Saturday, September 07, 2019

at The Baffler Kate Wagner writes on capitalism, and the core lie of classical music education in America, which reminded me of Paul Hindemith's bleak assessment of American music education
... The world of classical music is neither noble nor fair, though its reputation says otherwise. This is partly because to be classically trained means being regarded among the highest caliber of skilled musicians. Those who achieve such heights are capable of playing the most complex, technically difficult music on equally complex instruments that take decades to master. The prestige that comes with this mastery is, of course, heavily dependent on rankings—orchestra rankings, seating charts, a general fetishization of skill and dedication.
I should have thought twice about the career choice I had impulsively made at the age of seventeen when my parents explained they could only afford to send me to an in-state school instead of an out-of-state, high-end conservatory. My unshaken worldview relented, telling me that if I worked hard, I would succeed no matter which school I attended. I enrolled in the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in the fall of 2012. Frankly, I’m glad I went there and graduated debt free instead of going to an expensive conservatory, where the crushing of my dreams would have been far more expensive.
I studied music but didn't major in it.  I opted to major in journalism because, of all the useless fields of study that interested me, it seemed ... in the 1990s at least ... that that was the field that would have more remunerative possibilities than biblical literature, philosophy, music or literature.  

By the time I got my not so very useful journalism degree I began to discover how gutted the job market in journalism actually was and this by the late 1990s.  I have basically never worked in journalism in a professional capacity in the last twenty-two years.  I also got some advice from one of my music professors which warned me that I was probably never going to be a professional musician but that if I could land work that left me time enough for family and friends and still also make music that would be a pretty successful life.  In other words, I was advised by music educators that my most fruitful future as a musician would be as an amateur.  That turned out to be true.  It has made me grateful that I didn't get more formal music education than I got, overall.  It's not that I'd say "no" to music education on principle, it's that it's never been financially practical for me.  So I read Wagner as someone who realized quickly that musical life in professional terms wasn't in my future.

One day, around the beginning of my junior year of college, it occurred to me that I wasn’t going to make it. I had already developed carpal tunnel and tendonitis from years of improper violin technique taught to me by my rural music teachers. I was out of money to go to festivals, and I had no way of making lasting, important connections in a field where who you know matters more than anything else. I had no serious job prospects, nor any hope for job prospects. At work one night, the falseness of the “work hard and you will succeed” ethic washed over me: the truth was the music world was a two-tiered system, and I was in the second chair. Hungover, in the comfort of a dark recording booth, I began to cry. Few things are as life altering as realizing your preferred life is unalterably a fucked impossibility.
As someone who basically never made it into the second tier I'd say there's probably a third tier ... if such a tier could be recognized, the amateurs, the folks who make music in their spare time but have never had the resources to get into the second tier of musicians as laid out by Wagner's piece.

So when Wagner builds up to the following conclusion it's important to add the implicit "business" to what she has to say about classical music as an educational/industrial performance complex.
Classical music is cruel not because there are winners and losers, first chairs and second chairs, but because it lies about the fact that these winners and losers are chosen long before the first moment a young child picks up an instrument. It doesn’t matter if you study composition, devote years to an instrument, or simply have the desire to teach—either at the university level or in the public school system. If you come from a less-than-wealthy family, or from a place other than the wealthiest cities, the odds are stacked against you no matter how much you sacrifice, how hard you work, or, yes, how talented you are.

Despite its reputation as being a pastime of the rich and cultured elite, classical musicianship is better understood as a job, a shitty job, and the people who do that job are workers just as exploited as any Teamster. Classical music has a high rate of workplace injury, especially chronic pain and hearing loss. Many musicians don’t own their instruments, some of which can be as expensive as a new car. My high school orchestra teacher, who played in a regional symphony, was still paying off a viola that cost $20,000. Even the elite among players don’t own their instruments outright; many of these instruments, including Amati and Stradivari violins, are loaned by philanthropists as gifts. I had to rent violins from the same company for sixteen years before I had accrued enough credit to buy one outright at $7,000, right before I graduated from college. One percussionist I interviewed, who works as a middle school band teacher, told me: “As a percussionist, another point of privilege comes with equipment. To own everything we could ever need professionally is very costly, especially a marimba, vibraphone, and full set of timpani. So that’s another huge point of privilege when, for example, one of my middle school students . . . his parents bought him a marimba earlier in the year. Which is great for him, yet here I am with my master’s degree, and I definitely don’t own one yet. I probably won’t for a long time.”
That's the kind of stuff that makes me feel grateful I never bothered to formally study music beyond what I crammed into a really big music minor.  

In this context, the efforts to diversify classical music, while certainly important in a field so notoriously white and male, do little to rectify this essential class divide. Is the presence of a female composer’s work on the program of a prestigious ensemble really progressive if that composer came from a wealthy, culturally connected family in New York City? What use is the admission of a black cellist into a conservatory or prestigious festival if that cellist can’t afford to attend? Sure, there are scholarships, maybe a handful, which allow the underprivileged to compete against one another for scraps before the wealthy waltz in.
A recent blog for the publication New Music Box, titled “It’s Time to Let Classical Music Die,” written by Nebal Maysaud, a nonbinary composer of color, relied on the analogy of an abusive relationship to describe what it’s like to be a minority in classical music. “Western classical music,” Maysaud writes, “depends on people of color to uphold its facade as a modern, progressive institution so that it can remain powerful. By controlling the ways in which composers are financed, it can feel like our only opportunities for financial success as composers [come] by playing the game of these institutions.” A prime example: in 2018 the Peabody Institute touted its hiring of a more diverse faculty while at the same time an exposé in the Johns Hopkins Newsletter uncovered the shockingly racist behavior of faculty toward the Institute’s black students, and the lengths to which the administration swept it under the rug. According to Maysaud, the only solution to this systemic racism and exploitation in classical music is to leave. I don’t disagree.
This is the way of arts under capitalism, in a culture where the abandonment of government funding results in a void filled only by wealthy donors and bloodsucking companies—it’s not altogether different from when composers and musicians worked as servants for the aristocracy. Nor does this encourage orchestras to play original music by diverse new talents; finance rather encourages them to stick with Beethoven until their reliable, aging patrons finally unburden us with their deaths. Perhaps, for good measure, they’ll throw in an easy-going piece by a minimalist composer in their eighties, or tokenize one of the few African American figures in classical music history—if we’re lucky.
Anyone who has done a moderately deep dive into the history of Soviet music will know that under communism those who didn't fit within the paradigm of a curiously short-lived socialist realist paradigm could end up cut off from funding and performances.  There are those who insisted that Soviet music didn't even rise to the level of art but we'll be able to ignore the relevance of Adorno's virulently anti-Slav tendencies and keep in mind that the arts under not-capitalism has not necessarily been better, whether in the East or the West, for those who have been regarded as not-quite-read-for-prime-time.  Zaderatsky not only had all his music banned from performance and publication he ended up in the Gulag a couple of times.  It's only here in the twenty-first century that people in the West are getting a chance to hear more of his work.

