Monday, January 31, 2011

How I define good music

Music is a controversial topic. If you've ever been to any discussion forum that has a music board, you probably already know this. Some people are ready and willing to argue about it for days, weeks or even months if given the opportunity.
I don't find discussions about which band is better all that annoying, though. Sure, it's all subjective, so good or bad music is just a matter of personal opinion, but what certainly isn't a matter of personal opinion and preference is the question of what is and isn't music. I've seen many people who claim to be neutral and who also claim to realize that taste is a subjective thing say that black metal or "techno" isn't music at all. This, frankly, scares me. I guess it could be sort of fun, actually... if it wasn't so damn stupid, that is. I've seen people say things like "if it doesn't have a melody, it's not music".
It's simple, people. Music is organized sound that someone - whether it be its creator or the people who listen to it - considers music. Really. As soon as you start to tighten, narrow your definition of music, there will always be someone disagreeing with you.
And good music? Good music, in my opinion at least, is organized sound that is either intended to be enjoyed by its creator or is enjoyed by the listeners despite not being intended to. Good music is music that someone derives pleasure from - because how else would you define "good" than "fulfills its purpose"? And what else would music's purpose be than to inspire feelings of joy, sadness or any other from the entire wide spectrum?
Nothing, that's what.
I wish people would stop being so close-minded about music. I could understand people having these views three centuries ago, but today? Music is simply evolving too fast for it to be possible to use narrow definitions on it.

There will be quite a lot of music-related posts in the future, so keep an eye out for them. I enjoy music of many kinds, even though I think I like my music a bit more bleepy-bloopy than most.
Also, you should definitely follow me on twitter! You can see my latest tweets in the column to the right. They're obviously a lot less wordy than my blog posts.

28 comments:

  1. "Good music is music that someone derives pleasure from" I agree! following you.

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  2. That's right, we should open up to any type of genres and not have any preconceptions just because "Oh, it's rap. It sucks.". You know? Music is music.

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  3. Unfortunately I'm going to have to disagree with you. The reason people rail against things like country, techno, and black metal is because they are genres that require little to no originality or intelligence. Country is almost exclusively simple and brainless (with some exceptions, of course), techno can be made on a laptop in ten minutes and largely repeats the same phrase of music with slightly differing beds forever, and most metal devolves into a musical dick waving contest (to them music isn't about musicality, it's about SPEED and GRUNTING.) One could, of course, argue that it is music, as long as you use your definition. The genres do use organized sound that someone considers music, but are they good? Do they deserve the distinction of being considered among the greatest musicians, the true artists?


    However, it is in the genre of shitty corporate pop (Nickelback, Justin Bieber, Ke$ha etc) that your argument truly falls flat.
    Music, by my definition, is the melodic voicing of one's innermost thoughts and emotions. Music is the aural explanation of your very soul. So when music that very obviously has no soul in it, (conceived, written, and recorded for profit instead of art) it is no surprise that people refuse to acknowledge it as music. After all, it's all been done before! With no originality, no personal feelings inspiring the music, it's just noise. Just dead-hearted noise.

    The fact that many people derive pleasure from this "music" does not make it good. Rather, it distinguishes those that enjoy it as ignorant. If one can't understand that most pop songs devolve to a drum machine, a simple yet catchy melody line, and a slut singing about nonsense, one doesn't understand music. If this is the case, that person doesn't deserve a say in what is good or not. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying you do, I'm just saying most don't. After all, if people actually took the time to listen, consider, and truly understand the "music" they listen to, they would probably agree with me.

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  4. i define it as what sounds good to my ears

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  5. I dunno Anon. I'm a huge music lover, musician of 8 years, and many of those years I was pretty elitist. The problem with your argument is that people don't use music the same way as each other. By nature, it allows for different methods of experience, and there's no way to say whose method is best.

    Of course, in my opinion, the most pure way to listen to music and experience it is to invest your entire mind into it. But that's just not the point for a lot of people.

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  6. Anonymous, with all due respect, you're an idiot. I've spent decades working towards understanding of music, be that listening & considering, or playing & writing, and the more time I put into this, the less I would EVER say something as self-centred and self-satisfied as "[x, y, z] are genres that require little to no originality or intelligence", let alone argue that if anyone else happens to agree these genres which I do not, it reveals their ignorance and they deserve no right to an opinion. Sheesh. Why do I get the impression you are smugly pleased with yourself for liking Arcade Fire.

