Music vs. Noise

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Music versus Noise

Music become noise
Arnold Schoenberg

Stuffed with theological hubris as a kid I had a tendency to seek innate values in things: intrinsic values.
Don’t we all?
At least don’t most of us? Too many of us.

I thought God was intrinsically good. I thought life was intrinsically good. Christianity said that we were born bad, but didn’t we have Jesus? Like many a Christian, whatever the orthodoxy, in the face of the orthodoxy, I thought that man was intrinsically good.

Dissonance is our life in America.
Duke Ellington

When music ravished me, as it did, again and again, more than one kind, several kinds of music, I thought that music was intrinsically good. I thought that if you peeled these “things” down like an onion, when you couldn’t find any more onion you’ll still have a core: the good.

Music become noise is anonymous — music become noise has no form: sewage-water music in which music is dying.
Milan Kundera

I’m describing my former self: and, I bet, I’m describing a vast number of fellow living souls. (And even though I say my “former” self, I readily see that one never changes altogether. I remember a Nobel laureate saying of his mother, who had been an intimate of scientists, thinkers, all her adult life, accepted by them, a peer to a degree, that she would still cross herself or light a candle under certain circumstances.) (There are thinkers who aren’t bothered to have incompatible programs running at different times in their head, and there are thinkers who are.)

Anyway, I get to college. I hear the question asked, “What’s the difference between music and noise?” Immediately I’m sure that if you sit me down with a pencil and paper (and wait long enough) I’ll come up with good intrinsic distinctions: ones that would put me on a plane with Plato: that Plato would look up to. I’ll define music, I’ll define noise: by looking in my belly button.

Annoyed that I’d heard the question before thinking of it myself, I’m instantly annoyed even more by an answer someone was prompt with: Music is any arrangement of sounds that pleases one while one is pleased to attend to it; noise is any sound that interferes with what you’re doing, thinking … If you’re trying to concentrate on Pythagoras and Beethoven’s Seventh is interrupting you, then Beethoven’s Seventh is noise. (It was a long time ago: so I paraphrase.)

noise
thanx postconsumers

Let me tell you: that answer annoyed me most of all, annoyed me for years. That answer annoyed me all the more because it made a kind of sense. It was operational.

People take drugs. They hear their own nervous system. Maybe they see it as well. Man, do they love their own circuitry. They think they’ve seen God. Looking into your belly button, whatever you see is so beautiful: belly lint. Beautiful.


thanx news-medical

That’s all I’ll say for openers. but I expect to be back, adding more, casually, scrapbook fashion, at my leisure. Send your comments: I may post them.


a few reminder notes:

the need for kids at puberty to scream Me, Me, Me at amplified volume: KNOWING that it will annoy the adults: people with things to concentrate on. (What does a kid have to concentrate on but his hormones?)

cars whose woofers you can feel through the ground like a seismic event

the bass pulse from next door that’s been annoying me since the guy got home an hour and a half ago

Music Quotes

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About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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