The Maysaud essays did not convince me that classical music is predicated on white supremacy.  The essays, as a whole, culminated in an advertisement for Maysaud's music.  Wagner read it as an indictment of the racist history of classical music and it's not as if that hasn't existed ... but as I've discussed about the Wesley Morris NYT 1619 piece it's not as though racial essentialist narratives of authenticity and legitimacy haven't been transferred from white European classical music to black American popular music in the last half century by critical, journalistic and academic establishments where European concert music itself has not been the primary focus.  In other words, American imperialism that makes Beyonce or Taylor Swift queens of pop is not going to be a better American imperialism because Beethoven and Mozart aren't the idols of choice in music education programs.  We had to wait a few years after the death of Michael Jackson before leaving Neverland.  

To the extent that Maysaud's polemics are part of an indictment of the ability to make a living wage in classical music it's a reminder that even if there were no questions about color and discrimination, the cranky old German emigre composer Paul Hindemith had a bleak assessment of the underlying lies he regarded as the bedrock of the American musical educational industries.

In A Composer's World: Horizons and Limitations he wrote:

(page 175)
Let us assume that a country has, at a given time, five thousand active music teachers in colleges and music schools a number not too high compared with the number in this country. The duty of these music teachers is, of course, to instruct professional musicians and amateurs, and among the professionals  so instructed, new music teachers are produced. Now, if each music teacher produces not more than two new music teachers each year which is not an exaggerated estimate and if no interfering war, plague, or earthquake hinders this happy propagation, the result can easily be foreseen: after the first year we will have an additional ten thousand music teachers, in the fifteenth year every man, woman and child in the United States will be a music teacher, and after about twenty years the entire population of our planet will consist of nothing but music teachers.

I admit that the example slightly exaggerates the results of our teaching system, but it demonstrates clearly that we are suffering from overproduction. There is in each country a certain capacity for absorbing music teachers. Once the saturation point is reached, they will either go idle or have to look for other jobs. In this country nobody knows this fact better than the directors of music schools and the deans of music departments. Each year the problem of finding teaching jobs for their graduates becomes more and more desperate, because the saturation point is reached.

For those who haven't read Hindemith's book he was making this wry exaggeration in the 1950s.  Americans who have written on Hindemith's take on American musical education have tended to view him as a bitter emigre crank, but what if Hindemith was right, or partly right?  What if the American music educational system did generate overproduction?  That changed in the 1970s and 1980s as changes in education policies took place but that wasn't the only charge Hindemith leveled against American musical education:
page 176

We are teaching each pianist or violinist as if he had a chance to become a Horowitz or a Heifetz, although we know that the entire concert life of the civilized world can hardly absorb more than ten or twelve great soloists in each field. Even if for regional demand in each larger country another ten are acknowledged, what in heaven happens to the remaining hundreds and thousands? [emphases added]
The core lie Hindemith saw in American musical education was telling music students they could have jobs in music, even jobs at the highest levels of musical notoriety.  Capitalism might have played a role in that lie but the educational-industrial complex couldn't sell people on music as a career choice without the help of some kind of mythology in which "you", dear student, could be told that if you studied hard enough, had enough hustle, and enough vision you would inevitably land work in the field.  By contrast, Hindemith regarded the most important participants in cultural music-making as those American musical education was ignoring:

pages 176-177
Among those taught by our endless phalanx of pedagogues the nonprofessional, the man who wants instruction for his own amateurish fondness of playing with musical forms, hardly counts at all. He who normally ought to be the music teacher's best customer has, as a numerical factor, dwindled to almost nothing, and as a musical factor he usually wilts away after several years of a training that, instead of flattering and fostering his layman instincts, has administered an indigestible virtuoso treatment. Thus the clan of music teachers is now living in a state of ever growing artistic isolation and infertile self-sufficiency. Their teaching of teachers who in turn teach teachers, a profession based on the resentments of the frustrated concert virtuoso and not aiming at any improvement of human society's civilization, by its very activity removed from the actual demands and duties of a real musical culture, must inevitably lead to the sad goal reached by every other kind of indiscriminate and large-scale inbreeding [emphases added]: after a short period of apparent refinement a gradual degeneration and slow extinction. ...

Making people learn the virtuoso warhorses of the concert repertoire was a good way to alienate potential music students who maybe just wanted to have fun playing simpler stuff.  Now the German emigre composer largely hated American popular music and he really hated what he regarded as the noise pollution of popular music via loudspeakers in stores and urban centers, so I don't want to give the impression that Hindemith could be considered enlightened by the measure of being open to popular music.  Biographical reports have had it that he loved Ellington's band when he heard the band but there are also tales of his willingness to tell anti-semitic jokes in spite of his wife being half-Jewish.  In other words, Hindemith had his foibles and his work is considered cerebral, conservative and arid by a lot of folks.  But ... I have wondered whether Hindemith's withering assessment of the lies he regarded as core to American music education weren't, his flaws withstanding, still pretty on point.  

If people want to study Chopin and Mozart, cool, but there's a lot of ways in which we don't "need" Chopin and Mozart or, to make this point more explicit, if music education cranks out people who are trained in canonical works all of which are pretty well-represented in commercially available recordings then do we "need" that?  I love Beethoven's Op. 111, don't get me wrong, and I regard it as a remarkable work.  But let me ask you, dear reader, what do you think a classical guitarist who's into Haydn and Stevie Wonder can do with Beethoven's last piano sonata?  Play it?  No.  Transcribe or arrange it?  Maybe.  What a guitarist could do is take a tiny riff from Beethoven's Fifth, flip it upside down and play with what's possible on the guitar drawing inspiration not from Beethoven at any very literal level but from his developmental economy.  One such guitar sonata could sound something like this.  If you wanted a possible case study of what a guitar sonata drawing inspiration from late Beethoven pianos and late Shostakovich string quartets might sound like you can go follow that link.  If  you wanted to hear a guitar sonata that draws inspiration more from Muddy Waters, Scott Joplin, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams Sr. and Fernando Sor you can go to this link.  

The point I'm trying to make as a guitarist is that Hindemith's comments about the overproduction of music education for the traditional Western canonical literature doesn't necessarily apply to the guitar or to plucked stringed instruments.  But as Matanya Ophee put it, the guitar is regarded as the not-as-legitimate also-ran instrument.  His advice was practical advice, guitarists should make a point of not playing the same old warhorses everyone else was already playing.  Depending on who we talk to the canonical works of the nineteenth century guitar masters were not and are not as compelling in musical terms as twentieth century repertoire, a sentiment with which I agree but I'm getting way off topic here.  

