Art, Aesthetics, and Hedonic Value
Aesthetics is typically defined as the study of the nature of beauty, art and related concepts, and also typically attempts to prescribe “proper” and “improper” types of art, architecture, music, drama, and other artistic endeavors. Also typically discussed in relation to art are the theme of a work and the sense of life the work expresses, the style or genre of the work, and the skillful or unskillful execution or creation of artistic forms.
Art and aesthetics are often spoken about as they they belonged to a sort of ineffable or undefinable realm of human activity; the truth, however, is that all realms of human activity are part of reality, and that all aspects of reality are open to empiricorational study and definition. The view that art and aesthetics are some sort of exception to this is mystical, anti-intellectual and very wrong. The perception of beauty and the creation and experience of art are ultimately related to the hedonic response and conceptual consciousness.
When people are asked why something is beautiful to them they will say things such as, “I like the way it looks,” “I am attracted to it,” and similar such statements. They may also bring up such things as symmetry, proportion, or balance, but if pressed about why these things contribute to beauty they will again say things like, “It appeals to me,” or “It is pleasant to look at.”
Visual beauty, then, relates to the pleasure one derives from looking at something: the greater the pleasure derived the more beautiful it is deemed to be. Thus it is an individual's response to the appearance of a thing which determines that individual's perception of “beauty.” Different individuals can easily look at the same thing and differ in their response to its beauty, or lack thereof. Of course, there will be things that the vast majority of individuals will find beautiful (or not) but no matter what, it is each of their individual subjective responses which determines each of their assessments of the beauty (or lack thereof) of anything. Beauty is always subjective. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” is absolutely true.
Visual beauty may be technically defined as the hedonic value (pleasure) which is derived from the sight of something. The concept of beauty may be broadened beyond the visual; in other words, there are types of beauty other than visual beauty. One can hear a beautiful sound, for example, described as such because of the hedonic value derived from hearing it. Mathematicians sometimes speak about the beauty of an equation; this is a form of mathematical or beauty, or the hedonic value which is derived from the contemplation or understanding of a mathematical concept or equation.
The concept of beauty is not merely a synonym for pleasure or hedonic value, however. The appreciation of beauty requires conceptual consciousness, whereas pleasure, at the most fundamental level, merely requires sensory consciousness. Beauty is related to the pleasurable appreciation of the arrangement, organization or form of a thing, and the recognition that this arrangement or form is somehow superior to or preferred over other possible arrangements or forms. This ability for such appreciation requires conceptual consciousness, although such appreciation may (and typically does) occur essentially automatically, without engaging volitional thought processes.
The pleasure-pain response (the root of hedonic value) evolved in such a manner so that, in general, things which provide hedonic value promote survival and things that provide hedonic disvalue suppress survival. Thus, human beings tend to find beauty in things which promoted their survival and reproductive success over the course of their evolution. The essentially open-ended nature of human conceptual abilities further enables the appreciation and creation of aesthetic experiences far beyond anything required by survival alone.
Art and Pseudo-art
Ayn Rand gives an excellent definition of art: “Art is a selective re-creation of reality according to an artist’s metaphysical value-judgments.” Scionics philosophy would slightly modify this definition as follows: “Art is a selective re-creation of reality according to the metaphysical value-judgments which an artist chooses to convey.” This is because the artist may not choose to portray his is her own personal metaphysical value-judgments, due to financial, political or other considerations.
The purpose of this selective re-creation – the purpose of art – is to provide concrete portrayals of essential or important aspects of reality and of experience; these portrayals often elicit an emotional response, and are often considered beautiful. (Remember that human beings tend to find beauty in things which promoted their survival and reproductive success over the course of their evolution.) This is necessary (or at least extremely beneficial) for conceptually conscious beings, as the experience of these concrete portrayals can provide a shortcut, condensed way to represent desired or beneficial arrangements, organizations, or forms of various aspects of reality. The frequent experience of these serves to psychologically condition conceptually conscious beings in such a way as to more readily recognize, and in turn to act to actualize, such beneficial arrangements, organizations, or forms themselves. In other words, one is elevated by good art.
Aesthetic “selectivity” is a fundamental principle of Scionics aesthetics: it is the principle that, if all else is equal, that art which is the product of greater selectivity is superior to that art which is the product of lesser selectivity. Art does not create itself; again, it is a selective re-creation of reality. This selective re-creation of reality requires volitional thought, whereas the appreciation of – or response to – art typically occurs automatically, without volitional thought, according to the “sense-of-life,” i.e., the conscious and unconscious metaphysical value-judgments (which would include the hedonic response) of the perceiver of the art.
