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The Discussion of Major and Minor Modes—Are we in danger of restricting our vision of what constitutes good music?—How many ways are there to compose?

 

 

 

I have been told that these thoughts might better be discussed on a brand new thread (rather than under the topic of “Major and Minor Modes interchangeability”). On that thread it was suggested that there are, in essence, two methods of composition. One method was to write a melody and add accompanying chords; the second was to conceive of specific chord progressions first, and then overlay the melodic content.

 

I would suggest that there are basically an almost infinite number of ways to write music, rather than two essential methods.  Most of the ways I am thinking of may or may not be facilitated by the traditional straightjacket thinking about chord progressions, or even the traditional notion of a melody accompanied by chords. 

 

Since we live in the 21st century now, we need not rely primarily on the techniques of the 19th or even 20th century.   The use of computers to compose and create music is mainstream now, and we can avail ourselves of the basic kinds of software that exist.  There is a nice book called “Music Theory for Computer Musicians,” which can help, and which also teaches the basic concepts of melody, harmony and rhythms, as well as the various modes, in relation to the techniques that are applicable to most standard composer software.  Even so, such books may be too closely tied to a traditional outlook, which is terribly out of date.   It might be very crucial for younger composers (or for all composers), who are involved in study, to be very careful in avoiding the taint that might come from too much immersion in stultifying exercises.  I cannot praise highly enough James L. McHard’s “The Future of Modern Music:  A Philosophical Exploration” which awoke me from what I would call my musico-metaphysical “dogmatic slumber.”

 

There are unlimited numbers of ways to begin composing which can free one from stultification.   If the goal is actually to create something new, and to rise above the tired and outmoded musical idioms of our age and Western civilization, then our desire to innovate and be original can know no bounds.   One can do, if one likes, the very opposite of what is commonly recommended.   A composer can (rather than simply composing a melody) take a huge block of sound that appears interesting (a large number of notes) and dump them into a series of tracks, the way a sculptor puts a quantity of clay on a table.   Then the musician can take certain notes out, discover latent rhythms and harmonies that already exist in within the mathematical constructs that make up all music.  This is by no means a random procedure, any more than the movements of the hands of the sculptor are random, though chance discoveries may occur which would be less likely with a traditional approach.   There is an interaction between the composer and the material, the mass of sound, which has a kind of life of its own.  And this is simply one idea, pioneered by composers like Xenakis, Penderecki, Stockhausen and Ligeti. 

 

One can do the exact opposite of what I outline above, and just explore the infinitesimal harmonics and overtone universe surrounding one single note, as Scelsi has done, following Tibetan and South Asian models.  Melodic content and harmony can evolve and develop from that exploration.  If you play the piano, or have a computer interface with a keyboard, you can improvise, not simply with the harmonies and the melodies and the chord structures, but with a pitch bend setting, that gives you unprecedented freedom from traditional tonal constraints.  All your improvisations can be recorded on your sound file, and even if out of 20 minutes of improvisation, you get one “beautiful” melodic – harmonic  event that last a few seconds, you may achieve more than you could in the performance of dozens of “exercises.”  You edit out and destroy what you don’t like, and keep the remainder.

 

Knowledge of the basics of chord progressions and traditional harmony are not without their use.  It helps to be able to create a variety of scales—not just Western, but also Indian, Japanese, Javanese, Chinese, African—in order to be able to juxtapose a variety of sound textures that can have original harmonic characteristics.  But above all, I would say the act of composition has priority in and of itself, above the study.   And the study is done, as a means to an end, not as an end in itself, as the acquisition of series of set procedures and lists of rules that keep one in a very, very small domain of sound possibilities.  As a general rule, one could posit a system whereby for every ten hours of actual compositional activity, there is one hour of study, and even that study is done with an eye to altering the rule, deliberately breaking the rule, to see if one can produce something that is original, in accordance with a contemporary theory of “sound-based composition.”

 

Even if one uses the traditional rules of chord progression as the basis of a composition, the software allows us a tremendous amount of freedom, with regard to systems of automation (which far from making a work sound mechanical, actually free the work up from boundedness and potential monotony).  In other words, the pitches can be bent on any instrument (call it portamento, if you like); tone glides can proceed as quickly and as slowly as one likes, within any individual melodic line, or as the broad harmony of a work—so that you have something much more dramatic and interesting than a standard modulation from major to minor, or from one key to another.   What I am discussing here is not, in any sense, “atonality” (a la Schoenberg, Webern or the young Boulez) but would better be termed an evolution of “polytonality.”  We can call it something more:  “multi-tonality” or “mega-tonality,” where the tonal quality of the work shifts into new and uncharted (and often delightful regions) which will always sound as new, or as familiar, as one likes—due to the extreme number of possibilities.