Sadly that grand essay has gone offline in the wake of Ophee's passing but if you take time to read it he did a fine job of explaining how we guitarists must be reminded that to many people in the official concert music business that's often called "classical" we guitarists don't count.  We should not have an inferiority complex about either our instrument or its music.  On the other hand, taking an implicit bit of advice from Hindemith, we should also not presume that everything worth doing on a musical instrument is only worth doing if you're getting paid to do it.  Kate Wagner may be convinced that capitalism is behind the core lies of the educational system but I'm skeptical.  If we didn't have anything like capitalism we could still have an American cultural assumption that the only music education worth having is the kind that you believe should land you paying gigs after you've gone through that education.  The possibility of playing music at the local church or synagogue or arts event or arts festival as an amateur might be more feasible than making a living touring.  That gets to what I've come to regard as one of the more devious lies in arts education, an emphasis on taxonomies and histories of arts and artists that skip past the questions of "what did these people do to pay their bills?"  Learning that many of the early guitarist composers had military sinecure positions or taught at schools helped me get a clearer sense that even in "the good old days" very few musicians were "making a living" doing the music gig thing.  

comebacks for Tchividjian and MacDonald
Through a spokesperson, Tchividjian said his “infidelity in 2015 was completely wrong, morally and ethically.” But, he said, there was no element of abuse in that or the other affair.
“I don’t care what role a person has, a consensual relationship between two adults is not abuse. And some of these people will try to make the case that, ‘Well, because you’re in a position of authority, it is abuse,’” Tchividjian said. “And I’ll go, ‘OK I can see how that has been and can be used by people in those positions.’ ... (But) that just was not true for me. I was not abusing my authoritative role to try and find women.”
By his own description, Tchividjian’s journey back to leading a congregation has been winding.
After leaving Coral Ridge, a sabbatical funded by donors to Willow Creek Church in Central Florida ended abruptly in spring 2016 around the time that details of one of Tchividjian’s extramarital relationships were made public, Tchividjian said.
Willow Creek’s leadership later condemned him in a December 2016 statement.
“We would also like to state in the clearest possible terms that we do not believe that Mr. Tchividjian should be in any form of public or vocational ministry,” the statement said. The statement has since been taken offline, but Senior Pastor Kevin Labby told The Palm Beach Post that the church’s leaders stand by the 2016 statement and declined to comment further.
Tchividjian married Stacie in August 2016. They spent more than a year living about 60-70 miles north of Houston, he said.
Tchividjian calls his time in Texas “my year of spiritual, mental and emotional detox and rehab,” when he says God was “deconstructing me to the core.” It was a “very, very, very painful, but necessary” time in his life, Tchividjian said.

It got the attention of Get Religion and some commentary and observation from Julia Duin.
By the way, well-known folks on the Christian speakers circuit usually start at $5,000 per engagement (I learned this while culling through one prominent speaker’s bureau listings), so Tchividjian is probably making out well.
I do wish the Palm Beach Post had captured more of the rage out there on Twitter and in the blogs about how Tchividjian has basically gotten off scot-free in this whole episode.
Julie Ann Smith’s Spiritual Sounding Board blog talks about Tchividjian’s pursuit of multiple women from 2013-2016, how this guy should never be in ministry again and asking why a major Christian publisher like David C. Cook still publishes his books, including the paperback version of his devotional this past February.
But hey, the guy has almost 90 million Twitter followers. Can’t argue with that, right?

A bit snarky, yes, but the article does include a comment from TT to the effect that between consenting adults something can be sinful but would not be abuse.  Whether that is the case or not is ... let's just say that it's pretty clear not everyone agrees that simply declaring that what happens between consenting adults cannot possibly be abuse.  The times have changed on that matter.  When contributors to The New Republic can wistfully reminisce about an affair with a professor yet still conclude an affair between a student and her professor was wrong the tides have shifted and not necessarily to some new Puritanism or neo-Puritan practice or ethos.  TT is far enough out of any group I've encountered or dealt with here in the Pacific Northwest that all of that stuff is a bit abstract for me.

Things are bit less abstract in the case of another pending comeback, James MacDonald, since JM was part of what used to be the Mars Hill Board of Advisors and Accountability and MacDonald was with Driscoll when Driscoll decided to crash the Strange Fire conference.
Former Harvest Bible Chapel pastor James MacDonald is signaling that he may soon be back in ministry.
The longtime pastor of the Chicago-area megachurch — who was ousted earlier this year after derogatory comments he made were played on the air of a local radio program and following months of controversy over alleged financial malfeasance and an abusive church culture — posted a message Thursday in a Facebook group called Walk in the Word Partners, according to independent journalist and radio broadcaster Julie Roys.


Brian Auten piece at Mere Orthodoxy on evangelical dark web and counterinsurgency reminds me of, well, Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill circa 1998 to 2008, which could be regarded as a case study in "evangelical dark web" the beta version

There's a new and brief piece at Mere Orthodoxy by Brian Auten that discusses an evangelical dark web.  There is a preface from Jake Meador.

Preface from Jake: The “evangelical dark web” is a designation adopted by a group of evangelical social media personalities and bloggers centered around a few various web sites such as For the Christian Intellectual, Pulpit and Pen, Sovereign Nations, and Enemies Within the Church. The movement is a self-proclaimed insurgency meant to combat perceived liberalism in other evangelical organizations and denominations. While it’s own positions are broadly in keeping with the political beliefs of the old guard Religious Right, it’s rhetorical positioning is more in keeping with a neo-fundamentalist stream of evangelicalism.

Auten's piece begins in a pretty straightforward way.  It has reminded me that, as he used to joke from time, Mark Driscoll used to say he wanted to put the "fun" back in fundamentalism.  But let's look at the checklist Auten provides because the range of behaviors might be what some readers would wish to attribute to a Mark Driscoll but they could just as easily be implemented by figures like John Shelby Spong or Nadia Bolz-Weber types and their associated fans. In other words, these techniques are techniques that don't have to be deployed by people because of specific doctrinal, dogmatic or political commitments.  But in this checklist case note the target population of 18 to 30 year old males, that IS a target demography that fits with Mark Driscoll's lifelong mission statement about which people he's wanted to reach and present himself as a role model to.

