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Dan Asia, Modern Art Form, and Politcs

by David Yeagley · January 27, 2013 · 14 Comments ·

On January 2, 2013, American composer Daniel Asia (University of Arizona) published an article in the Huffington Post‘s “Live” section, entitled “The Put On of the Century, or the Cage Centenary.” It was an assessment of the “music” of John Cage. The article apparently caused a genuine Aufruhr amongst liberals associated with Huffington Post, and elsewhere, but the whole affair finally generated an excellent, objective response by Kurt Ellenberger in the same Huffington section, January 23, entitled, “Red Pill, Blue Pill: Professor Asia’s Cardinal Sin.” Ellenberger, also a musician, evaluated the liberal response to Asia most accurately, if not heroically. Particularly insightful is the illustration used at the beginning of his article: James Tissot’s turn of the last century water color painting, “Daniel in the Lion’s Den” (ca. 1902).


American Composer,
Daniel Asia.

I regret that I myself did not respond sooner. Dan Asia was my composition teacher at the University of Arizona, and still my professional mentor.

Basically, Asia declares John Cage a historical functionary, rather than a serious musician or composer. Anyone who has studied contemporary classical music knows that ideas may often make sense in their historical context, in some semi-private college classroom dialogue, but, they have otherwise no merit whatsoever. Much of art, more of sin, as Edgar Allan Poe might say. Much of modern art is about neither idea nor technique. It is completely parasitical, or reactionary, to what was established by generations of careful development and achievement. The pretense is abundantly clear to the objective thinker. That pretense is criminal to the human mind.


American poet,
Edgar Allan Poe

Moreover, Henry Pleasants pointed out nearly sixty years ago that contemporary classical music could only survive in the carefully protected environment of the academy. The ‘adjunct’ reality of the the state-funded theorists was the life-line of modern “classical” composers. See, The Agony of Modern Music (1955, rpt. Simon & Schuster, 1969). The same pretense was noted anew by Donal Henahan in the New York Times, January 6, 1991, “And So We Bid Farewell To Atonality.” Dan Asia’s recent commentary did strike an offensive chord in the ears of professional liberals, but, he is hardly in a lion’s den. Such self-congratulatory persecution is illusory, created by carefully protected liberal environments, like that of Huffington Post. The larger picture of reality never fits in the ‘cage’ of liberalism.

Interestingly, the whole conversation of art is inescapably social, and thus inevitably political. A modern German artist/set designer names Jörge Madlener once told me that he thought the European system of music was of uncertain effect. “If that system of central European musical development was all part of what led to the Holocaust, then the whole system needs to be reevaluated.” He later said, “We [i.e., Germans] are still digesting the Holocaust.” In other words, How in the world, and why, did such a thing every come about? This conversation was in 1998, at Natalie Synhaivsky‘s first Composers Conference, in Aspen Colorado.


Igor Stravinsky, composer, (1882-1971).

Asia lauds Stravinsky’s music for its faithful consideration of the audience, which makes Stravinsky more important than Schoenberg. I would add to this that, what probably contributed to Stravinsky’s orientation toward the audience was the newly developing art form of cinema. (Sometimes Stravinsky’s music present such abrupt changes of color, tone, tempo, and melody that it suggests the violence of a cartoon. (Some of Rachmaninoff’s music reflects the same kind of rip-roaring, swash-buckling, roller-coaster emotionalism as well. Consider his Third Symphony, for example.) Be that as it may, the entertainment industry surely affected the development of at least the successful, popular modern composers. If the people didn’t like the music, it was destined for the tiny echo chambers of the academy, where it would be recognized only by the ethereal vanities of professional commentators–composers or other college faculty.)


Classic liberal, John Cage (1912-1992).

However, it is a fact that Asia blatantly, or I should say, boldly associated art (music) with social mores and norms. For this, Ellenberger says, the liberals condemn Asia for the “cardinal sin” of making a judgment. It isn’t about opinion, but an objective, Aristotelian aesthetic. Not to make Greek the mother of all morals, the Hebrew Bible, but, the classical philosophers certainly considered beauty and truth essential for the training of free men (citizens). These things involved standards. Equality is bane of art. One might consider an equal distribution of value, but, art has standards, by definition–six thousand years of consistent definition. This modern tryst of artistic equality is a momentary glitch in history, in which the subjective and aimless is declared sovereign.

I wouldn’t say John Cage was immoral, but I would say he was utterly parasitic, or leech-like. This is the essence of liberalism, in any form. It is reactionary to that which cost genuine effort, skill, and planning. Artistic responsibility, we might call the true value in art. Without it, what is left is pretense, an affront to the soul, and quite destructive.

