Re: Virtual Concerto

Subject: Re: Virtual Concerto
From: Eliot Handelman (
Date: Thu May 20 2004 - 23:04:00 EDT

Kevin Austin wrote:

> This is the opposite of the proposition made. Response to cultural
> stimulus is learned. I meet many people who think that tonality is
> 'natural'.

I don't think t. is 'natural' but its immense popularity,
historically, culturally, pop-culturally, film-musically,
elevator-musically etc., suggests that its structure
reflects dispositions that are enormously widespread. Not
everything else is equally learnable.

As to "response to cultural stimulus is learned," this
 is the ole "blank slate" theory which Pinker dismisses in his book on
the subject. This book has a chapter which argues that
contemporary music sucks precisely because it's
fueled by the "blank slate" theory, in opposition to
every other bit of evidence as to pre-wired dispositions,
leaving listeners yawning in the utopia of untrammeled

There's also a little problem about taste -- not everyone,
however well trained, can stand Mahler, for instance. And in
the great imaginative and angst-ridden worlds of early 20th C
musica seriosa, it seems a little irrelevant not to anticipate
"experientially identified" rather than "learned" response to
discursive, rather than brain-jacked, content. For instance,
Beckett makes direct sense if you've ever encountered the
kind of bleak reality he describes, in which nothing is
ever really learned anyway. Some people might
confuse this with high culture.

-- eliot

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