In this episode, Teague, Adam, and I discuss romanticism in music and its lasting influence on contemporary life. We explore the works of many important composers like Beethoven, Brahms, and Wagner. There is also an interesting discussion on the ramifications of romanticism and 20th century music that borrows insights from Danto and Wittgenstein. Did the history of art come to an end? Is there such a thing as romanticism? If you enjoyed this episode and want more content like this, please subscribe!


The piano mimics “Over 3000 dead, 6000 injured,” in 11/8; the tuba imitates “These fucking rag heads, they hate us.” in 9/8; hence, 9-11. The second part includes a reversal of the piano and a random displacement of the tuba melody. This mirrors the way in which we experience our grief and bigotry — grief is retrospectively experienced; bigotry randomly sprouts from every corner of this country.

This piece was inspired by the thought of whether death and birth can occur simultaneously. I believe 9-11 marked the death of thousands and the birth of the recent bigotry against Muslims.

John Cage and the philosophy of music

The aesthetician Susan Sontag claims that Cage’s attempt to erase authorial intent, in one sense, allowed him to erase meaning altogether. This is also reflected in Cage’s writings:

“New music: new listening. Not an attemp to understand something that is being said, for if something were being said, the sounds would be given the shapes of words. ust attention to the activity of sounds.” 

— Cage, Experimental Music: Doctrine, p. 10

But, I don’t believe this to be case. The cultural and historical context of Cage’s works show that they are trying to dissolve the distinction between art and sound. Such contexts allow sounds to refer to themselves, thereby giving them meaning and intentionality.

Plus, one could consider Heidegger’s argument that we do not hear pure sounds:

“What we first hear is never noises or complexes of sounds, but the creaking wagon, the motor-cycle. We hear the column on the march, the north wind, the woodpecker tapping, the fire crackling. It requires a very artificial and complicated frame of mind to hear a pure noise…Likewise, when we are explicitly hearing the discourse of another, we proximally understand what is said, or — to put it more exactly — we’re already with him, in advance alongside the entity which the discourse is about… Even in cases where the speech is indistinct or in a foreign language, what we proximally hear is unintelligible words, and not a multiplicity of tone-date.”

— Being and Time, 163

This means that even the sounds we encounter in ordinary life are never meaningless, pure sounds.

All in all, I admire Cage’s attempt to bring ordinary sounds to the forefront of Western music. I think he exemplifies Heidegger’s claim that art makes the conflict between World and Earth conspicuous. For Heidegger, World is the human environment in which we lead our lives. It includes our tools, houses, values, and so on; in other words, it is the habitat of Dasein. On the other hand, Earth is the natural setting of World; the ground on which it stands and the sources of raw materials for our artefacts. Through his illustration of ordinary sounds, Cage makes apparent the rift between World and Earth: musical sounds vs. pure noise. Interestingly, Cage’s take on this conflict uncovers a naked truth, i.e., the attempt to erase intentionality paves the way for a deeper unconcealment of intentionality and Dasein. 

Being and Time, Martin Heidegger

The Origin of the Work of Art, Martin Heidegger

Cage and Philosophy, Noël Carroll

Why I criticize K-Pop

I think some people confuse my criticism of K-Pop as a condemnation of all popular Korean music. It isn’t.

What I mean by K-Pop is the boy-band, girl-group franchise that is sold worldwide by gigantic and oppressive entities like SM, YG, and JYP. This is what myself and most people mean by K-Pop, because it is what most people are familiar with.

There are lots of problems with K-Pop: misogyny, lack of originality, banality with a pretension of subversion, and the list goes on.

I think one of the most devastating impacts of K-Pop is how parasitic and monopolistic it can be. This is how most people know about Korean music, even though it’s only really been a part of Korean music for not much longer than a decade. It is taking over the Korean market –making it one of the only ways to have a viable career as a musician in Korea. Furthermore, its toxic values –become popular and sell tons by all means– are taking over the country – and they beget a slew of negative consequences. Take for example the slave contracts and sexual favors that proliferate in this industry. They stem from the problems I mentioned above: “We have taken over this industry and if you want to have a career submit to us and obey.” This kind of mindset is highly corrosive to goods like originality, sincerity, diversity, and beauty.

I do not think K-Pop is the only brand that corrodes such goods. I would, however, argue that it is unique in this gargantuan web of crony capitalism; especially within the Korean music industry. It is an excellent vehicle for such toxins. It is unprecedentedly organized and effective. There has never been such a powerful agent of crony capitalism within the Korean music industry. Although commercial and popular music existed in Korea even in the 20th century, there also existed dissidents like 산울림 (San Ool Leem, in english it would mean something like the mountain’s echo) and 들국화 (a wild camomile). Their music music was authentic, dissident, and simple. It had a very different sound from the over-produced pop music we hear these days. These kinds of bands were very popular in Korea and they were able to compete with and often best the pop of its time. However, nowadays we see none of that. I cannot help but attribute much of this to the rise of K-Pop.