Things can be considered “art” in a sort of continuum, with “pure art”, or “art for the sake of art” being at the most extreme end of the continuum, and things which are “lesser” art, or only incidentally art, at the other. So, a portrait, such as the Mona Lisa, for example, would be near the “pure art” end of the spectrum, both because it serves an essentially purely artistic function, and also because of the the high level of re-creation of reality. On the other hand, a merely “decorative” item (or a decorative feature of a larger item) typically does not selectively “re-create” reality, or only re-creates some very limited or narrow aspect of reality. Such decorative works may be valued in their own right for what they are, and they may also be considered to be art, although typically at the “lesser” end of the spectrum of art, due to this limited nature of the re-creation of reality.
This is not to imply that any particular work of “pure” art is “better” than any particular piece of “decorative” art; art is not “good” just because it it art, and some pure art is of distinctly low quality in terms of beauty, content or theme, while some decorative art is distinctly high value. A good piece of decorative art is certainly better than a bad piece of pure art, but this should not lead one to mistakenly classify the type of art under consideration.
In contrast to true art, whether this be decorative or pure, there is also something which Scionics classifies as “pseudo-art.” Pseudo-art includes both non-art which is presented as art, and lesser decorative art which is presented as though it were pure art. One type of pseudo-art includes non-re-creations of reality. Examples of this would be a canvas upon which an abstract, non-representational design is constructed, or upon which paint is randomly splashed and splattered. (It should be noted that an abstract, non-representational design, although not a re-creation of reality, may still be selective in terms of the elements of the design itself, whereas random paint splashes and splatters are both non-re-creational and non-selective.) Such pseudo-art is often (dishonestly) presented in the same context as true art, e.g., it may be in a picture frame, and even hanging in an “art gallery,” but that, of course, does not make non-art into art, or decorative art into pure art. The misrepresentation of non-art as art, or of decorative art as pure art is mistaken at best, and artistically dishonest at worst.
Modernism and postmodernism, as artistic movements, often take up the task of using art itself to comment upon art and its function; depending upon how this is done, however, the work which is produced may well be something other than a selective re-creation of reality, and thus may be termed pseudo-art rather than true art. The message of the work may also be essentially unimportant and perhaps even trite. Furthermore, such works tends to lack beauty, as the “artist's” objective is not at all about beauty, but about some commentary upon art and its functions.
The “purpose” of modern and postmodern art is thus almost never to selectively re-create reality and provide concrete portrayals of essential or important aspects of reality and of experience. The frequent experience of modern and postmodern art does not serve to condition conceptually conscious beings in such a way as to more readily recognize and actualize beneficial arrangements, organizations, or forms – instead it serves essentially no purpose, other than to present non-values or lesser-values as though they were of real or higher value.
Marcel Duchamp's Fountain (1917) is a perfect example of pseudo-art (really non-art in this case) masquerading as art, and making a statement about the role of art itself. Rather than selectively re-creating any aspect of reality at all, Duchamp simply went shopping in a hardware or plumbing store, purchased a urinal, and presented it as “art.” The implication of this piece is that “art is something to be pissed on.” The reality, however, is that while it may be true that this work should be pissed on, true art has a much higher function. This piece is not beautiful – nor is it art in any meaningful sense.
Another “commentary” work is René Magritte's The Treachery of Images (circa 1928), a simple painting of a pipe for smoking, below which are the words "Ceci n'est pas une pipe." (“This is not a pipe.”) His work is meant to convey the idea that paintings of things are not identical with the thing itself – an obvious and rather insignificant observation. While it is a selective re-creation of reality, and thus may be nominally considered to be art, the painting is of such a simplistic nature as to be much more on the merely “decorative” rather than “pure” end of the spectrum of art. This painting, while not actually ugly, is certainly not a beautiful piece; after all, it is merely an image of a pipe, and some words.
It should be noted that the same concepts regarding pseudo-art which apply to painting also apply to other forms of art. In music, for example, non-art would include random noise or sound effects presented as though they were music. An example of an audible version of decorative art would be sound effects added to an enhance an environment, whether in a movie, play, or even in a “themed environment.” (One can imagine creaking hinges and other “spooky” sound effects employed to enhance the sense of being in a “haunted” house, for example, or the sound of a crowing rooster to give or enhance the impression of sunrise or “early morning.”) Sound effects have a proper, valid use, but they are not music. Presenting noise or sound effects as though they were music is, again, at the best mistaken, and at the worst artistically dishonest.
An example of cinematic non-art would be something like a film showing nothing but static, or even a blank screen, presented as though it were art. A purely decorative cinematic form would consist of abstract, non-representational flowing images. Presenting these as though they were true cinema does not, of course, actually make them true cinematic art, and again, would be at best mistaken, or at worst artistically dishonest.