 

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Janet, I am gaining insight from almost every contribution made to this thread, and from none more than your recent post sharing the link to the Pygmy Water Drumming.  Thanks for posting that.  Your open-mindedness on what constitutes good music is quite inspiring and helps to further the discussion.  I think, Janet, there is some misunderstanding about the point I am trying to make and your post helps broaden the discussion. It runs in tandem with efforts I am trying to make to clarify my advocacy of the widest spectrum of sound being made available to the composer.

 

Janet, you said,

 

“I'll add in a link to a very "good" bit of music, IMO, played on one "instrument".  …  It doesn't get more primitive than this.”

 

I am not sure if the music you link to could be called “primitive” in all senses of the word, and I am not even sure what primitive means exactly, when judging music this kind of music.  We might ask:  Do Pygmies think it is “primitive?”  If the Pygmy water music is “primitive,” does that mean it is primitive in its own cultural context?  Is there other Pygmy music that is more “advanced,” in one way or another? I also don’t know what it  means to say the music is ‘played on one "instrument".’  I have trouble deciding whether water itself is one instrument or several.  Furthermore, in the recording, I am hearing voices, water, and something striking the water.  So one might say, there are a number of instruments here, especially if there are several voices (of children and adults), and several streams, pools, or columns of water being used, and one or more objects hitting the water.  I think it is very complex.  [If we talk about primitive music, I think we might have to say Gregorian chants are to be viewed as primitive, in their own historical context, since they are monophonic as compared with later Baroque polyphonic music, and they use only voice, whereas Baroque music uses instruments and voice.] 

 

I am not sure how we would frame a conversation about the alleged “primitiveness” of Pygmy water music compared with Handel’s water music.  Such a comparison might not make sense.  But the fact that you bring this music to our attention, in the context of this discussion, is extremely important.  I think it is important, because what Pygmy culture and what “Western culture” may have to offer each other (and the world), in the way of a synthesis, could be a great deal more than what either can offer the world alone.

 

 

What I am advocating is a forward movement in musical evolution that begins to transcend narrow cultural limits.  (I am not simply advocating for “more instruments” as opposed to “less instruments,” which is a very minor distinction within the larger scheme of the sound universe).  What I would like to see, and what I am arguing in favor of, is a musical universe (or a sound multiverse) that allows as normal the natural fusion of sounds from diverse cultures, traditions and previously separated national milieus.  For instance, Western orchestral music combined with the Pygmy Water Music (or some other genre of music previously considered “foreign” or primitive).  Alan Hovhaness, for instance, wrote, “And God Created Great Whales” for Orchestra and taped whale sounds.  Stockhausen, in “Hymnen,” combines various sounds and signals taken from all parts of the world, to create a sound tapestry which reflects the cultural diversity of the entire globe, with an emphasis on National Anthems the world over.  Without entering into a discussion about the merits or demerits of either work, I am suggesting that the wider availability of a greater variety of sounds, does now, and will even more so in future, help us enlarge out vision of what constitutes music.  I am speaking in favor of a world of enhanced sound dimensions, where we see the possibilities for musical works being created with reference to an almost infinite diversity of sound resources.  This includes not simply a larger multiplicity of instruments, but also wider cultural purview, which allows for African, Chinese, Indian (or any other musical means and modes) to become allowable or even common within the current Western framework.

 

I don’t believe I have any misunderstanding in this thread. It’s been rather predictable.
The definition of “primitive” I used here refers to using the most primary (essential) elements needed to create music.

Ondib Olmnilnlolm said:

 

Janet, I am gaining insight from almost every contribution made to this thread, and from none more than your recent post sharing the link to the Pygmy Water Drumming.  Thanks for posting that.  Your open-mindedness on what constitutes good music is quite inspiring and helps to further the discussion.  I think, Janet, there is some misunderstanding about the point I am trying to make and your post helps broaden the discussion. It runs in tandem with efforts I am trying to make to clarify my advocacy of the widest spectrum of sound being made available to the composer.

 

Janet, you said,

 

“I'll add in a link to a very "good" bit of music, IMO, played on one "instrument".  …  It doesn't get more primitive than this.”

 

I am not sure if the music you link to could be called “primitive” in all senses of the word, and I am not even sure what primitive means exactly, when judging music this kind of music.

Hello Janet, and Hello Roger (my message here is mainly response to, and in praise of things you two have said so far on this thread)

 

You said, Janet,

 

“I don’t believe I have any misunderstanding in this thread. It’s been rather predictable.”

