Intelligent Design

Darwinists, John Cage, Flimflam Artists, and Himalayan Dung Heaps

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When I was in college I studied piano with a Hungarian concert pianist by the name of Istvan Nadas. He was a student of Bartok and a miraculous survivor of a Nazi death camp.

Nadas had just completed a concert series in which he played all 32 of Beethoven’s piano sonatas. I was studying and learning the Waldstein and Appassionata sonatas under his tutelage. “Contemporary classical” music composition by this time (the 1970s) had been taken over by flimflam artists like John Cage, who composed his famous 4 minutes and 33 seconds of silence in three movements (nothing is played, but pages are turned between the movements). This kind of idiocy is actually taken seriously in musical academia. You can enjoy a performance of this work (arranged for orchestra in this case) here.

On this occasion a visiting “composer” was actually paid by the university to conduct the student orchestra in one of his “compositions,” which was essentially random cacophony. I asked Nadas what he thought of it. He replied, “It is a Himalayan dung heap.” This phrase stuck with me.

It was all noise, no substance, and pure conartistry, and obviously so, but it was actually taken seriously by highly educated people in academia. On second thought, probably everyone in the music department who was a real musician with real musical talent and discipline, also thought that it was a Himalayan dung heap, but no one had the courage to say so except Nadas.

So goes the culture in academia in general (with the exception of the hard sciences, usually). And so goes, I propose, especially the Darwinist culture. Almost no one has the courage to point out the obvious, that Darwinian orthodoxy concerning random variation/mutation and natural selection as an explanation for all of life’s complexity and diversity, is a Himalayan dung heap.

15 Replies to “Darwinists, John Cage, Flimflam Artists, and Himalayan Dung Heaps

  1. 1
    uoflcard says:

    What a sadly believable thought

  2. 2
    Domoman says:

    I thought neo-Darwinism smelled like poop. Now I know where it comes from too! lol

  3. 3
    Berceuse says:

    Well put, Gil. I can’t stand John Cage. The fact that he had the presumption to put up 4’33” still shocks me.

    And I agree with your analogy. I don’t like to make generalizations, but it seems like the intellectuals who think they’re above tonal music are the same kind of people who self-righteously embrace Darwinism, deriding anything to the contrary.

  4. 4
    StephenB says:

    Gil, I too, have noticed this same degradation in music and it does seem to correlate with a parallel decline in the life of the mind. Through the years the music industry, consciously or unconsciously, has been conditioning the general public to become bored with intellectually satisfying music at exactly the same time that the educational system has been dumbing-down school children.

    During the nineteen forties, fifties, and early sixties, composers used rich harmonic patterns, such as minor sevenths, major sevenths, thirteenths, flatted-fifths, and other richly conceived combinations, all of which had a unique capacity to appeal to the noblest motives of the human heart. By the late sixties and early seventies, musical trends gradually stopped trying to move positive emotions and began to aim directly at the glands.

    Meanwhile, intellectual decline was marked by three distinct disturbances in the schools: The injection of “self esteem” programs, the elevation of “feelings” over intellectual development, and an almost reverential orientation to the Darwinist paradigm. Children, who had been convinced that they were nothing but animals, began to act like animals. Yes, the Darwinists and Deweyites had cheated them out of a decent education, but, in the process they also did something even worse: They rendered them uneducable forever by instilling in them a distaste or even a hatred for transcendent realities and unchanging truths. Many of these poor souls appear here daily and they don’t even know what was done to them.

  5. 5
    sxussd13 says:

    I would assume that a “Himalayan Dung Heap” would freeze quickly, and thus sadly be preserved for a long time.

    It also does no good then in fertilizing any fields, it just sits there.

    Here is something amusing I stumbled upon lately:
    Watch out its pink!

  6. 6
    allanius says:

    We can go a step further. The fakery to which “modern art” so readily lends itself can be linked directly to Darwinism. Darwin’s theory became popular among the intellectuals because it implied that humanity was rising to some unidentified transcendent state of being by purely natural means. But transcendent values cannot be known by definition. Therefore Darwinism (as a philosophy of being) leaves the door wide-open for fakery.

    This fakery became cliché in the notion of the superman-artist, so dreadfully familiar to all concert-goers. Cage tried to make himself look like a musical genius by negating all existent musical values. His four minutes of silence were intended to imply the existence of some transcendent realm of being accessible through theory only. But for that very reason it also cannot be known, cannot be made immanent. It is quite literally nothing.

    Anyone who has ever had to endure a condescending diatribe about modern art or literature is all too familiar with the fakery phenomenon. They keep telling us they are great geniuses; too bad we can’t see it in their art.

  7. 7
    Peter says:

    Perhaps John Cage agrees with you and is proving what idiots the academic elite is by their acceptance of his “compositions.”

