Sunday, November 18, 2007

My Musical Taste is HORRIBLE!


One's own taste is, by definition, self-evidently good. People will tell you they are bad people, or ugly, or stupid, or a bad parent, but rarely, if ever, will anyone perceive themselves as having poor taste in music, or colors, or people, or clothes, etc.

I was recently accused of having bad taste in music, and not for the first time, either. Here's the situation: I spent the day with someone, and in the morning we listened to some of my selections on the Hype Machine, which he was apparently fine with. And then in the evening, we again listened to more selections, which he again seemed to think was perfectly ok. Until... he reached his breaking point and told me my music was Horrible! Horrible! Just Horrible! Not at all Melodic! I was unsurprised by the horrible part (like I said, I've heard this one before) but non-melodic was a real surprise, because I consider these pop songs. This was not Schoenberg; this was not Black Flag. Too simple, I could understand; too upbeat and poppy, likewise; too obscure, certainly; but non-melodic?

In a week or two I will begin posting songs for your consideration. I view this as a combination apologia/educational outreach/general forum for the discussion of music in general and musical taste in particular. Please feel free to comment and for now, I recommend the Farmer John versions posted below.

Meanwhile, findings from a Zogby poll about correlations between taste in media and self-reported place on the political spectrum here (HT: Freakonomics Blog) and a psychological test about musical taste here.

3 comments:

Someone in a Position to Know said...

(1) Well, duh! Have you listened to some of the crap you listen to?

(2) Geez, do we have to get into the theory of aesthetics and all that here? It's been ages since I read Kant's Critique of Judgment, but I say, "De gustibus, my ass!" Of course there can be objective judgments in regard to music, and aesthetics generally. There may be no disputing matters of taste, but musical matters are not entirely matters of mere taste or personal preference. (Besides, saying it in Latin does not automatically make it so.)

(Nota Bene: Contrary to the impression I have inadvertently given, Kant did not take the position that there is no disputing matters of taste -- "De gustibus non disputandum est." Quite to the contrary, although he argued that beauty is not an intrinsic attribute of the object being observed, he nonetheless maintained that universally true, inter-subjectively valid aesthetic judgments are possible anyway. I take no position on whether I agree with his account of how this can be so; I am not even sure I agree with his concession that beauty is not in any meaningful sense an attribute of the object being observed.)

(3) You have mixed taste in music. You like a lot of things that are really good, but you also like a lot of things that really suck. (Forgive me for confining myself to technical terminology here.) Also, there are a lot of things that are good that you like just fine if you happen to hear them, but that you never choose to listen to on your own. And finally, there are some absolutely HUGE gaps in your musical taste -- whole categories of wonderful music for which you have little or no taste at all. For example, you have made conflicting statements to me regarding jazz in general and fusion in particular, and I don't believe I have ever heard you listen to classical music on your own.

You should listen to Beethoven's Seventh Symphony, and then listen to it again, and then another time after that. Godamighty, it is so exquisitely beautiful! And then you should check out the guitar solo in Maggot Brain. It is beautiful, too. And have you ever listened to some of Jeff Beck's stuff? I could go on and on, but I won't.

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