 

So you are clearly stating you don’t believe you misunderstand the thread. I fully agree.  You seem to understand the essential purpose of this thread as well as anyone, or better than any one else who has discussed it.  In my last post, I was saying that it was precisely your discussion of (and  your posting of the link to) the Pygmy Water Drumming that has helped to elucidate the meaning of the thread, and its main purpose.   I hope you don’t think anyone is saying you are a person who has a poor understanding of what is being said.  I am saying the exact opposite. [Don’t feel you have to reply to any of this, because much of what I have to say is merely an affirmation of your contribution, and an elaboration of parts of it, rather than an argument, as such, to be responded to].

 

Now, it certainly is true that different participants in the thread, you and I included, all have different interpretations of the various aspects of the content of the discussion, but we would not be human if that were not the case.  What was extremely significant, I thought, was the light that your contribution shed on the broader point. You helped make it closer to being crystal clear.

 

You spoke about some aspects of the thread being “rather predictable,” and if that’s the case, I think that is a tribute to your ability to predict more than anything else.   There were interesting things said here that I could not have predicted, and that other members of the thread did not predict, or could not have predicted.  (Of course, we can’t know that, unless we consult actual written statements about what people might have predicted beforehand, were they so inclined to write anything down at all).  I will list a few aspects of the thread, which I think might not have been predicted, or might not have been predictable, by at least some members of the forum, in which case some of what has been said might be useful expanding our understanding of the nature of sound and music.

 

I doubt if anyone could have predicted, for instance that you would say what you did about Pygmy Water Drumming.  If I seem to overemphasize this point, it is because I genuinely do think this is a very significant issue. It is significant to me, personally.  I am extremely interested in African music, and the notion of fusing African music with Western orchestral sounds.  [I might post a link, to something I wrote a few years ago, in which I use solo African singing in the middle of a piece which would otherwise appear entirely Western—it’s called Variations on a Theme by Same Bruce, a composer and performer I know.  In another work, I intertwine Mozartian piano and orchestral rhythms and complex African Kalimba].  

 

Photo of a Kalimba

http://kalimbamagic.com/newsletters/newsletter4.08/newsletter4.08_a...

 

 

 

Of course, my own personal interests may really beside the point in this discussion. We are talking generally about music, the historical development of music—and the sound variety, harmonic variety and diversity of timbres, cultural elements and modes that can be expressed or used in one (or more) pieces of music.

 

I believe we can all think of precedents for these fusions of different cultural strands from different musical traditions.  I invite people to suggest examples, either from the modern era, or a more distant period of time. One of Bach’s innovations, for instance, was his deliberate blending of Germanic and Italian thematic material and methodology, in a unique and unprecedented way.  I would speculate that such amalgamations of elements from diverse cultures that were in proximity, but still very distant from one another—in terms of history, language and culture—could not have been so easy. The distinctions between French, Italian and Spanish Baroque music (on the one hand) and German and English Baroque music, on the other, were quite recognizable to the people of that day and time.  In our day, we face the prospect of fusion and integration of the most diverse traditions, which is coming about only piecemeal and very gradually.  Jazz, of course, represents the most successful product of blending of African musical strands and Western musical ideas, so far.  But the actual fusion of such diverse forms of expression as Pygmy Water Drumming or Singers in the Kenyan bush with Western orchestral sounds writ large, is something rare that may soon become a natural part of the development of universal musical languages.

 

Now you say, Janet, ‘The definition of “primitive” I used here refers to using the most primary (essential) elements needed to create music.’  Perhaps I was mistaken to emphasize the fact that definitions of “primitive” are subject to vigorous vetting and even dismissal amongst many anthropologists and students of culture.  That was not my main point, really.     I think what I could not predict, and what others in this discussion probably could not predict (that you would bring up water drumming) has many important implications. To me, the very idea of the fusion any kind of music that actually uses the real sound of water—or the striking of water, as part of the substance of the music itself—is virtually unheard of in Western Music (from 1600-1945); so much so that the very notion is not only unprecedented, and unpredictable, but almost inconceivable.  Perhaps there are some examples in so-called Musique Concrète, where sounds of water are mixed in with sounds of other types; but I don’t know where we can find something remotely resembling what I mentioned before (in works like those of Stockhausen or Hovhanness), where actual sounds of water and sounds of the orchestra are mixed together in a new synthesis.  We could speak of Debussy’s music as being of the “essence of water,” metaphorically of course.  But to use actual water, in a recording, or a live performance, or in a synthesized, quasi-orchestral Western musical composition is something I am unaware of.   If anyone could have predicted, such an occurrence, or has successfully predicted, or knows about any such synthesis, I would love to all hear about it.