Sense of Life and Value-Reflection
One's “sense of life” is one's overall feeling towards life and reality in general; more technically, it is comprised of one's conscious and unconscious metaphysical value judgments. This overall feeling is comprised of one's attitudes towards many facets of life and reality, concerning such issues as:
the “goodness” or “badness” of life, reality, oneself and mankind;
the degree to which one feels that one is generally in control of one's destiny, or the degree to which one feels that one is generally controlled by outside forces;
the “understandability” or “incomprehensibility” of life, reality, oneself and mankind;
the proper roles of reason and emotion as a determinant of one's thoughts and subsequent actions.
Art can be used to convey the “sense of life” which is consciously or unconsciously held by the artist. It can also be used to convey the sense of life which an artist may feel is most profitable or expedient to convey, based upon political, social, financial or other considerations.
One typically derives the greatest degree of hedonic value from works of art which reflect one's own sense of life; this is “value-reflection.” If one has a peaceful nature or disposition, or peaceful values and a peaceful sense of life, one is far more likely to seek out and enjoy art which reflects these values and depicts peace. Likewise, if one has a violent nature or disposition, or violent values and a violent sense of life, one is far more likely to seek out and enjoy art which reflects these values and depicts violence. This can be extended to all sorts of natures, dispositions, values, and senses of life: rational or irrational, kind or unkind, loving or hateful, and so on. One can determine a lot about the values and sense of life of another by taking note of the types of art which the other person seeks out and enjoys.
Just as one's own values and sense of life influences the types of art one seeks out and experiences, extended exposure to certain types of art can actually influence one values and sense of life. For example, exposure to art which depicts peace can influence one to become more peaceful. Likewise, exposure to art which depicts violence can influence one to become more violent. This can be extended to all sort of artistic depictions: rational or irrational, kind or unkind, loving or hateful, and so on.
Pseudo-art rarely provides a meaningful or beneficial sense-of-life. Much of it is essentially meaningless, and by presenting itself as though it were true art, it only serves to undermine the recognition of the value of true art. In those cases where meaning is to be found, the meaning is typically limited to some inconsequential or mistaken statement about art itself. At best such “art” does little to elevate anyone, unless you consider the undeserved money and prestige accrued by the “artist” and those who run “art” galleries. At worst, such “art” serves to make confusion and non-meaning appear to be ideal conditions, thereby suppressing the conceptual mind's quite beneficial drive for understanding and control, and in turn suppressing pro-survival behaviors.
Sense-of-life and Empiricorational Aesthetic Nobility
Empiricorational thinking is the most powerful mental survival tool for human beings. Empiricorationalism is the creation of conceptual models of the world (beliefs) based upon actual empirical observations (empiricism) using valid, logical reasoning (rationalism) and then testing these these models to see if they actually hold up under scrutiny (skepticism).
A conceptually conscious being who consistently employs an empiricorational approach to dealing with reality will have a sense-of-life which reflects this approach. Such beings will tend to view reality as logical and understandable. In a logical, understandable world, one can exert a level of control over things, whereas in an illogical, incomprehensible world such control would be essentially impossible. Thus empiricorationally oriented beings tend to recognize and actively take advantage of those aspects of the world and their existence which they can control.
Effective control of one's life is not necessarily easy; in fact, it can require a great deal of empiricorationally applied effort and control, but consistently applying such effort and control does tend to produce positive results. This leads to a sense-of-life that with persistence and effort obstacles can be overcome, goals can be reached, and life can be improved.
The primary thing one has direct control over is oneself. One cannot effectively exert a significant level of control over external conditions, if one cannot control oneself. Yet there are many who suffer the loss or diminishment of their empiricorational capacities in the face of their own emotions; they essentially become emotionally driven automatons, simply reacting to events as dictated by these emotions. On the other hand, those who acknowledge their emotions, but who nonetheless maintain strict empiricorational control over their thoughts and actions despite their emotions, are masters of themselves; this, in turn, often gives them a measure of mastery over others and the world. Such self-mastery contributes to the sense that empiricorationality trumps emotion, both as a means for knowing and as a means for controlling reality.
It is now possible to speak about the “empiricorational sense-of-life.” As mentioned earlier, one's sense-of-life is one's overall feeling towards life and reality in general. Empiricorational beings often have a sense of life which may be described as follows:
Reality is real.
Reality and everything it contains are “existentially consistent,” i.e., logically consistent with their own existence. (Anything which was “existentially inconsistent,” or logically inconsistent with its own existence could not exist.)
To truly know reality, one must study reality.
Most, if not all, aspects of the nature of reality are understandable and knowable. Those aspects of the nature of reality which may not currently be known or understood most likely will eventually be known and understood with further study and investigation. (This does not mean that “everything” about reality can be known, even in principle. It does mean, however, that most – or even all – of the scientific principles underlying all phenomena are knowable in principle. This “universal” or “maximal” knowledge of scientific principles can then be applied to specific instances or circumstances under consideration.)
