Rebirth of Reason


The "Immorality" of a Concerto of Deliverance
by Monart Pon

[A Reply to the Critics at Objectivism Online
http://forum.objectivismonline.net/index.php?showtopic=1291&st=0 ]

I've reviewed the criticisms against me and, in particular, against my producing the album Concerto of Deliverance for my pleasure and then presenting it to other Rand admirers for their own enjoyment. I've thought very carefully about this project from the beginning and, not only did I conclude that it's a *moral* thing to do, but a *glorious*, benevolent act as well. But, to be open-minded about this, I'm intrigued by the possibility that the critics here may have discerned a principle I'm not aware of.

So I examined their arguments as stated in their posts, with the view that, even if I could not find a clear and consistent principle in their presentation, perhaps I could deduce a principle from the concrete examples they gave. The issue raised is important, not only to the “moral” status of the album Concerto of Deliverance, but also, in general, to how anyone should properly use and benefit from the work of Ayn Rand.

In response to my first post introducing myself and presenting the new album Concerto of Deliverance -- giving a summary of and links to who I am, why and how the music was produced, and what it might sound like -- there were these following replies.

Stephen Speicher condemns me as being "irrational", a "liar", an "intellectual and ethical fraud", who "immorally sought to reap benefit from the good name of Ayn Rand” and “selling his immoral product", which is "a clear violation of the property rights of Ayn Rand".

Don Watkins III expressed "disgust... that he/the musician he hired had the gall to call their project 'The Concerto of Deliverance'. Morally, that is a violation of Rand's intellectual property rights. It is the attempt to confer the benefits she made possible on someone who has no right to them. For anyone who professes admiration for Rand to use her in this way is sickening.”

My reply to these criticisms included the following:

"Far from being ‘a clear violation of the property rights of Ayn Rand’, the album Concerto of Deliverance is a tribute to her achievement and, among other aims, a way to draw new readers to her works (which it is already doing). And I put my severance pay and savings, and my love and dedication to objectivism, to produce it. (Does anyone here expect me to give it out for free, other than the samples and insightful articles on the website?)

"The US copyright laws says this: 'Copyright does not protect names, titles, slogans, or short phrases. In some cases, these things may be protected as trademarks.' See US Copyright Office And there is no registered trademark for 'Concerto of Deliverance'.

"As to my using and benefiting from Rand's works: don't all objectivists? Is someone who makes a movie of Anthem (now in the public domain) being immoral? Is someone who names their children after characters in Rand's novels being immoral? Is calling a website or organization 'Objectivist' being immoral? Is applying objectivism in one's life and career, and making money from that, being immoral? If it is, then we should all refrain from deriving any benefit from her, put her works in a vault, and make them taboo."

Following my rebuttal, Don Watkins III then wrote:

"You're dropping context. We all benefit from Rand's work. That is no crime. The issue is trying to take from Rand benefits to which we are not entitled. The music you comissioned [sic], even if it lived up to Rand's description of Halley's work, is aquiring [sic] an audience *simply* by using a title given value by Ayn Rand. It would have been fine had you called it something else, and said, 'Inspired by Rand's description of Halley's Concerto of Deliverence [sic].' But to *call* it 'Concerto of Deliverence [sic]' is intellectual fraud."

And Brian wrote, "Monart may, and possibly should, have the legal right to call his song what he wishes, but not the moral right. I don't think anyone should call their peice [sic] of music the Concerto of Deliverance. In everyone's minds it is a great masterpiece that we cannot hear but it selfcontained [sic] in Rand's novel. We each see it as something beautiful in our own way. And I think it should remain that way. It's something too precious to have someone try and bring it to reality."

Collectively, the critics’ statements make this claim: that I am “immoral” and a “fraud” in producing and presenting an album called “Concerto of Deliverance”, because, in doing so, I am “violating (morally)” Rand’s “intellectual property rights”, and “reaping benefit” from what she created that I wasn’t “entitled” to.

What were the reasons given to justify this claim of “moral violation and fraud”? I read and re-read the critics’ posts, but I could not find any. All that was stated was the repeated assertion of their claim, and comparisons of this Concerto of Deliverance album with other cases of people, in their projects, using words associated with Rand’s work. There were also appeals to Rand’s (presumably posthumous) “disapproval” of such things as this album.

Even though the reason and principle upon which I am being charged with “immorality and fraud” is not given, I will analyze their claim, nonetheless, and try to discern its meaning and validity.

