Whether you like all music or not…

Whether you like all music or not…

A friend of mine (not actually a musician) had been speaking to some classical player who opined (something to the effect) that a good musician should like all music. My friend has now taken this on board as dogma, and with that questionable wisdom has, in a small way, questioned my credibility as a player.
I reject this, but not actively as my mate can be a rather dogmatic person (but decent and honest, which all comes with the package.) So I just shrug my shoulders and change the subject. No point, some people you can’t change.

Anyway, to explore this further. This is what I say.

We are under no obligation to like *anything*, never mind everything. We are just creatures with big brains. My view is there is no contract with the divine with regard to personal aesthetics. Freedom of choice has been granted to us.

A good example is Glenn Gould, the phenomenal pianist, interpreter of much of JS Bach’s works. To some Gould was considered somewhere on the autistic spectrum whilst other biographers refute this. Whatever. Gould liked only some composers and not others. In fact mostly Bach and some late Beethoven. In fact, he didn’t even like some of his own recordings of Bach pieces. And yet, for what he did do, he was brilliant. But definitely not eclectic.

As a player of Irish (and some Scottish and even some English) trad music on flute whistle and accordion, I feel, with my rather limited talent, I need to specialise. That means I focus my listening *mostly* on Irish flute whistle and box playing, but not exclusively. I also listen to fiddles, pipes and banjos etc. But I also get sidetracked into listening to stuff like French, Italian and Tejano box playing. And then from Tejano the adventure travels into Ranchero and Mariachi, then Cuban, Columbian, Chilean and so on. Going off in another direction, Hank Williams looms large. In another, le mystere des voix bulgares’ polegnala e todora, or maybe Mikis Theodorakis, in another The Pogues, etc….. so maybe now you get my drift.

But there is also a lot of music I don’t like. Heavy metal, most punk, The Smiths, Elvis Costello, most post-1980’s pop (except Abba!) And not only that. A lot of so-called "folk music"!
And: Shock of Shocks! - a lot of Irish and Scottish trad, played on said liked instruments. Flute, box and fiddle. And even a fair number of Irish trad tunes! I have been seen to sit out some tunes at sessions because I associate them with some players I personally dislike, maybe they are thicko UKIP or Trump supporters or just rude assholes. So I don’t play their tunes. How sad is that? Am I just a big kid?

Not sad at all. Not a big kid. I will explain.

Music is a science and an art. The science bits are all the technical stuff, frequencies, harmonics and much more, and that’s all important, but not on the agenda right now. The art part is what you do with the sciency-stuff to make it do things to other people. To elicit an emotional and/or intellectual response. How emotions are aroused are due to what they are associated with.
So if someone starts up a tune, say, The Road to Recovery, The Twelve Step Plan, The Cat Among the Pigeons or The Virus-infected Washerwoman, and if my perception is that the version I’d heard was mostly associated with a Nigel Farage fan, give me one good reason why, with that association, my lips should curse my flute with such poison.

Thanks for reading, sorry all that hot air amounted nothing in particular, except, you like what you like and you don’t like what you don’t like. But sometimes try and go beyond your comfort zone and give new stuff a whirl.
Yep, it could all have been said in about 2 or 3 sentences but I feel better for the catharsis.

Re: Whether you like all music or not…

What a very dull place the world would be, if everyone had the same opinions and liked the same things as me.

Re: Whether you like all music or not…

People are different. From each other, I mean. We hear music in different ways. For some, probably like the Classical guy you’re talking about, it seems that music is pure music, while for others, it cannot and should not be disassociated from the cultural/economic/political context it emerged from.

Re: Whether you like all music or not…

So it’s a quiet Saturday night in for you, Danny?

I think we’re all allowed to have personal preferences. That’s what makes us personal.
I suspect what the "classical player" might have meant was that a good musician can appreciate all good music (a wee bit quicker than the musically naive) if he or she wishes to. However, that only applies up to a certain age (not yet specifically determined). After that age curmudgeon theory applies, so that, though, for example, I can appreciate that some rap music is quality and The Smiths are occasionally musical and Ligeti is, like, far out, I am entitled, nevertheless, to describe such listening experiences as sometimes painful and beyond comprehension.

BTW, Strathisla is a rather nice malt.

Re: Whether you like all music or not…

The older I get, the more I appreciate broader spheres of music.