One has the ability to fairly accurately asses the degree to which one can control or influence things in the world, including oneself. Because of the enhanced understanding of all aspects of reality which is afforded by empiricorationality, this is generally a fairly high level of control in comparison with other (non-empiricorational) individuals similarly situated. There is a general sense that one is, to a fairly high degree, in control of one's own destiny.
Life may not be easy, but obstacles can be overcome with empiricorationally applied effort. Over time one has the ability to improve one's condition, constantly moving forward. The more that obstacles are overcome and that goals are met, the more one's experience of life can be described as “satisfying” or “good.”
Emotions provide one with feelings about certain things. These feelings should be acknowledged and examined, but they should never dictate one's actions. One's actions should always be based upon an empiricorational (rather than emotional) assessment of the situation.
Beyond a merely “empiricorational” sense-of-life (a sense that reality and the things in it can be known and understood by empiricorational methodology) there is also an aspect of the noble or heroic, such that one may speak of the “empiricorationally noble,” or of an “empiricorationally noble” sense-of-life. Because the term “heroic” is often associated with some form of self-sacrifice, the term “noble” is much more appropriate in this context, with it connotations of that which is exalted and admirable. Thus this is a non-self-sacrificial type of “heroism” or “nobility” – it is the noble loyalty to, and ever-faithful application of, empiricorationality in all aspects of one's life. It is the ever-vigilant, noble loyalty to reality, to logic, and to the integrated effort required to triumph in the face of adversity by empiricorational means. It is not the self-sacrificial abdication of the empiricorational pursuit of one's self-interest, but the relentless empiricorational pursuit of one's own highest values, often in a world which would thwart such pursuit.
The concept of “the empiricorationally noble” and the concept of “aesthetic selectivity” are complementary concepts. These can be combined into the single concept of “aesthetic empiricorational nobility,” which can be shortened when the context is understood, to “aesthetic nobility:” the highly selective recreation of reality, consistent with empiricorationally noble sense-of-life characterized by the vigilant, ever-faithful application of empiricorationality.
There are innumerable artistic or creative works which portray mysticism or mystical values as “noble.” Such “mystical nobility” is really “pseudo-nobility,” a false nobility and therefore a non-nobility or ignobility based on the false values of a mystical sense-of-life. Scionics holds empiricorational nobility to be the crowning and defining characteristic of a Scion; such true nobility can never be held by a mystic, nor can aesthetic empiricorational nobility be a characteristic of art which glorifies mysticism.
Art can be used to convey and even promote a particular sense-of-life; in fact, that is one of the hallmarks of art. To convey an empiricorationally noble sense-of-life (and thereby to promote empiricorationalism itself) by means of the aesthetically noble is to maximally enhance one's survival prospects and one's capacity for the enjoyment of life. Thus that art which promotes empiricorationalism is preferable to art which does not, or which actively suppresses empiricorationalism. In this sense, “good” art is art which conveys an empiricorationally noble sense-of-life, i.e., aesthetically noble art.
Regularly experiencing aesthetically noble works of art leads to a greater appreciation of (and a greater ability to appreciate) such art; unfortunately, such art is not always as “accessible” as art which tends to diminish empiricorationality. This, unfortunately, leads many to avoid empiricorationally noble art and music; instead gravitating towards forms which are more readily accessible but which unfortunately tend to diminish empiricorationality. Thus empiricorational thought tends to be diminished in those who eschew the aesthetically noble.
In the realm of fiction, whether presented as a purely written work, or as a play or screenplay, those works which serve to promote empiricorationalism are precisely those aesthetically noble works which portray an empiricorationally noble sense of life. Such works portray the world and the people and things which inhabit it as understandable. The protagonist tends to be an individual (and an individualist) who acknowledges reality as reality, and deals with it as such, who bows to no “higher authority,” and who struggles to realize his or her goals in truly heroic or noble fashion. Gratuitous violence, particularly by the protagonist, is non-existent. The protagonist seeks romantic partners for their empiricorational nobility, rather than simply using their bodies as a means for sexual gratification. (This is not to say that the hero eschews sexuality or is unconcerned with the physical attraction of his or her partners, but that such physical attraction is merely one of many characteristics which the hero values in his or her partners.) The intelligence of the reader or viewer is never insulted but is, if anything, typically challenged a bit.
