Monday, January 15, 2007

Art and the Spiritual Path

Why is art so important, and why is it such a dreadful thing for it to become detached from spirit? Yesterday we had a couple of posters who minimized its importance, or who didn't see anything unusual about today's coarse aesthetic climate.

For example, one commenter said that "aesthetics is tied to attitude," as if a change in attitude will turn a strip mall into a cathedral, or Snoop Dogg into Howlin' Wolf, or Madonna into Mavis Staples. True, there are many modern objects of beauty, such as certain automobiles, but I think these are the exceptions. Most items of daily use are manufactured and used in the most unconscious manner, with no human maker and no human end.

Likewise, another commenter expressed the wholly relativistic view that beauty was "in the eye of the beholder" -- e.g., that it had no objective ground. He then didn't understand why this view was roundly rejected by subsequent commenters, as if it were just because he had had the temerity to disagree with Dear Leader's crazed cult members. But I never instructed anyone to have the view I have regarding art. Rather, it is a view that any spiritually or metaphysically serious person shares. Art is a revelation of the absolute, and cannot be understood in relative or secular terms.

Now, I wish I had had a more formal art education as a child, but as I have said, my brain didn't even really come fully on line until I was 29, so I've had to do a lot of catching up. My mother tried, but there was just no way I was going to listen to classical music at a time when the contemporary music scene was so extraordinarily rich. All forms of authentic American music were available on a single AM radio station -- R & B, soul, gospel, jazz, blues, country, and a rock music that still retained a close connection to these more pure forms of the soul's expression.

As I expressed it to a friend yesterday, I consider most any form of American roots music to be a sort of archetypal "revelation from the earth," which no single person invented or could have invented. At the time of the formal "birth" of rock music in 1955, Elvis Presley was thoroughly within this spiritual stream. He didn't actually "invent" anything, but was simply expressing his own spontaneous take on the primordial musical forms that surrounded him during his youth. And most of these forms were explicitly or implicitly spiritual.

I was always intensely drawn to music in such a way that it allowed me at an early age to become aware of the soul and to maintain a connection with it. What may have been distraction and dispersal for most was for me a means of vertical recollection, without which I'm not sure how I would have remained tethered to spirit. Despite the fact that it was merely "popular" music, the music of my childhood still had some connection to the uncorrupted soul. Today that connection has largely been severed, so I cannot imagine the spiritual impoverishment of someone who grows up today exposed to the raw musical sewage that passes for entertainment. Much of it is deeply corrupting, and one must generally travel to the fringes to find musicians who still make music for its traditional purpose.

Looking back, it is very clear to me that a visible darkness entered popular music in 1968, to be exact, for I could feel this foreign soul-world at the time, even if I couldn't have articulated it. This is when certain sinister or "demonic" elements began to be introduced wholesale into popular music. Not only could I sense this darkness, but I was repelled by it. Furthermore, I was repelled by the people who enjoyed this kind of music and couldn't distinguish it from the other kind. Even though I was hardly any kind of elitist, I could see that there was something infrahuman in these people. There was also a loss of innocence, nobility, and dignity, and a full identification with, and celebration of, one's animal nature.

While there had always been a dark element in blues, it was always expressed in an ironic or humorous manner. It wasn't a celebration of it, much less a denial of its existence. Likewise, there was always a tragic component in folk music that reflected the human condition -- violence, death, heartbreak -- but it conveyed a kind of sweet and beautiful sadness about life.

I am quite sure that my view has nothing in common with the conservative religious person who cannot make subtle aesthetic distinctions in the realm of rock music, but lumps it all together as "satanic." I still enjoy rock music, but only when it conveys light and spirit, not darkness and mere barbarism. In fact, if you look at footnote 6 on page 298 of my book, you can see all of the various musical influences I wove into the epilogue. The list is quite diverse and sometimes rather random, and could have included hundreds more. But the whole idea was twofold.

First, neo-traditionalist that I am, I wanted to show that contemporary art is not a total loss, and that -- as Will has pointed out -- there was definitely a liberating and life-affirming energy that was unleashed in the 1960's. It's just that this energy was hijacked and co-opted by the left, when in fact, nothing could be more at odds with human liberation than leftism. Furthermore, much of the music of the 1960's was in the service of a spirit of transcendence, however misguided at times. I certainly felt that, and it was a formative influence on my life. I always listened to music with a view toward transcendence.

Consider Bob Dylan, for example, who was first and foremost a traditionalist who submitted himself with absolute fidelity to an existing musical "revelation" of the earth -- i.e., folk music -- before he ever presumed to use it as a template to take it in a new direction. Because he "fell in love" with the form, he wouldn't have done anything to harm or trivialize it. It was the left that attempted to seize folk music for their own crassly political ends, which Dylan soon saw through. He parted ways with them in 1965, and the left still doesn't realize it. He took his music in the opposite direction -- toward an individualistic exploration of consciousness itself, toward an inner liberation which is completely at odds with the left's collective program of forced political "enlightenment" from above.

Likewise, long before the Rolling Stones became the pathetic creatures they are, they started off with absolute fidelity to a traditional "revelation," American blues. And virtually all of the great soul singers came directly out of the black church, which is why their music retains the lineaments of its celestial provenance.

Frithjof Schuon had many important things to say about the critical role of art in the spiritual life. The real purpose of art is not merely to "to induce aesthetic emotions, but to transmit, together with these, a more or less direct spiritual message..." That is, its goal is to transfer "Substance, which is both one and inexhaustible, into the world of accident and to bring the accidental consciousness back to Substance." One might add that it "transposes Being to the world of existence, of action or of becoming, or that it transposes in a certain way the Infinite to the world of the finite, or Essence to the world of forms; it thereby suggests a continuity proceeding from the one to the other, a way starting from appearance or accident and opening onto Substance or its celestial reverberations."

Furthermore, "Art has a function that is both magical and spiritual: magical, it renders present principles, powers and also things that it attracts by virtue of a 'sympathetic magic'; spiritual, it exteriorizes truths and beauties in view of our interiorization, of our return to the 'kingdom of God that is within you.' The Principle becomes manifestation so that manifestation might rebecome the Principle, or so that the 'I' might return to the Self; or simply, so that the human soul might, through given phenomena, make contact with the heavenly archetypes, and thereby with its own archetype."

While genuine art allows spirit to radiate through the phenomena, a profane and despiritualized art "exists only for man and by that very fact betrays him." And that is why art is so important. A merely human "art for art's sake" eases the way for man to sink even further beneath himself, into the circular maze of unredeemed phenomena.


JP said...

For a truly transpersonal relationship to STUFF (cultural produce, be it music, movies or your razor) come about, the life span of the other significant half should last enough time for it to mature, to gain an identity that then can be transcended. Sadly in our time this is rarely the case. Everything is manufactured as if to break down, not to last. That prevents the formation of an identity. What we have instead is a grotesque display of samsara in the form of trying to get a kick after kick from where it really can't be found in a healthy way. So as regards the lack of beauty today I side with the writer in trying to find it when it still had an esthetic relevance; and that's somewhere around 1968 musically, I have to agree (barring The Last Waltz and the early punk rock years).

Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, I don't want to imply that nothing good came after 1968! My point is that that is when I first noticed the darkness that has since then swamped the musical landscape.

Another Bob said...

I think the late sixties was when the
major music companies recognized the profit
to be made selling "canned rebellion" to the
young masses. Maybe they recognized it
before then, but that's when it really
took off.

Real art isn't canned. It can't be.
And sadly, some people get hooked on it
and never grow up.

-Another Bob

Joan of Argghh! said...

As a 17 year-old "girlfriend of a band member" way back when, I was thoroughly enjoying some great Christian music for the first time in my life. Not only was it a relief from the dark and depressing stuff all around me, it was actually giving me something, some power of transcendence (no drugs!) that I couldn't quite figure out.

Fortunately for me, an old Avatar, sensing my awe at this powerful and new--to me--experience of music, pulled me aside and instructed me on how to know the difference, and it's stayed with me from that day to this: "the same creative spirit that goes into something, comes out when you experience it; be it a book, a song, a painting. Be careful to look for the spirit of creation. The darkness cannot create, it only has the power to pervert, and you will sense this if you walk in Light."

By the way, not one Christian ever told me to burn my records--which somehow would've been derided as Farenheit 451-type of craziness--but the leftst Volvo bumper stickers said it was okay if I killed my television. (Probably either action wouldn't have hurt me a bit.) I simply grew away from the popular culture, sensing it to be not necessarily wrong in all aspects, but just lacking any real edification of my spirit. It bored me.

And now thinking about it, I'm glad that at a young age I surrounded myself with the sort of wise folks who never sought to control my actions, but merely lead me to Truth, trusting Truth to do its work in its time.

River Cocytus said...

Lol, btw, Google is doing its best to spurn the Spirit today; the little text ad said 'Is there a God?'

-- Google, you machine, you clank, you construct, even if there weren't a God, you wouldn't know it!

Bob, the reason why I play SimCity (particularly the fourth one) is because of the aesthetic beauty of cities. It is not the parts-- the beauty of each building is of a different realm usually than the beauty of the city-- but it is the way everything works together in a gritty, shimmering mass of technology, steel, concrete and glass. Just like a hair on a beast might be ugly or beautiful itself-- has no bearing on the beauty of the animal.

Communist cities of course, are ugly as sin, as often are man-planned-for-man cities. It is interesting to see on Simtropolis how different people lay out their cities-- idealists many, who desire 'perfection' [which what is it aside from completion?] often 'overplan' or rather 'over-underplan' their cities, trying to project their idea of how the simulator works onto how it actually does.

For me the game is stupidly easy, as in, it is basically a garden, which is something that to me (perhaps it is an archetype?) clicks instantly. That is, your city is organic and grows as such. You can't force it to be anything other than what it is, and what it is, is determined by how well you understand the principles of the game.

On this topic, one of the most beautiful things to me is industry, not because it pollutes-- but in spite of it. It only pollutes because it must- like a dog has to crap somewhere. You can't forge steel without smoke, you can't dig granite without a giant hole, you can't harvest wood without cutting down trees, etc. The greatness of technology in this regard is that we can reduce the wastes that these produce, while still making them do what they are supposed to.

I am going to have to cultivate my lower intellect a bit to describe why Industry is to me so beautiful. But note, its not hugeness, or rather, planned hugeness, but natural hugeness, like the smoke stack that HAD to be 350 feet tall because you just couldn't make tungsten alloy with a shorter one... in this way, the brick and iron and concrete are beautiful because they are for some reason where they are meant to be, like the wheels within wheels made material.

The trouble is, that this beauty has a different origin-- its origin is the free market and the republican state. The public art we have is ugly because the source of such things is lost. If it doesn't make the WHOLE city uglier, it is not because it isn't ugly. In fact, it takes a pretty damn hideous building to make an organic or divine city ugly.

