grows fat like the body when all we do is consume. That which has been categorized as bourgeois is the desire to reduce the labour of art to a minimum; to make, essentially, art easier to consume. That is not the purpose of art but, rather, the purpose of popular culture. Popular culture tells us that everything will be OK; our emotions will be calmed, we will get the girl or boy of our dreams, the bad people will be captured and punished. Popular culture has no “Must” in an artistic sense. To be or remain popular, it “must” make money: that is, function as a use-value within the economy of a society. It does not intend and is not designed for the artistic purpose: to address “Why.”
Finally, and ultimately, art is not and can never be private property. Art functions as the labour of art and that labour is the task of all who interest themselves in the practice and purpose of art. The spiritual labour value of art represents the only domain that, in the purest, most absolute terms, cannot be owned.
Doch werdet ihr nie Herz zu Herzen schaffen,
Wenn es euch nicht von Herzen geht.
No thought lives in isolation from other thoughts that negate that thought. The need to subsist oneself does not contradict the desire to express oneself artistically; the hope to achieve fame can exist quite easily beside a desire to push one’s art to the furthest limits one can envisage; the lack of recognition need not discourage any more than eliminate the existence of artistic value in a creator or an object; the desire for critical acclaim can accompany artistic aspirations that would render such acclaim practically impossible. Delusions aside, the realization of some intentions does not insure (or nullify, for that matter) the attainment of others. Some remain hopes or dreams that may never reach fulfillment. What remains is the work or, as with Faust, the “act.” For the trained artist, the distinction between the physical and mental aspects of creation can be hard to discern. Much like the desire to speak, the compulsion to create, whatever hopes the artist might have for its future, takes the form it must. “Must” represents the motivation that underlies creative work, regardless of any other factors; “Must” also may contradict less creative intentions or, in many documentable cases, failure to follow the demands of this imperative can lead even the finest artist afoul.
We have now arrived at the core aspects of the dialectic. The question is “Why;” this question is shared by everyone and everyone looks to answer it, either with commodities that are provided for the purpose, ready-made, as it were, by the institutions all human societies—largely authoritarian or (amounting to much the same thing) corporate capitalistic—have designed for the purpose of providing answers: religions, consumerism, cults of personality, strict dogmas and ideologies, etc. But these by themselves have not proven satisfactory. It’s not enough just to have a religious belief; magnificent structures have been constructed of enormous power, beauty, and elegance by all religions in the service of the system of beliefs each possesses; all involve music of considerable power also for the same purpose; the language of the texts involved contain moments of sublime poetry; and all of these aspects have proven to be much more than simply a means to overawe the “simple folk.” The magnitude of these creations burst the bounds of the beliefs, influencing not just their own communities but communities far beyond their own boundaries. The “Why” of religion finds answers that go well-beyond governance and control structures. “Why” need not be answered in a morally responsible way, or without the artist’s desire for financial gain. Despite the intolerable racism of Richard Wagner’s philosophy and the manner in which this philosophy animates his libretti, the influence of his musical work provides the best model of orchestration and timbre blend—even fore-shadowing the kind of processes one associates with electronic sound synthesis—cannot be ignored; even when despised, the influence remains. Inside the “Why” lies the artistic “Must.” The question is forever asked and the artist responds because that is what at artist must do. And we—humanity—look to art to answer these questions individually. Whatever ideologies may coerce or cajole large groups to think or do, the individual looks to art to reflect his or her self, as they are individually, as they think and do. This investigation, by artist and beholder alike, forms the cycle of labour that reflects and describes and, in the truest Hegelian sense, unifies and individualizes, synthesizes through negation.
Romantische Gespenster kennt ihr nur allein;
Ein echt Gespenst auch klassich hat’s zu sein.
