On Classical Standards in Music
Objective standards are essential to any form of art, and I've noticed more and more people explicitly acknowledging that. Many of those people, however, are under the illusion that the standards of classical western art are somewhat good - which is especially wrong when it comes to music.
Why is an adoption of classic standards specially wrong when it comes to music? Western classicism is based on art made by Christians, following Christian values, and representing a Christian world-view. However, while the influence of Christianity was restricted to the choice of content in other types of art, it shaped the style of classical music itself. In other words, while classical painting is just well done painting that either portrays suffering or unrealistic heroism, classical music sacrifices the music itself to a bad ideal.
The first thing to keep in mind about classical music is that it sacrifices rhythm. Yes, notes have a specific duration, with a specific rhythmic relationship to one another, but there aren't any prominent instruments with low harmonic content whose purpose is specifically to set some sort of groove. Why? Because grooves make your body move, and Christian thought abhors that. To castrate rhythm is to make music for ghosts, not men.
The second thing to keep in mind is that it sacrifices tension. Music represents feeling, and feelings range from the pleasant, calm and beautiful, to the strange, anxious and chaotic, and musical intervals are the building blocks with which to represent them. By frowning upon many intervals, chord extensions and tonalities - the tritone and the minor second were largely considered to be "the devil's music" - classical music attempts to limit the scope of human emotion, because it is made by people who think some feelings are inherently bad. Yes, classical composers use some tense intervals, and some of them manage to use tension in amazing ways - but that is the equivalent of a muslim "painter" who draws beautiful patterns because he isn't allowed to paint entities.
Lastly, classical music aims at collectivism. Yes, there are many pieces written for quartets and quintets, but the apex of classical music is the orchestra - a highly bureaucratic, and creatively dead environment. Music, as all art, is profoundly individual. A musician is someone who identifies a feeling, and is able to reproduce it through sounds. A bureaucrat who can move their fingers in specific ways that someone else wrote is not a musician, yet that's exactly what orchestras look for. The aim of classical music is not the expression of the individual, but the blending of them into a collective entity.
The goal here is not to deny the greatness of composers like Paganini, Rachmaninoff or Mozart. They were absolute musical geniuses, much like Isaac Newton was a genius in the realm of physics, despite being a Christian. The point is showing that they were geniuses in spite of the limitations of classical music - the equivalent of a painter that manages to be great despite not being allowed to use certain colors or shapes.
There are many other mistakes with the classical approach to art, and to music specifically, but going over them would require a longer article. Just keep in mind that it wasn't modern thought that killed classical thought, and it wasn't modern art that killed classical art - they collapsed because of their own standard's failures, and were replaced by thought and art that rejected standards. A rational artist must look for new, proper standards on which to base his work - not try to bring back to life the bad standards that caused this artistic chaos in the first place.
- March 14th, 2020