The source of art is easy, I think. To be a good artist you must be a good carpenter, or at least a bad one, a programmer, a writer, a soldier, a businessman-- because art is symbolic it is a throwing-across of the divine to the material; the eternal to the mortal. Since it proceeds from the divine and not the other way around, it appears where he wills it, and no effort on our part can make it appear. So the best way to find it is to watch for it wherever you go, and for God's sake, go somewhere.

Good photographers are people who build a room for photography by learning how to use a camera very well and buying equipment- and fill that room with treasure by letting the creation be itself and clicking the shutter at the right moment.

There's no way around it-- there is only a state of mind that allows art to be profuse, no special 'techniques' or something you can really sell.

You learn to paint so that if you can find that state of mind, you have some place to put the treasures.

Because if you don't learn the skill, when you see it, you will never be able to record that fleeting glimpse of the eternal -- to 'lengthen' it into time, as you put it.

Hah, well. Here is to the beauty of the cold steel of the modern heart. Ayn Rand, for some reason, understood this. A shame she didn't see the other kinds. I guess there is no accounting for that sort of thing.

Anonymous said...

Bob, I'd love to comment on your writing... it is well thought out and very apt... but I'm of the 80's generation who wants it now and doesn't care how much it sucks...

All of that aside, there is something to be said for when you find that 'spiritual' connection to a song that is truly wonderful that actually 'pulls' your soul out... songs that can actually bring tears to your eyes... many of which are thousands of years old...

One that has that effect on me (though not quite that old I don't think) is 'Eternal Father Strong to Save' which at one time was the navy hymn... not the hip-hop that the boys listen to today... and heck, I'm not even a sailor.

Joan of Argghh! said...


I'm not entirely sure I catch your drift on the "industry" thing, but it makes me consider that, if the creative spirit behind something is "power" then it is reasonable to expect it to convey a hardness and durability.

Which is perhaps why I LOVE to go to air shows and let the rumble of the Blue Angels shake me to my core. I laugh, every time, with the most honest and unfeigned joy at such raw power. It just IS awesome.

Gagdad Bob said...

another Bob--

Excellent point about the recording industry and the marketing of canned rebellion. It took that long for the clueless executives to understand the nature of the cash cow in their midst, and how to exploit it to the hilt.

And because there was so much money to be made, the field began to be flooded with people who had no talent or even heart. I happen to love a lot of the primitive garage rock from 1965 - 1968, because although it is musically unpolished, it is so pure. Someone once said that punk is "three chords and the truth." Well, a lot of great garage rock is "three chords and the love."

Flying Monkey said...

Bob asserts in the closing paragraph of his post:

"While genuine art allows spirit to radiate through the phenomena, a profane and despiritualized art "exists only for man and by that very fact betrays him.""

I wonder if this take isn't slightly "off" somehow.
The word "despiritualized" is always a warning marker that someone has made an error in semantics.

There is nothing but spirit, so it can't be absent. However, there are gradation of spirit, so what Bob is driving at is that some levels of spirit are more highly valued than others.

For instance, rap music, which operates on a "vital" (lower emotional) plane, is repellent to a lot of people who crave music that comes from the middle emotions (country music) or higher emotional plane (Christan Rock). Then we move up into the levels of higher mind (classical), overmind (inspired Blue idioms, folk music) and finally to Supermind (supernal moments in music, usually fleeting)

I dissent from Bob by saying that all art is genuine, but it comes from, and feeds, different levels of the human being.

My final synthesis is that that all art criticism is a value judgement that cannot be made absolute.

Bob's not going to like it....

integratroll said...

But I never instructed anyone to have the view I have regarding art. Rather, it is a view that any spiritually or metaphysically serious person shares.

Typical bobsense!

Do you honestly believe this? That anyone who is "spiritually or metaphysically serious" must inherently share the same views as you with regards to art? Isn't that a too easy way to write off differing views?

And then you say:

[Elvis Presley] was simply expressing his own spontaneous take on the primordial musical forms that surrounded him during his youth

This is quite beautiful! Art, then, is a synthesis of the Absolute and the relative, no? A Descent of the Absolute into one's "own spontaneous take."

...nothing could be more at odds with human liberation than leftism.

The Great Godwin Blindspot rears its ugly head. Robert, leftism is an expression of human liberation, even if it is skewed and in many ways pathological.

Gagdad Bob said...

flying monkey--

I wouldn't even know where to begin to dissect such twaddle, which would serve no purpose anyway.

hoarhey said...


I also LOVE airshows. Particularly those which have a large military participation.
My emotions run the gamut throughout the day. Particularly with the heritage flyovers. Watching a P51 mustang lead an F22 Raptor, an F16 Fighting Falcon and an A10 Warthog in a diamond formation flyover brings tears to my eyes, a lump in my throat and a gratitude in my heart which I could never find words for. Let Freedom Ring! Now that's my kind of art.

cousin dupree said...

"leftism is an expression of human liberation, even if it is in many ways pathological."

Sickness is health!

NoMo said...

integratroll - Helter Skelter

River Cocytus said...

Flying: there is a upper vertical and lower vertical. All art is spiritual. Some of it is lower-vertical. That way be, as they say, dragons. That jive?

Joan: I think that maybe it is my maleness that, like big rig trucks and heavy equipment, senses a beauty in genuine power.

So I would disagree with Tolkien, but I did not live through the England he did.

Industry is young; we had long been in denial about what it actually is. A spinning-wheel produces little to no waste-- it is what it is. A coal power plant produces wastes- it is what it is. To pretend it is something else by stuffing waste in a river thoughtlessly or demanding it stop being a coal power plant until it can stop making waste or imposing its bigness on the world-- is denial.

Its like saying you like cities in theory, but if they could just be less, you know, tall, and not filled with cars and people and noise-- without those things it would not be a city! you cannot love a thing only in theory. Either you can love what it is, or you worship falsehood.

By the way, I've been on a James Taylor kick, and 'Jump Up Behind Me' is, I think a genuine bit of the American Song (or the Folk Song itself...)

hoarhey said...

There is also something called evil spirits.
As a matter of fact one of the more sullen and impotent in the genre posted directly following you.
As Joan's mentor so aptly pointed out, no creativity, only perversion.

River Cocytus said...

Interestingly, I have never been impressed with communist gov'ts displaying their military 'might'. It's all smoke and mirrors which is to say were I a man from the fifteenth century I would have been impressed by the numbers and the machines-- but there's no authority there, just lies.

Which is usually revealed when they go toe to toe with a real force.

My buildings/cities analogy applies to the realms of weapons/armies-- pretty guns don't generally make an army any more impressive either way.

will said...

This is only my perspective of course, but I think the "sinister" and "demonic" element began entering pop music in late '66, and then really blossomed (in the Fleurs de Mal sense) with the "psychedelic" phase in '67. Sure, at first psychedelia was ostensibly about peace/love/flowers/rainbows, but there was a "lower astral" glamour element to it, a certain element of chaos that began to eat away at what had been the aesthetic balance and intelligence of early-mid 60's pop music.

It's hard to define "lower astral" in this context, but think of the archetype of the "sinister clown". As Lon Chaney once said, there's nothing funny about a clown at midnight. In any event, it was as if a genuine spiritual awakening had been suborned by the glamour of a lower psychic - then a gate opened and the demonic began to flood in.

By '68, the candyland pretense of psychedelia was no longer needed, the demons were loose. The darkness really did become visible.

Anonymous said...

While there is a mild thread on spiirts today...

I was reading in Acts chapter 8 the other night, and this is when the Church was scattered and Phillip is in Samaria preaching the Gospel.

Things we might consider routine were occurring: miracles, healings and unclean spirits were coming out of people.

The Greek is interesting here, as "unclean spirits" is "pneumata-akatharta" -somewhat anglicised for clarity here.

Spirits Against Catharsis.

I will leave you to your own thoughts on this.




Thats rifle, not gun! Drop and give me 50 soldier! ;)

Those Kalashnakovs were well out prettied by some old British bolt action Enfields one afternoon in Afghanistan.

The Soviet occupiers were roundly defeated and picked off in a turkey shoot by the freedom fighters.

Seems them pretty things just could not reach out as far as the old tried and true.

Will -the darkness lives in academia, the media and the congress now. (IMHO)


hoarhey said...

"leftism is an expression of human liberation, even if it is in many ways pathological."

Slavery is Liberation!

Viva La Revolution!

Castro id King!

Heh! What a Tool.

River Cocytus said...

Will: Midnight Clown-- an apt phrase. I would say-- much earlier? Have you listened to Schoenberg? He has a 'song cycle' (if it can be called 'song') about a clown at midnight. An odd and apt analogy. I cannot recall the name of the work, but I remember the pain of hearing it.

Needless to say if you want to find out the work and its date you can but I will not give any more than an assurance that it was dated before 1943 (I think?) and the clown in question's name was Pierre or Piaro or some variation on that. So really, I'm not giving you much.

My ears only can hear so many notes, and I pray that no more of Schoenberg's will crowd them.

Gagdad Bob said...


Come to think of it, I remember getting Satanic Majesties Request for Christmas '67. Never liked it. I'm still creeped out by its vibe....

Then, within matter of months, you have I AM THE GOD OF HELLFIRE! And I bring you FIRE!!!, by Arthur Brown...

integratroll said...

flying monkey--

I wouldn't even know where to begin to dissect such twaddle, which would serve no purpose anyway.

I used to have a hard time believing that the same person that wrote One Cosmos (the book, that is) is the same person that writes such ridiculous comments as these.

R U Sirius, Bob? Are you really that intolerant? Or are you, like George Bush, just talking dumb (or dumber) to cater to the moronic masses that vote/agree with you, thereby feeding your ego?

With responses such as what you gave to serious, integrally-aware comments such as Flying Monkey's, how do you expect to be taken serious outside of your own little group here? You sound like a fundy Christian going to a world religions seminar, refusing to talk to anyone who won't accept Jesus Christ as their lord and savior.

Dennis said...

There's something to be said for the fact that the subject of most art concerns the frailty of man. Most of the bible is freighted with it, most of literature, song, painting, drama. The picaro, the outcast, the ne-er do well, the fool, criminality drives most movie plots... if the protagonist isn't the perpetrator, he is coping with one. Bad behaviour rules the arts and nice guys finish last, now that's something to think about.

I would guess that there is something to the act of transgression that is involved here. Within an artist's practice, crossing the line is essential and indeispensable. Breaking one's preconception of what art was and recreating what art is-at-this-moment is what all artists do. Contemporary parlance is "keeping it fresh".

Western art is centered on the root concept of the importance of the individual --as opposed to the larger idea of creativity which can be dismissed by the westerner as mere "decoration" in that communitarian ideals rule and art serves to reintegrate and mainain the community-- and therefore the animating force in the history of western art is dissent. Due to Marxist infiltration and indoctination in the academy since WWII, this is not a popular concept in most or all art circles and yet the consequences of our impulse towards liberty persists: freedom may not be on the tips of the tongues of the avant guarde, but their existence depends on it. Hypocricy is not percieved to be a problem by the literatti since they/we have sipped the poison of irony in small doses and hence they/we believe they/we are immune to it. And yet the problem persists.