Re: Whether you like all music or not…

Hardly quiet when sitting in with two or three beers has me blootered these days. Malts are away far on the outer reaches of my personal solar system, but thanks anyway.
Yep, Donald, you have it. You can…. in fact, ought to, *appreciate* whatever elements of talent make up the offering, but then it’s down to your own "muse" as to whether you like it or not.
How I see it:
"Appreciating" music is the intellectual process of inputting the musical code and processing it via the listener’s prefrontal cortex.
"Liking" music is whether you fvckin like it or not, having thus appreciated it.

Re: Whether you like all music or not…

"…inputting the musical code and processing it…"
When you put it that way I see why you rejected the "wisdom" of what your friend was talking about, Danny.

Posted by .

Re: Whether you like all music or not…

I finally copped on to the attitude that just because I don’t care for some bit of music doesn’t mean it’s not any good. Except for Contemporary Country. That stuff sucks.

Re: Whether you like all music or not…

I like almost all kinds of music, but not all songs/tunes of each genre. What I mean is I don’t ommit listening to a particular genre.
Though for the last few years my daily listening preferences are 99% ITM. Before that, I would have thought I would tire of something if I listened to it every day.
I agree with the above comment too, I don’t really care for the Beatles for example but I recognise their talent and people’s appreciation of them.

Re: Whether you like all music or not…

And I was really just goofing about Contemporary Country. Sort of. It gets the bad rap of being vacuous, cynical, churned-out pop but the musicianship is pretty top notch and it means a lot to a lot of people. Many folks connect with it, even though it seems to pander to them like a Keane painting of a big-eyed alley cat. Give it a few decades and it’ll be ironic and kitsch. Who am I to say it sucks? It’s enough to say "I don’t care to spend time with it."

Re: Whether you like all music or not…

I agree with M. O’C-T that there is a clear distinction to be made between a recognition of a music as having quality, and actually enjoying listening to it. Javanese gamelan music is my go-to example of the phenomenon. Great stuff. Rhythmically vital, strong melody, structural integrity, all the boxes checked for a strong musical art form. Do I ever hate listening to it.

Re: Whether you like all music or not…

Javanese gamelan music. Never heard of it. Intrigued now, especially after someone says they hate it! I’m just thankful that there are still so many musical forms still alive and thriving today despite (more likely because of) the ravages of modern media.
If you walk down any town high street in UK today you will see shops from chain after chain, and that includes charity shops. For me Google Maps displays an even bleaker picture for nearly every town in USA. Oh God how I would hate to live there. They may have a bit more money than Europeans, but what can they spend it on? more crap? Bigger guns maybe. And UK post-Brexit will become trapped like a 51st state.
Happy days.
Not.

Re: Whether you like all music or not…

Ask your friend if he truly likes things like free jazz, Schönberg, or Chinese opera. Oh wait - I see he imposed his opinion on a group (musicians) he doesn’t actually belong to so my point is moot. At least I know where it ends for me

Re: Whether you like all music or not…

Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong and Richard Strauss are all attributed to the quote, ‘There are only two types of music: good and bad’.
Genres are unimportant.
They all have grey peripheries.
There is always good and bad in even the narrowest of types.
In my experience proper musicians don’t worry about genres, genres were invented by fans, punters and critics.
If one claims to dislike a type of music, one has to very carefully define that category as there’s bound to be one piece in the bunch or on the edge of the definition that one quite likes.
(There’s also stuff one likes because it is so bad!! Check out Derek Bailey
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2LgCqcmruGU ).

Re: Whether you like all music or not…

"there’s bound to be one piece in the bunch or on the edge of the definition that one quite likes"
Very good point.

Re: Whether you like all music or not…

I like what Chris Thile has to say about this… if you’re serious about music you should expose yourself to everything (not to say you should like everything).
https://youtu.be/cXDL6_3gFu0

Re: Whether you like all music or not…

Re Glenn Gould, perhaps his being odd/close to madness? is a factor in his wonderful musical talent. Alban Berg suffered mental illness and achieved so much during his not very long life.

Re: Whether you like all music or not…

I like every kind of music, but some of it, I don’t like.

Posted by .

Re: Whether you like all music or not…

Derek Bailey? I dont know anything about this guy, is he a serious guitarist pushing the boundaries of composition or a chancer seeing what he can get away with? On a few occasions when i’ve unwisely left my guitar where my 2 year old granddaughter could get to it the results have been comparable to Yhall’s video
above!

Re: Whether you like all music or not…

@ christy tailor:
From Wikipedia: Derek Bailey (29 January 1930 – 25 December 2005) was an English avant-garde guitarist and leading figure in the free improvisation movement.

