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Author: Tetman Callis

“Popular music must simultaneously meet two demands. One is for stimuli that provoke the listener’s attention. The other is for the material to fall within the category of what the musically untrained listener would call ‘natural’ music: that is, the sum total of all the conventions and material formulas in music to which he is accustomed and which he regards as the inherent, simple language of music itself, no matter how late the development might be which produced this natural language. This natural language for the American listener stems from his earliest musical experiences, the nursery rhymes, the hymns he sings in Sunday school, the little tunes he whistles on his way home from school. All these are vastly more important in the formation of musical language than his ability to distinguish the beginning of Brahms’s Third Symphony from that of his Second. Official musical culture is, to a large extent, a mere superstructure of this underlying musical language, namely, the major and minor tonalities and all the tonal relationships they imply. But these tonal relationships of the primitive musical language set barriers to whatever does not conform to them. Extravagances are tolerated only insofar as they can be recast into this so-called natural language.” – Theodor W. Adorno, “On Popular Music”

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“Stylization of the ever identical framework is only one aspect of standardization. Concentration and control in our culture hide themselves in their very manifestation. Unhidden they would provoke resistance. Therefore the illusion and, to a certain extent, even the reality of individual achievement must be maintained. The maintenance of it is grounded in material reality itself, for while administrative control over life processes is concentrated, ownership is still diffuse. In the sphere of luxury production, to which popular music belongs and in which no necessities of life are immediately involved, while, at the same time, the residues of individualism are most alive there in the form of ideological categories such as taste and free choice, it is imperative to hide standardization. The ‘backwardness’ of musical mass production, the fact that it is still on a handicraft level and not literally an industrial one, conforms perfectly to that necessity which is essential from the viewpoint of cultural big business. If the individual handicraft elements of popular music were abolished altogether, a synthetic means of hiding standardization would have to be evolved. Its elements are even now in existence. The necessary correlate of musical standardization is pseudo- individualization. By pseudo-individualization we mean endowing cultural mass production with the halo of free choice or open market on the basis of standardization itself. Standardization of song hits keeps the customers in line by doing their listening for them, as it were. Pseudo-individualization, for its part, keeps them in line by making them forget that what they listen to is already listened to for them, or ‘pre-digested.’ “ – Theodor W. Adorno, “On Popular Music”

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“The notion of distraction can be properly understood only within its social setting and not in self-subsistent terms of individual psychology. Distraction is bound to the present mode of production, to the rationalized and mechanized process of labor to which, directly or indirectly, masses are subject. This mode of production, which engenders fears and anxiety about unemployment, loss of income, war, has its ‘nonproductive’ correlate in entertainment; that is, relaxation which does not involve the effort of concentration at all. People want to have fun. A fully concentrated and conscious experience of art is possible only to those whose lives do not put such a strain on them that in their spare time they want relief from both boredom and effort simultaneously. The whole sphere of cheap commercial entertainment reflects this dual desire. It induces relaxation because it is patterned and pre-digested. Its being patterned and pre-digested serves within the psychological household of the masses to spare them the effort of that participation (even in listening or observation) without which there can be no receptivity to art.” – Theodor W. Adorno, “On Popular Music”

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“In our present society the masses themselves are kneaded by the same mode of production as the arti-craft material foisted upon them. The customers of musical entertainment are themselves objects or, indeed, products of the same mechanisms which determine the production of popular music. Their spare time serves only to reproduce their working capacity. It is a means instead of an end. The power of the process of production extends over the time intervals which on the surface appear to be ‘free.’ They want standardized goods and pseudo-individualization, because their leisure is an escape from work and at the same time is molded after those psychological attitudes to which their workaday world exclusively habituates them. Popular music is for the masses a perpetual bus man’s holiday. Thus, there is justification for speaking of a pre-established harmony today between production and consumption of popular music. The people clamor for what they are going to get anyhow.” – Theodor W. Adorno, “On Popular Music”

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“The adjustment to anthropophagous collectivism is found as often among left-wing political groups as among right-wing groups. Indeed, both overlap: repression and crowd mindedness overtake the followers of both trends. The psychologies tend to meet despite the surface distinctions in political attitudes.” – Theodor W. Adorno, “On Popular Music”