    Hurbert Yockey, a brilliant researcher in information theory and biology summed up science’s tendancy to accept discredited theories:

    “The history of science shows that a paradigm, once it has achieved the status of acceptance (and is incorporated in textbooks) and regardless of its failures, is declared invalid only when a new paradigm is available to replace it. Nevertheless, in order to make progress in science it is necessary to clear the decks, so to speak, of failed paradigms. It must be done even if this leaves the decks entirely clear and no paradigms survives.” 336

    Hurbert P. Yockey, Information theory and molecular biology

    It doesn’t look like the science community has embraced his suggestion.

  8. 8
    Borne says:

    I believe it was Edward Gibbon who noted that when civilizations begin to see the vulgar, the nonsensical, the ugly, the foolish as “art” and when they focus on outward beauty and fleshly pleasures they are in an advanced state of decline.

    Gee, where’s that leave most of the so-called free world and so-called “civilized” nations these days?

  9. 9
    GilDodgen says:

    Perhaps John Cage agrees with you and is proving what idiots the academic elite is by their acceptance of his “compositions.”

    I’ve often wondered if people like Cage are secretly laughing (all the way to the bank) behind the backs of the gullible academics they’ve conned.

    Be sure to fast-forward to the end of the video clip I linked. Listen to the roaring applause, see the curtain calls, listen to the gushing accolades. It really is entertaining, although rather pathetic at the same time.

  10. 10
    uoflcard says:

    I wonder how much the audience paid to get into that “performance”. Watching them sit there on the edge of their seats waiting for it to start, I don’t know whether to laugh hysterically or just feel horrible for them. Hey, silence is beautiful. Anyone ever get in the middle of nowhere in the woods during winter with lots of snow on a calm day? There are no animals, no wind, no leaves rustling, no cars, nothing. It is a beautiful experience, but it certainly isn’t “genius”.

  11. 11
    Berceuse says:

    Re: 10

    I agree that silence can be something special in its own right, so I understand Cage’s interest in it. Not only is a lack of sound still “something,” but the fact that (unless you’re deaf)you can’t really escape from sound at all is something to behold. This ties into Cage’s interest in Eastern thought.

    However, I don’t think that gives him the right to take 4 minutes and 33 seconds of silence and make it intellectual property. I suppose it’s more the situation than the silence itself. You’re expecting a performance, but since you don’t, the “silence” you end up hearing is invaded by the breathing of the audience, the hum of the air conditioning in the venue, etc. However, all that said, it doesn’t take a genius to notice this, and since 4’33” is a more non-creation than composition, it is rather pathetic people take it that seriously.

  12. 12
    GilDodgen says:

    He [Nadas] was a student of Bartok and a miraculous survivor of a Nazi death camp.

    This is off topic but I wish everyone could have heard Nadas’s story. I quizzed him at length about his WWII experience. He was arrested by the Gestapo, and tortured by many means, one including having his toenails torn out with pliers. Nadas was not a Jew, so I asked him why the Gestapo arrested him. He said, “They thought I was aiding the resistance.” This turned out to be true, but he never revealed it to his torturers.

    He was shipped off to a Nazi concentration camp. Nadas told me that the commandant was a classical music aficionado, and would play Bach over the loudspeaker system. Nadas knew every note of the music, and wished he could tell the commandant this fact, but Nadas knew that if he did so they would either murder him or break all his fingers so he could never play the piano again.

    This same commandant delighted in coming down into the courtyard and randomly picking out inmates, and either having them hung or machine-gunned to death in front of the remaining inmates, just for the entertainment value.

    Nadas’s camp was liberated by the Russians and he was put on a train to Russia where he knew that he would be put in another camp. (At this point he was malnourished, weighed 90 pounds, and was suffering from dysentery.) As the train slowed on an incline he managed to jump out of the train under machine-gun fire. He finally made his way to a family that hid him, and was eventually smuggled through Checkpoint Charlie by a black American GI under a tarp in the back of a jeep.

    He later discovered that his entire extended family had either been gassed by the Nazis or shot by the Russians. The only survivor was his mother, whom he eventually tracked down in Italy.

    Nadas had a profound influence on me in many ways.

    I don’t think that very many contemporary naïve Americans have any concept of the potential evil that resides in the unregenerate human heart.

  13. 13
    sparc says:

    While I do admit that I prefer western music I believe this is the result of having grown up with it. I guess those positive emotions commenters experienced with 18th and 19th century music can be caused by asian, african or arabic music as well even if it may sound strange for US/European consumers.
    Thus, I would be reluctant with comments like the one Borne made:

    I believe it was Edward Gibbon who noted that when civilizations begin to see the vulgar, the nonsensical, the ugly, the foolish as “art” and when they focus on outward beauty and fleshly pleasures they are in an advanced state of decline.

    because this is close to the style that was used to defame so-called “entartete Kunst”.

  14. 14
    tribune7 says:


    If you didn’t tell me it was for real, I’d swear it was a Monty Python skit.

    Mostly because of the British guy in the beginning. If it was American, I’d say that John Cage and Andy Kaufman were the same person.

  15. 15
    Berceuse says:

    I had seen this video before, but it does feel like something The Onion would do.

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