With all this, I tender a slender idea for you Mr. Bob: maybe the foibles of art down the axis away from the G-dhead is an instrument for gaining knowledge, that the ultimate phenomena of existence is a way to grow and prodigality is another name for art?

Gagdad Bob said...


"Are you really that intolerant?"

Yes, I am intolerant of stupidity clogging up my blog.

And no, I have no desire to be "taken serious" (sic) by those who are not. I am not a spiritual careerist.

dian said...

Joan of Argghh! I don't write y'all much but I avidly read this blog and sometimes skip the comments. I liked what you said about discerning the creative spirit. What is the intention of a work?
That sums it up in a nut shell for me - what is the original motivation? This is what I find so life affirming here - that we are continually celebrating the spirit. You may think of me as the "Hula Coon" aloha to y'all Dian

blindly addicted & can't get enough said...

flying monkey--

"I wouldn't even know where to begin to dissect such twaddle, which would serve no purpose anyway.

I used to have a hard time believing that the same person that wrote One Cosmos (the book, that is) is the same person that writes such ridiculous comments as these.

R U Sirius, Bob? Are you really that intolerant? Or are you, like George Bush, just talking dumb (or dumber) to cater to the moronic masses that vote/agree with you, thereby feeding your ego?

With responses such as what you gave to serious, integrally-aware comments such as Flying Monkey's, how do you expect to be taken serious outside of your own little group here? You sound like a fundy Christian going to a world religions seminar, refusing to talk to anyone who won't accept Jesus Christ as their lord and savior."

Hmm, I thought I left... I mean after all wasn't that me who gave the drama queen, "you won't have me to kick around anymore" speech where the door hit me on the ass on the way out? Uhhh, maybe even twice? Hmmm, couldn't have been because here I am and I might add as integrally-aware as ever!

will said...

Bob, for all its ingenuity and innovation, I'm still a bit creeped out by Sgt Pepper. And speaking of clowns at midnight, Charles Manson certainly found "inspiration" in the White Album, not exactly an endorsement of the album's higher virtues.

River, I do know that Schoenberg piece. That composer was eeriely attuned to the unwholesome, in my estimation - his whole 12-tone row invention itself guaranteed an unwholesomeness in musical expression, even a kind of black magic influence, if one gets esoterically analytical about it.

hoarhey said...

Aloha back at ya Hula Coon.

hoarhey said...

"spiritual careerist"


integratroll said...

Bob, show me why flying monkey's post is "stupid," don't just tell me. You are basically saying that Wilber's integralism is "stupid," as are numerous developmental approaches. Is Piaget stupid? Maslow?

Again, what is stupid about the idea of "gradations of spirit?"

River Cocytus said...

Aloha indeed.

Dennis, prodigality is not the essence of art, but instead, art requires the material of experience to build the room for its presence. Prodigals get experience thrown at them, and those who get art and are gifted with skill can't help but put it down.

But experience I think is the substance of art, as all art is a message; it has to have something of substance to communicate, and further, it needs to have enough depth to speak to many. (or it ought.)

Anyway, the way I see it is its just the Logos coming down (as art) because it had been pulled up through experience.

Keeps it rolling, maybe.

Also, understanding art takes experience because art, being made of experience speaks the language of it.

But a faithful imagination suffices-- if you can make a room for it in your mind, it will tarry for a time.

River Cocytus said...

PS, that was supposed to be, "Aloha, indeed! :)" - I was so into my comment I missed the expressions on the end.

one note harry said said...

Bob, show me why flying monkey's post is "stupid," don't just tell me. You are basically saying that Wilber's integralism is "stupid," as are numerous developmental approaches. Is Piaget stupid? Maslow?

Again, what is stupid about the idea of "gradations of spirit?"

Gagdad Bob said...


Another good point about Sgt. Pepper. It did come as a bit of a jolt to an innocent 11 year old. I think I still prefer the "More of the Monkees."

pathetic one note harry said...

Pleeeaaaaaassse Bob?
Why can't you juuuuuuuusssst Luuuuuuuvvveee meeeee?

PrincessSpirit said...

Hoarhey Said: "Slavery is Liberation! Viva La Revolution! Castro is King!"

...then I'll buy ALL Trolls and flying monkeys a Gratis one-way ticket to Cuba immediately! What an airshow that would be! Bon Voyage!!

- PrincessSpirit -

GeorgeD said...

I enjoy listening to classical music, particularly older recordings of violin playing. I find that classical musicianship has suffered a sharp dropoff. No one today comes close to the artistry of a Fritz Kreisler or a Jacques Thibaud and I could go on and on. In my mind the dropoff occurs for artists born approximately 1920 and later. One good friend posits that this is ties to the general use of equal temeperament in tuning after approximately 1917 and the resulting vandalism to harmony that occured when the "pythagorean comma" (google it) was distributed equally through the scale. (The tendency had started much earlier but was complete by 1920).

Friend argues that there is something transcendant about the harmonic series that has been removed from modern life with horrific consequences.

The emotional content (and function) of the scale was lost and we have subsituted a sort of faux emotion that appeals to our baser instincts but is not cultivated.

I am very leary of "art" as a route to the transcendant. Real art does evoke some responses that carry over into the horizontal. But fake art can be created that only touches the horizontal with no impact on the vertical. Only delusions are created.

I think that most pop music and religious music (especially religious pop) is fraudulent and dangerous.

hoarhey said...

As just a young and innocent sprout the Beatles never really entered my consciousness, they still really haven't.
Now, the Monkees on the other hand, yeah baby.
Call me slow, but I'm glad it took the world awhile to thoroughly corrupt me. It leaves me with a wholesome frame of reference to draw from.

hoarhey said...

"...then I'll buy ALL Trolls and flying monkeys a Gratis one-way ticket to Cuba immediately! What an airshow that would be! Bon Voyage!!"

I'd get a tear in my eye (of joy) watching that too Princess. :)

River Cocytus said...

georged: I agree, but I think for a different reason-- art is Logos coming down- not going up, so you can't -get- to the Logos through art. You can only see if you can detect him.

As for Religious Pop, the rule I think with pop music is it is in essence derivative, so religious pop is mostly hokey.

But, after I listened to (and still do) black Gospel, it made even the Christian Pop/Rock make a little more sense. Some of it, like "Word of God Speak" by MercyMe, stands on its own as music. Also, do not forget 'Nameless Hymn' by Chris Rice, either.

Joseph said...

Brilliant post Bob. Speaking of music, for me American music is, oddly enough, an area where I see mainly positive development. I have never been a rock officianado, so that genre has never much interested me until lately (I love Van Morrison now, and a number of others), but in folk music (taken in its broadest sense), for those who already have an affinity, it is easier now than ever to listen and find amazing artists all over the place. The internet and film has transformed the whole experience. I also understand that top 40 charts are now going to include internet "listens" to their rating system. One of my favorite new web sites is Pandora, which basically allows you to create your own radio stations based on genre. It plays those you already like and finds new artists playing similar music. It is very cool. Sometimes it will bring someone in to the mix that doesn't belong, like intregalist, and you simply give it a thumb's down and they never return (why won't he do that?). Further, the expense of recording decent CD's has dropped enormously as well. Local live music seems to be thriving in many areas of the country, and so on, and so on. It is not like visual arts, where a simple drive brings one into contact with clods of ugliness. I can choose the music that I listen to, and so I simply don't even notice the Satanic elements, except when my kids try and bring it in. Then its the thumbs down:)

dicentra63 said...

I am reminded of Ortega y Gasset, who wrote about the dehumanization of art at the turn of the 20th century.

In explaining why people didn't like the new-fangled impressionistic paintings, he provided a thought experiment: imagine that you're looking at a garden through a window. As long as you're focused on the garden, you are unaware of the medium through which you see the garden—the window.

Now imagine that you focus on the window. The garden beyond is no longer recognizable as a garden but is now merely color, shape, and line.

Impressionists, he explained, focus more on the medium than on the subject matter, so the subject becomes blurred and less easily recognized.

After he wrote that essay, the transition became complete, and artists concentrated entirely on the medium, abandoning completely the subject matter, giving us abstract art (which is still CUTTING-EDGE, you know!)

The other arts have similarly abandoned subject matter to focus on the medium, at least in some arenas (not in popular music but in much of the classical realm).

I would be interested to know what effect you think this type of dehumanization might have had on the general downward trend in aesthetics.

(BTW, I like a great deal of abstract art, so it's not as if I don't get it.)

Gagdad Bob said...

There are two kinds of abstract art, one that "deconstructs," as it were, in order to get to the archetypal spiritual essence (e.g. Kandinsky), another that does so in order to anarchically destroy order and hierarchy and unleash chaos.

It's the same with music. Certain "free" jazz musicians such as John Coltrane sought the order behind or above musical order, while the majority were just attacking musical order itself.

River Cocytus said...

Its like, the higher the tower, the deeper the pits.

Some men are like Babel, others like Olympus, others like the tower of Pisa, and others like the city of Moir.

-- The thing about tuning systems is, and always has been, there is no perfect one-- aside from the tuning that the voice can use.

Choral music is, in this way, superior to other forms.

But, trying to get 40 people singing together...

Divine intervention, that is.

gumshoe1 said...

apropos of nothing,
well maybe the thread topic...
"Art and the Spiritual Path"

this weekend,i purchased and watched "Underworld"(2003),Len Wiseman-(director)...

very goth,
very atmospheric/noire,
good production values...
enough blood,gore and CGI monsters
(werewolves,mostly) not to take the whole thing too seriously.

when i first saw it close to its release,i was too busy looking for Matrix rip-offs in the imagery,
costuming,and casting...
(Carie Ann Moss/Kate Beckinsale in cat-suits) follow more of the story.

the whole po-mo "relativity of good an evil" thing is going on big time...[one could argue the po-mo thing was perhaps bigger and foggier in Matrix with all the "philosphe"
refernces ,but Underworld it's almost in "pure" form: werewolves and vampires as protagonists]

no 'tradtional heroes/heroines
(but there are clearly 'sympatheitc characters')'s a centuries long war between Lycans(werewolves) and Vampire dynasties.

*no ordinary humans* appear as characters in the film.

its all about:

-endless (eonic)warfare
-blood and gore
(almost to a cartoon level)

all the dicussion about "darkness"
on this thread
made ne want to throw it into the mix here...

i'm finding it productive
to chew over,
in part because i'm intrigued that it entertains by encouraging
the audience to identify with what are essentially monsters.


it couldn't BE more po-mo,imo.

any thoughts from y'all??

Anonymous said...