The inevitable moment arrives when speculative logic gives way to pure speculation and assertion. The philosopher attempts to cover the speculative with asserted logic but no one is fooled; not Hegel’s proof of the primacy of poetry, nor the assertion of the temporal significance of theatre over other arts by Schopenhauer, nor the personalized preference of Nietzsche for music possess logically incontrovertible substance. Contemporary media uses political and religious ideologies, filtered through other media, to analyze popular trends in order to espouse and promote commercially-based work based upon sales and public relations; none of which equates to even a hint of truth beyond market results. Artists assert on the basis of experience: the young just try on clothes, often without the realization that the clothes are hand-me-downs or seconds; the fearful propose in the hope that either their craft will carry them through or that they will strike things lucky, forgetting that technique and invention work together and never separately; but the experienced artist, of any age, asserts what is needed, what must be done, what is inevitable, not necessarily in every detail but in terms of structure, organization, and the evolving possibilities for future work. The assertion may take the form of expression in language or through the work of art only. Assertion is the essence of an artwork, the property that any work contains that communicates to most beholders as commitment (by itself or through executants) and to other artists as a challenge to the intellect and spirit.
Let the laws be written and the rules laid down: these may or may not have universal, possibly eternal, value, but they do reflect what has been done, illustrate how the artist controls and manipulates the technology within which they operate, and create the conditions under which new works appear as soon as present works are completed.
In some way, art must move beyond something that has been done. I have heard it said that there is nothing new under the sun; that originality is a mirage; that there is no use in even thinking along these lines. An artist must address or, with Lachenmann, reflect what has been done through their own lens and, through the medium of origination, risk their imagination and their pretense to universality from within their own means of expression and technical ability. Failure to do this is the equivalent of having nothing to say. The tragedy of John Cage was that he indeed had nothing to say musically; the tragedy for his listeners was that he nevertheless continued to keep on “saying” despite his artistic inability. The true artist has something to say and MUST say it.
The artist contains the past and, as time goes on, focuses increasingly on negating this past in order to continue to grow and develop. The student lives in the present in the hopes of meeting the future. The artist lives in the past in order to invent the future.
Emotion and personal identity have no conscious place in the process of creation. There is no putting of one’s self into a work because that is entirely unavoidable. To question, to show courage in the face of easy answers, to avoid the path to success, not to create masterworks but to place oneself in danger of failure, to demand the finest quality of thought and imagination and to refuse to compromise; the artist shows his or her character through showing these features and, through them, there is no question that every human feature will indeed be present.
The artist is responsible to the art and to the artists who create it, living and dead. The art exists abstractly and concretely for the artist: abstractly as shape and structure, concretely in more personal, even subliminal ways. An artist may not close him- or herself off from any influences and must open themselves up; must be receptive and at the same time discriminating. Criticism is based upon what an artist needs for their own art, and not what is good or bad for everyone. My dislike of the symphonies of Tchaikovsky have nothing to do with whether his symphonies are good or not, or whether Tchaikovsky is a great, good, or bad composer; I do not find anything in those works that contain information for me at this time. On the other hand, I cannot reject out of hand and forever the work of any artist; the day may come when I will have to change my mind and I must be prepared to do so.
Der Tod erwünscht, das Leben mir verhasst
I write and write, can coldly assess what I’ve written and make corrections and improvements, can hear and sing every line, can see and feel the effort to perform what I have done, and then go on to the next work to be written, and write and write again. Working on two pieces at once poses no problems, switching back and forth or focusing on one at a time, whatever suits the needs or demands of the moment. A commission or a suggestion presents an entire entity to me, sometimes in complete detail, sometimes complete but veiled, sometimes only an outline or a sense of overlaid shapes that interact and interpenetrate. And all of this goes on as if accomplished by someone outside of me who possesses an equal allotment of emotion and intellect, applying them with ruthless rationality and purpose but also with passion and compassion, abandon and intention, calculated back to front and set out as if by automatic writing. This is a person outside of myself, complete and composed, unflappable and channeling material dispassionately; myself and not me. Either an artificial intelligence living inside me or a force beyond my control drives this entity, this impersonal yet entirely personal geist. This is the person that was trained and whom I trained myself to become. I see this person looking back at me in the mirror when I shave but I would not recognize him on the street if I met him.
