Re: Quick guide to postmodernism (was: Re: Gibson (was: Re: Computer chicken))

Subject: Re: Quick guide to postmodernism (was: Re: Gibson (was: Re: Computer chicken))
From: Eliot Handelman (
Date: Mon Oct 03 2005 - 18:14:05 EDT

Dennis Bathory-Kitsz wrote:

>At 10:14 PM 10/2/05 -0700, Eliot Handelman wrote:
>>The hypothesis was, "children who are presented with 12-tone music,
>>rather than 'tonal' music,
>>will grow up with an intense affinity for 12-tone music, preferring it
>>to 'tonal' music."
>To me that's very different from what you said previously:
>>>12-toners that if you grew up with 12-tone music, it would be to you
>>>what Elvis was to
>>>other people, instinctual, basic, a "language" of expression that gets
>>>you right there.
>Maybe you meant the same, but I read different. Webern got me, but Elvis
>never did.

The thing I said at the top is just a little clearer. I haven't changed
my views between

I was using "elvis" as an example of music that many people connect with
or even directly. In fact I'd just been listening to "don't be cruel"
and I was admiring
the way in which elvis' singing seemed completely absorbed in the
emotional matter,
with subtlety and with no irony at all.

 Of course some people respond deeply to Webern: you give yourself as an
Why shouldn't I believe you?


>>It's not that no one likes 12-tone music. It's just that at one time
>>12-tone music was going to replace all other music -- remember that?
>No. I wasn't in academia.

This happened way before you were born, Dennis. Let's think of it like
this. Bach knew that
his style was "old-fashioned" long before he died. In fact the Bach
style never took hold again.
The mozart style was replaced, and so on, all the way through to the
postmodern era.

People didn't care as much about the past as we do. This is why there's
an impoverishment of
material from the ancient world, why we have 4 surviving greek
playwrights, with most of their
material missing. They used to wrap fish in the market with handwritten
masses. They didn't care! It was old junk!

"Progressive" means, more or less, "we don't care about the old junk --
we have our own stuff."

Marinetti, the fascist theorist (and very funny writer) proposed that
Italy fund its war machine
by selling all of its art to the rest of the world. "We don't need it,"
he said, "because we
have the native genius to replensih the stock."

12-tone music, the last modernism, was not about figuring out how to
write music that
could fit in on the kalvos and damien show. It was about HOW MUSIC HAS

Schoenberg wrote, "I have discovered something that will ensure the
supremacy of
german music for the next 100 years." I'm quoting this here because
maybe some people
on the list never heard of this. He was referring to the "method of
composing with 12 tones."

Schoenberg looked DOWN on pop music of his time -- it was "trivial," as he
said in "structural functions." What counted was what followed from

"Talent creates because it can ... but genius creates because of
NECESSITY." (A. Schoenberg)

Notice I'm not saying ONE thing about the quality of S's music here. I'm
speaking only
of where he thought what he was doing fit in. It diodn't "fit in"
anywhere but that didn't bother
him because he thought he was creating the future of music, at least for
the next 100 years.

To the postmodern mind, this kind of individually assumed responsibility
seems like
a kind of fascism. The listener might prefer the music of the pygmy
molino festival. We're
not going up, we're spreading out.

 Ok, or do you need more?

>>"Bad-sounding" meant "oh you're not advanced enough" or "you
>>have to grow up with
>>it," "this will be the next 100 years of music", etc,

>>whereas the
>>probability is that anybody who went for
>>this music found something they liked it in it right away, or they were
>>intrigued by it,
>>or they found it unusual, or they wanted to be more advanced than their
>>friends or parents, or
>>whatever. They were not drawn in because they understood that's how the
>>metanarrative went,
>>and how, in consequence of which, their proclivities were to be disposed.
>You seem to continue to assert that music has something to do with what is
>said about it.
I don't see how you drew this conclusion. From NB onwards, I was
as I've often suggested before, that our appreciation of music is mostly

The quotes above that were intended as vocalizations of feelings some
people might have,
expressed as a kind of social conscience.