Here is the quote from Wilber flying monkey is referring to:

"The effects that different types of music have are fascinating. Rock music, no question, hits the lower chakras (perhaps 2 to 3, sex and power). Rap music is often street survival music (chakra 1). The best of jazz (say, Charlie Parker, Miles, Wynton) is 3 to 4. (The seven chakras of kundalini yoga are the archetypal presentation of the Great Chain, consisting of seven basic levels of consciousness, each correlated with a bodily location.)

The great romantic composers (Chopin, Mahler) are quintessential fourth chakra, all heart emotion, sometimes drippingly. Haydn, Bach, Mozart, later Beethoven, push into fifth to sixth, music of the spheres, or so it seems to me. You can actually feel your attention gravitate to various bodily centers (gut, heart, head) as these musical types play.

I find whenever I am writing about, say, Plotinus, Eckhart or Emerson, the only music that doesn't disturb thought is Mozart and the later Beethoven, some of Haydn. But when I'm doing the drudge work of bibliography, footnotes, etc., gimme rock and roll any day."

Nobody is calling Wilber stupid (I think he is a genius). Can't you see that he is not saying the same thing as flying monkey? He would never say that "all art is genuine". It's not relevant anyway and in what way are Piaget and Maslow relevant to music?

This is what happens when someone gets to attached to Wilber, they close their mind and try to apply what he says to everything, even when it's not relevant.

ms. E said...

"Things we might consider routine were occurring: miracles, healings and unclean spirits were coming out of people." -from posting above

Music has always been my catalyst for catharsis of all kinds.

Maybe because my dear mother played Chopin on the piano and delivered me into Oh, What a Beautiful Morning and rocked me to Moonlight Seranade.

And when I could stand on my own, I learned to dance on a Stairway to the Stars and Rocked Around the Clock to Elmer's Tune and The Nutracker Suite even while she put me in the choir where I learned A Mighty Fortress is Our God even Just As I Am as Always Til We Meet Again in The Sweet By and By.

I hereby proclaim as did Berthold Auerbach --

"Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life."

Try it, you'll like it:

GeorgeD said...

Bob, You talk about art that destroys hierarchies. That is exaactly what equal temperament did to music. The functions of any given scale did not change (very much) internally but the relation of one scale to another changed drastically. Also the function of scales in relation ship to an instrument with fixed tuning (like the piano) changed. Scales used to be independent and characteristic. Now they are equal and interchangeable. The hierarchy has been destroyed.

I suppose to some degree folk music retained purity. These simple tunes employ a harmonic structure that is least affected by equal temperament.

ken wilber said...

"This is what happens when someone gets to attached to Wilber, they close their mind and try to apply what he says to everything, even when it's not relevant."

Sraight from the Seven chakra Anonymous!
Finally, a "Wilberian" who gets it.

ken Wilber said...

Of course, don't detach entirely, a spiritual careerist such as myself needs the cash.

The Bunnies said...

I'm just curious as to anyone's views concerning art's exploration of "the dark side."

As dark as some of today's art is, I find none of it as devasting as King Lear. Some art that focuses on the negative is obviously purely destructive, but some of it I find oddly liberating in a way.

Does that just mean I have a perverted spiritual sense, or is there "great" yet dark art that serves a higher spiritual purpose? What is the basic fundamental difference between Tchaikovsky's 6th and Nine Inch Nails, both of which can make one's gut turn inside out?

NoMo said...

Bob – Would you go so far as to say that the art (in all its forms) one genuinely appreciates might indicate which spiritual path one is on, where one is along that path – or if one is even on a spiritual path? Or is that social science run amok?

cosanostradamus said...

I was looking forward to hearing the Beatles' new "Love" mashup. Finally did last week and hated it. Huh?

Why? Precisely because it creeped me out. Sure, every note, instrument, and effect is crystal clear and interestingly mixed, but disturbed me not in a good way. It had none of the spirit of the original works where even though you couldn't necessarily hear everything, it had positive impact and lasting value. But in "Love", all these elements come together like disembodied spirits that pretend to be the Beatles but are just, well, a sum of parts less than the whole. George Martin's kid didn't do us Beatle lovers a service.

It could just be me, of course. And who knows, maybe it will grow on me, but I still prefer the old analog stuff so much more than today's perfect digital music.

Bob, your post brought back a funny memory of being in a fundie church youth group in 1967 and listening to a traveling evangelist whose schtick was to play bits and pieces of current rock songs to prove that they were demonic. I remember one of them was "Over Under Sideways Down" by the Yardbirds. He described how the song was really about drugs (what! you're kidding!!) and how Jeff Beck's guitar feedback was done to represent hallucinations and how All Rock Music Is Of the Devil!!

I went out and bought the album the next day. Two years later I was at Bible school in California eating peyote and then going all Tim Leary for the next 15 years.

Fortunately, there were the Dylans and Morrisons (Van, not Jim) and Cockburns to lead me back to the light. I met Christ again, the real one this time, nowhere near a church, and music had a great deal to do with it. To this day music can move me far more than a sermon, or on the flipside disturb me more than any amount of words.

Uncle Carbunkle said...

The necessary essence of art is Love. True art should permit and invite self-transcendence. Participation in an art form should be a great exercise that enables you to transcend yourself. If it does not serve that purpose, then it is a colossal load of junk. True art has purpose for others, not merely the purpose for the artist.

The true artist is a sacred performer. He or she must do magic that causes others to participate in conditionally manifested reality in the sacred sense, or in the sense of Love, in the sense of self-transcendence, of ecstasy.

Participation in art forms is what is really significant about art. We live in a time in which participation in art forms is no longer the point-- but, traditionally, art objects were ceremonial objects, sacred objects or groups of objects that were an integral part of the daily sacred activity of religios and Spiritual practitioners. Great art is of that kind. The great tradition of art is healing, resonates the being, serving your equanimity, raising your sympathies, enhancing your existence from a sacred point of view. The arts are an absolutely essential part of life.

In the twentieth century, a great deal of the experimentation that has taken place in art has been an expression of the so called objective point of view of reductionist scientism. But the approach of scientism does not allow people to participate in the greater aspects of existence which are/were acknowledged in Sacred Culture. When Sacred Culture is lost and materialistic "culture" replaces it, then even the arts are reduced to the same. Therefore, most of what composes the history of art, particularly contempoary Western art, is mediocre. It is empty.

True art is a sacred performance, and sacred performances can only occur in a sacred setting, a sacred culture, a sacred society. True art results when the artist combines himself or herself completely with the subject, materials, and resultant work. No form, however comely, however perfectly it may conform to a system of structure is truly beautiful if it is not also loved.

And of course in relation to USA society altogether one can only ask what sacred culture??

Also the typical puritan protestant church is not a place of ecstatic celebration or even beauty. On the contrary they are cold austere courtrooms--places of stern judgement.

Anonymous said...

ken wilber,

Thank you very much.

I am sure Wilber is not a "spiritual careerist" and he doesn't need the cash. I believe he is really trying to help people out of compassion. And I think he has, but we don't have to get in to that.

One more quote from integratroll:

"But I never instructed anyone to have the view I have regarding art. Rather, it is a view that any spiritually or metaphysically serious person shares.

Typical bobsense!

Do you honestly believe this? That anyone who is "spiritually or metaphysically serious" must inherently share the same views as you with regards to art? Isn't that a too easy way to write off differing views?"

I believe this. When people come close to beauty itself, they will obviously have similar views on beauty expressed in art and elsewhere. Same with what is good and what is true (in a spiritual sense).

Jerub-Baal said...

I’ve come in to this discussion a day late and a dollar short, so I hope I’m staying on target.

dennis said I would guess that there is something to the act of transgression that is involved here. Within an artist's practice, crossing the line is essential and indeispensable [sic]. Breaking one's preconception of what art was and recreating what art is-at-this-moment is what all artists do. Contemporary parlance is "keeping it fresh".

This is really the serious issues of art today. Basically, all of the lines have already been crossed, and "there is nothing new under the sun." All that is happening now is that artists 'rebelling' on the 'cutting edge' are quickly proving to be infantile. Matt Groening did a hilarious fisking of artistic pretentions with a editorial cartoon of a fictisious magazine called Struggling Artist which included such articles as "Reality is Banal and Absurd, Like an Oily Rag Festering In the Corner," and "Experts Say Up to 3 Out of 10 Artists Might Not Possibly Be the Geniuses They Think They Are. Could Your Friends Be Among Them?. I have a copy taped to the wall in my studio to keep me from being an idiot.

Warhol made art an industry, based totally on subverting not only beauty, but western culture itself. Studying art in the 20th century makes for great history, but once the cubists were done, there was very little that will stand up after a couple of centuries (and the cubist will probably be remembered only for their unsuccessful attempts at breaking the picture plane). The divorce of the fine arts, painting sculpture and such, from anything resembling beauty or truth was finalized with WWII and the angst that descended on the art world with the advent of the atomic age. Since death became so evident on such a grand scale, cutting through all the illusions we use to protect ourselves from our mortality, the arts as a whole decided to throw its heritage out the window.

I would add though, that Sturm und Drang, emotionalism for the sake of it, is not something new to the late 20th century, as the history of the phrase illustrates.

Bob, as for getting a leg up on immersing yourself in the visual arts, should you be interested I might suggest a couple of sources. An excellent beginning would be with Dover Publications. They reproduce many classic arts publications, including such things as the works of Vasari, Vitruvius' Ten Books on Architecture, the notebooks of Leonardo, the complete woodcuts and etchings of Durer and many more, all at very reasonable prices. They are probably the best as well as the least known source of art history in publication today. Another excellent reference that you might enjoy is History of Italian Renaissance Art 6th Ed by Frederick Hartt and David G. Wilkins, which covers a wonderful phase in the history of art. I am currently rereading it (for maybe the sixth or eighth time). It is expensive as an introductory piece, but is an excellent, complete and very readable source for a pivotal time in Art History.

Phaidon also has an excellent series of books called Art and Ideas of which I currently have "the Northern Renaissance" by Jeffrey Chipps Smith, and the excellent "Goya" by Sarah Symmons. They pull together great and clear scholarship with high quality reproductions.

I am a painter. My work does not compare with those who have gone before me. I hope it is something that will strike a cord with those who see it, and that it will reflect the spiritual needs that we all have. Doing that in a way that is not flat or a stereotype, or completely predictable is very difficult. I understand completely Bob's veneration of the 'pure art from the heart,' if I may paraphrase. However, that can be a very hard place to find in the midst of all of the distractions of the world. In the book of Matthew, in chapter 13, Jesus tells the parable of the four soils. It is illustrative of the burdens of this earth life that out of four soils, three contain pitfalls for the spirit, and only one bears good fruit.

And not to rag dennis for his spelling or his typing skills, for mine are simply horrendous. Perhaps by
indeispensable he ment that the arts have been trying to dispense with the Dei. That would certainly be an apropriate neologism.

PrincessSpirit said...

