Statement by Edward Green, Ph.D.,Composer and Music Educator
As to the overall lie: Some persons on the Internet have been calling Aesthetic Realism a “cult.” This is an out-and-out lie. What Aesthetic Realism is, is philosophy—and grandly so.
Its ideas have been tested for decades and have held up to the most exacting critical scrutiny. This is not the place to go into all the concepts that make up this great education, nor to detail the decades of careful research Eli Siegel did in order to arrive at its principles. He founded Aesthetic Realism in 1941; and its central idea—his groundbreaking statement “The world, art, and self explain each other: each is the aesthetic oneness of opposites”—convincingly relates all the arts and the sciences, and also shows the deep coherence of these large cultural matters with the questions people have in their everyday lives. The coherence is through the opposites.
Many of our country's most notable educational institutions have recognized the intellectual significance of the philosophy which Eli Siegel founded, and have regularly invited faculty and students of the Aesthetic Realism Foundation to present talks on their campuses. I myself received a doctorate in 2008, with a thesis based, explicitly, on the principles of Aesthetic Realism. The thesis is on the late vocal music of Haydn and Mozart; the doctorate is from NYU. Cults don't get this kind of scholarly esteem.
Let me say some more about my own experience. I am on the faculties of the Aesthetic Realism Foundation and the Manhattan School of Music, where I have been a professor for over twenty years. In those years I have given presentations on Aesthetic Realism, by invitation, at the University of Montreal, Dartmouth College, Denver University, the University of Graz in Austria, Ithaca College, Virginia Tech, the University of Southern California, and other institutions of higher education. I was also invited to speak at conferences of the American Society of University Composers, Ohio State's Comparative Drama Conference, the American Musicological Society, the College Music Society, and the Society for Ethnomusicology, among others. The Smithsonian Institution sponsored my talk to the International Association of Jazz Educators, “The Aesthetic Realism of Eli Siegel Explains the Beauty of Jazz and of Duke Ellington,” a talk I have since given at many other scholarly venues, including, in London, to the Duke Ellington Society of the United Kingdom.
In 2005 I delivered a paper at the first conference of the Répertoire International de Littérature Musicale, a conference sponsored by the City University of New York, and I spoke that summer at several academic conferences in Europe, including in Dublin, Stratford-upon-Avon, and Nottingham, all held at major universities. More recently, I delivered papers, based on the Aesthetic Realism understanding of music, at universities in the cities of Buenos Aires and Sante Fe, Argentina.
I have also been widely published in scholarly journals here and abroad (including in England, Japan, Denmark, and Croatia ) with Aesthetic Realism clearly stated as my methodology. I mention just two of these articles: "Donald Francis Tovey, Aesthetic Realism, and the Need for a Philosophic Musicology," in the International Review of the Aesthetics and Sociology of Music (Vol. 36/2) and "A Note on Two Conceptions of Aesthetic Realism," in the British Journal of Aesthetics (Vol.45/4). I also contributed a chapter in Teaching Music in the Urban Classroom (Rowman & Littlefield, 2006) entitled "Music of Every Culture Has Something in Common and Can Teach Us about Ourselves: Using the Aesthetic Realism Teaching Method"—a chapter co-authored with Alan Shapiro. This book was published in partnership with the National Association for Music Education.
And, as I said, I am just one among many persons who have been asked to speak at important scholarly venues about Aesthetic Realism, or who have published articles indicating its great value for the world of scholarship.
The last thing these liars want is for the public to be aware of the multiple signs of respect for Aesthetic Realism shown by the academic world. That would make clear what’s really going on; that would show just how false and ugly is the image they are trying to plant in people’s minds. To believe them, you’d have to think that a sudden inability to distinguish serious scholarship from “mindless cultism” had simultaneously overtaken dozens of America’s leading academic institutions. Absurd!
Let us take some statements made by one of the attackers, Adam Mali, whom I happen to have known personally. He was, for a period of approximately two years, my piano student.
Mali writes that the “doctrines” of Aesthetic Realism “are not important.” Obviously, the use of the word “doctrine” is meant to give a certain slant; but that statement speaks volumes about the author’s lack of interest in an honest discussion of philosophic ideas. Can one imagine a person dismissing out-of-hand the ideas of Kant, or Pascal, or Lao-Tze, or Nicolas of Cusa, or Hegel, or Sartre—and then expecting to be taken seriously as a critic of those persons? The absurdity is obvious; the lack of interest in truth, palpable.