Re: Whether you like all music or not…

@DonaldK - l would have thought that openness would come with age, that younger people may be less open to all sorts of music, lacking a level of maturity - that is certainly my own experience. However, perhaps l am still on the south end of "curmudgeon" so am still in the open-minded stage of life?? 🙂

Posted by .

Re: Whether you like all music or not…

I think the funny thing is that music is full of complexity and that statement leaves no room for it.
I appreciate and seek mastery no matter the style of music. I don’t always love it or want to live with, it but am inspired by the passion that went into the process. There’s so much music available that I’ll never be able to, nor do I need to listen to all of it. A demand that I like everything is a distraction from my goals, so why spend more time on it than to say that I seek the things that help me grow? Thank goodness we get to set those boundaries.

Re: Whether you like all music or not…

I wouldn’t call that Derek Bailey clip "bad" - without having much of a criteria other than whether or not it appeals to me. It’s not exactly my cup of tea - but I suspect that he is accomplishing what he’s set out to do, i.e., a kind of free flowing improvisation that will go wherever he wants to take it. I don’t imagine he’s made a fortune off it, has it? Although it looks like he has what the bar-owners call "a following" …..

And while I say it’s not my cuppa, I’d just as soon listen to it as a lot of more conventional music that everybody is supposed to be crazy about.

Re: Whether you like all music or not…

I have pretty broad tastes in music of many genres, but agree with a lot of what Juste O’C has said. And I do object to being told what I SHOULD like, or, worse still, for example, being told I can’t possibly be intellectual because I don’t like modern jazz!
There are a good number of artists and bands where you can appreciate that they are very talented and playing very well in their particular way, but that doesn’t mean you have to like their music, even if your friends are raving about them, and express total disbelief that you are not equally rapturous.
I am adventurous enough to go and hear people I’ve never heard of, but will form my own opinion, thank you. And this happens by chance at some festivals and concerts where you have a programme of 3 or 4 groups, and you had been perhaps drawn by the headline group, but then have to listen to the rest: there can be some amazing finds here, or, on the other hand, a good excuse to go to the bar or loo!

Re: Whether you like all music or not…

I think that of course you don’t have to like all music but that you should 100% appreciate it and embrace it. I don’t think that’s it’s right to hold grudges against tunes because of who you may associate it with but to each their own I’m not going to stop you

Re: Whether you like all music or not…

Can’t say I get why you "should 100% appreciate and embrace" music you don’t like … ?

Re: Whether you like all music or not…

I like what I like and couldn’t give a fig about the rest. Life is too short.

Posted .

Re: Whether you like all music or not…

Yes people are different, and what a sad world it would be, blah, blah, blah. But some people just have rotten taste.

Re: Whether you like all music or not…

When i’ve listened to gammon and other Asian music i’ve had to let go of expectation of musical climax and resolution (as in the rest of my life it seems). It sets up a trance like feeling which i enjoy.

Re: Whether you like all music or not…

I’ve never listened to gammon, but I’ve certainly heard and seen plenty of hams.

Re: Whether you like all music or not…

All music is symphonic in that it creates a mood. It comes down to whether or not you want to be in that mood.

Re: Whether you like all music or not…

Asian forms (the old trad) is my new favorite thing/immersion. Yes, it is quite different from Western harmonic forms.

But I’m the weird (Cageian) guy who likes everything, including noise, and seek new sounds as avidly as old forms.

Re Derek Bailey: there is a point to the madness. But it isn’t among the usual frames of reference and associations of formal western harmonic tradition. It’s a "different" language, much as Asian forms are to western ears..

I certainly understand the inaccessibility and difficulty of much avant music, etc. However, music and sound, and human experience, is a vast and varied universe.

https://youtu.be/X-y8NV3KA9w

Posted by .

Re: Whether you like all music or not…

i found the Vietnamese music fascinating to listen to, without having any understanding of the scales
or melodic structure [I found out the instrument is a dan tranh] but even though i couldnt follow the melody I had the impression it made sense, and had an underlying and possibly very ancient structure.
Now I and a million other guitarists could play like Derek Bailey if I wanted to, could probably do it on
instruments i dont even play, the fiddle, piano, sax, or God save us, Highland bagpipes. I could call it avant garde but really its just taking the p***………….

Re: Whether you like all music or not…

Meself says

"Can’t say I get why you "should 100% appreciate and embrace" music you don’t like … ?"

I agree. It’s one thing being open to different genres, styles, and innovations in music but not really possible to give a 100% to everything. Not even to your own preferred genre. Even if you played or listened to nothing but Irish or Scottish music, you would never learn or experience everything there was to know about it. A helluva lot, perhaps, but not everything.