This is not to say that every story one reads (or every play or screenplay which one watches) must always consist of aesthetically noble fiction. To the contrary, there may well be certain authors or types of story which one simply enjoys, and that is reason enough for reading or watching. That said, however, exposing oneself to aesthetically noble fiction will certainly have rewards far beyond whatever enjoyment one derives from “aesthetically ignoble” fiction. It will contribute to an empiricorationally noble sense-of-life, and present one with characters which exemplify an empiricorational approach to life. This will help one to internalize empiricorationally noble values, and to reflect them in one's own thinking and actions. Furthermore, regular exposure to aesthetically noble fiction will tend to affect one's tastes in such a manner that aesthetically noble fiction becomes more enjoyable over time, and “aesthetically ignoble” fiction and its shortcomings will be much more readily recognized. One will find oneself ever more gravitating towards “aesthetically noble” fiction as it reflects one's ever growing empiricorationally noble sense-of-life.
The goal of non-fiction is obviously very different from that of fiction. Whereas fiction is a selective re-creation of reality (an attempt to create characters, situation and other aspects of reality) non-fiction is about various aspects of reality itself. Non-fiction as such is not, therefore, a strictly artistic endeavor as it has been defined herein, but is a means for describing, documenting, interpreting, or commenting upon actual reality. It may, of course, employ certain artistic elements (such as music in the case of a documentary film, as just one example) but these are not the focus or purpose of the work.
Non-fiction is, however, often considered and read as an alternative to fiction. One may decide to spend some time reading Rand's “Atlas Shrugged,” a work of fiction, or one may choose instead to spend the same time reading her “Romantic Manifesto,” a work of philosophical non-fiction. It is because reading non-fiction works is often an alternative to reading fiction, and also because works of non-fiction can (like fiction) often convey some particular sense-of-life, that non-fiction will be included here, in a discussion otherwise devoted to art.
Non-fiction works can be “oriented” in all sorts of ways, in other words, their focus can be on all different aspects and interpretations of reality. This orientation or focus can convey some particular sense-of-life. The focus can be on wars and violence, or upon peace and peacemakers, for example; as another example, they can be focused on the scientific study and understanding of the universe, or they can be focused on the study of ancient so-called “holy books;”
The orientation or focus of a non-fiction work can certainly be in accord with and promote empiricorational nobility. It can describe the actions of real, historical individuals who have intellectually triumphed over ignorance or mysticism, who have come to understand reality in ways previously unimagined by others, or who have chosen to resist violence, prejudice, or evil in the face of great adversity. It can describe the workings of the world in ways which are reality-based, logical and enlightening, from physics, chemistry, biology, economics, politics, psychology, medicine, philosophy or any subject at all. Furthermore, aside from the empiricorationally noble sense-of-life which such works can convey, the information they contain, being focused on reality itself, can often be applied in one's own life to great advantage.
The Evolutionary Origins of Human Music
Humans have both linguistic and musical abilities far beyond those of other animals. Like the advanced human capacity for language and literature, the advanced musical capacity of humans is based upon the ability for conceptual thought. Other animals also have the ability to communicate, of course, but these abilities are quite limited in comparison with those of humans; likewise, some animals also create songs of a sort, e.g., birds and whales, but these musical abilities, such as they are, are extremely limited in comparison with those of humans.
In human evolution, musical capacity evolved in tandem with linguistic capacity. In our early evolution, in fact, they were not two separate things at all, but instead were both part of a single communication system to which Stephen Brown has given the name “musilanguage.” As human evolution progressed and conceptual abilities grew, humanity began to distinguish between, selectively apply, and relate differently to the two different aspects of musilanguage which we now identify as “music” and as “speech.”
Even today music and speech have many aspects in common; for example, both music and speech have rhythmic qualities, and both involve variations in tone (pitch). Although rhythm and tone (pitch) are much more obviously involved with music, humans almost universally employ tone to convey meaning in speech, and also quite commonly speak in rhythmic cadences. The use of tone and cadence varies from language to language, but it is nevertheless true that tone and cadence are elements (although often unconsciously employed elements) in spoken language around the world.
There is also a sort of universal “mothering language” which is employed by mothers to their newly-born babies, and to which these babies also universally respond. New-born babies do not understand words, of course, but they do understand and respond to this mothering language, which is characterized by certain specific tonal and rhythmic patterns used to convey meaning to the babies, who react to it on a purely emotional level. Although the verbal content of this mothering language differs depending upon the language spoken by the mother, the tonal and rhythmic patterns remain quite similar across all cultures.
It should also be noted that this mothering language is not really limited to mothers. It seems that all humans instinctively know the tonal and rhythmic “mothering language” and use it not only with babies and small children, but often even with pets.