Better than anyone I can understand the desire to be no longer alive, the desire to be invisible and unaware. To the person who is not a composer, who feels the pain that has been directed at me and that I have inflicted, who has to sit quietly in the silence of his days and watch the composer work and work without being able to stop him or even slow him down, who asks the composer why must you keep going when the soul has been eaten away and my sorrow has reached its limits and surpassed them. Where does the will to continue come from when the desire to end the physical reality swells up so powerfully at times that only the thinnest of threads keeps me connected to the world? I am a prisoner of the composer who, rather than threatening me with lethal weapons, cruelly denies me access to the tools, the kit that would end this agony and loneliness.
I was a romantic once. I would reflect on the desire to write sometimes and deny it, refuse to write or just be lazy and ignore the training, act as though a bar or two were a triumph when my mind would just not settle down and I was too lazy to focus myself. I tortured myself in various ways in the name of producing “intimations,” the very failings Nietzsche so rightly condemned. I was weak and let things flow out of me in dribs and drabs, and, in truth, was afraid to let go and let what was inside just come out.
Life will beat one down; we don’t die for nothing and everyone dies in pain of some kind. Life beat me down, every year more, and not just additive over time but with greater and greater violence and force. At the same time, the romanticism left me, I had no use for sentiment, I gained somewhat in confidence but at least accepted that, whatever the failings there might be in my art, I could only be what I was and that I should fail exactly as the person I am; I don’t have any reason to hide or wish to disappear. Life will make me disappear and if my work “forks no lightning,” then so be it. Why be affected about what one does? Dress it up in whatever clothes one wants, drench it with eau de cologne, “Du bleibst doch immer was du bist.” There is no shame in this, and even if there were, it is one’s own shame, and one could, were one to so-choose, stop in the name of the prevention of further noise pollution.
I once said to a woman who later committed suicide that adversity may be capable of building character but it is equally capable of destroying it. She wrote this down and put it on her mirror; someone found it in her room, her body being found in the basement hanging from a joist. I agree with the remark I made to her, and I am desperately sorry I said it to her and that she wrote it down. It has been true in equal measures for me. As my desire to live has been attacked and undermined by the events of my life, and of my ability to keep writing, to keep going, to develop has continued unabated. I resist self-repetition successfully while writing at an ever-accelerating pace and with greater accuracy all the time. My external personality shows one who has been terrorized, who has been called upon to show courage a few too many times and whose confidence in responding courageously has declined as a result. The front still holds but the careful observer can see a look in the eyes that could be mistaken for rage but is, in fact, the desperation of the fear that, perhaps, this is the time the front will break; the breach has not occurred as yet but the danger is present at all times and increasing because what constitutes an attack is far less than had been the case previously. Now which is the character that has been built and which the one torn down? Is continuing to create in the face of increasing despair a sign of decadent self-indulgence or strength in the face of great odds? When death is all that will stop the artistic machinery, what virtues may the creative processes be said to possess? Perhaps the confrontation is of the subject within the object and the object within the subject: the true existential dialectic of being alive that has no answer except that of the internal ego and the external value of the work produced. This would be the dialectic of Hegel and Marx taken together: the dialectical progress to the spirit as negated by the dialectic of the material world, with the distinction as to which is which constantly morphing from one side to the other. In unity, there is division, and the multiplicity shows the many roads to perception and speculation. But inside one body, the yearning can only be the termination of this dialogical torment.
Adorno, Theodor and Horkheimer, Max. The Dialectics of Enlightenment.
Adorno, Theodor. “Music and Language” from Quasi una Fantasia.
Arendt, Hannah. The Origins of Totalitarianism
Benjamin, Walter. Illuminations
Calinescu, Mattei. The Five Faces of Modernity.
Canetti, Elias. Crowds and Power.
Hegel, GWF. The Phenomenology of Mind.
