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Thread: Why do people get Rothko but not Stockhausen?

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    Default Why do people get Rothko but not Stockhausen?

    David Stubbs's new book "Fear of Music: Why People Get Rothko But Don't Get Stockhausen" was released a couple of weeks ago, and I know people were looking forward to it (I certainly was). Has anyone else read it yet? What do you reckon? Why do people seem more at ease with Rothko than with Stockhausen? Even if you haven't read the book you might be able to offer a few answers.

    I've written a review here: http://rougesfoam.blogspot.com/2009/...music-why.html and some more thoughts on the book's premise here: http://rougesfoam.blogspot.com/2009/...aesthetic.html

    Stubbs says the book is 'intended to tease and provoke further reflection, debate and disagreement rather than to settle any matter' (p.2). I don't think the matter's settled - so let's debate...

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    yeah saw this book... and i thought about this topic a while back too...

    Quote Originally Posted by zhao View Post
    other sound-artists I've talked to have sometimes complained that sound and music are not something the public and the (art) establishment, take nearly as seriously as visual art. music is entertainment for the most part, while "art" is deemed a more profound, significant, and indeed almost religious, experience.

    and it's true, only in recent years have sound been *kind of* taken seriously, with the popularity of artists like Christian Marclay. while famous observations such as "sculture is more suited for the medium of sound, because you can perceive 3 dimensions simultaneously; and with an object you have to walk around it" (who said that again?) have been uttered many years ago. so in this light perhaps the concerns of something like cubism can be easier realized with sound rather than collage or sculpture.

    would you agree that in general our societies and cultures seem to (unjustly, arbitrarily) privilege the eyes over the ears? and if you do, where do you think this prejudice comes from?

    my knowledge of western philosophy is limited, but i vaguely think this has something to do with the enlightenment and the materialism which followed -- sight would seem to be a more concrete measurement of the physical universe - after all seeing is believing, and sound is just so abstract, intangible, and ephemeral.

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    I'm not sure I get either of them.

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    It's less hassle to pretend, or try, to like visual art than aural art, because musical pieces develop over time, meaning you have to grin and bear a potentially unpleasant experience for longer.

    You don't need to sit through a protracted performance when looking at a painting, you only need to stand in front of it looking pensive for half a minute and you've done all the work that you 'need' to do.

    Another reason might be that ordered visual 'dissonance' is all around us in the urban landscape - by walking around central London and looking about yourself, you ceaselessly produce unusual combinations of shapes and colours. Ordered dissonant sound is also present, of course, but rarely beyond the brief repetition of a pneumatic drill or revving car. And so we are more habituated to the former than the latter.
    Last edited by mixed_biscuits; 05-05-2009 at 05:28 PM.

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    Also, Stockhausen serves imperialism.

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    well he also said 911 was a work of art so... i don't think his politics is so clear... to himself even

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    Quote Originally Posted by mixed_biscuits View Post
    You don't need to sit through a protracted performance when looking at a painting, you only need to stand in front of it looking pensive for half a minute and you've done all the work that you 'need' to do.
    nailed.

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    loving your blog rouge's!

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    Yeah mixed_biscuits about sitting through music - v good point, I said something similar in the review.

    I did think it was a bit odd for Stubbs to complain that experimental music and experimental art are weighed unevenly in the hearts and minds of the public as music and art are unevenly experienced by people.

    One of the latest ideas in the psychology of music is that with any music, the distinction between subject and object is much more blurred than with experiencing traditional art objects (paintings, sculptures). People often imagine versions of themselves reflected in or enacting the music, so with music the psychological stakes are higher. Hence why a record collection traditionally has more personal and social currency than a postcard collection.

    That's why I say that music is a socio-cultural ritual and not an art object. In a lot of 'world music' music is something you DO, not something you listen to. You sing it, perform it or dance to it. This was still the case in Western classical music up until the beginning of the nineteenth century, when suddenly music was an artistic object you contemplated in silent reverence - but the ritual still applies psychologically even if physical participation was diminished. The illusion that music is an autonomous object is a very recent one particular to our culture. Music is a different game to art - it involves and possesses us in a way that art doesn't.

    Great quote, zhao - if you remember who said it let me know! Maybe what I've written above answers what you asked - art and music come in through the eyes and ears but the reception is all in the mind (which has its own agendas); visual perception and sound perception are different tools that entail different cognitive processes, and are consequently mapped differently onto human requirements and behaviours.

    Just saw this: http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2009...music-children which would seem to offer a different analysis to Stubbs at least as far as 'new music' goes.

    Stockhausen does indeed serve imperialism. But Rothko serves imperialism more - these days reproductions of his pictures hang in Pizza Huts (oh, I'm sorry, 'Pasta Huts').
    Last edited by rouge's foam; 06-05-2009 at 12:22 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by zhao View Post
    well he also said 911 was a work of art so... i don't think his politics is so clear... to himself even
    Apparently he was misquoted on that, and was actually saying 9/11 was an example of lucifer at work.
    Not that that's without its looneyness...

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    I haven't read the book so I can't really comment on it, but the first thing I thought when I read the title was--eerrr, hello Kraftwerk => detroit techno => hip-hop.
    Stockhausen and other 'modernist' composers were hugely influential on early electronic and "urban" musics. I've heard all kinds of people talk about how mixtapes used to be circulated on the streets that had Stockhausen and that sort of thing on them. Lots of hip-hop artists talk about being influenced by European electronic innovators.

    So I think it's kind of silly to say people don't "get" Stockhausen. They've just already worked with it and responded to it and used his work as an influence without merely reproducing it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nomadthethird View Post
    I've heard all kinds of people talk about how mixtapes used to be circulated on the streets that had Stockhausen and that sort of thing on them
    id love to hear more about this if you're able to go into more detail, or know anyone who can tell you more

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    Quote Originally Posted by UFO over easy View Post
    id love to hear more about this if you're able to go into more detail, or know anyone who can tell you more
    Yeah, I'll ask my boyfriend, he's really, really, really into that stuff and knows more about it than I do...i think he has an account on here...

    There's probably stuff to be found through a simple amazon or google books search on the subject, too: there has to be a book about the influence of German electronic musicians on hip-hop and detroit techno...

    Edit: Anecdotally, I remember being on the Chinatown bus to D.C. once, and the guy across the aisle from me had headphones on so loudly I could hear his tape--and it was a mix or mashup of a bunch of cool German stuff like Kraftwerk and Connie Planck-ish stuff with hip-hop. My boyfriend and I started talking to him about liking that stuff and he said he used to MC and DJ and people would spin all kinds of German stuff in clubs (Bronx, I think he said) when he was young.
    Last edited by nomadthethird; 05-05-2009 at 11:27 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rouge's foam View Post
    stockhausen does indeed serve imperialism. But rothko serves imperialism more - these days reproductions of his pictures hang in pizza huts (oh, i'm sorry, 'pasta huts').
    Pizza Hut Macht Frei!
    Doin' the Lambeth Warp New: DISSENSUS - THE NOVEL - PM me your email address and I'll add you

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    Quote Originally Posted by josef k. View Post
    I'm not sure I get either of them.
    Yeah, I'm def in the same boat, and my impression is that the percentage of the population who would fully 'get' either or both is rather small, so the polemic seems a bit misplaced.

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