One could assert that the self-proclaimed “evangelical dark web” is insurgent in character. Its overall aim is institutional takeover. Its intermediate aim is intellectual capture of the “target population” (e.g. 18-30 year old conservative evangelicals, particularly males).
Its strategy is multi-form and typical for insurgencies:
  • embarrass the regime in power
  • make it [the regime] appear weak and corrupt
  • create (online) zones of counter-control
  • tempt the regime in power to over-respond in a heavy-handed and/or inept manner
  • through expansion of its captured target population over time, overwhelm the regime.
Its primary tactic: the rhetorical hammer.
Granting that characterization, an obvious question for those orthodox Protestant Christians who reject the evangelical dark web is how to run an effective counterinsurgency against the “evangelical dark web?” These are some embryonic thoughts: ...
For those who were at Mars Hill but more particularly between 1996 and 2008, one of Driscoll's methods was to contrast the Mars Hill community with traditional denominations, whether Episcopalians or Baptists or Methodists, which were presented as not taking scripture seriously or as insisting upon regulations, rules and restrictions that Driscoll and the other leaders said were not actually in the Bible.  Driscoll honed the art of the public relational stance within which he presented himself as the sensible centrist.  He wasn't John Macarthur nor was he John Shelby Spong.  But, in summary, embarrassing regimes in power (more traditional denominations) and making them appear weak and corrupt was a fairly steady part of Driscoll's rhetoric in the earlier period of Mars Hill before it went into its second phase of multi-site organization.  The first multi-site phase was around 1999 to 2004 ish when there was Harambee, Ballard and the U-District campus arrangement.  The church consolidated down to a single site around 2004-2005. It was during that period that preaching consolidated around Driscoll more exclusively.  In the earlier multi-site phase Mike Gunn preached at Harambee, Lief Moi preached at the U-District site, and Driscoll preached at Ballard.  
On the matter of creating zones of counter-control, Midrash 1.0 and particularly 2.0 seem relevant.  The earliest Midrash was a php discussion forum that had no moderation and was open to the public.  Midrash 2.0 was a members-only strictly Mars Hill version of the same core idea but it had moderators, well, officially there were moderators but the extent to which it was moderated could be up for debate.  Driscoll would eventually say in the 2013 through the present that the very idea of a php discussion forum was a bad idea but that is, to be terse, a rhetorical hammer move.  Driscoll clearly had no problems with Midrash in its early forum when he was writing as William Wallace II.  
For those who only read about "Pussified Nation" and have never read the whole thing you may need to know that despite reports of Driscoll's denigrating comments about gays and women that he reserved special vitriol for James Dobson and Promise Keepers.  This would seem strange since people would imagine James Dobson to be on the Religious Right and therefore in the same basic wheelhouse as Driscoll.  But ... if we're looking at Mark Driscoll's early activity in terms of a range of dark web activities then the focus we'll want to keep in mind is that it would make sense for Mark Driscoll, in Seattle, in the late 1990s, to emphatically declare that Dobson and Promise Keepers were the real losers.  It was part of brand delineation.  
When William Wallace II writings made headlines there were headlines to the effect that Mars Hill lost members over Driscoll's homophobic and misogynistic rants and that's possible, but that is more in the realm of editorial commentary rather than analysis of what Driscoll was saying and what the social and historical context was for his stunt.  I've written at some length on how Driscoll's agitprop in "Pussified Nation" (which you can read pretty much in full at Wenatchee The Hatchet if you go through the posts with that tag) is probably best thought of as a kind of agitation propaganda to see who would be on board with what would later be called Dead Men, an integration propaganda campaign in which men in the 18-30 range, more or less, were summoned to participate in becoming more active and integral parts of the Mars Hill community.  Extent writings from Mark Driscoll as William Wallace II can be read at Wenatchee The Hatchet by way of a tag, too.  What is striking about that persona is that through WWII Driscoll explained what he intended to do, to rile people up, criticize the way things were done (particularly by the James Dobson/Promise Keepers wing) and see who was with him on his mission to do better. Midrash 1.0, though Driscoll has long since repudiated it, was an essential aspect to William Wallace II's activities.  
I'll go as far as to suggest that the rise of Mark Driscoll is inexplicable without reference to the concept of the "evangelical dark web".  The people at Mars Hill who set up the church website and the php discussion forum circa 1998-2002 may not have realized they were making evangelical dark web, the beta version, but that is in essence what they developed.  That was, per Brian Auten's taxonomy of methods used by participants in the dark web, the formulation of a means of counter-control by younger guys who founded Mars Hill, if we want to discuss what they were doing as a kind of prototype to a "dark web" system before there was a more recent "dark web" to discuss.  
At the risk of casting the net a bit more widely, Driscoll wouldn't even be all that unique in developing a proto dark web system.  Douglas Wilson has arguably done more or less the same thing in his orbit.  What writers on the progressive and left side have noted is the extent to which what they identify as alt-right or new right groups have appropriated the techniques of the left as a way to poke fun at establishments.  It may be the case that the nascent alt right groups have learned enough about left/progressive tactics to turn them around on the left.  Since I've referenced Jacques Ellul in the past I might suggest that the techniques of mass media technocratic cultures for assimilating, agitating and integrating partisans isn't strictly "left" or "right".  
When Auten turns to a practical set of methods to address the evangelical dark web a number of things stick out.
Granting that characterization, an obvious question for those orthodox Protestant Christians who reject the evangelical dark web is how to run an effective counterinsurgency against the “evangelical dark web?” These are some embryonic thoughts:
Counterinsurgency has three traditional components: isolate and degrade insurgent activity, build target audience resiliency (e.g. strengthen, defend, and counter-radicalize), and lastly, if and where needed, reform the at-risk regime.
For countering the evangelical dark web particularly, these steps will need to be taken.
[1] Demand citations and evidence for every assertion. Demand context for every pull quote. Fact check every infographic. Force them back to original sources (books, dissertations, etc.) at every possible juncture.
[2] Question all characterizations every time (e.g. if they say someone is a “socialist” or “cultural Marxist,” always make them define the term and support the assertion with evidence).
[3] Interrogate the interrogator: research, write and post accurate stories about the individuals and groups in the “evangelical dark web” (e.g. what things have they been involved with in the past; previous attempts at this type of activity; how do they get their funding?)
Having been part of a journalistic process chronicling the Mark Driscoll plagiarism controversy of late 2013 these general observations have substance.  Mark Driscoll was not really "taken out" by secular or progressive or liberal media.  His reputation collapsed when Reformed and evangelical conservative writers began to dig into the allegation that he was a plagiarist and substantial evidence was found that he had used the work of other authors without giving them credit in the first editions of his published books.  Those books have since been revised and updated in second editions.  For those who weren't following the coverage of the time, when Janet Mefferd provided evicence of Mark Driscoll's plagiarism she pointed out that she wasn't even the only or even the first person to have broached the topic of Driscoll and intellectual property, and linked to work I had already done before her.  Of course her materials were taken down and her show did end up off the air but that is more a question for how institutional Christian media platforms handle dissent, which is thematically related to the evolution of an evangelical dark web but not exactly the same as that.
Auten mentions something in his point 5 that I want to consider.
[5] Fight the temptation to get certain outlets or personalities to do battle on your behalf. A critique of the “evangelical dark web” by the Gospel Coalition, ERLC, the New York Times, Washington Post, or the Southern Poverty Law Center, or a byline by Emma Green, Peter Wehner, John Fea, Warren Throckmorton, et. al. will backfire and easily become ammunition for the next round of attacks.
When one of my relatives wanted to learn about Mars Hill in 1998 he asked if the church could provide a doctrinal statement. What he got was a photocopy of the 1998 Mother Jones article that discussed Mars Hill and other churches.  In hindsight it seemed sketchy but it arguably gets at the heart of Auten's warning, if Mark Driscoll and the early Mars Hill Church could be seen as a forerunner of what is today's evangelical dark web then hostile press from a vetted institution, particularly in the press, will be used as publicity material for the group that received negative coverage.
Within Reformed communities The Gospel Coalition is being regarded more and more as a bad joke.  One of my friends from the Mars Hill days and I were discussing TGC a couple of years ago and he said that he's found that among the ex-MH people we know fewer and fewer take TGC seriously, particularly when the topic is whether they're saying things that could be construed as historically Reformed.  Now folks with an Internet Monk or Boars Head Tavern background might reminisce about the Truly Reformed a bit, but this is to say that Auten's caution has cause.  Even among writers in the progressive and left wing there have been some criticisms about the way the Southern Poverty Law Center has handled things.  Take Nathan V. Robinson's "The Southern Poverty Law Center is Everything That is Wrong with Liberalism".
The Southern Poverty Law Center, the wealthiest civil rights organization in the country, has ousted its founder, Morris Dees, and president, Richard Cohen, amid unspecified allegations of workplace misconduct by Dees. Dees had been with the organization since creating it in 1971, while Cohen had joined in the mid-’80s, and the SPLC’s shake-up can be seen as part of the MeToo reckoning in which conduct that was accepted for years is finally being dealt with appropriately.
But the organization has long been dysfunctional in even deeper ways, and the story of Dees and the SPLC is useful for illustrating some of the worst and most hypocritical tendencies in American liberalism. If we understand the full extent of what went wrong in this organization, we’ll better understand the ways in which a shallow “politics of spectacle” can take hold, and see the kinds of practices that need to be categorically rejected in the pursuit of progressive change.
The Southern Poverty Law Center perfectly shows social change done wrong. It was a top-down organization controlled by an incompetent and venal leadership.* It was hypocritical in the extreme, preaching anti-racism while fostering a racist internal culture and being led by men whose own commitment to equality was questionable. It didn’t care about listening to and incorporating the viewpoints of the people it was supposed to serve. It was obscenely rich in a time of terrible poverty, and squandered much its considerable wealth. Finally, it picked the wrong political targets, and focused on symbolic over substantive change. Each of these practices goes beyond the SPLC, and is endemic to a certain kind of “elite liberalism” that desires “progress” without sacrifice. It is the kind of liberalism recognized by Phil Ochs in 1966, and its chief characteristics are a deep hypocrisy and a lack of willingness to seriously challenge the status quo.