“Dynamics” is another common aspect of both music and speech, although it is more typically associated with music than with speech. In music it typically refers to the volume or loudness of a note or phrase, often in relative terms rather than absolute terms; in other words, it refers to a particular note or phrase being louder or softer relative to the rest of a piece, rather than the actual absolute volume. Dynamics may also refer to other aspects of musical performance, such as whether the notes under consideration are played staccato (essentially, “short” notes) or legato (“long” notes), or how quickly something is played. It should be obvious that these same dynamic qualities which apply to music also apply to speech.
Musical Selectivity and the Aesthetically Noble
Musical preferences are highly subjective and variable: it is related to each person's cultural conditioning, disposition, mood, and other factors. Music can convey a sense of fun, mania, peace, anger, violence, serenity, triumph, exaltation, sadness, and so on. One's musical preferences typically reflect one's own mood and sense-of-life; conversely, the sense-of-life of a piece of music can influence the mood and sense-of-life of the listener. (“Mood” is a more short-term state, while “sense-of-life” is deeper and more long-term condition.)
Instrumental music eliminates the linguistic word- and concept-based aspects from speech and elaborates richly upon its tonal, harmonic and dynamic aspects, i.e., it “selects” tonal, harmonic and dynamic aspects and then “selectively” arranges or organizes them. Music is inherently abstract in nature, employing sound to convey or elicit emotions and feelings rather than communicating concrete concepts. Despite its extremely abstract, non-conceptual and even subjective nature, however, music does possess its own type of form and content which can produce profound cognitive and emotional effects, some of which are obviously more or less desirable than others. Thus the creation, appreciation, and critique of music can and should be approached empiricorationally.
The very simplest aspect of music is rhythm, although it is possible to create quite complex rhythms. One can produce a musical rhythm while completely ignoring melody, harmony, or anything at all to do with pitch or musical tones. In fact the very first musical instruments were simple percussive things which made a sound when they were hit or struck; these evolved into drums.
It is not possible to play a melody at all by simply banging two rocks together, or by hitting two sticks together, or by banging on a drum; quite complex rhythms can be created, but not melodies. Percussion alone, even the most complex thereof, evokes a very limited range of emotional effects upon the human mind. One never listens to a purely percussive piece thinking of what a beautiful song it is, or sad, or happy, or anything like that. About the only thing which can be communicated is a sense of speed, and regularity or irregularity in terms of the beat. Furthermore, there is no such thing as a “bad note” when playing a drum or other purely percussive instrument. It would be like playing a piano, with only one key. Because there is only one key, there is no possibility of a bad note. The only room for “selection” (and hence error) would be when or how loudly to play that single key; this generally holds true in the case of percussion, even in such cases where one has multiple drums or other purely percussive instruments at one's disposal. If one strikes the “wrong” drum the effect is never even close to the sense one gets when the wrong note is played on a piano, for example.
Beauty is related to the pleasurable appreciation of the arrangement, organization or form of a thing, and the recognition that this arrangement or form is somehow superior to or preferred over other possible arrangements or forms. The experience of a piece of music with a high degree of selectivity would be greatly impacted by an alternative selection of its musical elements (the notes, melodies, harmonies or other elements) whereas the experience of music with a low degree of selectivity would only be slightly impacted by an alternative selection of its musical elements.
Most musical forms, from popular to classical, typically do have a fairly high level of selectivity, although the selectivity of classical music does tend to be much higher than in popular music. In popular music a degree of selection is required for short sections of the song, but then these sections are often simply repeated over and over, and there is no selection involved in this repetition. In classical music, on the other hand, certain themes may be restated from time to time, but this it typically done with variations of the theme rather than simple repetition, and also a high degree of non-repetitive musical exploration outside of the theme.
In both classical and popular music (actually in much of Western music in general) selectivity is often related to “musical resolution,” i.e., the progression of notes or chords from dissonant states to consonant states. There is often a sense of suspense or incompleteness when notes or chords are in a dissonant state, and a sense of completeness when this is resolved into a consonant state. (As a very simple example of this, play the following notes on a piano, holding each note for the same amount of time, except for the last, which can be held four times as long: “D C B D C.” The D's and the B's should be the ones adjacent to the C. Note the sense of resolution or completion when the final C is played.) It is also possible to create a sense of surprise or of the “musically unexpected” when music is resolved in novel ways. The skillful manipulation of suspense and resolution (through such elements as harmony, dissonance, expectation and surprise) requires a very high level of selectivity. Such selectivity in terms of suspension and resolution is present in both popular and classical music, but it is much more manifest in classical music, again because the repetitive nature of popular music greatly diminishes the role of such selectivity.