Heidegger, M. Being and Time
Kant, I. The Critique of Pure Reason
_______________. The Critique of Practical Reason
Marx, Karl. Das Kapital (3 vols.)
_______________. 1844 Manuscripts.
Lachenmann, Helmut. “Philosophy of Composition?” from Identity and Difference: Essays on Music, Language, and Time. Ghent: Leuven University Press, 2004
__________________. Musik als existentielle Erfahrung.
Raunig, Gerald. Art and Revolution.
Xenakis, Iannis, “Stochastic and Serial Music,” Gravesno Blätter, v. 2, 1951.
 Wittgenstein, both willingly and unwillingly, has become the apostle-nominee for many who do not comprehend the pain from within which the Tractus was conceived. In Philosophical Investigations, the relativity and impotence of logic lies beneath his analysis of meaning; but does this also mean that truth itself has no value, no presence?
 I am a western artist and know only what the scholar teaches of other cultures. But I doubt that the nature of what I am writing here is affected by time or cultural location. Would the master drummer, the court musician of China, the actor, dancer, or performer in Imperial Japan be any less an artist, any less the best at what they do, any less chosen by talent than talented artists of the west, now and in the past?
 For the fullest possible discussion of this, see “Preface” and opening sections of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Mind and also Marx’s gloss of the Phenomenology, which contains the essence of his departure from Hegel.
 cf Mattei Calinescu, The Five Faces of Modernity. There is very little difference between the technical and actual production of this kind of “art” and the kitsch of a flea market or craft fair. At least the latter has a foundation on folk traditions and folk art, with no pretention of meaning beyond itself. Avant-garde kitsch has the same desire to produce “intimations” among its adherents as Nietzsche ascribed to Wagner and his followers.
 I am not considering the so-called new complexity composers whose works are performable and even approximations may have some validity despite the rigidity of the subdivisions of beat used.
 Iannis Xenakis, “Stochastic and Serial Music,” Gravesno Blätter, v. 2, 1951. Xenakis’s critique here primarily concerns the perception and conception of structure in light of the difficulty of integral serialism. In the music described above, the detail also becomes compromised, rendering any structural features utterly opaque except for the crudest possible formal articulation or, more typically, that which an ensemble of fine and sensitive performers imposes through improvisation.
 Hegel’s dialectical logic can involve more than two aspects in the construction of a dialectical “triad.”
 The “Case” of Wagner here introduces an interesting contradictory aspect to the intention of manifesting talent and that of answering artistic questions. In Wagner’s music, the power of the music frequently maps in histrionic terms onto the answering of philosophical questions of the darkest and most dubious kind. The “genius” of the music itself, in order to persist beyond the intended meaning of a work in question, must cause the listener to overlook the literal intention of the composer in the latter category.
 The Mona Lisa was for years displayed in the middle of a gallery in the Louvre with protective glass that hindered perception and mad viewing difficult. Moreover, the light in the gallery reflected off the glass in such a way as to make the viewing even more difficult. The circumstances of da Vinci’s The Last Supper in Milano were, of course, even worse. No doubt attaches to the artistic value of these two works on the basis of their exhibition.
 All too frequently in commercial music, observation does not take place at all; rather, the purpose, intention, and goal is physically and fiscally motivational: to move around and to buy. This makes the audience receptors: participants in the economic process but excluded from any interaction, except in terms of purchasing power and popularity of the commercial artist.
 The Louis Andriessen circumstances, above-mentioned, are lesser examples of this. For Andriessen, the appropriation of popular instrumentation and groupings serves a social purpose, albeit directed at a target audience of bourgeoisie and possible a few working class types. The Bang on a Can artists of the “downtown” New York scene are much more media savvy, using market surveys and invariably amplifying everything they do to appeal to the egghead, aging rock ‘n rollers, which also characterizes many of the composers. They are much closer to the model described, but the true lackeys of this kind of artwork are composers such as John Adams and Philip Glass, particularly Adams. Adams’s work uses topical themes and never strains the perceptual capacity of a musical comedy audience. This is ersatz art that aims far lower and demeans much more than the works addressed in the critique of popular music by Adorno, Horkheimer, and Benjamin.