Now having not read much by John Fea I don't have anything to say about Fea, but having read Warren Throckmorton over the years I would say there's a thought experiment to do.  Since Trump has been elected Throckmorton has made reference to the "court evangelicals" who approve of Trump's policies and ignore Trump's conduct.  I didn't want Trump to get the nomination and regarded it as bad that he won ... but I have also written about how as racist presidents go Trump may be bad but he's not necessarily Woodrow Wilson ... or even where Native American concerns are involved a Theodore Roosevelt.  
Here's a thought experiment, imagine that someone were to describe the late Rachel Held Evans as a "court Episcopalian" in the way that Warren Throckmorton makes mention of "court evangelicals" in his more recent writing.
Rachel Held Evans, Appointee for Member, President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Rachel Held Evans is a Christian blogger and the author of Faith Unraveled, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, and Searching for Sunday. In addition, Ms. Evans speaks at retreats, conferences, universities, and churches across the country. She has been featured on NPR, Slate, The BBC, The Washington Post,  The Huffington Post, CNN, The View, and The Today Show, and in 2012, she was named one of Christianity Today's “50 Women to Watch.”  Ms. Evans received a B.A. from Bryan College.  
There's no compelling reason to not regard the late Rachel Held Evans as a "court Episcopalian" in the same way that, say, Franklin Graham, could be said to have a "court evangelical" connection with the Trump administration, is there?  That any of these "court" religious leaders may only have a position that is a formality without actual political influence and that referring to them at all is basically a waste of time is where I land, personally, but I recognize that a lot of people will disagree with that position.  Granting that difference of conviction ... 
For denizens of any dark web those kinds of rhetorical flourishes on the part of writers like Throckmorton signal their ultimately institutional loyalties and that is getting at what Brian Auten's warning is about; relying on figures such as Fea or Throckmorton or establishments such as The Gospel Coalition or the SPLC will boomerang in connection to dark web campaigning.  
Within the history of Mars Hill if criticism came from Slice of Laodicea, the Sola Sisters or John Macarthur in general these criticisms were categorically ignored.  These were regarded as anti-charismatic institutional rejection of whatever Mars Hill in general and Mark Driscoll in particular was about.  A similar dynamic happens across the theological and political spectrum where once people are identified as residing in a particular doctrinal or political position they are not to be taken seriously.  Think of it as being akin to people who read AlterNet not going out of their way to read Pat Buchanan and vice versa maybe.
Now, obviously, from the sheer amount of material I've written about Mars Hill Church I believe it's a topic that merits scholarly, historical and journalistic investigation.  Auten's recent piece on the evangelical dark web has reminded me that there's a great deal about the roughly twenty year history of what used to be Mars Hill Fellowship and then Mars Hill Church that could be a case study in a church that helped to pioneer techniques and technologies that helped lay a foundation for what is more recently called the evangelical dark web.  At the moment the only academic monographs that have addressed the history of Mars Hill have come from more progressive or non-Christian writers.  
I recommend Jessica Johnson's Biblical Porn as, so far, the only academic monograph discussing any aspect of Mars Hill that I consider to be worth serious study.  I've got my differences of conviction with Johnson which, if you've read more than a dozen posts here you'll know already, but her work is what I regard as the first serious step toward a chronicle of Mars Hill in academic literature that relies on enough primary source material to be taken seriously.  To go by how evangelicalism as a whole and low church Protestantism in the United States have decided to handle things, there are not likely to be any other academic monographs examining Mars Hill as a case study in theological, technological, social or other developments.  Driscoll himself seems to be leaning toward acting as if those twenty years of his ministry in some sense just didn't happen.  
The rise and demise of Mars Hill Church may be one of the more useful case studies of how a church that in several respects helped create an evangelical dark web has ended, with the spin off churches surviving (with exceptions like the late and dead Mars Hill Portland assimilated into Door of Hope) but as more conventional evangelical church entities.  
"I submit to the elders, and they discipline me I promise you that. There's a few that like to remind me continually of my arrogance and they're very good at it and I thank God for them. There have been certain decisions that I've wanted to make in the church, there's been certain things I've wanted to do and they've said 'no'. And in retrospect every time they have been right, every time they have been right and I have been wrong. And I thank God for that headship because otherwise I would have messed things up. It's good to have Godly wise headship."
-How to Take a Wife part 1, 3/17/2001 00:46:40
Here we are in 2019 and Driscoll seems reluctant to discuss the history of Mars Hill beyond a few general statements about how there was a governance war and how some guys felt he needed to repent but didn't explain what that would entail.  In 2001 Driscoll was willing to say he needed elders to check his arrogance and that when he'd wanted to make certain decisions those decisions got shot down and, in retrospect, every time they had been right.  That's something to bear in mind as a contrast between the Mark Driscoll of 2001 and the Mark Driscoll of 2006-2008.  Based on Driscoll's own account in Confessions of a Reformission Rev the signal change in his thinking about governance, real estate and leadership principles may have happened after a conversation with Larry Osborne and another innovation in the "shoot your dogs" variety happened, apparently, after Driscoll had conversation(s) with Jon Phelps.  
The history of Mars Hill Church as a potential case study of dark web pioneers suggests that by the time evangelical dark web now gains traction it will most likely turn into the institutional system it has critiqued but with, to go by observations I've been able to make about the late Mars Hill, even more incompetence, graft and cult of personality than the institutions Mars Hill leadership at one point spoke and wrote critically about.  That doesn't mean anyone involved in the earliest years of Mars Hill was insincere, far from it.  That's what makes the self-immolation of Mars Hill seem sad but that's another topic for some other time.  