I feel utterly heartsick to discover the constant damage perpetrated upon Traditionalist & Classical Art, Music, Poetry, History & Education by the #&#@ Enlightenment, Modernist & Post-Modernist takeovers. The deliberately targeted annihilation, pernicious propaganda, libelous lies & violent campaigns the 3 unholy-eras have waged against traditional disciplines left Beauty raped, scarred & scorched after repeated attempts to incinerate & destroy traditional institutions. Yet, despite criminal onslaught, their Valiant Beauty radiates & stands strong witness to Greatness, still resurrects & shines despite war crimes suffered. My love for Classicalism, Traditional Realism, NeoClassicalism, Pre-Raphaelite Art, etc. is a luminous flame that never dies I will carry beyond the Grave that Evil, in whatever form, can never eradicate.

Isn't it odd that Post-Modernism & Deconstructionism both demand concrete experience as more valuable than abstract ideas -- YET both proceed to hijack the very term they protest & despise, claiming it as their own!! Both refute Traditional history & not only challenge but DENY ultimate Truth. does that sound like anyone we know here?? :D

Why this deliberate duplicitousness, confusion, hijacking & war crimes by those seizing the Moral high ground who commandeer it for their own? The Moral High Ground & its denizens of Tradition never was & still isn't ever going to belong to them. Their ilk only steal, maim & destroy in murderous rage, prideful contempt & deliberate war. But whatever name you call them - Left, Enlightenment, whatever bs - they are still DEVOID of true Identity. Always shall be - the Void IS their Identity & characterizes ALL their unholy offspring.

While I can get into Monet, Degas & Kandinsky in limited ways, am still turned-off by Surrealism, Modernism, NeoModernism, Cubism, Expressionism - All are "Harlot Daughters" of what is now termed Abstract Art, still a Gross Misnomer in Traditional Art terms if ever theres one. Traditional Realists always abstract influences from old masters before them, to painstakingly learn to reproduce same techniques & methods & lovingly labor to express detailed stories, poems, fictional works & myths depicting people, eras, history, emotions & relationships. Hence, a painting from their brushes truly is worth 1,000 words+. Detailed subjects & rich representations relate with external reality & serve as a painted history of humanity's shared joys & woes, hopes & fears, realities & dreams, betrayals & victories evidencing advanced characteristics & nuances of Identity & sophisticated civilization.

Traditional Realism powerfully still transfixes Trolls due to its Beauty, luminosity, depth of being which is the TRUE Meaning of "abstract art," in contrast w/the current bastardization of the term orchestrated by the Unholy-Triumvirate of Enlightenment, Post-mod & Modernism (the Big-3.) The Big-3 hijacked the term abstract art then promptly proceeded applying it to its offspring in order to give desperately sought legitimacy & Identity to ItSelf & its "offspring" including: Cubism, Surrealism, Modernism, Neo-Modernism, Fauvism, Impressionism, Expressionism, etc. It militantly sought to eradicate & eviscerate art institutions, methods & old techniques of great masters to destroy the previous knowledge base of how to create masterful art so only Abstract Art dominated & made money.

Blessedly, I didn't enter formal Art training til mid-80s when Traditional Realists & NeoClassicalists finally experienced long-awaited Resurrection after suffering decades of bulldozing by militant Modernism, et al. First time I laid eyes on Artworks by Edward Burne-Jones, William Morris, Rosetti, Rembrandt, Tadema, Leighton, Godward I knew I'd fallen in love w/true Beauty. I found their paintings NOT in museums as one would expect, but in Art books. Surrealism is what I found in Museums who survived the hostile takeovers. Abstract Art bothered my spirit then & now. Tho spared the brainwashing other students suffered b4 the 80s respite hit the resultant confusion of what Abstract Art TRULY is in relationship to Traditional Realism & Modern Abstract Art remained unaddressed.

Modernists declare extensive reading & thinking & detailed technique mastery is unnecessary, which is fine as far as it goes. But to declare Modernist Abstract Art as THE SOLE legit art violently excommunicate & murders previous art-forms. To distinguish, I now call it "Modernist Abstract Art" & "Psychotic Surrealism" tho it truly abstracts from Nothing & is non-representational. Detail is eliminated supposedly to leave the essence in a recognisable form, but often it looks like throw-up or what you get when you "franken-collage" different paintings together, crazy-quilt style.

Hope this helps people understand some vital history & differences in art-forms as it relates to the current influence & domination of Leftism in art & spirituality. The so-called Enlightenment period is one of the most detestable vile periods in history we've ever lived thru, yet many have little understanding of the Evil & actual damage it perpetrates. Such on-going ignorance is further exhibited & evidenced by continued lack of Beauty & Spirituality in the current relativistic art-forms.

- PrincessSpirit -

Susan Lee said...

Some really interesting stuff in today's post & comments! I come from a perspective of the visual arts (painting, sketching & photography) but drama & music also have a place in my heart...

Visual arts- (photography, sculpture, painting)all have an ontological base- this is the root of the vertical relationship. When one is developing a painting, one is interested in the 'essence' of the subject- if I'm sketching a buttercup, it has to be The Ontological Buttercup (not to be mistaken for a rose); that buttercup which speaks for ALL buttercups. I may wish to show a buttercup in the fullness of its glory, or maybe one gone by, with petals missing, but no matter what I'm portraying, I have to get across the 'buttercup-ness' of the subject. That means I have to be tuned into the (vertical) reality of the Buttercup in order to make a good picture. Now think of all the artists you can and what a variety of vertical reality can be represented! (say, Vermeer to Gaugin, for example)

And there are some very dark works that are SO accurately depictive (is that a word?) of human nature. I think when considering dark works, one should distinguish between King Lear, which has an obvious vertical component to it; and dissected rabbit corpses strung on a bob-wire fence, which vertical component completely escapes me.

It's interesting about music & the Chakras- when I'm creating (developing ideas, initial sketches, general ideas & perspectives), I listen to jazz. When I'm actually executing the design, it's Mozart, Beethoven, Hayden. Also Biber & Vivaldi, if you want to hear other baroque Masters.

Q. So, when God did/does all his creating, is He enjoying it all for Himself? or is he also showing off for me? "hey, look at this sunset!"

Smoov said...

Musical appreciation is tied somewhat to the hearers ability to distinguish pitch.

Most people have relatively lousy pitch, including many musicians. My mother has almost absolute pitch (extremely rare) and practically lives on the classic orchestral, chamber, and piano music as well as opera.

Bob Dylan produces something like physical pain in her. She doesn't dislike Dylan on principle, she dislikes anything unmusical (i.e., noise) which is passed off as music. For her the overwhelming majority of "popular" music--from Howlin' Wolf through Elvis Presley to Snoop Dogg--is simply unlistenable.

That doesn't apply to me, though. I like lots of music, classical, jazz, pop, country, etc.

I certainly agree with Bob that much pop music is demonically-influenced (whether figuratively or literally I will leave to the theologians here). However the idea that all good pop music stopped in the 1960s is preposterous. There are as many great acts today as there were then--far more in fact. You just have to look for them.

Check out Sufjan Stevens for starters. Some of the most brilliant, playful yet darkly probing Christian-influenced pop music made today.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of marvellous musicians today. Bob is confusing MTV with the entire music scene. This is like confusing the best-seller rack at Barnes & Noble with all available literature.

Plus, the sixties sucked.

cousin dupree said...


Bob specifically said that he was in no way making the absurd suggestion that no good popular music occurred after 1968.

Having said that, if you really believe there is a contemporary Bob Dylan, or Beatles, or Brian Wilson, or Byrds, or Muddy Waters, or Van Morrison, or Duane Allman, or Sinatra, or Johnny Cash, or Al Green, or Stevie Ray Vaughan that we just haven't heard of, then, dude, no disrespect, but you are as incapable of recognizing timeless artistry as your listening-impaired mother. You may enjoy the musical diversion of Sufjan Stevens, but no one is going to confuse it with immortal art. Please.

Anonymous said...

No one will ever confuse Bob Dylan for J. S. Bach or W. A Mozart either. Vertical isn't a ladder in the backyard.

Van said...

Well, I've been in an electrical blackout for 3 days, with freezing rain snapping trees and electrical lines and shutting me off from heat, light and One Cosmos... perhaps best to keep that in mind as my mental orientation for coming back into the world with today’s and yesterdays posts.

hmmm. I agree we are evolving still, but in any way that matters or is noticeable between us today and us 2,500 years ago? Hard to see or swallow. At least not in the physical genes & intellectual capacity aspect of evolution.

Are we More intelligent?

More drilled in looked for facts, ok. Improved intelligence? I'd much rather talk with Samuel Adams than either Keith Olberman or Bill O'Reilly. But the question of course necessitates the further question, what is intelligence? Does some IQ test, test intelligence as to quality of thought and 'moral reasoning' or a recollection of facts and mental -mechanical affinity... I'm leaning to mere quantitative measurement, not qualitative, and part of the reason is the last question Gagdad posed at the end of yesterdays post "The one thing that does puzzle me, however -- and this is a point brought up by reader Joseph -- is the aesthetic ugliness that accompanies modernity."

Art, IMHO, and peoples appreciation for and valuing of Art, is an expression of their gut level Philosophy, its internal coherence, and ability to make sense of their world.

I can’t say that I see any appreciable lessening of intelligence in the thought expressed from Thales of Miletus, through Socrates, Plato, Aristotle - they were not isolated freaks. Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides wrestled with the dilemma of intelligence, the apparent practical versus the greater moral good, and the soul wrenching necessity of often having to choose between actions that are neither, but merely the only choices you have.

Neither were the hordes of the Mongols, the caliphate muslims, the Nazi’s or the Communists isolated or unrepresentative of their times. The peoples capacities in either these high or low times, their abilities to increase or decrease those capacities, were in no way appreciably different from ours.

Though the Greeks were at a high point in Periclean Athens, their culture and its relative quality spanned over five hundred of years. It got a second wind, though a flatter perspective, in Rome, whose Art and Culture didn't completely fall until Byzantium fell to the Muslim hordes 1,000 years after it perished in Europe.

The Renaissance revived human intelligence and Art as well, and bumped both along into modernity through the Enlightenment.

Who is going to argue that some moden gliterati fool matches in intellectual quality of intelligence with Shakespeare? Milton? even the 19th Centuries Edmund Rostand? The visual 'art' of today is even less worth comparing to the past than the literature.

Sophocles or Cicero or Michelangelo or Mozart or Bach or Vermeer or Shakespeare or the Founding Fathers or Godard or Beaugerau- they were not isolated freaks of their times, they were bright lights to be sure, but they would have had little or no affect on their times if they weren't within the grasp and ken of the populace, if they were isolated freaks they would have been stoned to death as freaks.

The constant I think you'll find between the rise and fall of apparent intellectual and spiritual evolution, and Art that is beautiful, inspiring, even profoundly tragic but Human still with a Capital blazing golden "H", as opposed to the intellectual pond scum and matching drecks of 'art' expressed by such as jackson pollack or Picasso or marylin manson, is to be found in the prevailing philosophy of their time, their mental and emotional understanding of what the world is, what is Real and what is True, and what it means to be human within it, and what is of value to seek to transform humanity into - transcendent or decadent. Ideas are source matter for what the artist clearly sees in the psychic atmosphere of their worlds, and that emanates from the philosophical leaders of influence in their times.