Like Trish and and a few others, I enjoy listening to a wide variety of music but I don’t claim to like it all or understand it all. There is much I appreciate and admire but I can’t always give everything my full attention on a long term basis. I’ll often listen to recordings or attend concerts of jazz, classical music, and much more which is often played on instruments I play myself(some better than others) e.g. violin(fiddle), guitar, harp, mandolin and so on. I also heard an excellent classical piano accordion player last week too.

Much of this I will enjoy but my main focus will still be on traditional music as it’s my main love and time is limited. Of course, I’ll be influenced by other music but only to a certain extent.

Everyone is different, of course, in terms of talent, opportunities, available time, and their general outlook. That’s fair enough but we can’t all be expected to embrace and enjoy everything.

Re: Whether you like all music or not…

Its like me. I love classical music, have done since I was a kid. But I can’t stand opera! Other lovers of classical can’t understand this. They’re like How can you say you dont like classical but hate opera! But the thing is there is a lot of classical music I don’t like! I also don’t like rap, country and western or hip hop, heavy metal or punk!

Re: Whether you like all music or not…

There’s some music I don’t like and judge it to be ‘bad’ - or, at least ‘not very good’. There is a lot of music I don’t like because I don’t understand it. Sometimes I challenge myself to listen to music that I don’t like or understand and begin to ‘hear’ it; sometimes, after several years or decades, I might return to music that I previously didn’t like or understand and find that it suddenly makes sense to me - perhaps even music I had previously judged ‘bad’. It would be lying to say that I like all genres of music, with the implication that I am well enough versed in all of them to discern good from bad within each; it is in my nature to have a rather narrow focus, in my musical and intellectual interests at any one time. But, even so, sometimes a particular tune, song or piece of music from genre that I don’t normally consider within my musical sphere can grab me.

"… a good musician should like all music … "

A good musician can decide for themselves what they like and do not like.

Re: Whether you like all music or not…

Very interesting topic…we’ve yet to acknowledge the powerful role of "familiarity" as an influence to what we like and dislike. It’s easier to connect with and like sounds that are familiar.

Case in point, a song on tbe radio, disliked at first, and then after hearing it over and over, it becomes a favorite…

Re: Whether you like all music or not…

So, take a Derek Bailey piece, and the Vietnamese music - take some psychotropic, meditate, listen to lots of avant music, or otherwise liberate yourself from convention - and see if there are any similarities…or intrinsic value.

Posted by .

Re: Whether you like all music or not…

"a good musician should like all music."

It’s a difficult word, "like".

I studied Art at university. In the crit classes there was a general ban on the use of the word "like".

Why? Because to say you like something or don’t like something is too easy. It requires no thought, no study, no reflection. Merely saying "I don’t like ____ " is a way of avoiding engaging your senses and mind.

Throwing out the word "like", the original statement might become:

"A good musician should be open to experiencing all music."

It seems to me that a number of people in this discussion are interpreting the original statement to mean "A good musician should have no favourites amongst music genres" which I don’t think is what was meant.

Re: Whether you like all music or not…

There are different sorts of ‘good musicians’ though!
The main two categories are:
1. The virtuoso. The amazing fiddler or sitar player or jazz tenor saxophonist or classical soprano singing arias.
2. The side man. Bass players, song writers, horn arrangers, ceili pianists, choir masters, producers, blokes who efficiently dabble in various peripheral instruments.

I’d suggest category 1. need to concentrate on a narrower and more specialized focus of the genres than category 2. who need to have a more pan-global outlook for inspiration.

Re: Whether you like all music or not…

The good musician doesn’t have to like all sorts of music.

I think it fair enough to say that the good musician may well be able to ‘appreciate’ every type of music - i.e. see the point of it to the extent that they can understand why other people like it.

And certainly nobody’s reputation as a good musician is enhanced by denouncing a whole genre of music as ‘rubbish’.

But why be worried about the image of a good musician?
Why not just beaver away trying to become one?

Re: Whether you like all music or not…

Obviously the more conscious we are of phenomena the more our purview to consider.

Not just for the arts. http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/17020-transcend-conditioned-consciousness-none-but-ourselves-can-free-our-minds

Not intending to perfectly equate these.

I was in graduate school in art theory/criticism too Richard 🙂. I ended up taking degrees in public health. We work (volunteer) extra hours now meeting with colleagues trying to figure out how to continue to provide services for those (our clients) the government is cutting funding for. It’s a crisis.

Posted by .