Friday, January 1, 2010

Everyone's Sayin' Music is Love

The title is inspired by the slightly crazy, totally amazing David Crosby.

In March, I wrote about a sort of democracy of music tastes. I said that anyone who’s been moved by music at some point, no matter who made that music, is on the same level of understanding. I found myself stinking of hypocrisy a couple months ago when I criticized a music professor who listened to something I deemed “insincere.” I’m very grateful to my roommate, Taylor, who challenged my criticism, not because he liked the music, but because of the high horse I was clearly riding on.

My anger was because this professor, a man who’d dedicated his entire life to music education, had the audacity to listen to something that I thought sucked. He had been studying the menu from the finest musical cuisine yet still found nothing wrong with dumpster diving. Or at least this is how I saw it. Here’s why I was so misguided:

Music is all about love and inclusivity—not elitism and division. Think of the most basic function of music in ancient cultures: celebration, bringing people together, enjoyment. Newsflash: NOTHING’S CHANGED. In the modern (postmodern?) world where we have easy access to just about any music that’s ever been made, we have the same reasons to like what we do; it excites us, ignites us, inspires us. Of course, anyone and everyone is entitled to negative opinions, but to say that someone’s instinctual enjoyment of a certain music is flawed? That’s nothing short of an abomination.

Let me again make the ever-important distinction: criticizing music is good, criticizing musical taste is bad. Say John Doe listens to my three least favorite artists. Not only that, they are his three favorite artists. As much as this may irritate me, if this is getting J.D. to feel good about himself or start to think about music as more than just sound waves, he’s an ally.

This is a bit of a slippery slope nonetheless. If John asks me how I feel about these artists, I shouldn’t lie just to keep his enjoyment intact. Let’s not jump on the moral relativism bandwagon here. What would be the point of a critic who didn’t have any negative opinions? Yes yes yes, it’s essential to have critics influence the state of the art and the intelligent listener. But this sort of stuff is all secondary to spreading the greater love for music. People who read criticism are typically deep music lovers as it is and want to learn and discover as much as they can, which can’t be done if everything they find is complimentary and positive.

But to wrap it up, going back to this professor of mine, I still respect him despite the fact that I’m not exactly thrilled with some of the music he listens to. But losing respect for him is sort of like refusing to talk to someone with different political or religious views. This professor has been wildly successful in stirring up people’s passion about music. Isn’t that exactly what I’m trying to do here?

1 comment:

  1. Excellent, excellent, excellent. Let's hear it for Porcupine Pie and Lipstick On Your Collar!