Thursday, August 30, 2012

The original title of Milton Babbitt's famous Who Care's if You Listen? was The Composer as Specialist.

Something I should have known, but predictable. Follow the link at the bottom of the page or just jump to here. Any of my few regular readers, ignore the repetitions.

Max Weber
[S]cience [i.e. Wissenschaft, scholarly or method-based disciplines] has entered a phase of specialisation previously unknown and ... this will forever remain the case. Not only externally, but inwardly, matters stand at a point where the individual can acquire the sure consciousness of achieving something truly perfect in the field of science only in case he is a strict specialist. All work that overlaps neighbouring fields, such as we occasionally undertake and which the sociologists must necessarily undertake again and again, is burdened with the resigned realisation that at best one provides the specialist with useful questions upon which he would not so easily hit from his own specialised point of view. One’s own work must inevitably remain highly imperfect. Only by strict specialisation can the scientific worker become fully conscious, for once and perhaps never again in his lifetime, that he has achieved something that will endure. A really definitive and good accomplishment is today always a specialised accomplishment.
Clement Greenberg
Each art, it turned out, had to perform this demonstration on its own account. What had to be exhibited was not only that which was unique and irreducible in art in general, but also that which was unique and irreducible in each particular art. Each art had to determine, through its own operations and works, the effects exclusive to itself. By doing so it would, to be sure, narrow its area of competence, but at the same time it would make its possession of that area all the more certain.

It quickly emerged that the unique and proper area of competence of each art coincided with all that was unique in the nature of its medium. The task of self-criticism became to eliminate from the specific effects of each art any and every effect that might conceivably be borrowed from or by the medium of any other art. Thus would each art be rendered "pure," and in its "purity" find the guarantee of its standards of quality as well as of its independence. "Purity" meant self-definition, and the enterprise of self-criticism in the arts became one of self-definition with a vengeance.

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