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“We are, doubtless, in the main logical animals, but we are not perfectly so. Most of us, for example, are naturally more sanguine and hopeful than logic would justify. We seem to be so constituted that in the absence of any facts to go upon we are happy and selfsatisfied; so that the effect of experience is continually to contract our hopes and aspirations. Yet a lifetime of the application of this corrective does not usually eradicate our sanguine disposition. Where hope is unchecked by any experience, it is likely that our optimism is extravagant. Logicality in regard to practical matters is the most useful quality an animal can possess, and might, therefore, result from the action of natural selection; but outside of these it is probably of more advantage to the animal to have his mind filled with pleasing and encouraging visions, independently of their truth; and thus, upon unpractical subjects, natural selection might occasion a fallacious tendency of thought.” – Charles Sanders Peirce, “The Fixation of Belief”

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“The findings of science entail that the belief systems of all the world’s traditional religions and cultures—their theories of the origins of life, humans, and societies—are factually mistaken. We know, but our ancestors did not, that humans belong to a single species of African primate that developed agriculture, government, and writing late in its history. We know that our species is a tiny twig of a genealogical tree that embraces all living things and that emerged from prebiotic chemicals almost four billion years ago. We know that we live on a planet that revolves around one of a hundred billion stars in our galaxy, which is one of a hundred billion galaxies in a 13.8-billion-year-old universe, possibly one of a vast number of universes. We know that our intuitions about space, time, matter, and causation are incommensurable with the nature of reality on scales that are very large and very small. We know that the laws governing the physical world (including accidents, disease, and other misfortunes) have no goals that pertain to human well-being. There is no such thing as fate, providence, karma, spells, curses, augury, divine retribution, or answered prayers—though the discrepancy between the laws of probability and the workings of cognition may explain why people believe there are. And we know that we did not always know these things, that the beloved convictions of every time and culture may be decisively falsified, doubtless including some we hold today.” – Stephen Pinker, “Science Is Not Your Enemy”

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On the mountains are the thorny elms,
In the low, wet grounds are the white elms.
You have suits of robes,
But you will not wear them;
You have carriages and horses,
But you will not drive them.
You will drop off in death,
And another person will enjoy them.
On the mountains is the k’aou,
In the low wet grounds is the nëw.
You have courtyards and inner rooms,
But you will not have them sprinkled or swept;
You have drums and bells,
But you will not have them beat or struck,
You will drop off in death,
And another person will possess them.
On the mountains are the varnish trees,
In the low wet grounds are the chestnuts.
You have spirits and viands;—
Why not daily play your lute,
Both to give a zest to your joy,
And to prolong the day?
You will drop off in death,
And another person will enter your chamber.
– “Shan yëw ch’oo,” The She King, or, The Book of Poetry (trans. James Legge)

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The sun is in the east,
And that lovely girl
Is in my chamber.
She is in my chamber;
She treads in my footsteps, and comes to me.
The moon is in the east,
And that lovely girl
Is inside my door.
She is inside my door;
She treads in my footsteps, and hastens away.
– “Tung fang che jih,” The She King, or, The Book of Poetry (trans. James Legge)

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The tribulus grows on the wall,
And cannot be brushed away.
The story of the inner chamber
Cannot be told.
What would have to be told
Would be the vilest of recitals.
The tribulus grows on the wall,
And cannot be removed.
The story of the inner chamber
Cannot be particularly related.
What might be particularly related
Would be a long story.
The tribulus grows on the wall,
And cannot be bound together.
The story of the inner chamber
Cannot be recited.
What might be recited
Would be the most disgraceful of things.
– “Ts’ëang yew ts’ze,” The She King, or, The Book of Poetry (trans. James Legge)

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In the wild there is a dead antelope,
And it is wrapped up with the white grass.
There is a young lady with thoughts natural to the spring,
And a fine gentleman would lead her astray.
In the forest there are the scrubby oaks;
In the wild there is a dead deer,
And it is bound round with the white grass.
There is a young lady like a gem.
Slowly; gently, gently;
Do not move my handkerchief;
Do not make my dog bark.
– “Yay yew sze keun,” The She King, or, The Book of Poetry (trans. James Legge)

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Dropping are the fruits from the plum-tree;
There are seven of them left!
For the gentlemen who seek me,
This is the fortunate time!
Dropping are the fruits from the plum-tree;
There are three of them left!
For the gentlemen who seek me,
Now is the time.
Dropt are the fruits from the plum-tree;
In my shallow basket I have collected them.
Would the gentlemen who seek me
Speak about it!
– “P ’eaou yew mei,” The She King, or, The Book of Poetry (trans. James Legge)

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“There are not only true or false solutions, there are also false questions. The task of philosophy is not to provide answers or solutions, but to submit to critical analysis the questions themselves, to make us see how the very way we perceive a problem is an obstacle to its solution.” – Slavoj Žižek, “Philosophy, the ‘unknown knowns,’ and the public use of reason”