Finally, I offer the view of Jacob Neusner, not on art, but on plurality. Speaking of various religions (on the same campus), he pointed out the fallacy of “generic” or equal value religion. He wrote,

Generic religion evades responsibility…Religion that is purely personal and private makes no difference in the world; that is why people in a pluralistic society resort to the privatization of religion, insisting that it is whatever you personally make it to be.

Neusner is coping with the inevitable questions when one confronts a cultural buffet of theology on an international campus: if all religions are right, then none of them is particularly important, except in a social sense. If they are all equal, then none is particularly valuable, or particularly true. This approach denigrates the very concept of truth. See, Jacob Neusner,”Can You Be “Religious in General”? in Religious Studies and Theology, Vol. 12, Nos. 2 & 3, May & September, 1992. Something has to be right, or there is no right.


Jacob Neusner, b. 1932

Liberals (and Communists) want to say hierarchies of value cause war, but I say, the lack of standards causes chaos and tyranny. Freedom costs war. It is a demonic irony that the modern “freedom” in art should deny all standards and values. Such is not art at all, but an effort in political deconstruction.

Art is utterly political. Ask Ludwig van Beethoven about his 3rd Symphony, “Eroica.”

Posted by David Yeagley · January 27, 2013 · 7:04 pm CT · ·

Tags: Arts · Bad Eagle Journal · Communism · Conservatism · Liberalism · Media · Music · Politics · Religion · Western Europe




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14 responses so far ↓

  • 1 David Yeagley // Jan 28, 2013 at 8:42 am   

    “Art form” pertains to all the arts. In modernity, specifically late 19th century and the 20th century, all the arts went through the same sorts of deconstruction, whether painting, sculpture, dance, literature, poetry, architecture, or certainly music. The logistics involved in each art determine different paces of change in each, but, the patterns are evident.

    The last century and a half has been about deconstruction.

  • 2 Thrasymachus // Jan 28, 2013 at 2:36 pm   

    The roots of this deconstruction lie in Atheism — though certainly not all Atheists are cultural deconstructionists.

    Atheism lacks any teleological view of life and Nature. Nothing has any ultimate purpose.

    In some sense, it is my theory that — to take music as an example — musical truths are as valid — as TRUE — as mathematical equations.

    Why does a Beethoven sonata or symphony or a Bach fugue strike the intelligent listener as somehow “just right”? Because the musical DESIGN is TRUE to laws inherent in an ordered universe.

    Beethoven himself concluded that God exists because order has been formed out of chaos.

    Not only has there been deconstruction of Western culture — the Frankfurt school being the primary culprit in this — but of the “world order” itself. It’s all about Rebellion. Man wants to remake the world as he imagines it should be — that is to say, Liberal Man does.

    This is the primary difference between the liberal and the conservative. The conservative observes that Nature has order, that order gives a sense of right and truth and beauty and health, whereas the liberal says that this given order is immoral and he therefore seeks to dominate Nature and remake her to suit his personal wishes.

  • 3 Thrasymachus // Jan 28, 2013 at 2:58 pm   

    We might do well to keep in mind Plato’s belief in an Ideal Reality. For Plato, “ideas” relate to perfect “forms” — the Latin word “forma” means both form and beauty — that exist in a realm superior to our natural world. Thus Nature strives to realize these perfect forms, but always falls short of perfection. In a way, then, the human artist is doing the exact same thing as Nature — trying to realize these “ideas in the mind of God,” as it were, in the natural realm. The human artist, then, is an instrument of God in the realization of these perfect forms — truths, you might call them.

    In its desperate quest for an egalitarian truth, modern art, like modern political movements, tries to level all ideas and ideals to some common denominator. However, this is anti-Truth in action. It is therefore the substitution of the Lie — the distortion of truth — in a futile quest to remake Reality to fit and give life to the egalitarian ideals of the Liberal.

  • 4 Thrasymachus // Jan 28, 2013 at 3:04 pm   

    The Liberal is the man with the severe inferiority complex attempting to level Reality so as to make himself “equal,” because he believes that equality and justice are one and the same thing. Thus we have the self-contradictory statement of the famous liberal, the late John Lennon, that “Everyone is a genius!”

  • 5 Thrasymachus // Jan 28, 2013 at 3:24 pm   

    Religion and culture cross paths — more accurately stated, they are intertwined. So, if one’s therory is multiculturalism, and all cultures are de facto “equal,” then religious beliefs, which are a part of the fabric of a culture — even if the “religion” is Atheism — must be “equal” as well. Philodophical beliefs and ideals fall into the same category in this respect also.

    Science can search for, and find, its own body of truth, but it cannot create culture as such. Science — pure science — is acultural, in my opinion — as it seems to me. I must admit, however, that I have never thought of this specific connection before just now!