A high degree of selectivity regarding musical suspension and resolution (i.e., the skillful selection of notes, chords, harmonies, dissonances, and the manipulation of musical expectation and surprise, for the purposes of creating musical suspense and resolution) is at the apex of musical artistry and achievement; this is also the apex of musical aesthetic nobility. In Scionics, such selectivity regarding the creation of musical suspension and resolution will be specifically referred to as “resolutional selectivity,” as a means for distinguishing this “highest” form of musical selectivity from other forms of musical selectivity. It should be noted that resolutional selectivity is created as a result of the skillful integration of all sorts of “lower,” simpler, or less-integrated forms of musical selectivity, such as the selection of individual notes, the tempo of the piece, and so on.
Musical pieces with a high degree of resolutional selectivity tend to convey the greatest sense of the empiricorationally noble and to be the most aesthetically noble, due to the extraordinary effort (or plain artistic genius) which the creation of such music typically requires. It is as though the listener is able to perceive, through the music itself, the extraordinary care and precision with with the various parts of a piece were selected (or assembled or “composed”) by the composer, to produce exactly the final effect desired. Such music exemplifies the ability to know, understand and control reality, as specifically applied to the creation of music.
Remembering that beauty is related to the pleasurable appreciation of the arrangement or form of a thing, musical beauty is closely related to resolutional selectivity. Of course, if one is unable to appreciate the artistry and skill of a particular musical composition, one will not really be able to experience the beauty of the piece. It should also be noted that certain sounds tend to be viewed as more beautiful than others; for example the sound of a harp tends to be perceived as more beautiful than the sound of a tuba. Thus the beauty of a piece of music may be judged in terms of the structure of a piece, on one hand, or in terms of the actual sound of the piece, on the other. So, the sound of random wind-chimes may be sonically beautiful, but the structure of the random “melody” they create is rather simple, uninspiring, and without structural beauty. On the other hand, the sound of a car horn may be rather annoying and distinctly lacking in any sort of conventional beauty, but a number of car horns all well-tuned to different notes may be used to play a highly resolutionally selective musical piece, with a high degree of structural beauty. Strictly speaking, musical beauty is a result of structural beauty rather than sonic beauty.
In terms of musical aesthetics, one cannot characterize a purely percussive piece of music as having any sort of resolutional selectivity at all; it also therefore possesses very little musical (structural) beauty. It may be complex, or “technical,” or some other such thing, but true musical beauty requires more. Beauty is related to the pleasurable appreciation of the arrangement, organization or form of a thing, and the recognition that this arrangement or form is somehow superior to or preferred over other possible arrangements or forms. In music, such beauty is the result of the artist's “selection” of various musical elements. Because there is very little “selection” in purely percussive music there really can be no “bad” or “good” notes, and therefore also very little or no true beauty.
Once one adds the element of “pitch” or “tone,” the level of musical selectivity increases vastly, and one can then weave truly rich, beautiful, and complex sonic tapestries, and elicit a wide range of deep human emotions. Different tones can be played at the same time, creating chords and all sorts of harmonies and disharmonies. The order and speed of the notes creates the form and content of the music, and even without the addition of purely percussive instruments (e.g., drums) the music can certainly have a rhythm.
It is possible, however, for tonal elements to be present in a piece of music while keeping the level of musical selectivity rather low; this is usually due to a high degree of tonal, harmonic, and resolutional repetition, and also often due to a highly repetitive percussive aspect. Such music tends to be rather banal and limited in terms of the mood and sense-of-life it elicits. If, on the other hand, the beat is rather unobtrusive, and the melodies and harmonies have relatively little repetition (and hence are typically more complex, well-developed, and resolutionally selective) a wider range of deeper, more meaningful, and more complex moods and senses-of-life can be expressed, including the fullest and deepest musical expression of an empiricorationally noble sense-of-life.
“Popular” music, whether rock, rap, heavy-metal, hip-hop, techno, country, dub-step, or the like, is obviously far more complex than a simple, regular beat, due to to addition of melodies and harmonies, and often a more complex beat. This tends to make popular music more interesting and more enjoyable to listen to than a simple, regular beat. In popular music, however the beat tends to be quite prominent, the notes tend to have a fairly low level of variety, and (most importantly) the melodies and harmonies tend to be very repetitive and low in terms of resolutional selectivity. These qualities tend to make popular music rather banal and limited in terms of mood and sense-of-life; any “noble” aspects of such music tend to be rather underdeveloped and simplistic.
In contrast, classical music often tends to have a rather unobtrusive beat or rhythm (typically without any percussive instrument at all to pound out the beat) as well as a very low level of melodic and harmonic repetition. With lesser repetition there is also “room” for the development of an extremely high degree of melodic and harmonic variety and complexity, and an extremely high degree of resolutional selectivity. Classical music thus expresses a very wide range of deep, meaningful, and complex moods and senses-of-life. It also is the form most capable of conveying an empiricorationally noble sense-of-life, in the fullest, deepest way, and of providing the most aesthetically noble musical experience.
