Monday, June 29, 2009

The Ubiquity of Expertise

Politics and Religion are often considered taboo topics in polite conversation, because people often are unable to express their opinions on such matters without allowing emotion to overtake them. Also, people hold their political and religious opinions so strongly (often believing they are not just justified but are CORRECT in their thinking) that they are easily offended when a contrary opinion is presented. To that list of taboo topics, I would add Music.

Because music is omnipresent in our culture (and present in every other culture), nearly everybody listens to music regularly. In listening to one song, they choose to not listen to something else, and are therefore selective in their listening. Even utilizing "shuffle" merely randomly sequences music already previously selected.

This begs the question of how this selection process is made. Most people never really consider this question consciously , yet consider their choices (preferences) highly qualified. By which I mean, most people think they know what good music is. But what qualifies this opinion? When pressed for an answer, most people will say that good music is whatever sounds good. Those more literate may even quote Louis Armstrong or Duke Ellington or others who have said something similar, but rarely will anybody actually provide a reasonable argument as to why their opinion carries any weight.

Before I submit my argument, I'd like to get your best reasons and arguments for what makes music good. Any takers?


  1. The word good in itself requires debate. Do you mean "like", "preference", or do you mean quality, soundness of composition or even emotional persuasiveness? To me there are degrees of good music. But what I'm really saying is that there is music that I like and there is music I appreciate for it's amazing, above standard, composition. While I appreciate Stravinsky, and I even like some of his music, or I appreciate Ives, and like less of his music, my listening choices tend to be based on the emotional. How does the music make me feel, how do I feel before I even listen to the music, what am I in the mood for? Right now I am in the mood to listen to the "Wicked" soundtrack, but I can easily admit that is not quality music. Yet I still really like it, it makes me happy and brings to mind wonderful memories. But if we are talking about quality music then I don't really have the right words to answer the question. You see the english language cannot really capture what makes music amazing or quality, that is why I believe God created music. It expresses the inexpressible. But I know a good, quality, piece of music when I hear it. And if I could really fully explain the formula that made it good, then I would probably question if it truly was or not.

  2. Um. yeah. what she said.

    (isn't my intellect staggering?)

  3. I agree with Wendy - She said it in such an elegant way! Haha... yes, I'm coming in a bit late on this conversation...