And then Mali casually makes a string of assertions that, were they not intended to blacken the reputation of a great philosopher, would simply be laughable and pitiable in their lack of connection with reality. He says “the members of the group live within walking distance of the headquarters.” Well, the Aesthetic Realism Foundation is not a membership organization; it is a not-for-profit educational institution. There is a fundamental distinction. Moreover, the study of Aesthetic Realism proceeds in many ways, including by telephone internationally. This is, by definition, not “walking distance.” Oh, and incidentally, when my wife and I travel to the foundation, we find it necessary to do so in our car.
Mali asserts that there are “meetings” six of the seven days of the week, which prevent people from having “leisure time,” and that “no time is spent on vacations.” Having recently taken a vacation in Pennsylvania with my wife, I find this statement exceedingly odd. Moreover, in the last half year alone, I traveled to Georgia and North Carolina—not to mention Canada, France, England and Ireland. So much for Mali’s assertion that “all time away from work is spent at the headquarters.”
And, contrary to what Mali says, there aren’t “meetings” six days a week. Throughout the week there are classes in various fields and public presentations—of which people can, of course, attend as many or few as they please. But then again, Harvard and Yale offer classes and public events throughout the week, too. Are they to be labeled “cults” for that reason?
Mali’s logic is full of holes, and his grip on the facts is non-existent. Moreover, he seems to have developed a selective, and very convenient, memory. For while he says, “I did not have a vacation,” I distinctly remember his spending much time at his family’s country home in rural Connecticut. Why he forgets this is worth asking; at the very least it seems to harmonize poorly with his desire to present a picture of persons forced to live within “walking distance” of the foundation.
Mali claims “I also was discouraged from earning a college degree.” This is another whopper. As I mentioned, he studied piano with me for quite a while during his high school years, and we had several conversations about possible colleges to which he might apply—including about their music programs. Again, why Mr. Mali forgets this is worth considering.
If his weird picture of Aesthetic Realism as a “destructive mind-controlling” “cult,” intent on monitoring its “members'” every thought were true, then how did I—a person on the faculty of the foundation—“slip free” and find the time to get two masters degrees and a doctorate? Why was I not “hounded” into ending my intellectual association with NYU? If Mali 's picture were true, I should have been. But since his picture is false, of course I wasn't.
The simple truth is, Aesthetic Realism encourages the highest standards of scholarship, and the greatest love for education. Mali, it appears, cares little for such matters; anyone encountering his words can tell they do not arise from a culturally nourished intellect.
One of his biggest “corkers” is the statement: “Contact with former members is a definite crime.” Leaving aside the fact that there are no “members,” if what Mr. Mali intends to assert is that persons who currently study Aesthetic Realism have no contact with persons who once did, then he is clearly wrong. It is as absurd as saying that students and faculty at Columbia University are forbidden to speak with Columbia alumni. I myself have friends who once studied Aesthetic Realism and do so no longer. I enjoy being in contact with them. The difference between them and Adam Mali is that they do not tell lies about it. If people do not want to be in personal contact with him, the reason is rather obvious. I don’t suppose too many victims of Senator Joe McCarthy wanted to invite him over to dinner, either.
There is much more I could say—and if Mali and others persist in their disinformation, I certainly will. Meanwhile, I hope this website helps to clear the air—and get the simple, beautiful facts about Eli Siegel and Aesthetic Realism out there to the public, who deserve the truth. I have no fear that when people compare what is on this website, and the website of the Aesthetic Realism Foundation, to the absurdities presented by the fabricators, the facts will speak for themselves.
Meanwhile, it is my opinion that these individuals would rather see a great, kind, new philosophy die than see it flourish and be of use to people. Their state of mind, I believe, is not so very different from that of various Athenians who, resentful of Socrates’ grandeur, hounded him.
They will not succeed; the friends of Aesthetic Realism will never allow the liars to have the last word.
[To visit Mr. Green’s website, go to http://www.edgreenmusic.org]