Previous: Black Magic

Taste Less Dept.

Not long ago I was a member of a mailing list that talked about avant-garde music, and one of the posts to the list made it into my clippings file. I stupidly deleted the original message, so I am not sure who is on either side of the conversation. But with an exchange like this it scarcely matters. (Original spelling and punctuation preserved.)

as i've said many times, there is no good music or bad music - just music you like or music you don't like

that opinion is banal, false and mistaken at the same time.

you are probably right that 'good' and 'bad' won't take you very far critically. to that extent it seems a banal observation.

then you conclude that there is 'just music you like or music you don't like', which seems patently false. there is just as obviously music that is more or less complex, music that has strict tempo and music that doesn't, tonal and atonal music, etc., etc., and many more critical categories that can be applied that tell you alot about music.

finally, i think it is mistaken, in the sense of being an opinion that should be opposed. it sounds liberal but it is arrogant: it pretends to be democratic (admitting that everyone has their own opinion), but it is self-serving because it implies that no one can criticise *your* taste.

i am not trolling - i just don't think that such banalities should pass without comment

This could apply to a critical appraisal of just about anything, when you get down to it. As it stands, it's one of the better arguments I've heard for being willing to examine and refine your own tastes without falling back on know-nothing arguments like "I don't know what 'good' art/literature/music is, but I know what I like."

Plenty of people use this formula to justify what they like. I know I used to do it, but after a while I realized something: If you don't do any actual thinking about what you like and don't like, if you shun trying to make deeper connections, in a way you're damaging your future ability to determine what you're going to like and not like. The problem with saying "I don't know what's 'good', but I know what I like" is that it's an argument in favor of your own continued ignorance about your tastes. And that means, as I see it, enduring a lot more crap than you have to.

Most folks aren't critics and don't want to become critics. For them, it's completely beside the point. They don't want to analyze what they like, they want to enjoy it — and the analysis, for them, ruins the enjoyment by turning the whole thing into a boring homework exercise. They're not worried that their justification is a circular argument — I like what I know, and I know what I like — because none of this requires logic to work.

The flipside of this, though, is that if they're in the company of people who analyze what they like as a way to deepen their enjoyment of it and find perspectives on it that they might not have found on their own, it isn't a homework assignment; it's fun.

Tags: criticism dharma

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This page contains a single entry by Serdar Yegulalp in the category Uncategorized / General, published on 2008/07/16 16:58.

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