With the dominant reasoning and coherence of the Greeks, the Renaissance, the Elizabethans and the Enlightenment you get the Art that causes you to want to fall on your knees and soar to the stars in resonance with it. With the malevolent superstition of pre-history or the dark ages or the malevolent intellectualism of the Kantians & Post-Modernists, you get art of visceral shock value and nihilism whose only ability to stir you at all is through tearing down what somehow still stands.

The only spiritual and intellectual evolution that matters to us, and is visible in us and through us, is that which happens within our active efforts in whole-soul-reasoning with reality and truth - and our willingness to face up to it, to rise to it's challenges, or to seek easy escapes and miniscule 'h' heroics in the arts of victimization and envy, which are really nothing more than stylized destruction.

Art is that which resonates with and accelerates the soul and spirit of those who willingly partake of it – whether that direction draws us upwards or downwards, ultimately rests on those who feed the hearts and minds of the artists – the intellectuals. There’s a cheery thought. At least now I have electricity again to turn the thermostat up. Brrrrrrr.

GLASR said...

When "art" came home, I was shocked by the intensity of realization, bordering on epiphany. Brugge, the only EU city I would revisit without a gun to my head. St John's Hospital, Memling, Church of Our Lady(where you can walk right up to Michelangelo's "Madonna with Child", touch it if you like), one or two other musee full of Flemish Primitives. After several days scouring this beautiful "stuck in the Fifteenth Century" town, visited their dedicated to contemporary art building. Ah ha! Hmmmmmm.... Well, uh, um, yanked back from the barbaric edge, hard.

heh heh! That was, cue MY seeming disconnect. [Insert left handed compliment, humorous derision of Lisa HERE]. You're stunningly beautiful too, would be my guess. XO(that's code for last word) heh heh

Smoov said...

cousin dupree:

Sheesh. For spirtually enlightened people you sure are touchy! Just how far outside the party line does one have to stray before the rebukes begin? Not very far, it seems.

Just because you say that some particular extremely narrow selection of 30 year-old pop music is "beautiful" does not mean others must agree bobblehead-style or else be dismissed as "incapable of recognizing musical artistry".

You seriously need to lighten up on the knee-jerk defensiveness, dude.

Smoov said...

cousin dupree:

By the way, my "listening-impaired mother" has played Chopin and Mozart publicly on the piano for more than 40 years. She lives music on a plane far higher than anything imagined by your confederacy of drug-addled hippies.

You're human. Try to remember that.

Van said...

RC, I understand what you mean about the 300 foot smokestack being an expression of creativity meeting the needs of productivity – and being beautiful in its own legitimate way. And Joan, yes, the raw power of the Blue Angels air show - creative intelligence defying gravity and depravity in the service of Values – it does make be grin and belly laugh as well. There is an interchange here in St. Louis of soaring freeway trestles as I-70 passes through I-270 that makes my heart soar whenever I approach and pass through it. They are artistic expressions of form and function, but they are not quite the same as the Art of Mozart, Beethoven, DaVinci & their like. That is Art, which serves no purpose other than to express a soaring theme of the spirit, that puts your mind and soul in tune for a higher (and perhaps indefinable) purpose.

And to all you annony-inty-nags, you soul sickened Siamese twins of the spirit who claim Art to be of equal and no value, the piss-christ and Michangelo’s David to be just different and equal expressions – you are beyond sick, and never more clearly do you show the worth of your judgment.

Van said...

Will, ditto on the Schoenberg piece... cue frankensteins monster.

Paul G said...

Bunnies - This is the thought that your question brought to mind:

I occurs to me that the difference between something like Nine Inch Nails or Rage Against the Machine's dark music and something similarly dark yet beautiful, like Othello, is a question of how the author expects you to identify with the work.

When reading Othello, you are wrenched inside out, perhaps you even relate to the pain, but you are not intended to identify yourself with that pain. For me, Othello brings the idea of an Absolute Truth into clear focus. What happens to the moor is so absolutely wrong and evil that it almost forces one to recognize a reference to an absolute idea of Right in one's own self. You're supposed to reject the pain and evil conveyed by Iago's actions. They are Wrong.

Something like NIN or RAtM is more like a celebration of being identified by the dark emotions conveyed. You're not supposed to reject the pain and negativity, you're supposed to revel in it, to clothe yourself with it, to identify with it. Reminds me of junior high school...

Van said...

GeorgeD said "...I am very leary of "art" as a route to the transcendant. Real art does evoke some responses that carry over into the horizontal. But fake art can be created that only touches the horizontal with no impact on the vertical. Only delusions are created..."

You can almost always spot the faux art when it is spoken of as "stretching boundaries" "making great new strides" "brings new evocations of authenticity" - all being passively agressive pseudo-intellectual intimidations to accept jarring and disharmonious gimmicks in place of beauty.

Bob & Will, though my inner Beatle is appalled at me, I think Rubber Soul was their first intro to mistaking the twisted for the cool.

Jacob C. said...

When music first stopped being a message per se and began to be a mere vehicle for the message is the day that American (and worldwide) pop music began to circle the drain... I don't know about you, but I blame Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger.

Paul G: Your assessment of NIN and RatM is dead on. It seems to me like most of the people who are fans of these two groups are fascinated by noise, to the extent that it seems to be an audible expression of the turmoil inside their own uneasy heads. They want music they can listen to and say, "This is me, in all my fear and anger...." And I suspect the art of Damien Hirst and his ilk fulfills a similar visual purpose. (Hirst is the man who suspended an embalmed great white shark in a giant glass tank of formaldehyde.)

hoarhey said...

There is an interchange here in St. Louis of soaring freeway trestles as I-70 passes through I-270 that makes my heart soar whenever I approach and pass through it.

If it's the one I'm thinking of in East St Louis, just make sure you don't get off any of the exits or you may end up gazing at the beauty of a finely crafted revolver staring you in the face. ;)

Michael Andreyakovich said...

Jeeze, Rage Against The Machine.

Here poor Jake is, talking about music as VEHICLE for a message, and he can only think of Seeger—while the worst offenders are dangling in front of his nose. RATM, to the extent that they were a band at all, existed SOLELY to transmit a message. Nothing higher than that. And sure, they were and are technically proficient musicians, but technical brilliance counts for nothing in favor of a musician that has given up any hint of the transcendental to wallow in political rhetoric. They remind me of the MC5, and Wayne Kramer shouting "KICK OUT THE JAMS, MOTHERFUCKERS!"—whatever that may mean—while surfing on the very crest of the Nihilistic Watershed that Gagdad identified... (1968 was the breakthrough year for that shit, and the KICK OUT THE JAMS album was released in 1969.)

Plink Froyd said...

Gumshoe 1, the phrase "po-mo" I do not understand. Clarify?

Regarding your example of "Underworld"--

I would say that to identify with a werewolf is to get in touch with one's aggression in a direct way, and to be a vampire to get in touch with one's sexual core.

These are appetities/urges that are suppressed in the waking consciousness and take on a life of their own in the "underworld" of the subconscious.

Watching the movie might bring that which is hidden into the light of waking consciousness, thereby weakening its grip on the being.

Paul G said...

Oh, and before it comes about, it is definitely not my intent to divert the discussion into talking about the silliness of the aforementioned bands. Frankly, the less attention they get, the better.

By all means, carry on discussing those little somethings that you find indescribably beautiful. It's fascinating to see so many personal "founts of the divine" described.

Personally, it's hard to beat a late night walk on the beach. No people, no lights, no cars. Just the stars above and the sound of the waves breaking on the sand. It has a way of forcing your brain to shut up and just listen.

cosanostradamus said...

georged - equal temperament is indeed a sad compromise, necessary for modern music, but so grating and out of tune compared to various just intonations. Listening to the same simple piece in the two tunings is an enlightening experience.

For example, an equal temperament piece that is meant to exemplify sweetness will taste like okra in comparison to the same music in just intonation. That music which is merely uplifting can be enrapturing when the intervals harmonize together across the major frequencies.

Music has not had a major breakthrough now for a few decades and some would argue centuries. I believe that a renewed exploration of the 'beautiful' tunings will accomplish that some day, but not soon. It will require serious retraining or perhaps even eradication of the western ear, not possible until recorded music and its distribution is once again in the hands of people who make it. If people could hear it, they'd buy it. I think this explains Sufjan Stevens' popularity to some degree.

I also wonder if Arabic music might one day be a catalyst for such an ear change because of how civilizations tend to assimilate some of the culture of those they defeat. There have been some successful experiments in the rock world (e.g. Loreena McKennit), but not in the larger musical stage. At some point, perhaps when Islamofascism is rightly put out of its miserable existence, Arabic music will once again flourish and be heard for its beauty. And some eccentric tuning enthusiast will blend it with an arcane intonation of some kind and voila - a beautiful new art form will arise.

Or not. But I can dream, can't I?

robinstarfish said...

hymns to the silence
eye's not seen and ear's not heard
music of the spheres

uss ben said...

Another form of art is cooking.
Look at the food that most eat.
It often goes well with crappy 'music', perverted sculptures, post-modernist 'art',
and architecture that sucks.

My Grandma could make beans, rice and potatoes taste like Heaven!

My Mom could follow the exact same recipes, but she was a lousy cook.

I asked my Grandmother what her secret was.

"Well dear," she said, "I cook with love."

That's it. But it was more than was an honest love, and a selfless love.

When I was converted (against my will) to be a Navy, for 3 months, and again later, for another 3 months, I began to understand more fully what my Grandmother meant.
And I still am.

Another form of art is healthy humor/comedy/funny stuff.
There is definitely higher humor, that flows from the vertical.
Dave Roever (sp?) comes to mind, among others.

Roever was horribly disfigured in Vietnam, but he uses humor to talk about it, and I'm talking about a humor that is funny yet still bears the fruit of truth, that demonstrates the glory of God.

Instead of feeling like you need a bath humor (ala George Carlin, Margeret Cho, Roseanne Barr, etc.),
Roever's humor lift's your spirit with humor.

And there is 'clean' but hysterically funny humor from gifted comedians like the Three Stooges, Red Skelton, Bill Cosby, Carol Burnett, Steven Wright, and
many others.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a spiritual prig, and I have listened to much of the more vulgur or 'colorful' of humor in the past (varying levels), and some was very funny and still is.
Now, most of it just sounds pathetic and deconstructive (lower vertical), instead of uplifting to some degree.
Or it's funny on a horizontal level at best.

The same thing with cartoonist/comedians.
I'd much rather read Bob Godwin's uplifting humor, and Bob Larsen, even Ace (of Ace of Spades blogging fame), than say Doonesbury or other claptrap that again, deconsructs and takes away.

uss ben said...

Correction: Navy cook. Sheesh!