 

I could never have predicted that Roger would say he “had neither the time nor the inclination to listen listen to all the pieces of music that exist” or have existed.  The point did sort of lead us down a blind alley.   But more important to me were Roger’s observations, especially those made in response to my question about the range of allowable sound choices in our mainstream culture.

 

He said, “of course not,” in answer to the question about whether he would like to live in the sound world of limited range, where only certain types of diatonic music were allowed, and added, “but there is probably someone out there that would choose that limited range. Who knows?”  On the question of the wider sound universe, he says, “On the one hand I am free to listen to anything and everything I am aware of, if I choose. On the other hand, if most of what I can afford to listen to is programmed by a commercial radio station then I am certainly limited to their playlist.”  Well, this is the big problem, isn’t it?  One is tempted NOT to speak about our limited sound choices, since there is so much more available on the internet than was ever available before.  But I am talking about what is culturally acceptable, and widely allowed and known about. Just from my own experience, living in Colombia, in the Republic of Turkey, in Sri Lanka and China, I was made aware of the extent to which many other cultures have an awareness of Western traditions. Knowledge of these traditions is widely disseminated through their mainstream media. and through cultural events.   Yet, in the US, while we do have, on some of our university campuses, many outstanding attempts to foster “multicultural” awareness (which is still, perhaps even more so now, a kind of dirty word in the US)—most of the US appears unaware of “what’s outside.” If that were not the case, we might have much less hatred or distrust of immigrant “communities of color” whether Islamic, Indian, Latin American (especially Mexican), Caribbean (Haitian), and other minorities.  I am, even with the internet, not as able to access a great deal in Indian culture, Chinese musical culture, and Japanese and African culture that might be otherwise available if our own culture were not so closed, myopic, circumscribed and quasi- (if not wholly) xenophobic, in practice.  This is true, even if the US thinks of itself in theory as composed of many cultures.  Musically, it’s still almost 19th century white-Anglo Saxon (even having disdain for “French” culture), and it is far from open to the East and Southern portions of the globe, as those regions are perforce “open to us,” due to the history of colonialism, and contemporary neo-colonialism.   So in musical terms, this means—in the United State—99 percent of what is “in the air” is Western diatonicism, the same kinds of tired chord progressions and major and minor modes being used all too frequently, by the musicians promoted by the mainstream stations.

 

Roger said, and I emphatically agree, “I am always amazed that with so much music available, most stations have their top 40 to 100- be it country, pop, rock or classical. It gets boring.”  Not only can it get “boring,” if one is driving in the car, for instance, a long distance, but it is troubling that in an “information age,” with so many types of mass media outlets available, that those who own them deliberately decide to use them SOLELY for their own personal profit, and for propaganda purposes, culturally, socially, politically and economically.  And it has nothing to do with “what attracts listeners.”  Think of the song “Bush knocked down the towers,” by Eminem and Mos Def.  I don’t think you will hear that on mainstream AM or FM radio, or on network TV, in spite of its popularity in many circles.  There are allowable kinds of music, and non-allowable kinds of music, for reasons that are political, social and cultural.    

 

Bush Knocked down the Twin Towers (911) - Immortal Technique https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6bdr_2IAJWU

 

The “consumption” of music, like the consumption of ideology, is only theoretically wide. Broadly, you can listen to and hear analyses framed in democratic and republican ideological terms, but rarely outside that narrow range of thought; while in music, you can hear certain types of lyrics and sounds within a narrow range of harmonic diversity, and very rarely outside that range.

 

 O....   FYI    every time you delete and repost, it shows up in others mailboxes

you... but rarely outside the narrow range of thought.... and music range.....

Do you  factor into your thinking the idea that a whole lot of people are NOT thinkers

and prefer their safe established 'bubbles' and are content to have this repetition, and

might actually look forward to it? Your enthusiasum for broader horizons is not universal.

ps- and your post are still too long and wordy        RS

Thank you for your post, Roger. 

 

[Sorry about the reposting and deleting problem.  I’ll try to minimize that in future.]

 

You asked, “Do you factor into your thinking the idea that a whole lot of people are NOT thinkers … ?”

 

I do factor in the idea that the media establishment discourages people from certain types of thinking, yes.  I factor in the idea that the media (and even people in the educational establishment) discourage people from meaningful intellectual and cultural growth, because profit often overrides concerns about limited mentalities, biases, and narrowness of choice.