Leonard B. Meyer contra Roger Scruton on the nature of music and Scruton's "semaphore test"

I've been comparing the work of Roger Scruton and Leonard B. Meyer in the last year or so.  It's interesting as a literary and philosophical experiment because some of the points that Scruton seems to take as most given in his later works are more tentative in his earlier work.  Foremost among these is what Scruton has subsequently called the semaphore test.  It's worth quoting Scruton at some length on what this thing is and in reaction to which authors he tentatively formulated this idea.

The Aesthetics of Music
Roger Scruton
Oxford University Press
© Roger Scruton 1997, reprinted 2009
ISBN 978-0-19-816727-3
Pages 343 to 344

When Schoenberg turned away from tonality, it was because he felt that it was no longer available, as a vehicle for sincere artistic intentions. Recall his animadversions against the diminished seventh: `it fell from the higher sphere of art music to the lower sphere of music for entertainment. There it remains, as a sentimental expression of sentimental concerns. It became banal and effeminate. Became banal!’ This thought, which became banal in the writings of Bloch and Adorno, bears directly on our present argument. For notice Schoenberg’s way of describing the offending chord: not banal merely, but sentimental and effeminate. The tiredness of a musical gesture becomes a moral failing. The composer who works in an exhausted idiom does not merely produce clichés and banalities. His emotional repertoire is confined to the sentimental and the effeminate—to that which is false, undisciplined, and self-deceived. Looked at from the philosophical standpoint, such a conclusion is remarkable. For how can this merely formal defect in a work of art—that its effects are taken from an `exhausted’ repertoire—lead to so defective a content, and to a condemnation, therefore, which is as much moral as aesthetic? Even if Schoenberg is exaggerating, the instinct behind his remark is shared by many, perhaps most, sensitive listeners. Clichés are not merely to be avoided: they are false, unserious, destructive of something that we value—though of what, perhaps, it is hard to say.

If we are to make sense of Schoenberg’s remark, we must first show how absolute music—music considered in itself and without ancillary text or drama—can express , convey, or contain a state of mind or character. And in returning to the topic of expression we must acknowledge a singular and important truth: that many people who manifestly understand music will deny that it has expressive content, refuse to describe it in emotional or mental terms, and obstinately adhere, like Hanslick, to the view that musical value is to be found in form alone. A theory of expression must show how it is that people can understand the expressive character of a work of music, and yet sincerely deny that that is what they understand. [emphasis added]

Tentative Conclusions

It is worth summarizing, first the tentative conclusions of earlier chapters, and secondly, the tests which a theory of musical content must pass. For, although our earlier discussions left us with many unanswered questions, they have considerably narrowed the field of enquiry, and marked out the terrain in which a theory of content must be sought.

1.      Music does not represent objects or actions, except at the margin. [emphasis added]
2.      Nevertheless music is often meaningful, in the strong sense that there is something to be understood in it.
3.      Listening to music is an expression of aesthetic interest, and music is understood through the aesthetic experience.
4.      Music is not a language, even if it is like a language in certain respects.
5.      The expressive qualities of a work of music form the most important part of its content.

From these conclusions we can derive certain tests which a theory of content must pass.  Four in particular seem important:

(a)   Musical meaning is not like the meaning of the Morse code or a semaphore signal. You do not attribute expressive qualities to music merely by devising some code or convention, and thereafter using it as a means of communication. The content of a work of music is given only in the aesthetic experience, which is something over and above the recognition of convention (The `semaphore test’.) [emphasis added]
(b)   The meaning of a piece of music is what we understand when we understand it as music. (The understanding test.) Most existing accounts of expression in music fail this test—or at least, fail to show that they can pass it. We just do not know what is proved by them, or whether anything important is being said—for instance, by Peter Kivy, when he points to the way in which the shape of a musical phrase may resemble the `shape’ of an emotion.

(c)    The value test. It follows from (3) and (5) above, that expressive qualities are also objects of aesthetic interest to the person who grasps them. This is why we must distinguish the expressive content of a piece of music from the associations, atmosphere, and emotional aura that inhabit its surface. A piece of music might be dreamy and indolent, like the guitar in the music of Luiz Bonfa, and all the worse for it. But if it expresses dreaminess and indolence, as does Debussy’s masterly `La puerta del vino’, from the Second Book of Preludes … then this is a kind of aesthetic success. …

There are a number of objections that can be and have been raised toward this kind of argument.  First and foremost, it's not a given that "absolute" music as it developed as a concept in later eighteenth through early twentieth century musicology is sufficiently representative of music in the West as a whole, let alone music across the world. Scruton could be construed as granting Hanslicks as being able to set the terms of debate about what, if anything, is "expression" in music.

Notice that Scruton asserts that music does not "represent" objects or actions, except at the margins.  Music also has "expressive" content and yet Scruton also insists that music is not like semaphore or Morse code or any system in which convention ascribes meaning to whatever the system of communication is.