PrincessSpirit said...

CosaNostraDude: On dynamic Arabic crossover music: BSG Soundtracks, by Bear McCreary & reknowned Richard Gibbs (ISpy & Oingo Boingo fame). Find this music to be innovative, bold, evocative, esoteric, emotive, soul-stiring, soaring, ambient, minimalist & lush orchestrals. ME chord progs, Koto drums, Tibetan chants, Celtic. Season1 (Arabic elements) Passacaglia; Kobols Last Gleaming; Two Funerals. I'd say they've created very dynamic meld-music, not perfect but first meld-music I've been jazzed to hear in yrs. Whatchoo think?

Kingdom of Heaven soundtrack by Iestyn Davies, but I've not listened to it. Christian-Celtic-Arabic-Israeli mix.

McKennitt travels to each country, in remote & backwater locations, immerses herself w/the locals, learns to play every instrument, then lays down the tracks back-to-back in her studio. Sting's Arabic-mix Desert Rose song + CD comes to mind. Various Worldbeat musicians are crafting ME instruments into their music. Worth spending a few hours listening to CDs at local book & music store to locate a few Diamonds among rhinestone ruffs. For lush Celtic try elec harpist Hilary Stagg's Dream Spiral CD, he influenced my style w/elec Harp when I played.

Arabic-mix: "R.E.G. Project: Claude Challe Presents: Near Eastern Lounge", Elie Barbar, Composer. Entire CD is Trance-crossed-Middle Eastern. If you don't like Trance / synth dont waste time. Harem House Mix is groovy enuf; Sayat Nova, Israeli flavor; Passion reminds me faintly of Mike Oldfields Tubular Bells (1973) of The Exorcist but more lush; Piece of Heaven, I term it "Militant-lush." Casa Del Sol's a jaunty mix of Cuban-Carribean, Miami-goes-Middle Eastern, makes you believe you're cruisin thru Miami or Little Havanna. Ripe w/successful crossmixed elements of Greek, Indian, Arabic, Paki, Israeli, Turkish, etc. Likeable Dance-Trance jamz but not superlush or enrapturous. Am still lookin for those tunes myself.

Nothing earth-shattering here but since you mused on Arabic crossovers, a lil sumfink to tingle the typanics.

- PrincessSpirit -

PrincessSpirit said...

er...tympanics! :D

Van said...

Yep, saw Underworld, and the po-mo theme is there. What I find interesting in 50's + pop culture, is the glamorizing of the bad guy for his disguised good guy features.

By that I mean beneath all the dark clothes & brooding looks and bad manners, what inevitably distinguishes the ‘heroic’ bad guy from the run of the mill punk that no one takes notice of, is his … not quite sure how to phrase this, … ‘solid’ core (picture Arnold’s Terminator unwavering gaze), and the overall effectiveness… the ability of the ‘bad guy’ to get things done, to accomplish the task at hand, regardless of any distractions like laws & manners, or even personal pain and loss he may experience due to his determination to complete his mission.

Those are the hallmarks of the Hero… wishy-washy limp wrested pc-ified ‘good guys’ never have that quality, they lament, and moan, and endlessly agonize over the ramifications of their actions. That isn’t heroic, and the public, deep down, isn’t fooled into thinking that it is.

The reaction visible in movies such as Underworld (or even Darth Vader for that matter) is ‘we know what we want, you can dress ‘em up however you wish, call him good guy or outcast, or whatever, but Dammit! Give us our HEROES!!!’ and Hollywood ever mindful of what will bring the dollars to the box office, does just that. All the pop stars ape the ‘solid’ look as well, they all try to do the Brooding look, the menacing manner, it’s the only publicly acceptable expression of the heroic that is able to escape the Pc censors.

Van said...

For a feast of visual Art, essays on the meaning of art, the folly of post-modernist 'art', try Art Renewal.Org. Traditional greats such as Lord Frederick Leighton, John William Godward, William Bouguereau, Lawrence Alma-Tadema (look them up in their virtual museum for high res pics - you'll see what I mean) are in abundance, as well as a serious effort (and scholarships) to promote the new and rising stars who are no longer fooled into thinking that splashing paint is the equivalent of Art.

A worthy site.

Van said...

Hoarhey said... "If it's the one I'm thinking of in East St Louis, just make sure you don't get off any of the exits or you may end up gazing at the beauty of a finely crafted revolver staring you in the face. ;) "

LOL, no, way further west, past St. Louis propper, before Earth City & the river.

Van said...

Hmm, mornings light shows my first comment to be a bit more severe than intended. Question I have, is do you really think that we’ve had actual evolving since the big brow went away and the light dawned, say 40,000 years ago, or more slip-sliding fits and starts at developing into the potential capabilities that the last evolving we underwent, made possible?

gumshoe1 said...

Plink -

"po-mo" is my shorthand for
"post modern".

re:Underworld -

"Watching the movie might bring that which is hidden
into the light of waking consciousness,
thereby weakening its grip on the being."

i could see that,yeah.
good comments,thanks Plink.

Van -

great comments on
"hiding the Hero"...which you called:
"glamorizing of the bad guy
for his disguised good guy features."

enjoyed your insights
a lot there.

thank you both for your feedback.

GeorgeD said...

Van said "You can almost always spot the faux art when it is spoken of as "stretching boundaries" "making great new strides" "brings new evocations of authenticity" - all being passively agressive pseudo-intellectual intimidations to accept jarring and disharmonious gimmicks in place of beauty."

You can also spot it when it is dripping with strings, overjuiced on reverb and gimmicked to death. If its overt purpose is to create a mood it is wrong.

This thread has taken an interesting turn. Thhe expression of musical preferences by individuals has been more revealing to me than anything else anyone has written. Its raised some questions about the height of the vertical. I hadn't realized that transcendence was so cheap.

Anonymous said...

As my friend Rex, (also known as "Another Rothrock") would say,

"Never state, what you can imply."

Modern bogus 'art' of any kind, is so busy beating you with the obvious intent, and self lauditory remarks, elevating the rebellious or assinine, that it may as well be called, "Integralism"


Lisa said...

Is it possible that some people are actually oriented more towards the dark? Perhaps it depends on what time you were born, say if you were born at 10:30pm dark would be your first light so to speak. Much like Jessica Rabbit who was drawn bad(in a good way if you know what I mean!!). I know light and dark cannot exist without eachother. Like the dualistic nature of yin and yang.

I have waited to comment on this thread because I have already tried to bring to light the dark talents of Jack White who is by far the best musician of this time connected to the O. No one at OC believed me then but it is still true. Just because some of the old folks around here don't get it, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. ;0) But I'll not beat that dead horse anymore. Hint: listen to the negative space in his music!

I personally think Picasso, Escher, Dali create beauty in an abstract or warped way. Alexandra at the blog All Things Beautiful puts up some stirringly beautiful dark images on her site. Bunnies may also find that interesting relating to her question.

I can only speak for myself when I say there are certain times I feel a strong pull to things dark. I like to think of it as the challenge of humanity. I believe God has a dark side too and many more sides we have no words for. Perhaps this is why a certain set of values or morals are so important in furthering the development of humanity as a whole.

PS Those were last words I can agree with Glasr!lol ;0)

River Cocytus said...

bunnies: Dark art is like the minor scale-- it is not EVIL or SAD, per se, just dark, rich, and full bodied. True 'dark' art is not of darkness; It explores what is lament, what is despair, what is longing, what is death so on and so forth, but does not for a moment embrace chaos, evil, destruction, fear or hatred.

Romantic music explored the 'dark'... some understood it, but others gave into it.

Contrast... the shadow and the darkness.

River's Piano said...

I am a well-tempered instrument! They just chose to make me 'equal'. Equal to what, I say, to what?

Guess that's why I keep coming out of tune.

I'm baroque! But don't fix me.

Integratroll said...

This is what happens when someone gets to attached to Wilber, they close their mind and try to apply what he says to everything, even when it's not relevant.

Hey, I agree with you, having once been a diehard Wilberian myself. Fortunately I don't have that problem any more.

But my point was simply this: all art IS genuine art in that it is stage-specific. Shitting on a piece of paper could be considered art, albeit 1st chakra art.

I mentioned Piaget, Wilber, and Maslow as examples of developmentalists that recognize a wide spectrum of levels/stages. I was asking why flying monkey's post was stupid by asserting "Gradations of spirit." See, the difference between what flying monkey was saying--and Bob's view--is that FM's is more nondualistic: there is only Spirit; while Bob is much more dualistic, picking and choosing what he believes to be spirit, castigating everything he doesn't like as "Satanic" or "Leftist."

Van said...

Lisa said
"I personally think Picasso, Escher, Dali create beauty in an abstract or warped way".

Escher, Dali yes, especially Dali. Van Gogh, much to my minds chagrin, grabs my attention with bands of steel and threatens to push me just that side of reality. I can't explain it, don't particularly like it, but if there's a Van Gogh around, I've gotta gaze at it.

My personal opinion is that Picasso was a poopy-head, but that's just me.

"...I can only speak for myself when I say there are certain times I feel a strong pull to things dark..."

I don't quite go for the full meaning of the ying-yang, manichean, light and dark as both having ultimate substance point of view, but there is no denying that there are events in life that one can only describe as Dark, and yet that doesn't mean they have no lessons for us, or no beauty within their fall.

Judith Beheading Holofernes by Caravaggio (1571-1610) is hardly sunshine & roses, but it is Art nonetheless.

However, for those who think that poop on paper could be Art, they be a true prince of poopy-heads.

Lisa said...

Van, I happen to have a cheap replica of a Van Gogh in my dining room that is now a living room. He is a genious with those brush strokes and movement on the canvass. I can't remember the name right now but its one of his meadow pictures with nice golds, browns, greens, and blues - very soothing and swirling....

ximeze said...


Have you see the extraordinary

"Vincent: The Life and Death of Vincent Van Gogh (1988)

Starring: John Hurt, Marika Rivera Director: Paul Cox" ?

If not, & have a thing for Van Gogh, it's a must-see.

Van said...

Yep, all of those, and particularly the cypress tree's.

Ximeze, no I haven't seen that, but I'd pay to listen to John Hurt read the phone book, so NetFlix is my next stop in cyber land. Thanks!

River Cocytus said...

I know he's considered kitschy, but what do y'all think of Thomas Kinkade? I'm kind of ambivalent about him myself. Some part of me likes the idyllic, but other parts of me say its boilerplate...

ximeze said...


You won't regret it. Saw it in a small movie theater back when it came out. Prior to that experience, couldn't "see" VG.

If I remember rightly, they somehow "backlit" the paintings. Perhaps early digital tech?

John Hurt reads letters between V & bro Theo, all to just shots of the works, V writing about what he was trying to do or play with. The shots move around the canvas, tight close-ups of "things", partials (say: one corner/bottom half) & full shots.

Confess I rigidly sat there, mouth AGAPE, while my brain reordered itself. Kinda could actually feel new-neural-pathways being formed.