 

Do I factor in “… the idea that [a lot of people] prefer their safe established 'bubbles' and are content to have this repetition, a might actually look forward to it?”

 

I factor in the idea that large corporations strive for the creation of “brand loyalities,” … (“branding” itself is a multi-billion dollar affair), and the idea that advertising firms and media companies want to be able to predict, manipulate and influence tastes, rather than encourage the expansion of taste and aesthetic diversity.

 

“Your enthusiasm for broader horizons is not universal.”

 

Many people are not enthusiastic about a good diet rich in diverse amino acids, vitamins and minerals, That does not cancel out the fact that broader based diets (which include more diverse nutrients rather than less) are healthier.  Many people are not enthusiastic about a work place or government which is more racially, ethnically, and culturally diverse.  That does not cancel out the fact that diversity is a good thing, for developing tolerance, wider awareness and many other altruistic impulses, such as compassion, understanding and empathy.  Some people would like to listen to the Light Cavalry Overture again and again and again.  That doesn’t mean they won’t grow out of that phase, and eventually be able to appreciate a wider fare.  They will certainly all be glad that they did, when they look back at their cultural and intellectual adolescence.

 

I believe you might agree with me that most people are actually “thinkers,” (in the sense I mean) and that “thinking” (in this sense) is natural to all human beings.  People not only “think” often and think well, but they almost always improve in their ability to think as they mature, gather more experience, encounter new situations and new realities.   Only a very, very, very small number of people (those who have severe brain damage, or serious congenital genetic defects) cannot improve their thinking or the capacity to enlarge their overall intuitive, emotive and sensory receptivity. 

 

[P.S. I don’t want to go into detail about the “length of posts” here, because I think it is a separate issue.  Maybe someone should start a separate thread on the length of posts.  I think there might be some people who think your posts are too short.  But that doesn’t matter.  I believe in the rights of the individual on this forum, to write posts as short or as long as they feel they need to, in order to express the ideas that they want to express.  So I support and encourage everyone to write just as much, or just as little as they wish, within the allowable guidelines.  I would invite you to encourage all to exercise their freedom of expression as they see fit.]

 

 

 

 

OO, a concise response to your eloquant post would simply be

the old saying,' You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make

him listen to rap' (or something like that)

Did the fact that pot was illegal in the sixties stop those who

chose to defy the establishment , from indulging in free choice?

The sitar was introduced to the west via George Harrison also

in the early seventies- it basically flopped, after a short lived fame.

There is more than one  form of public acceptance and more than

one form of public rejection. Accept the facts and move on.

You are free to go to any watering hole, but you won't necessarily

get others to accept that your's is the best, even if they do take a drink.    RS

 

Hello, Roger.

 

 

“OO, a concise response to your eloquant post would simply be

the old saying,' You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make

him listen to rap' (or something like that)”

 

I am not sure that is correct, either in fact or in theory.

 

First, the saying was actually about horses and it was intended to express frustration with the manner of training horses used long ago, which was inferior to that of a “horse whisperer.”  Now they actually can lead horses to water and they can train them to drink, even when they resist, using all sorts of modern psychological techniques, in addition to the (now) old-fashioned methods of positive reinforcement.  A “dog-whisperer” has also shown that you can teach “old dogs new tricks,” using a method that is both very gentle and very effective.  I have tried it, and it works.

 

Even experiments with rats indicate they will choose variety rather than one steady fare, if given the choice.  An old experiment seemed to show that rats in a cage would, given a choice between pure water and water laced with cocaine, always choose the cocaine-laced water.  Eventually they would overdose and die.  However, in a newer experiment with a vast “Rat Park,” where the rats had innumerable choices of lifestyle, association and activity and the chance to consume the water laced with cocaine, the drug remained virtually untouched, and no rat died of a cocaine overdose.  They drank water and ate good food and had relatively happy lives.

 

We know for a fact that the media corporations would rather sell us bad food than healthy food, mediocre drinks filled with high fructose corn syrup, large quantities of alcohol and cigarettes rather than beneficial drinks; and we know they would rather sell us bad and mediocre music and lyrics, that are sappy, vapid and mind numbing. 

 

The food, drinks, drugs and music industries spend billions upon billions in marketing with the deliberate intention of giving us the most mediocre product they can conceive with very low physical, emotional or spiritual benefits.   Even if it were true that “you can lead a horse to water, and you can’t make him drink,” the corollary would be (from the point of advertising), “we can lead hundreds upon hundreds of millions of horses to what we want them to drink, and huge numbers will follow our lead and consume the products we want them to consume.”