Let's note, too, that Scruton's "the understanding test" depends on the music being defined as music in a way that, to go by Scruton's writings overall, cannot grant this process of hearing something as music as a volition of the listener.  In other words, whatever underlies Scruton's "the understanding test" it has to preclude a John Cage from proposing that if we choose to listen to something as music we can hear it as music and then it becomes music a la 4'33". Music in Scruton's writing cannot be defined as emerging from convention but neither can it be defined as something that can be defined by the volition of the auditor.  It resides in a more nebulous region in the nature of an art object that is not art art object like a painting or a book or a sculpture.  Yet the important aspect of music is its expressive quality ... although it isn't language even if it has language-like properties and whatever that expressive quality is it is an aesthetic quality and not necessarily emotional content.

Scruton seems set on denying that music has a linguistic element even though for a good swath of Western history and culture music was regarded as akin to language and the rhetoric of music was considered of a piece with rhetoric and principles of rhetoric from the medieval period up until about the end of the Enlightenment, give or take, when, as Leonard B. Meyer and others have put it, ideas of organicism and expression began to emerge.

Scruton might be thought of as setting himself against an absolutist like Hanslick or Stravinsky (Scruton's admiration of Stravinsky's music withstanding).

Scruton seems to want to cast aside music as a referentialist art even if for many listeners who enjoy music the extra-musical associations and conventions are inseparable from how and why they enjoy music.  Dance music, for instance, is music where the aim of the music is to encourage dance and it would hardly be a surprise to discover Scruton regarding dance music as lesser music than "absolute" music.  Scruton seems to want to reject Hanslick's formalism while holding that music is expressive but rejecting the idea that this expressiveness could be mediated by conventions or that music could be regarded as of aesthetic interest at a more "formalist" level.

If that stream of jargon seems opaque, perhaps I can quote Leonard B. Meyer to unpack what some of these terms mean as I've been using them, since I mentioned I've been comparing Scruton and Meyer lately:

Emotion and Meaning in Music
Leonard B. Meyer
Copyright © 1956 by The University of Chicago
ISBN-13: 978-0-226-52139-8
ISBN-10: 0-226-52139-7
ISBN-13: 978-0-226-521374 (e-book)

Page 1
The first main difference of opinion exists between those who insist that musical meaning lies exclusively within the context of the work itself, in the perception of the relationships set forth within the musical work of art, and those who contend that, in addition to these abstract intellectual meanings, music also communicates meanings which in some way refer to the extramusical world of concepts, actions, emotional states, and character. Let us call the former group the “absolutists” and the latter group the “referentialists.” [emphasis added]

In spite of the persistent wrangling of these two groups, it seems obvious that absolute meanings and referential meanings are not mutually exclusive: that they can and do coexist in one and the same piece of music, just as they do in a poem or a painting. In short, the arguments are the result of a tendency toward philosophical monism rather than a product of any logical opposition between types of meaning.

Because this study deals primarily with those meanings which lie within the closed context of the musical work itself, it is necessary to emphasize that the prominence given to this aspect of musical meaning does not imply that other kinds of meaning do not exist or are not important.

On the contrary, the musical theory and practice of many cultures in many different epochs indicates that music can and does convey referential meaning. The musical cosmologies of the Orient in which tempi, pitches, rhythms, and modes are linked to and express concepts, emotions, and moral qualities; the musical symbolisms depicting actions, character and emotion, utilized by Western composers since the Middle Ages; and evidence furnished by testing listeners who have learned to understand Western music—all these indicate that music can communicate referential meanings. 

Pages 1-2

Some of those who have doubted that referential meanings are “real” have based their skepticism upon the fact that such meanings are not “natural” and universal. Of course, such meanings depend upon learning. But so, too, do purely musical meanings—a fact that will become very clear in the course of this study. [emphasis added]
Let us now make a second point clear, namely, that the distinction just drawn between absolute and referential meanings is not the same as the distinction between the aesthetic positions which are commonly called “formalist” and “expressionist.” Both the formalist and the expressionist may be absolutists; that is, both may see the meaning of music as being essentially intramusical (non-referential); but the formalist would contend the meaning of music lies in the perception and understanding of the musical relationships set forth in the work of art and that meaning in music is primarily intellectual, while the expressionist would argue that these same relationships are in some sense capable of exciting feelings and emotions in the listener.  [emphasis added]

This point is important because the expressionist position has often been confused with that of the referentialist. For although almost all referentialists are expressionists, believing that music communicates emotional meanings, not all expressionists are referentialists. Thus, when formalists, such as Hanslick or Stravinsky, reacting against what they feel to be an overemphasis on referential meaning, have denied the possibility or relevance of any emotional response to music, they have adopted an untenable position partly because they have confused expressionism and referentialism. 

One might, in other words, divide expressionists into two groups: absolute expressionists and referential expressionists. The former group believe that expressive emotional meanings arise in response to music and that these exist without reference to the extramusical world of concepts, actions, and human emotional states, while the latter group would assert that emotional expression is dependent upon an understanding of the referential content of music.  [emphases added]

In other words, Roger Scruton "could" be described as an absolute expressionist in the sense that Meyer has used.  Scruton contends that emotional expressive meaning in response to music exists, though he attempts to make a case that this is an aspect inherent to the musical "object" and yet that this is an intra-musical experience.  That suggests, on the other hand, that Scruton has been trying to argue an expressionist anti-referentialist case as a kind of "formalist", arguing that the meanings of music as an expressive art are intramusical.  

If it seems at times Scruton's arguments and stance are muddled it is likely because they are.  He wants the expressive aspect of music to be the most salient thing about it yet attempts to define music in such intramusical formalist terms as to reject referentialism as Meyer has defined it and also rejecting the idea that music as an expressive art has developed in a range of extramusical referential codes and conventions.  Meyer has written at some length on how he regards attempts to ground music in "nature" as dubious.  We are not worse off for admitting that the musical conventions we have made as humans are conventions we have made.

What can make Scruton's writing on music seem like a grab bag of ideas that don't entirely cohere is that he stakes out a defense of music that is simultaneously appealing to an absolutist sensibility regarding what music is but then he insists on locating its content in an expressive or expressionist field of activity where there is something like an "inherent" emotionally expressive content to purely musical content. He doesn't present himself as a referentialist but the music he enjoys the most, from the Romantic era through the early twentieth century concert repertoire, tends to be brimming with extramusical referential content.

