A brief word about so-called modern music: no further research or scientific discoveries are required to know with full, objective certainty that it is not music. The proof lies in the fact that music is the product of periodic vibrations -- and therefore, the introduction of nonperiodic variations (such as the sounds of street traffic or of machine gears or of coughs and sneezes), i.e., of noise, into an allegedly musical composition eliminates it automatically from the realm of art and of consideration. But a word of warning in regard to the vocabulary of the perpetrators of such "innovation" is in order: they spout a great deal about the necessity of "conditioning" your ear to an appreciation of their "music." Their notion of conditioning is unlimited by reality and by the law of identity; man, in their view, is infinitely conditionable. But, in fact, you can condition a human ear to different types of music (it is not the ear, but the mind that you have to condition in such cases); you cannot condition it to hear noise as if it were music; it is not personal training or social conventions that make it impossible, but physiological nature, the identity, of the human ear and brain. [RM, 64]
Rand here suggests (without explicitly saying so) that one of the distinctive characteristics of "modern music" is that it lacks "nonperiodic variations" (e.g., sounds of traffic, coughing, etc.). Now the phrase "modern music," in common parlance, covers a wide range of styles, from "impressionists" such as Ravel and Debussy all the way to hard-core serialists like Boulez and Elliot Carter. Since Rand mentions no names, it's not clear whose music she is referring to as "modern." While it is true that, in the sixties and seventies, there existed a brief vogue to introduce taped noises into what were otherwise musical compositions, outside of John Cage, I don't know of any composer of any notoriety who attempted to put forward a musical composition that was made up entirely of "nonperiodic variations" (i.e., noise). This leads to another potential confusion. Is Rand suggesting that the introduction of any noise into a musical composition renders the whole composition, music and all, as "non-art"? Orchestras sometimes accompany the closing bars of Tchiakovsky's 1812 Overture with sounds of canon fire. Do these non-periodic vibrations render the 1812 Overture as non-art? Or how about a musical work that includes a narrator? Is Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf non-art? What about compositions which use "non-pitched" percussion instruments, such as bass drum, castenets, cymbals, whips and snare drums? At least half (and probably more) of the orchestral repertoire uses such percussion. Is half the orchestral repertoire made up of works which must automatically be eliminated "from the realm of art and of consideration" because of the use of instruments that produce non-periodic vibrations?
In her haste to find a pretext for calling "modern" music non-art, Rand, in her carelessness, has once again presented a hollow argument. It may be annoying and even aesthetically viscious for avant-garde composers to introduce taped sounds of machine and street noises into their musical compositions. But that, in itself, doesn't render the musical portions of such compositions any less musical. Before one denounces a given aesthetic style, one at least has to take the trouble to understand that style. Otherwise, one comes off as prejudiced rather than insightful, as an aesthetic ignoramus rather than a knowledgable critic.