 

You ask, “Did the fact that pot was illegal in the sixties stop those who chose to defy the establishment , from indulging in free choice?”

 

This fact simply seems to demonstrate that a large number of citizens of the US see themselves more as if they live “in the rat cage” than in the “rat park,” where they have genuine choices that give them fulfilling lives, emotionally, mentally, intellectually, culturally and spiritually.  Many people are not happy. The schools, neighborhood life, media stimulation, cultural institutions, churches, artistic venues, the police state and militaristic national state do not satisfy large numbers of individuals.  Marijuana is simply one method of escape (like the cocaine-laced water, but fortunately not nearly as harmful—though plenty graduate to the cocaine, heroin and other more harmful “remedies”).   In actual fact, our media establishment, especially Hollywood, for good or for ill, has made it clear though their messaging, that marijuana is an acceptable, cool and harmless option.  It’s a shame that Beethoven, Mozart, Stravinsky, music, painting, sculpture, literature and philosophy and other spiritually rewarding objects and activities are not glorified in any large or consistent measure by the owners of media, film and corporate outlets.

 

“The sitar was introduced to the west via George Harrison also

in the early seventies- it basically flopped, after a short lived fame.”

 

I am familiar with “Within You, Without You,” and George Harrison’s effort.  This example does not say anything about the merits or demerits of the sitar as an instrument, and much less about thousands of years of Indian musical heritage.  It simply illustrates the fact that US media establishment keeps the public snug and warm in its cultural isolation, as tightly as it can, because it is “American culture,” or “United States” cultural imperialism that must be part of the overall thrust to make US economic and financial institutions dominant in the world at large.

 

We know for a fact that the media establishment can easily change public opinion on almost any issue in a matter of weeks or months.  Play enough clips of people chopping off heads and you encourage large numbers to support wars.  Look at history.  You can make Afghan militants, Saddam Hussein, Manual Noriega or anyone look like a heroes, allies and friends one week, and then, in a manner of days, or months and weeks, make them seem to be the equivalent of Hitler and the Nazi shock troops.   You can lead most Americans to hate Russians, to feel sympathy for them and love them, then to hate them again, then to love them as before, and then to hate and despise them once more.  That’s Russian relations in a nutshell, from pre-World War II, through World War II, during the cold war, during the collapse of the USSR and now during the “Putin Era.” 

 

The PR companies, advertising firms and media establishment can do this with leaders, entire peoples, nations, races, types of music, cultural expressions and virtually an aspect of reality they wish, given sufficient funding, repetition, media exposure and elite backing and consensus. 

 

I think you agree with this, because I have heard you say these types of things before.

 



Ondib Olmnilnlolm said:

 

Hello, Roger.

 

 

“OO, a concise response to your eloquant post would simply be

the old saying,' You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make

him listen to rap' (or something like that)”

 

I am not sure that is correct, either in fact or in theory.

 

First, the saying was actually about horses and it was intended to express frustration with the manner of training horses used long ago, which was inferior to that of a “horse whisperer.”  Now they actually can lead horses to water and they can train them to drink, even when they resist, using all sorts of modern psychological techniques, in addition to the (now) old-fashioned methods of positive reinforcement.  A “dog-whisperer” has also shown that you can teach “old dogs new tricks,” using a method that is both very gentle and very effective.  I have tried it, and it works.

 

Even experiments with rats indicate they will choose variety rather than one steady fare, if given the choice.  An old experiment seemed to show that rats in a cage would, given a choice between pure water and water laced with cocaine, always choose the cocaine-laced water.  Eventually they would overdose and die.  However, in a newer experiment with a vast “Rat Park,” where the rats had innumerable choices of lifestyle, association and activity and the chance to consume the water laced with cocaine, the drug remained virtually untouched, and no rat died of a cocaine overdose.  They drank water and ate good food and had relatively happy lives.

 

We know for a fact that the media corporations would rather sell us bad food than healthy food, mediocre drinks filled with high fructose corn syrup, large quantities of alcohol and cigarettes rather than beneficial drinks; and we know they would rather sell us bad and mediocre music and lyrics, that are sappy, vapid and mind numbing. 

 

The food, drinks, drugs and music industries spend billions upon billions in marketing with the deliberate intention of giving us the most mediocre product they can conceive with very low physical, emotional or spiritual benefits.   Even if it were true that “you can lead a horse to water, and you can’t make him drink,” the corollary would be (from the point of advertising), “we can lead hundreds upon hundreds of millions of horses to what we want them to drink, and huge numbers will follow our lead and consume the products we want them to consume.”