First, the part of the claim pertaining to “violation of intellectual property rights”: As I have posted earlier, referring to the copyright laws, I did not violate her property rights, intellectual or other kinds. In response, then, the qualification “moral” violation was insisted, without explaining what that means. Now, it is the case, that a violation of rights is an act committed in a socio-political context which integrally involves the use of force or fraud. But no such an act was committed by me or the composer.

I certainly did not use force. Nor, did I use fraud -- as in, e.g., taking credit for, and pretending that the name and meaning of, “Concerto of Deliverance”, was of my own making. No, I do not; I clearly attribute the title to its source. Indeed, the title is a commemoration and a tribute to Rand’s work, as is clearly stated in the album booklet and the information on the website. So other than charges of forceful and fraudulent, i.e., legal, violation, what is the “moral” violation?

Now, I can understand cases where I can be immoral in producing the album, but which have nothing to do with Rand’s property rights, as in: if my wife or my daughters need life-saving and expensive medical treatment, but I take our remaining dollars and put it into this album -- *then* I’d be immoral, in sacrificing their higher value. But that wasn’t the case. So in what way am I being immoral (and in alleged “violation” of Rand’s property, or even in disrespect of her eminence)?

The second part of the claim, that I’m benefiting from Rand’s work to which I have no right and am not entitled, is also difficult to make sense of. That’s why, in my previous post, I listed several kinds of ways in which someone could use and benefit from Rand’s work -- ways which, if they were “immoral” and should not be done, then her work should be made taboo. Then, the critics insisted on the qualification of “no right and not entitled to”, a qualification which doesn’t make the charge of immorality any clearer. I’m definitely not taking any part of Rand’s work that I’m not “entitled to” or given “rights” to. I’m obviously not taking or copying a piece of music that Rand composed and calling it my property. So in what way am I using her work that I’m not entitled to?

Don Watkins III gives a slight elaboration: The album “is aquiring [sic] an audience *simply* by using a title given value by Ayn Rand”. I don’t know what Watkins III means by “audience”, but if he believes that an audience is created that easily, he should produce an album called “Anthem”, or “Fountainhead”, or another “Concerto of Deliverance” (once it becomes “moral” for him to do it). Without the genius required to create the music, the title will no more “acquire” an audience, than Clinton will acquire a following, wearing a T-shirt that says, “I am John Galt”.

“The Concerto of Deliverance”, as a literary reference, is the title of Chapter VI, Part III, in Atlas Shrugged, and, within the story, is the name given by Richard Halley’s friends to his Fifth Concerto. The description by Ayn Rand of what the music sounded like to Dagny (when she first heard it whistled on the train during the scene that introduced her) is repeated when the music is described when played in the Valley near the end of the story.

The title of the album I’m presenting is not “The Concerto of Deliverance”, indicating a supreme or ultimate or sui generic status. It is also *not* a depiction of Richard Halley’s Fifth Concerto. It is: “Concerto of Deliverance” -- implying that it is *a* “Concerto of Deliverance”, an original work inspired by a contemplation of Rand’s description of such music. The composer, John Mills-Cockell (with literary guidance from the commissioner and executive producer) created this, his longest, most expansive work as his musical offering of the themes in Rand’s passage. This was the original commission, as shown in the numerous postings and updates on the web during the past two years, and now on the album’s website.

Finally, a comment on Brian’s insistence that Rand’s description of the Concerto of Deliverance “is too precious to have someone try and bring it to reality”. If this is true, does that mean that *any* ideal depicted in Rand’s art (or formulated in her philosophy) is too “precious” to bring into reality? If not, why then is only the Concerto of Deliverance too precious? There is something wrong with this attitude, something which holds dreamers back from being real, something which I referred to in the Zarlenga poem I posted previously: “Soar aloft in the Night Sky … Afraid to face the dawn.”


"She sat listening to the music. It was a symphony of triumph. The notes flowed up, they spoke of rising and they were the rising itself, they were the essence and the form of upward motion, they seemed to embody every human act and thought that had ascent as its motive. It was a sunburst of sound, breaking out of hiding and spreading open. It had the freedom of release and the tension of purpose. It swept space clean, and left nothing but the joy of an unobstructed effort. Only a faint echo within the sounds spoke of that from which the music had escaped, but spoke in laughing astonishment at the discovery that there was no ugliness or pain, and there never had had to be. It was the song of an immense deliverance."

[‘Concerto of Deliverance’, Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged, 1957]

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