 A composer in this world has competing brands to choose from but, like the capitalist marketplace, the similarities far outweigh any perceived differences. The Glass Company, John Adams, Inc., and the Reich Organization differ only in degree from the Andriessen Corporation. Subsidiaries such as Bang on a Can take elements of more than one firm and call the slight differences a new “style.” If played consecutively, works from any of these “re-arrangers” will quickly become indistinguishable, just as Chevrolet and Ford, General Mills and Post, Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola mirror each other both in their qualities and defects. The model is the corporate, capitalist model. Lukas Foss coined the term “Egghead Disco” regarding minimalism. The corporate art of the capitalist world of fashion can be termed “Egghead Consumer Feelgood Culture;” a longer name for a deeper, more invidious development.
 Invariably, incalculable elements enter the picture, from a completely unexpected object to interpretive aspects with regard to a known work. A new painting may be experienced many times in different ways by the same subject with gain on every occasion; an older play may clearly be affected by the quality and interpretation of the actors performing it.
 Olin Downes notoriously responded to complaints by Arnold Schönberg, regarding Downes’s antagonistic criticism of that composer’s work, with the pathetic but essentially truthful statement that negative criticism (essentially either creating or pandering to assumed beliefs on the part of an audience) sold newspapers and not thoughtful or positive evaluations. The contrast with the writing of Eduard Hanslick and Robert Schumann could not be greater.
 Another highly interesting example of this is the as yet uninvestigated relationship between Paul Hindemith’s radical revisions of almost all of his work pre-1925 through the lens of this evolved compositional and theoretical approach and any relationship these changes might have had to audience viewpoints. I do not mean to suggest that Hindemith would have or did make revisions to be “more appealing;” far from it. Hindemith may, in fact, have made these revisions in spite of audience response, being far more interested in the systemic ramifications he had discovered in his harmonic theory.
 The most incendiary example of this is the plagiarism by Osvaldo Golijov, who may be accorded a light amount of sympathy owing to the fact that his music “borrows” liberally from popular music from a variety of countries and also that he employs “assistants” who write a great deal of music (especially percussion) that is attributed to him. More tragic is the example of composers who experience success, identify a formula within their work, and follow that formula hoping for similar success. The usual result is diminished creativity and also, to their chagrin, perhaps, proportionately decreasing fame and fortune. In either case, the creative aspect to their output dies with the impulse to self-replicate.
 cf Lachenmann, Helmut. “Philosophy of Composition?” from Identity and Difference: Essays on Music, Language, and Time. Ghent: Leuven University Press, 2004
 cf Frank Zappa’s keynote address to the ASUC National Convention in Columbus, Ohio in 1976.
 cf Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism with regard to the nature of movements and their attraction.
 Again, the works of Louis Andriessen and his disciples that dress up proletarian formats and apply “classical” techniques only create a high-brow commodity for consumption by the upper bourgeoisie; Andriessen represents, perhaps, the ultimate in bourgeois commodity-art making and his followers, especially the American branch, aim to make egghead disco: consumable art for the aging hipster who wants both a whiff of quasi-intellectualism in the process of being “feelingful.”
 Wellington’s Victory of Beethoven and the Kaisermarsch of Wagner are notable cases in point. Occasional work, however, in and of itself need not eliminate artistic value. Handel’s Water Music and, in fact, much of his output demonstrates this equally notably.
 In this and in many other statements, Cage was a trickster and, inevitably, a liar. This in and of itself doesn’t matter, except that he believed his lies and convinced many other people that he was telling the truth.
 Inter-art influences abound in this manner. The word “inspiration” gets used in these cases, but the truth is that certain shapes and structures “speak” across artistic boundaries in ways that impinge on shapes and structures within all arts. A poet may find a composer’s approaches congenial to their thinking and architecture; a musician may find a poet’s imagery stimulates analogous musical material.