 

You ask, “Did the fact that pot was illegal in the sixties stop those who chose to defy the establishment , from indulging in free choice?”

 

This fact simply seems to demonstrate that a large number of citizens of the US see themselves more as if they live “in the rat cage” than in the “rat park,” where they have genuine choices that give them fulfilling lives, emotionally, mentally, intellectually, culturally and spiritually.  Many people are not happy. The schools, neighborhood life, media stimulation, cultural institutions, churches, artistic venues, the police state and militaristic national state do not satisfy large numbers of individuals.  Marijuana is simply one method of escape (like the cocaine-laced water, but fortunately not nearly as harmful—though plenty graduate to the cocaine, heroin and other more harmful “remedies”).   In actual fact, our media establishment, especially Hollywood, for good or for ill, has made it clear though their messaging, that marijuana is an acceptable, cool and harmless option.  It’s a shame that Beethoven, Mozart, Stravinsky, music, painting, sculpture, literature and philosophy and other spiritually rewarding objects and activities are not glorified in any large or consistent measure by the owners of media, film and corporate outlets.

 

“The sitar was introduced to the west via George Harrison also

in the early seventies- it basically flopped, after a short lived fame.”

 

I am familiar with “Within You, Without You,” and George Harrison’s effort.  This example does not say anything about the merits or demerits of the sitar as an instrument, and much less about thousands of years of Indian musical heritage.  It simply illustrates the fact that US media establishment keeps the public snug and warm in its cultural isolation, as tightly as it can, because it is “American culture,” or “United States” cultural imperialism that must be part of the overall thrust to make US economic and financial institutions dominant in the world at large.

 

We know for a fact that the media establishment can easily change public opinion on almost any issue in a matter of weeks or months.  Play enough clips of people chopping off heads and you encourage large numbers to support wars.  Look at history.  You can make Afghan militants, Saddam Hussein, Manual Noriega or anyone look like a heroes, allies and friends one week, and then, in a manner of days, or months and weeks, make them seem to be the equivalent of Hitler and the Nazi shock troops.   You can lead most Americans to hate Russians, to feel sympathy for them and love them, then to hate them again, then to love them as before, and then to hate and despise them once more.  That’s Russian relations in a nutshell, from pre-World War II, through World War II, during the cold war, during the collapse of the USSR and now during the “Putin Era.” 

 

The PR companies, advertising firms and media establishment can do this with leaders, entire peoples, nations, races, types of music, cultural expressions and virtually an aspect of reality they wish, given sufficient funding, repetition, media exposure and elite backing and consensus. 

 

I think you agree with this, because I have heard you say these types of things before.

The correct saying is:

"You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink".

It is a proverb containing ordinary human logic and folk wisdom, which is/should be precious to us.

It is obviously a metaphor of the kind that is abundant in folk traditions and it should be taken as such because if we don’t acknowledge this or are unaware of it, its point is completely lost.

On the other hand we must recognize that as a metaphor it tries to replace the idea of the "horse"  with the idea of an "free will, unwilling human being"  and to transgress from one more specific situation to a more general one, seemingly bending somehow its own logical and linguistic rules, (but not indeed so, as it is only serving  its purposes by the bending of its rules-and it is perfectly legitimate to do so, in my opinion).

I think that in this particular proverb's case this is successfully achieved and that the substance of the message is passed on (at least to ordinary folks who are its main target), but people adopting your line of argumentation miss completely its point/message at the outset because they take the metaphor as having literal meaning, and they carry on making irrelevant points about it, and about the psychology of horses and how wonderful modern science is that can finally make unwilling and not thirsty horses drink, etc, etc, Wow!

What's the point?

 

Socrates, Wow indeed....

I think I have finally figured out what's really going on here.

On and Ondib is cleverly attempting to show us all that a

quantity of knowledge doe's in no way equate to Wisdom.

Subtly employing this 'reverse pschology' to further his own

personal agenda until we give up out of sheer frustration and

mental agony, and allow him to have his way. Some might even

call it torture. In other words, ' I know, therefore I think I know better '.     RS

A reply to Fredrick (Fredrick zinos), Roger (roger stancill) and Socrates (Socrates Arvanitakis).  Fredrick offers the quotation:

 

"You can lead a horse to water but a pencil must be lead"… Stanley Laurel

 

I absolutely and totally agree with Stan Laurel on this.  Stan also revealed the sub-visionary consciousness of many living in modern society when he said,  “I had a dream that I was awake and woke to find myself asleep.”  --Stan Laurel

 

 

 

What kind of sleep is this?  The sleep of ignorance?  The sleep of bliss?  The sleepy thought processes induced by an economic and social system that produced the Great Depression in the 1920’s and 1930’s?  Is the system that Stan Laurel labored under a different one than the one we have today, or does the prolonged “Great Recession” of our time prove that we are in the same, or in a very similar condition. 

