Concert reminder and note on music and Plato

Reminder:  Philosophy major and pianist Dan Tate, along with his friend John Price, will be giving a free concert in the USU performance hall on Saturday, December 6 at 7pm.

Dan sent this along to me, and I thought it worth posting.  He raises several interesting philosophical issues, and for those in the Republic course, Plato (particularly in Book X) has addressed a number of these aesthetic issues. 

Dan wrote:

A friend and fellow musician recently showed me this vulgar debasement of one of Chopin’s masterpieces.  Chopin wrote this piece (popularly called the revolutionary etude) to express his deep anguish over the extreme violence that had erupted in his native Poland due to conflicts with Russia.  This video trivializes (to say the least) Chopin’s profound grief and turns it into mere spectacle.  The saddest thing is that most people wouldn’t even see anything wrong with this (hence why the performer is famous).  One might say I’m being too dramatic, but I think this is a dangerous symptom of a much deeper epidemic.  This video illustrates several of the dilemmas society faces today:   
1) The lack of differentiation between the Sacred and the profane (i.e. everything becomes profane)
2) The fact that even the most transcendent art has been reduced to image, spectacle, and the almighty dollar
3) The gross and narcissistic emphasis on ‘originality’ and the individual (check out the stupid faces the performer makes trying to look profound)
4)  The fact that most art (like Plato observed) appeals to the basest part of the soul and even great art when misconstrued follows suit.  
Here is the first video, the performance I am berating.

Here is a second video, it is one of today’s great artists playing the same piece as it ought to be played.

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About Kleiner

Associate Vice Provost and Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Utah State University. I teach across the curriculum, but am most interested in continental philosophy, ancient and medieval philosophy as well as Catholic thought, all of which might be summed up as an interest in the ressourcement tradition (returning in order to make progress). I also enjoy spending time thinking about liberal education and its ends.

3 thoughts on “Concert reminder and note on music and Plato

  1. Dan

    Regarding the concert Saturday night:

    Another good friend of mine is now joining Saturday’s concert. So there will be three of us. I will be immensely honored to share the stage with both John Price, one of the most musical pianists I know; and Brandon Lee, unequivocally the finest student pianist at USU. Come to see him if for no other reason! We will be playing Chopin, Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, and Scriabin.


  2. Blood_and_Ashes

    The S&M Emo Goth Punk from the first video was too much to watch, and the Popera techno nonsense made me want to vomit. Some people simply deserve to be thrown under a truck and ran over until bacteria could not feed from the remnants, and he is one of them. Many of the comments from the video, and what I continue to hear about my own cultural music (metal, rather Great metal, not anything you hear on the radio save very early classics), that its all about the speed, the violence, the ‘brutality’, the novelty and gimmick. It doesn’t matter that Origin’s music has no direction, meaning, questions or soul, it only matters that its mindblowingly fast and technical and loud, which is all anyone uses to distinguish them from their predecessors, and those from their own.
    Its all just entertainment, so its about how well it can entertain, and that is based on how much it can dumb down and throw together in a pile. If its only entertainment, it has no obligation to inspire, so saying things like Mozart and Madonna are “just different, its all subjective, its all relative” is perfectly acceptable. The sacred and the profane are on the same generic level, so that power, meaning, spirit have no bearing on the judgment o f the creation, if there is any judgment at all. It pleasures an individual by performing it, and pleasures several others by hearing it, and makes a lot of money, so it succeeds, and its ‘unique’ as Dan pointed out, which makes it kickass and beyond judgment because doing something ‘unique’ is automatically respected as a sign of creativity (even though people have been recklessly throwing sounds together like this for a long time) regardless of its vision or spirit.

    I can’t say much more for now, but I talked with Dan about this earlier today, and I think its ironic that so many in the class have (understandably) viewed Plato as being too cold, too rationale of the being of Man, when I think it exactly this kind of ‘art'(the first video) that is representative of that coldness and rationality, which I think Plato would have banned from a good city. Art, music, expression that touches and reflects the soul has in our modern time, become a matter of cold rationality, of numbers, of precision playing over meaning, of dollars earned and people attending over truth. I think, with his maniacal mathematical attempt that appears I think in Book IX, he was trying make a point that courage, nobility, honor, virtue, and justice in a good man aren’t things that can be secured or displayed through numbers, or just ‘adding it up’ or cutting it into percentages (we must be 23% appetitive, 17% spirited 60% reasonable, so lets get some daily charts ready..), and in fact men who do so end up tortured and tyrannical. The sacred, in men and in the Good, is something that transcends logical deconstruction, (ala The Socratic Method, which Plato does away with early on in the Republic) that there is something obviously more profound to us, and art and music affect us in that way as well, beyond charts or prescriptions, whereas modern views that have birthed the freakish thing in the first video don’t feel that at all, that art is just some physical impulse that has physical consequences and has no association with the divine.

    I’ll have more later on… Kleiner is giving me nasty looks in class :)


  3. Dan

    What began earlier in the week as a seemingly innocuous irritation in the throat took a marked turn for the worse Friday night and has developed into a devastating bout of Bronchitis. I would like so much to continue forward with tonight’s recital but my body is dictating that I abstain. I’m in no condition to play, and I really do not wish to spread the illness. I’ve been looking forward to tonight for months. My sincere apologies and regrets.

    John and Brandon will continue forth with the recital so I’d highly recommend attending! It is a pleasure to hear either of these musicians at any time.




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