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  7. I actually take pride in being able to say "I listen to everything." There is something I like from every genre, and something I dislike from every genre, but I think we agree on what good music is: I think good music is music that makes you "feel," you know? Something that evokes some kind of emotion. And then stuff that is just pleasant on the ears. I call that good music. :)

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  8. I will agree that good music gives pleasure, but that alone is too broad of a definition. Rather what makes music "good" is the same thing that makes literature and movies "good." In short, the term "good" as it applies to music is almost synonymous with the term interesting. Where interesting = setting and defying an expectation.

    While this definition applies to almost all facets of music, I'll give a simple example in a rhythmic context because it's easiest to explain. Below are two rhythms (a) and (b). In the examples an "x" represents a sounded beat and a "o" represents a rest. If you clap or sing out the examples it's pretty clear which one is the "better" piece of music.

    (a) xxxx
    (b) xxox

    As I've given this example to well over 1,000 of my students with near universal agreement that (b) is the "better" rhythm, I would say that the result is pretty conclusive. The question is why?

    When you play this rhythm what happens is that the first two consecutive beats set up a pattern. In example (a) that pattern gets confirmed by repetition of the first two beats in the second half of the pattern. However, in example (b) the pattern is broken when there is a rest placed on beat 3. This break in the pattern grabs our attention and if the pattern is executed with enough precession you may even hear yourself mentally filling in the third beat. Now not only are you engaged in the rhythm, but you are participating, and above all, it is "interesting" to you, and thus "good."

    Good = Interesting
    Interesting = Setting and then defying a given expectation.

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  9. I agree for the most part. People do tend to get incredibly pretentious about certain things, music, of course being one of them. Whether this is because of their intense passion for the art form or because of all the time they've invested into it or whatever other reason can be fairly difficult to determine at times.

    People will always have their opinions, some being more rude or obnoxious with them than others. This, however, should never hinder your enjoyment. You can't go wrong with loving what you love, and anybody who tells you that you're wrong for that is just being ignorant.

    Very insightful. Will be following!

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  10. Everyone likes other music I like slower soft music and sometimes I even like metal, always changing.

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  11. Not sure my other comment went, through. Love the type of music that you love. Hell, love any art form that you are passionate about and enjoy. You can't be "wrong" there, and if anyone tries to convince you otherwise, they're just being ignorant.

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  12. ZygoteWashington, I just took my sweet time with approving it. 'tis the downside of not having captcha here. I can't have trolls running wild throught the streets, now can I?

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  13. looking forward to further music posts, and i disagree, i find it extremely annoying when people argue about which bands are the best.

    supporting and following bro

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  14. Well, I found the discussion interesting.
    Good thing I don't have to worry about music theory and such. I even listen to videogames OST's, hahaha... uh.

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  15. I can't agree more. While I may certainly not ENJOY certain types of music, or particular artists, I can at the very least accept that they are artists in their own sense.

    ... except pop music.

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  16. Def staying tuned for more like this :)

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  17. I usually don't talk crap on other peoples musical tastes. To each their own I say. Doesn't mean I don't think crap on their musical tastes though.

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  18. after visiting /mu/ I've learned that there is no such thing as good music.

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  19. Whats your opinion of rap music?

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  20. I just hate when people complain when you don't like the same music as them.

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  21. Good post, I too deal with lots of close minded people; I think a lot of it boils down to the "You don't like what I like therefore you must be wrong waaaah." syndrome plaguing a lot of people.
    Following your blog!

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  22. Oh, music ... Today, one of my favorite composers died, John Barry. I'm a big fan of soundtracks, I think that's the "classical music" of the modern times.

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  23. Im curious as to what your feelings are on rap and hip hop lol!

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  24. I see your point but there are artists that have the intention of pleasing people with their music but still should be qualified as 'bad' in my opinion.

    Small bands like 'god is an astronaut' just make really bad music but I cant see any other reason why'd they make music except when they think its not crap

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  25. Well, I don't like hip-hop in general. I find it somewhat boring. There are exceptions, of course.
    I will make a series of posts documenting my musical tastes and favorite artists over the next few days.

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  26. I just listen music because it makes me fell good no to fit in or because its "cool" I just like the sounds

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