In other words, people who argue that extramusical associations can't be "real" because they are extramusical rather than intramusical ways of thinking or responding to music could try to say this is the case because anything that has to be learned would be a learned convention rather than a "natural" response to the music itself, but this would be to ignore the reality that every style of music has to be taught and every style of music has to be learned before it can be fully and truly appreciated as music.  If music were so natural and easily understood who on earth would need to blow tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on music education?  Meyer declared half a century ago that the quest in Western music theory for a "natural" explanation of musical pitch systems and syntax has basically been a failure:

Leonard B. Meyer
Copyright (c) 1967. 1994 by The University of Chicago 

ISBN 0-226-52143-5

page 288

For two thousand years music theorists searched for the "natural" explanation of musical pitch systems and syntax. Their point of departure was, as a rule, some sort of acoustical data--the lengths of vibrating strings, the overtone series, or some other property of sound. Using such data, an attempt was made to show that this or that system was natural--and hence, by extension, necessary or valid. Toward the beginning of the twentieth century this search for a natural justification for music was abandoned. The development of new tonal systems in the West, the study of the history of Western music, and research in comparative musicology made it clear that musical styles are not natural forms of communication, but are learned and conventional.

The fact that something is conventional and learned, however, does not mean that it is arbitrary, any more than showing that it is "natural" is to assert that it is necessary. [emphasis added]

Meyer spent a lot of time discussing music as something that can be understood through cognition and cognitive theories such as Gestalt.  Scruton has spent a good deal of time in his books arguing against cognition and cognitive processes as the way to understand what music is.  He has aimed to demonstrate that music is music in a sense that there is something about the art of music as an experience or object to which we can respond that isn't predicated on conventions, but he has so far not succeeded in making a case that thinking about how we make and listen to music in cognitive procedural terms is a useless or unhelpful path.  It may be that it's not a path of philosophy of the sort Scruton works with, but musicians may find that conceding that music emerged with extramusical goals and methods in mind might actually be the more fruitful and relevant path of study.

Particularly given the ways in which the Western art of literate music emerged from liturgical music and conventions developed around liturgical music in Latin I might dare suggest that Scruton has been making a category mistake by trying to define and defend the art of Western music in terms that are, at most, confined to the era of "absolute" music in later 18th and 19th century terms based on a range of categories he does not even affirm himself.  He rejects a Hanslick style formalist position that music expresses only itself but he also rejects extra-musical referentialist understanding or mediation by convention. That Scruton has developed so much of his arguments over against positions staked out by philosophers such as Adorno cannot be ignored in assessing his arguments.

So far Scruton has asserted his "semaphore test" more than he has made a convincing argument as to its accuracy.  Meyer, by contrast, has declared on the basis of his study of Western music across its history and in comparison to Eastern music that there is no "natural" or "intrinsic" aspect to the conventions of art:

ISBN 0-226-52152-4

page 10

The constraints of a style are learned by composers and performers, critics and listeners. Usually such learning is largely the result of experience in performing and listening rather than of explicit formal instruction in music theory, history, or composition. In other words, knowledge of style is usually "tacit": that is, a matter of habits properly acquired (internalized) and appropriately brought into play. Even when a composer invents a new rule or, more commonly, discovers a novel strategy for realizing some existing rule, the invention or discovery may be largely tacit. He or she finds a relationship that works but may be unable to explain why it does so--how it is related to other features and other constraints of the style.

It is the goal of music theorists and style analysts to explain what the composer, performer, and listener know in this tacit way. 

from footnote 18 on page 10

Textbooks dealing with harmony, counterpoint, form, and so on, are not, despite customary usage, theoretical treatises, explaining the bases for the constraints employed in some style. Rather they are practical manuals of how-to-do-it rules. They bear the same relationship to theory of music as an instruction book for radio repairing bears to the theory of radio transmission, or, more to the point, they bear the same relationship to the theory and analysis of music as an English grammar of the eighteenth century bears to the style of, say, the poetry of William Blake.

pages 11-12
... One can list and count traits--say, the frequency of sforzandi in Beethoven's music or the number of deceptive cadences in Wagner's operas--till the end of time; but if nothing is known about their functions (structural, processive, expressive, and so on), it will be impossible to explain why they are there, how their presence is related to other features observed, or why their frequency changes over time. Such traits may even serve as reasonably reliable "identifiers" of Beethoven's or Wagner's style, yet contribute nothing to our understanding of how the style functions. Put in another way; all the traits (characteristic of some work or set of works) that can be described and counted are essentially symptoms of the presence of a set of interrelated constraints. What the theorist and the analyst want to know about are the constraints of the style in terms of which the replicated patternings observed can be related to one another and to the experience of the works of art.  

But we are not precisely in the same position as [John R.] Searle's observers. They can find knowledgeable informants in the grandstand or on the playing field who can tell them what the rules are; indeed the rules of football are written down and can be studied.  In the arts, however, the constraints governing the choices made are seldom explicitly recorded or consciously conceptualized, even by those most accomplished in their use. As we have seen, they are usually known tacitly. As a result the theorist/style analyst must infer the nature of the constraints--the rules of the game--from the play of the game itself. 

The observation that one will never actually learn the rules of the game of football just by watching a game of football seems to distill Meyer's broader observations about music, music theory, and analysis.  The music historian can go back and read treatises and theoretical writings on music from this or that time but often, as Meyer noted, handbooks on counterpoint or harmony are practical guidebooks or "how to" manuals that instruct on musical strategies within constraints whose theoretical underpinnings may be largely unexamined.  As yet, after reading a few Scruton books on music, I am not so sure Scruton has explicated so much as assumed the theoretical foundation of the Western musical traditions he's defended.  To put this another way, by directly rejecting the legitimacy of Gestalt or cognitive approaches to music Scruton's approach throws us, with him, back upon the art object without providing much by way of explanation as to why these musical idioms are in any sense "natural".  To put it still another way, Scruton never formulated a rebuttal to a Leonard B. Meyer assertion that there is no "natural" foundation for the conventions of Western music or established what we lose if that is the case.

Let's take Meyer's assertions about how music is an accumulation of conventions and consider this possibility, that once we grant that a musical style is a range of conventions, constraints and rules within which creative activity can be observed we may find that "the understanding test" is easier to pass.  If music is an art of, well, artfully engaging with and modifying or contributing to conventions then "the understanding test" could probably be passed by a moderately wide range of musical styles.  To put this more plainly, there are plenty of people who could probably get what "the understanding test" is for a song who would not be able to get that so readily for a ricercar or a polyphonic motet in a language they don't know.  By attempting to fix more of the substance of music in the art object itself than in the conventions surrounding musical performance and education Scruton.  Whatever music is may be "over and above the recognition of convention" but in historical and cultural terms we might liken this Captain Obvious observation to the level of saying that a house is built upon a foundation which is on the earth.  Talking about the house as an aesthetic object without any regard for the real estate it is built upon seems a bit too abstract but that is, I would suggest, a risk inherent in how Scruton has attempted to describe music, a kind of musing upon the house that ignores the dirt it is built upon.