  • 6 Bonus Gift // Jan 28, 2013 at 4:47 pm   

    As mentioned, it’s not only the arts (music being a case example), but it has even swept through a goodly amount of what were once thought the “hard” sciences, and certainly things like the social sciences (for example, economics – Where else would you get that the solution to too much debt or government is more of the same?). Where do you think something like anthropomorphic global warming comes from (i.e., man caused warming working through increases in carbon dioxide levels)? Incidentally, a Danish physicist (Henrik Svensmark) has shown with high statistical confidence that most of the heating (and cooling) works indirectly through water vapor and the Earth’s magnetic field via the intensity of solar radiation (essentially lower solar radiation causes more cosmic rays which in turn cause more clouds and a cooler Earth, while higher solar radiation works in reverse). He was/is essentially a modern day Galileo. It’s almost funny that the same cultural Marxists that denigrate religion (i.e., especially Christianity, with the rather conspicuous exception of Islam, and possibly Judaism) and yes classical classical music, are now the equivalent of Torquemada’s Inquisition but largely in reverse.

    In short, most academics today, especially at the more known universities, spend the majority of their time justifying their existence within whatever is fashionably politically correct within their field (i.e., according to the communists in control) and kissing the ring and genuflecting at the altar of their replacement god of cultural Marxism/political correctness. Cultural Marxist driven fashion drives academics these days not eternal truth. Boy I miss truth.

    Hey, and I thought we had agreed to call it communism and not deconstruction ala the cultural Marxists? I would expect a lapse like that from me but not DY.

  • 7 zephyr // Jan 28, 2013 at 8:17 pm   

    “Asia lauds Stravinsky’s music for its faithful consideration of the audience . . .”

    Are you kidding me?? Anyone who would compose “Rite of Spring” was not possibly considering future listeners and may in fact have ingested large quantities of laudanum or perhaps LSD.

  • 8 David Yeagley // Jan 28, 2013 at 8:42 pm   

    Thank you for “balance,” Zephyr. Professional musicians almost always think too highly of ourselves! –no matter what kind of music we’re involved in.

    However, Stravinsky was hugely popular during his day…

  • 9 David Yeagley // Jan 29, 2013 at 9:33 am   

    Is anyone else having problems getting this site to work, pages turning, etc.?

    A comment about modern painting/art..

    The monetary value of art is utterly fabricated. Modern art is a created economic phenomenon. The work of art is a pretense in itself, but the wheelers and dealers are able to make it valuable. The “business” of modern art is wholly artificial, related to nothing artistic, in the historical sense of the word.

    Modern painting and sculpture stand as the greatest affront to the human soul. Similar to liberal politics. All parasitic, fabricated, for the sole purpose of profit for the dealers.

  • 10 David Yeagley // Jan 29, 2013 at 11:29 am   

    Was just informed of this article, by Prof. Asia:

    Bringing the Star of David to the Stars and Stripes

    I think Prof. Asia is really on the march. All white supremacists who happen to be anti-Semitic should take careful note!

  • 11 zephyr // Jan 29, 2013 at 6:06 pm   

    David: “Stravinsky was hugely popular during his day…”

    Maybe, but that criterion doesn’t necessarily speak to the quality of the work itself.

    If that was the case, we’d have to put the likes of Beyonce and Lohan on a par with Beethoven and Liszt.

  • 12 David Yeagley // Jan 29, 2013 at 6:11 pm   

    True. “Popular” music has always been much more “popular” than classical music. It started in pre-Medieval days. We know what went on in the church because the padres had started writing, with musical notation, etc.

    But what were the people singing at the barn dances? This was never written down. At it hardly comes up as a subject in early music classes. In the early Renaissance, we have some info on the peasants. “Secular” just mean love songs. Courting. You know, “country” music!

    But, you wouldn’t know about Beyonce except for the recording industry, electronics, media, etc.

    Music has different trails amongst the folks. City folk, country folk, and different music even in those contexts, too. It just reflects people. And most people prefer Beyonce to Stravinsky. This is the sad, tragic truth about the “low information” public, you know, the ones that voted for Obama…

  • 13 zephyr // Jan 30, 2013 at 10:21 am   

    I prefer Beyonce to Stravinsky. And I can’t stand Beyonce. :-)

    Sometimes it is a matter of taste, not “low information”.

  • 14 David Yeagley // Jan 30, 2013 at 10:51 am   

    I don’t know how far this goes back, but, Hayden was one of the first who tried bringing in folk melodies into his high “classical” music (symphonies, for example). Beethoven wrote “country dances” for piano. Not many, not big, but, the thought was there.

    Classical composers were associated with entertainment for the high court. Educated audiences, etc. And all that grew out of the CHURCH, which, essentially disdained the commoners–who always seems preoccupied with sex, drugs, and dance (“rock & roll”). Wouldn’t you know it!

    So, in a way, America got revenge on the elite. American pop took over the world. Even the slaves got in on it, in a big way.

    This is very serious music history/culture commentary. You can all donate to BadEagle.com now….

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