 

I had said,  "The food, drinks, drugs and music industries spend billions upon billions in marketing with the deliberate intention of giving us the most mediocre product they can conceive with very low physical, emotional or spiritual benefits …"

 

Fredrick responded,

 

“Let's not act surprised. The only responsibility these companies have is a fiduciary responsibility to shareholders.”

 

Every company and corporation only exists as a product of the law, and all laws are made by the “representatives of the people” (or so we have been told).  A good summary of how corporations came to have the huge corrupting role they have in society today is given here, in the documentary called “The Corporation.”

 

7:30-12:15  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KMNZXV7jOG0

 

“That is one of the blessings of democracy, you can eat anything you want, listen to any music you want, drive any car you want and embezzle as much as you can carry ... if you can afford it.”

 

I seriously doubt a majority of the population of the US and Europe would endorse this proposition.  Embezzlement is the vice of a small class of people.  I think you are describing here the dubious “blessings” of living in a plutocracy, an oligarchy, or in what Citibank has decided to call the system –a “plutonomy”—a country “where rule by an ultra-rich managerial class has replaced democracy.”  If democracy is a system of government where “the people rule” (“demos,” the people, “cracy,” rule), then the US, Canada and most European states are not democracies.   This was the “happy announcement” made in the infamous memorandum sent out by Citibank to its most elite clients and investors: we have made the transition away from any semblance of democracy to “plutonomy.”

 

So one might ask, where can we start the education process, as a society, with an eye towards raising the level of intellectual, cultural and artistic awareness of the people?  Where do we start if many highly educated people actually believe we live in a “democracy?”  How can people be aware of, and understand much of what Beethoven, for instance, was driving at in the “Ode to Joy,” when people don’t even know what the revolutions of the late 18th century were about, and when they know just as little concerning what the movements for social, economic and cultural change have been about for the past 75 years?

 

Today we have wage slavery and debt slavery for untold numbers.

 

In Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, we have the forgiveness of debtors and the usurers.

 

Chorus …

Anger and revenge be forgotten,

Our deadly enemy be forgiven,

No tears shall he shed

No remorse shall gnaw at him

Chorus …

Our debt registers be abolished

Reconcile the entire world!

 

This very radical idea is not one promoted by the Oligarchs, or favored by the “Plutonomists” at Citibank, who play a much larger role in deciding the shape and content of our laws than “the people”, (or as Beethoven and Schiller call them, the “Millionen,” the millions).

 

How can there easily be a broad advance of culture, when tremendous numbers of citizens (even in the relatively advanced Western nations) are scrambling just to piece together several part time-jobs that give few or no benefits?  How can people see or imagine a world inspired by Beethoven and Schiller’s vision, when they are being paid lower and lower real wages, as the Oligarchs take away 90 % of the added GDP revenue per year? How are visions of “the good” and “the beautiful,” depicted by great poets and musicians, at all possible for “the millions,” as they are struggling also to pay excessive debts for absolute necessities, such as transportation (simply a car), a home, and an education?

 

Socrates (Socrates Arvanitakis) speaks in detail about the proverb. (“You can lead a horse …”). Still, I would ask whether he denies the main point, which was that large and corrupt social forces want to control what the vast majority of “horses” consume, and to profit inordinately from that consumption, and that they all too often succeed in doing so.  And might we add, this is done at the expense of the well-being of the majority of the people, economically, socially, politically and culturally?  [I hope you don’t think I condone the idea that “horses” or people should be manipulated to drink when they don’t want to, or eat when they don’t want to, or to listen to bad or mediocre music—that is the maxim of modern consumerist thinking, and PR psychology, not a notion I endorse in any form].

 

Roger says, “I think I have finally figured out what's really going on here.”  Would it be the case that perhaps more than one thing is “going on here?” Since we are talking mostly about society at large, one of the things “going on” could be what you referred to earlier:

 

“ … if most of what I can afford to listen to is programmed by a commercial radio station then I am certainly limited to their playlist. I am always amazed that with so much music available, most stations have their top 40 to 100- be it country, pop, rock or classical. it gets boring …

 

“The reality seems to be driven by advertising $$, donation drives ($$) and capitalistic monopolies …”

 

Roger, sometimes I have just a little bit of trouble seeing exactly where we disagree.

 

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