It is possible, however, to create musical works which are like classical music in the sense that they can are long and non-repetitive (and often quite complex, although not necessarily so) but which nevertheless possess a very low level of musical selectivity and in general, and a very low level of resolutional selectivity in specific. The resultant music thus often has a quality of “randomness;” this randomness is essentially the opposite of selectivity. Certain types of jazz, for example, can be very “loose” in terms of the various forms of musical selection. Such jazz (and other slightly- or non-selective forms) are typically rather low in terms of musical (structural) beauty, because such beauty is dependent upon selection. They also are rather limited in terms of sense-of-life, again, because this also depends upon selection; there is very little expression in terms of the empiricorationally noble sense-of-life.
At this point it would be natural to address the issue of why popular music is indeed, popular, and why classical tends to be more limited in its appeal for most individuals. The truth is that it is far easier to produce simple, banal music than complex, selective music. It's also easier to “understand” and mentally “follow along” with such music, as it is typically based on very simple and familiar musical structures (such as the well-known “three chord” structure of much popular music) and a fairly strong repetitive beat which is also trivial to mentally follow. It is actually the relatively rare individual who truly enjoys actively engaging his or her mind in deep, complex, highly selective musical structures, such as found in classical music; such individuals also typically tend to avoid simpler, popular styles of music. Classical music obviously requires a much higher degree of “musical intelligence” to create, than simpler, less selective forms; it also takes a somewhat higher degree of “musical intelligence” to strongly appreciate such music as well.
The enjoyment of, or preference for, various forms of music also may be understood in terms of the level of “interestingness” that the piece holds for the listener, and this is also a direct result of “musical intelligence.” When someone tries to read or watch something which is “over one's head” one typically becomes bored with it; likewise, when someone tries to read or watch something which is exceedingly simple in comparison with one's own intellect, this also creates boredom and disinterest. The maximum amount of interest is sustained by that which has just the right amount of complexity, but not too much. In much the same way, the musical forms which one tends to find interesting or uninteresting are a reflection of one's own level of “musical intelligence.” Due to the much higher level of musical selectivity in general, and of resolutional selectivity in particular, a sustained perception of “interestingness” in classical music requires a greater degree of “musical intelligence;” those with such a degree of “musical intelligence” will also tend to find simpler, less musically selective forms to be rather boring and uninteresting.
It should be noted that “musical intelligence” is different from other forms of intelligence, in that one does not necessarily have to “study” anything in order to increase one's musical intelligence. One can simply begin to expose oneself to a greater amount of classical music. The effect of this, over time, will be to “train” one's mind to learn to recognize and appreciate the complex structural beauty of highly musically selective classical music.
An example of a specific musical work with a high degree of musical selectivity and complexity is the Andante from Mozart's Piano Concerto Number 21 in C. The rhythmic element in this piece is extraordinarily complex. It is written in “common time,” i.e., with four beats per measure, but the orchestra and piano actually keep up a rhythm consisting primarily of four triplets per measure, which provides for extremely subtle and rich rhythmic possibilities. The main theme of the piece is restated with variations from time to time, providing a sense of coherence and unity to the piece, while not devolving into mere repetition. There is also a very high amount of “musical exploration,” consisting of the exploration of musical ideas outside of the main theme which nevertheless compliment rather than contrast with it. This is a beautiful piece, in which the empiricorationally heroic is expressed with sublime subtlety and musical genius.
For innumerable examples of simple, banal musical pieces, simply listen to the most popular radio station wherever you are.
This is not to say that one should force oneself to listen exclusively to classical music, or that one should never enjoy listening to “popular” styles of music. It is advisable, however, to expose oneself to classical music and, through this exposure, to more fully develop one's musical sensibilities and one's appreciation for classical music. Of course, there will be times when one is simply “in the mood” for other forms of music – and that's fine! The primary purpose of music is enjoyment and the experience it creates within oneself. Over time, however, one may actually come to regard the simplicity and repetition of popular music to be a bit dull or even irksome, while finding delight and stimulation in the sublime melodic and harmonic structures of the world's greatest classical pieces, composed by true masters of the craft.
The aesthetics of Scionics are based upon the nature of reality and the nature of the beings which inhabit that reality and are capable of aesthetic pursuits. An opposing view would be “aesthetic supernaturalism,” the view that aesthetics should be based upon supernatural rather than natural considerations. Scionics recognizes, however, that the “supernatural” is a flawed and unreal concept, and that aesthetics must be based upon reality rather than non-reality. Scionics aesthetics, as embodied in aesthetic empiricorational nobility, i.e., highly selective and empiricorationally noble works of art, is the ultimate, invincible form of aesthetic naturalism.