Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Postmodern theory

I was a little nervous at the start of my first classical music theory class Tuesday night. The instructor Brian, while a very pleasant guy, gave us a heaping helping of John Cage and then a definition of music: "sound moving through time." This is a bunch of postmodern bullshit.

Postmodernism says that certain high-status individuals are in the position to redefine all the arts - theatre, music, painting, etc. any way they wish. And anybody who doesn't go along with the redefinition is old-fashioned or hostile to innovation, or basically a stupid slob.

That's why what Mac Wellman does, a rejection of theatre, is considered theater.

That's why paintings by Jackson Pollock are revered.

That's why music is defined as "sound moving through time."

Postmodernism denigrates skills, which take years to develop and which can be mastered by nobodies, and instead looks to impish mind-fuck conceptualism, which can only be promoted successfully by the very well-connected. The art acquires cachet through the importance of the people who created it - and their patrons. It's all about celebrity, finally. That's what Andy Warhol exploited in his work.

And as I've mentioned in my discussion of Mac Wellman's plays, another aspect of the elitism is the denigration of emotion. Because you certainly can't establish a hierarchy of good taste by appealing to what is common in all people - the same old stereotypical emotions - anger, lust, jealousy, anguish, affection, etc. Things that your gramma might relate to. Where's the cachet in enjoying something your gramma might relate to?

Or if you do appeal to emotion, you have to be extreme about it and shock and offend people. Which as I pointed out a few days ago, any oaf can do. But at least it will upset your gramma, thus proving it is the kewlest thing ever.

One of the really refreshing aspects of Tim Robbins' movie Cradle Will Rock is his disparagement of postmodernism and all its aspects. You can watch the entire movie - illegally I'm sure, here on Youtube.

At 1:27:00 we see Susan Sarandon, playing Mussolini's mistress Margherita Sarfatti, presenting a rich guy named Gray Mathers - who I assume is supposed to be a composite of various war profiteers - with Da Vinci's The Virgin and Child with St. Ann in exchange for helping to fund Mussolini's Ethiopian invasion. After Sarfatti makes him open the wrapped-up painting she says "you did not tell me what you feel... about the painting." He responds: "I love it, it's a masterpiece, it's a Da Vinci" and then he says, off-handedly, he'll just hang it over the fireplace.

Later on at 2:09:00 Mathers meets up with William Randolph Hearst and John D. Rockefeller, played amusingly by John Cusack. They are at a costume party dressed as French aristocracy (Robbins isn't always a master of subtlety.)

Rockefeller has just had Diego Rivera's mural destroyed because it contained an image of Lenin:
What in God's name were you expecting from a Communist? 
I wouldn't have had this problem with Picasso and Matisse. 
We control the future of art because we pay for the future of art. Appoint people to your museum boards who detest the Riveras of this world... 
Of course a handful of people saw this movie. Sigh.

Anyway back to my class - in spite of the unfortunate postmodern start, we got into some very useful stuff - he explained odd time signatures very well and even played two different versions of the Beatles "I'll Be Back" - one with 6/8 time, which Lennon complains he can't sing, and then the version they ultimately released, which was in 4/4 time.

I've delved into music theory a little in the past, but never studied it systematically. So I hadn't been aware of concepts like compound additive meter and hemiola. This is good stuff. I'm very glad I decided to take this course.