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“The changes in advanced democratic societies, which have undermined the basis of economic and political liberalism, have also altered the liberal function of tolerance. The tolerance which was the great achievement of the liberal era is still professed and (with strong qualifications) practiced, while the economic and political process is subjected to an ubiquitous and effective administration in accordance with the predominant interests. The result is an objective contradiction between the economic and political structure on the one side, and the theory and practice of toleration on the other. The altered social structure tends to weaken the effectiveness of tolerance toward dissenting and oppositional movements and to strengthen conservative and reactionary forces. Equality of tolerance becomes abstract, spurious. With the actual decline of dissenting forces in the society, the opposition is insulated in small and frequently antagonistic groups who, even where tolerated within the narrow limits set by the hierarchical structure of society, are powerless while they keep within these limits. But the tolerance shown to them is deceptive and promotes co-ordination. And on the firm foundations of a co-ordinated society all but closed against qualitative change, tolerance itself serves to contain such change rather than to promote it.” – Herbert Marcuse, “Repressive Tolerance”

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“Withdrawal of tolerance from regressive movements before they can become active; intolerance even toward thought, opinion, and word, and finally, intolerance in the opposite direction, that is, toward the self-styled conservatives, to the political Right—these anti-democratic notions respond to the actual development of the democratic society which has destroyed the basis for universal tolerance. The conditions under which tolerance can again become a liberating and humanizing force have still to be created. When tolerance mainly serves the protection and preservation of a repressive society, when it serves to neutralize opposition and to render men immune against other and better forms of life, then tolerance has been perverted. And when this perversion starts in the mind of the individual, in his consciousness, his needs, when heteronomous interests occupy him before he can experience his servitude, then the efforts to counteract his dehumanization must begin at the place of entrance, there where the false consciousness takes form (or rather: is systematically formed)—it must begin with stopping the words and images which feed this consciousness. To be sure, this is censorship, even precensorship, but openly directed against the more or less hidden censorship that permeates the free media. Where the false consciousness has become prevalent in national and popular behavior, it translates itself almost immediately into practice: the safe distance between ideology and reality, repressive thought and repressive action, between the word of destruction and the deed of destruction is dangerously shortened.” – Herbert Marcuse, “Repressive Tolerance”

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“In endlessly dragging debates over the media, the stupid opinion is treated with the same respect as the intelligent one, the misinformed may talk as long as the informed, and propaganda rides along with education, truth with falsehood. This pure toleration of sense and nonsense is justified by the democratic argument that nobody, neither group nor individual, is in possession of the truth and capable of defining what is right and wrong, good and bad. Therefore, all contesting opinions must be submitted to ‘the people’ for its deliberation and choice.” – Herbert Marcuse, “Repressive Tolerance”

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“Censorship of art and literature is regressive under all circumstances. The authentic oeuvre is not and cannot be a prop of oppression, and pseudo-art (which can be such a prop) is not art. Art stands against history, withstands history which has been the history of oppression, for art subjects reality to laws other than the established ones: to the laws of the Form which creates a different reality—negation of the established one even where art depicts the established reality. But in its struggle with history, art subjects itself to history: history enters the definition of art and enters into the distinction between art and pseudo-art. Thus it happens that what was once art becomes pseudo-art.” – Herbert Marcuse, “Repressive Tolerance”

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“Tolerance cannot be indiscriminate and equal with respect to the contents of expression, neither in word nor in deed; it cannot protect false words and wrong deeds which demonstrate that they contradict and counteract the possibilities of liberation. Such indiscriminate tolerance is justified in harmless debates, in conversation, in academic discussion; it is indispensable in the scientific enterprise, in private religion. But society cannot be indiscriminate where the pacification of existence, where freedom and happiness themselves are at stake: here, certain things cannot be said, certain ideas cannot be expressed, certain policies cannot be proposed, certain behavior cannot be permitted without making tolerance an instrument for the continuation of servitude.” – Herbert Marcuse, “Repressive Tolerance”

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“A man who sees inaction in action and action in inaction has understanding among men, disciplined in all actions he performs. The wise say a man is learned when his plans lack constructs of desire, when his actions are burned by the fire of knowledge. Abandoning attachment to fruits of action, always content, independent, he does nothing at all, even when he engages in action.” – Bhagavad Gita (trans. Barbara Stoler Miller)

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“Literature helps us, as Nietzsche would have put it, to become what we are. The characters and situations that interest us in literature are for the most part characters and situations that capture aspects of ourselves and our situation. Literature helps us make sense of our lives, helps us to fashion an identity for ourselves.” – Richard A. Posner, “Against Ethical Criticism”

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