Or maybe, I was just hung-over.

Van said...

I've added it to my NetFlix cue. I've had to cut our 3 DVD's out at a time to 1 because I just haven't had time the last few months for 'entertainment'. DaVinci Code has been sitting unseen on my DVD player for 4 weeks now. GOod thing I hooked the kids X-Box up to our home theater system, or it'd be a home dusteater system.
Still, patience is...(what you call the reality of having no other option).

Gagdad Bob said...

elvis' evils lives & KC mother--

I deleted your posts because they are full of erroneous presumptions that are not even wrong. As if I've never heard of Steve Earle, Shelby Lynne or the awesome genius Alanis Morrisette! Please. Sorry to break the news, but they aren't exactly Waylon Jennings, Patsy Cline, or Dusty Springfield.

Most of the music I listen to, I only discovered as an adult, so the charge of living in the past is nonsensical. I consider any music from 1926-2007 "contemporary." It is you who seem focussed on the transient sounds of the past 15 years. Go away.

Gagdad Bob said...


You said: "Bob is confusing MTV with the entire music scene."

That is an ignorant statement. I was merely resonding to it.

And if it is true that your mother cannot appreciate the sublime artists I mentioned, then she is indeed listening impaired, even though, as you say, her hearing may well be impeccable. I'm guessing she probably cannot appreciate the harmonic complexity of a Thelonious Monk or John Coltrane either. No offense, but that represents an aesthetic impairment of the first order, any way you cut it.

Michael Andreyakovich said...

River: On the subject of Thomas Kinkade, I think he's the visual equivalent of the music that GeorgeD described when he said:

"You can also spot it when it is dripping with strings, overjuiced on reverb and gimmicked to death."

He's a technically proficient painter, but Van Gogh he's not. Hell, he's not even Norman Rockwell.

Michael Andreyakovich said...


For some reason, I can't get into classical music to the extent that I'm into jazz. I mean, I like Mozart and Bach and Beethoven, but it's been a lot harder for me to go into that field and find music I liked; whereas in jazz, things I like pop up all the time.

I think it's the great jazzmen's sense of rhythm and the spaces in between the rhythm. Whether it's Monk playing with his hands crossed like Glenn Gould, Joe Morello building up the silence till his next drum roll, or the Charles Mingus Jazz Workshop ticking away like a complicated Swiss watch, SOMETHING in there grabs me in a way that a lot of classical music can't do.

Gagdad Bob said...


Absolutely. I am a huge jazz fan. I don't usually mention it, because it's just too inaccessible to most people. The joy of hearing, say, the Bill Evans Trio with Motian and La Faro is that it represents three virtuosos who are spontaneously composing at the highest level while trying to coordinate with the others. That's what makes the music alive -- literally like an organism. Not just that, but you can feel the "space" between the musicians, as they constantly adjust and adapt.

Van said...

A comment about Musicians in general, Music as Art, and musical styles. This is probably my flogger flaw kicking in, but I think alot of the musical comments here regarding Gagdads comments widely missed his point and/or Musics point as well.

I played Bass & some vocals in a traveling rock band for 10 years - the 80's. Strictly as a musician, I was able to cover what we played fine, and I think added well to our originals as well, but using a visual arts analogy, I was the equivalent of a musical sketch artist, people would stop and say "Hey! Look at that!" smile pleasantly and walk on, but weren't going to shell out big bucks for my 'work'. Our guitarist/song writer on the other hand, was the real deal, he had the gift and I was honored to tune my bass in his presence. Ray could bring full musical satisfaction & fulfillment to life via a Cracker-Jack box plastic harmonica, or just the box & his voice. Unfortunately he didn't have the business discipline... ah, if-ah could-ah would-ah should-ah.

My particular talent was in performing, in helping the band to work & sound better together, and to rouse the audience better than if someone else had been playing my bass; and I lived for those moments when we were all "On", not just perfectly in synch, but sparking an electrical current through the music, ourselves and the audience - nothing better.

All that said to set up the difference between those who are portals for Music to live through and into this world, and those like myself who, even if they are far more skilled than I (not that difficult to achieve), can do the mechanics of music & performance, even knock out some really catchy tunes, but fall far short of being musical portals ourselves.

I think I can recognize very well the difference between my kind and the other kind, and now as anytime "then", there are far more of my kind about, than the other kind, throughout the music (and other arts) world.

I don't think that the other kind no longer exist, I'm just no longer willing to wade through the splintered variations of 'musical styles' available, to try and find them. Over the years My kids have played a small number of tunes that have caused me to drop my Dad suit and listen up - I couldn't tell you who they were, but I don't doubt that they are out there, but I'm confident they haven't all disappeared from the scene.

About that Portal Force that is a true Musician, however, whether they convey it with a firehose like Bach & Mozart, or a garden hose like Ray, there is an unmistakable difference between the deep blue Ocean Water which flows from them, and the chlorinated temperature controlled water which the likes of myself can tap into, it doesn't matter whether we conduct a garden or fire hose, it's still a re-worked imitation of the real thing.

That's the difference between the true Musical soul, and the musician, whether or not they tap directly into that untamed Ocean, or the local dept of water & power's reservoir.

It is That that accounts for the motive force and substance of difference between inspired talent and well crafted musicians. There is still however, a mental this-worldly craft which impacts on the Art of music, and that is the musical form and style adopted.

I love Rock, but there really is little or no comparison between the this worldly artistic skill and craft involved in crafting Classical Music such as what Mozart & Bach or even the reservoir talents (NO disrespect intended) of what a John Williams does, and the artistic skill and craft involved in crafting a Rock, Jazz or R&B tune. As much difference as between a whale and a gold fish.

Rock is about cranking into the emotional core of the listeners and revving them up or down as the nature of the tune provides - and though that can make a deep and even spiritual connection or impact on the listener, there are whole realms of musical harmony and depth it never comes into contact with or in sight of. On the other hand, you aren't likely to get 50,000 of your closest classical music loving buds together into a stadium to tap into and let rip your primal core in the way you could with a Van Morrison. Different styles, Different venues and Different capabilities - both on the Music’s part, and on the listeners part.

Classical music can not get to that area of a listener that Rock can, Rock can't (with a straight face) get to the areas that Classical music can. Apples and Oranges are different, and they still both taste great and nourish you as well.

Note, this is not a comment on the particular real-deal Ocean connected talent of the Musicians themselves, only the expanse which their chosen art form allows them to channel into our ears, souls and brains.

Though the horizontal skill level and depth required of classical music vs popular music, I don't think are comparable to each other at all - on that horizontal skill level, but like I said, the real-deal musician can bring soul rending depth and sonic profundity out of a plastic harmonica, which the most skilled and trained of my type of musician could only ever gaze on Salierie like, mumbling "But...But! Their Scale doesn't even have a diminished minor! That's not RIGHT!"

The most skilled of my sort of musician, classical or otherwise, would be mowed over by the least horizontally skilled but ocean connected real deal portal types who moseyed onto the stage. They are different, and it shows. If Mozart slipped into the vertical corner bar and had a jam session with Howlin Wolf & my long lost friend Ray, I have no doubt they'd recognize each other the instant finger touched instrument. And no doubt they'd nod to me and my kind, ask us to fetch some beer and, if necessary, keep the back rhythm going, "but keep outta the way!" while they jammed on and on and on.

There's no doubt who'd be in charge Vertically speaking, no matter what 'skills' my kind had developed. There's no comparison between the Ocean and the reservoir. None whatsoever.

Van said...

Michael Andreyakovich said... "For some reason, I can't get into classical music to the extent that I'm into jazz. I mean, I like Mozart and Bach and Beethoven, but it's been a lot harder for me to go into that field and find music I liked; whereas ... the great jazzmen's sense of rhythm and the spaces in between the rhythm... ticking away ... SOMETHING in there grabs me in a way that a lot of classical music can't do."

That sense of rhythym and the spaces in between the rhythym - that is definitely a key difference between Classical & Rock or Jazz. It's odd, but since leaving the band, I'm far more likely to listen to classical music than Rock or Jazz... but if I happen past an open door and live jazz or rock spills out, it slips straight into my spinal core, and it's painful to remove and keep walking - either that moment, or hours later.

I think it's partly self preservation, I'm not doing it any more, and that's that. My friend Ray came through here about ten years ago, and he got me to come to a club where a band he knew of was playing, and he got their guitarist & bassist to step down & let us do a few songs - right in the middle of their night (that's what I mean by the real-deal-portal-types being in charge and no one with eyes & ears to hear is gonna gainsay them). It was like we'd played together the night before. Fantastic. Until the last few bars of the last song when I realized I was getting down and giving the bass back to the other guy and not getting back on again.

Twisted the knife to the core. I guess I mostly avoid Rock & Jazz, because it opens me up raw, whereas classical music touches and lifts me in other areas entirely. Interesting.

Michael A. said...

For several years, I searched local jazz newsletters and played drums at every jam session I could find. That was the closest I ever got to prayer.

And now I haven't had the opportunity to touch a drum kit in almost a year. And I can't help but feel that something is missing, and that feeling wouldn't go away if I kept praying.

parent in KC said...

Bob, you are the one who segregated the "music as spiritual compass" notion into pre-and post 1968, as if some external "spirit" descended darkly upon the earth and all its inhabitants therein. And you used examples from your own lifetime. But when criticized for your lack of substance, you turn this into an argument on timeframe reference. I like Van's explanation of what music is and is not, what it can and cannot be, depending upon (yes, relative to) the listening skills one brings to the hearing. You on the other hand, for me at least, have stepped into a different light. As I said, you are a smart man and I wanted to believe you had something to teach me about the integration of spirit and intellect. Now I see that you are unable to even know when you are ignorant.

I think your last post said that racoons are never boring. I now hold a clear picture of you as the guy-type no one wants to go near at a party, because your type never knows when to shut up. Thank you for the illumination. Go ahead and delete this too. It probably contains more truth than you will allow.


cousin dupree said...

It's not exactly fair to blame Bob for failing to teach you how to integrate your intellect before you even have one to integrate. Nevertheless, we are gratified that you have realized that this blog is not intended for your type, and that you can derive no possible benefit from the rantings of an ignorant loudmouth.

Hinty of Inty said...

Did that feel good, Little Bo-pree? You truly are a spiritual giant.

Anonymous said...

Oops. I forgot to add, you're also really smart.

GeorgeD said...

Classical music is so rich because of hierarchies. It has harmonic hierarchies, form hierarchies, rhythmic and melodic hierarchies (e.g. counterpoint). It even has hierarchies in execution of the music. Pop/rock/etc music dismisses or destroys many of these hierarchies. Folk music just has never developed most of these hierarchies. I haven't mastered the lingo of this site so forgive my crude images, but great composers receive more from the top because they made a huge climb from the bottom to get it. It isn't all just muse. It is muse working in a mind that has been well prepared.

It works that way for listeners too.