>But I can never tell when your tongue is in your cheek. You started the
>fork with this QGtPM subject above by saying, among other things...
>>Schoenberg was modern. Glass is postmodern. One has an inner system of
>>secret codes. The
>>other put his system on the surface.
>...and ...
>>In the
>>future, we won;t have to
>>worry about this: the distinctions between "the right art" and "the
>>wrong art" will be crystal clear.
> very definitive terms. I don't believe either composer has a system
>'on the surface' because the surface is visible (audible) to those who can
>see (hear) through information. But that's just me. I can't prove it, nor
>do I care.
I think most people are aware that there's a lot of repetition in Glass'

What makes 12-tone 12-tone is a TONE ROW -- the "secret code."

The theory is that you "unconsciously" will be affected by the subtle
forces of
the tone row in 12-tone music.

We can easily test the hypothesis that most people can easily learn to
identify minimal music.

We can just as easily test the hypothesis "most, some, or no listeners
can tell whether
a piece has a tone row or not." I would think no one can tell by
listening. You have to study the score
to figure this out. If the piece is by Milton, all bets are off.

The distinction I'm making is that the identifying characteristics of
minimalism are
very easily learned. This, partly, is what makes it postmodern.

The characteristic of 12-tone music is that "the organziational factors
are due to the
buried extertions of underlying row." This is what I call "a secret
code." The row can;t be
heard directly, but muist be there for good reasons.

YOu may say, "but 12-tone music" is not really a style as such, in the
way that minmalism
is a style, to which I would agree.

However, in one case, the techgnical characteristics ARE available at
the surface. You can,
in principle, figure out that Glass does 2+3+4+5 type rhythms. You
CANNOT, in princple,
figure out the technocal relation between pitch and duration in a milton
babbitt piece, or
any that I know of. John Cage was unable to find the row in one of
Milton's pieces
that he analyzed in some review, or he came up with the wrong row.

Now this does NOT have anything to do with whether Bathory Kitsz likes
webern or not,
ok? Have we got that clear? I'm trying to make a distinction between
"inner" and
"outer" in view of the organzing technical principles of a piece of
music. And I'm
sayiong that in PM there is a trend towards subverting an "inner" core
that cannot
be direct;y encountered.

I'm just trying to help a few people here understand the problems of
because very little has been written about music and postmodernism
that's at all
musically informed. You can truist what I have to say or not.


>>I am saying this: :
>>The notion that you can train people to like 12-tone music is to me
>Does your orwellian include, say, artichokes, Catholicism, table manners,
>boot camp, liverworst, Little League, and neckties? There's some pretty
>successful training there.

Ok, Dennis, I'm going to have to have you read 1984 before we proceed.
In Orwell's world,
the only operant factor is POWER. Man is intrinsically empty -- his
freedom of thought cvomes from language.
If there's no word for "free", for example, then man cannot have the
thought "I am not free." So what
the boys are doing is inventing a new language, called Newspeak, which
excludes words that
will make it possible for someone to think objectionable thoughts. The
object is control. At the end of
the book, the dispirited freethinking guy winds up in the cells of the
Thought Police. There he
undergoes retraining through a mixture of torture and relief until he is
able to
perceive that ALL truth is RELATIVE to whoever is in control. He then
gets to live for
another year at the expense of the state, after which he's shot with a
bullet to the back of his
head. The last sentence is, "he loved Big Brother." IT's a very
depressing story.

The underlying idea is that we should not allow our social world to
instigate parameters
on truth for us. Instead this must be individually accessible.

In one of the great moments of the book, Winston discovers the old
rhymes, "Oranges
and lemons say the bells of st. clemens," and he's overpowered by his
with the wealth of feeling tha these rhythms exert on him. Let each
discover one's own

-- eliot


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