Monday, 7 November 2022

Genius inflation

In case there would still be some people around, who are burdened with an increasing doubt whether 'modern music' in the last century was indeed as insane as it seemed, taken seriously by many establishment spokesmen/women, then here there is some evidence which would quench such doubt:

It is no coincidence that such undertaking followed in the wake of a political unheavel of unrivalled proportions and with a future of millions of crimes against humanity. For people, imune to reason, insanity is infectuous.

The term 'genius' is often appropriated to mask the most stupid and insane ideas, making use of the incomprehension they invoke, with the reference to avantgarde 'thinking': great works of the past were often not immediately understood in their time, and sometimes considered 'insane'; so if I make something totally incomprehensible or insane, this must be a work of genius. A cow is an animal, so an animal must inevitably a cow. Of course, most lemmings of underdeveloped group think welcome such ideas wholeheartedly, because they seem to give credence to their own absurd ideas.

'Sonic art' (the German Klangkunst) was, and for some people, still is, a liberation from any artistic effort. Hence, it is a thoroughly populist form of art.


  1. or it can be construed that the Romantic concept of anti-conventional genius has simply bloomed into the "late late Romanticism" Leonard Meyer said characterized 20th and post 20th century musical modernism from Cage onward, something Richard Taruskin couldn't resist citing throughout his career. Meyer's somewhat large book on the evolution of Romanticism is a great read and he pointed out that during the 19th century the Romantics espoused a set of ideologies that he described as elite egalitarianism. It was elite in the sense of espousing skepticism toward medieval Christendom in favor of a new set of concerns but it was egalitarian in fairly straightforward ways. Meyer's proposal was that by the early 20th century and beyond the elite and egalitarian impulses within Romanticism fragmented as changes in musical norms emerged. High modernists finally actually rejected the norms and conventions and tonal systems that earlier Romantics had simply professed to reject in the abstract. Ergo Schoenberg and Cage and Xenakis and others.

    You might want to clarify what you mean be "populist" because while sonic artists may have egalitarian political impulses they are not necessarily populists when it comes to aesthetics. Or as Meyer put it, musicians who developed entirely new theories of sound and perception were as a general rule the ones trying to establish their musical legacies as conventions, while the composers who did not reject the tonal conventions and practices of earlier eras felt no obligation--again, from his book on Romanticism, Meyer pointed out that Prokofiev, Bartok, and Rachmaninov and Vaughn Williams never felt any strong need to produce theory texts because they wrote music that didn't "need" that justification.

    People have been rejecting the Romantic era cult of the genius for some time but they are still beholden to most of its idea in music and musicology, possibly because the polemicists who object to the cult of genius may be sticking to criticism of Hoffman rather than branching out into literary theories within which "genius" in its primitivist mode was formulated. M H Abrams got into that set of debates in The Mirror and the Lamp and Wordsworth fan though he was, he pointed out that W's primitivist sympathies were openly rejected by Coleridge. I.e. the past as not as monolithic as any given contemporary polemicist will have it. Germanophile art-religion in the Schleiermacher/Wagner vein, for instance, can't account for the lengthy post-Bullinger/Zwingli alternative in which music is not views as having any kind of sacramental function and that's just within Western Christendom.

  2. Suddenly quite much being put on the table. This will warrant a new post : 'More about genius'.