Your Criteria for 'Good' Music?

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Sympathypains
 
Reply Fri 17 Apr, 2009 04:49 am
@Sound4People,
OK, to maybe clear things up, genre or style is maybe being conflated here with quality.

Of course there is greatness or quality in most or all genres and to say Jazz is better than Symphonic, for example, can be nearly purely a subjective statement. But, to give a critical analysis within style is possible, and I believe can be extremely objective.

As far as originality goes, there is more than tonality, there is rythm and nearly limitless subtleties within sound, microtones like they use in Indian music, non fixed beats per minute as Eastern European, with electronic music one could do virtually anything. One could compose symphonies that would be humanly impossible to play, with 10s of thousands of instruments and thousands of harmonies.

Also to say that something is not original because it exists within the confines of tonality, well that can be your definition, but I must refer back to my cooking metaphor and say that combination of ingredients creates a recipe. If no one has even combined quail's egg, maracuja and habeneros peppers before than it is by my definition original, and when I put it in my mouth it has a flavor I have never tasted before, regardless of the fact if someone in the past had used any of the other ingredients before in other combinations or prepared it in a kitchen using fire and things that others have used before.

Using the same example, there is quality of ingredients also. Say one uses fresh ingredients over frozen, or something that is past it's expiration date, then one could say the quality is objectively lesser.

I'm trying to avoid using specific examples in music, but I think it will lead to that.

The problem I keep refering to in music regarding originality, is the copying of existing flavors, as apposed to trying to create new flavors.

There seems to be a block creatively where people look to the past with a sense of over reverence, and a deification of artists that have come before. There seems to be a sense that they were great and one can only rise to some sub level beneath them. If said artists viewed their predecessors in such a way, they never would have reached such a level themselves. People seem more today to approach the art in this manner as apposed to trying to better themselves or go beyond what has already existed.
 
de budding
 
Reply Fri 17 Apr, 2009 04:50 am
@Sound4People,
Sound4People wrote:
This is fairly odd. I had a teacher say something very similar the other day. Its just kind of a coincidence. I just want to make I sure I understand you before I respond. I'm sorry if I didn't get what you meant, but basically you are saying that within a subjective judgement there are objective criteria. I totally agree. That does not stop it from being subjective. I think we are using these terms with seperate definitions. I'm trying to say your opinion that money destroys music is only as valid as someone who only likes music that is to make money. That is all I mean, and that it bothers me when people act like the music they like is superior to some other form of music, and not only that but other people should believe that.

---------- Post added at 11:07 AM ---------- Previous post was at 10:57 AM ----------

I have one huge objection to what you just said sympathy. There hasn't been originality in any musical sense by pop music. Sure you can argue lyrics and you would be right, but a teacher once told a friend of mine (he was a great teacher by the way) that she couldn't be a composition major, because everything she would ever do in music was already done by the tonal composers up to 1900. He was right. She only liked tonal music and it was over used to the point of exhaustion. Pop music is tonal in nature and it's really not original. So you say its not about pushing the creative envelope but it hasn't been for a long time (there are still very orginal classical composers and jazz composers, but for the most part they are ignored by any sort of large audience). Still lots of people would call rock original and right here the defintion of original is once again subjective. Which is fine. I'm saying whatever you think is original is not necessarily (in fact in most cases in music its necessarily not) original to me.



I buy and browse for all my books in charity shops only because I know if walk into WHsmiths I will only get the selection the publishes want me to have. If it wasn't for charity shops I would never have been exposed to I. J Parker's Akitada series, E. A. Poe or much of the philosophy books I own. The same goes for music, but, sadly, nearly all the "charity shops" have died out. That is why money is bad for art.

Are the most beautiful, sublime and subtle things in life always worth the most money??????
 
Sound4People
 
Reply Fri 17 Apr, 2009 11:37 am
@Sympathypains,
No you misunderstood me. Traditonal tonality is not why it is unoriginal, but rather because everything within traditional tonality had already been done long ago. There are modern original tonal works, but pop music doesn't try to do anything of this. It does in the end fall to our definitions of originality, and that was my point. I agree with everything you claimed as original, but I don't see that in pop music ever. Rather I see the same chords being used with the same rhythms and slightly varied melodies over and over again. All of that had been done in the 16th 17ths and 18th centuries. I'm sure there have been groups to do that sort of thing (I know theres been tons of jazz guys to use microtones, and classical music was using non fixed beats per minute before the turn of the 19th century (it's merely called it free time).

And my problem with what your saying is that the vast majority of music that most people think is original was still not original by those terms when it was written, and people still claim it was.

---------- Post added at 10:41 AM ---------- Previous post was at 10:37 AM ----------

I don't necessarily disagree with you, but that isn't my point de_budding. My point is that music is subjective, because if someone only likes the music that the publishes want them to have, it is just as valid of an opinion as your own. In other words you are claiming that money runs art for you! That is fine. Still I can't help but think, when alot of people, like you (but not necessarily you), claim these things, they will think it means that it actually does; back in reality though, this is a subjective matter.
 
de budding
 
Reply Fri 17 Apr, 2009 02:04 pm
@Sound4People,
If music is so subjective how can certain works or artists rise to such untold fame and popularity?

Either there is something universal and therefore objective within the music, or -
as you say - music is subjective. If this is so, then such fame is a gross demonstration of how good the industry is at marketing.

Furthermore, the subjectivity of music has been undermined for me, recently, as I have enrolled on a music therapy module at university. Within which, music seems to be the basis for language acquisition in babies. We are born with communicative musicality, the ability to communicate some meaning through sound: using contours, pitch, timing etc. Anyway, it is, apparently, an echo back to our infant years when we listen to music which invites us to 'enjoy' it. Add to this the work of Daniel Levitin (your brain on music) which, among other things, demonstrates things like how music played in the womb influences musical preference later in life. Slowly the world of music psychology is unraveling the mystery of music and our affinity with it.

To me this shows that there is a more to our musical appreciation than simply subjects and there opinions. There are consistently calibrated objects, brains, and there causal reactions to sound (however, I think its true our brains develop their neural pathways differently as they grow). Either way, once in the realm of the brain everything seems to become subjective and this perspective could be more related to the quantization of the subjective rather than the objectifications of the subjective.

But still I'm not convinced of music's subjective value. I see too many people judge it objectively.

Dan.
 
Sympathypains
 
Reply Sat 18 Apr, 2009 09:25 am
@de budding,
Sound4People I think we may be arguing the same point.

I agree that pop music is lacking in originality, but I disagree that music has to be necessarily so. I believe there are things artists can do differently even though in some way it is some form of rehash.

To some degree yes, some aspects of music have been done before, but it is to what degree.

The problem is in the non-pop world, familiarity seems to me to be far more prevalent today than from the 60s to the 90s.

So if you were comparing Zappa, Pink Floyd, The Ramones, or Television, to any music that came prior to them, vs. Cold Play, or take your pick of the British Indy scene to any bands that came before them, there is a vast disparity regarding originality.

Does that mean that Zappa, Floyd, Ramones and Television are 100% original? No. There were elements in their music that had never been seen before in some of them though, be it distortion, bombasticness, use of new technology, whatever.

The problem again, that I think many are addressing is that of using familiarity. Whether it is because the artist is not creative enough to make their own music and just copies, or because the familiarity is an easy sell, because it sets off an unconscious Pavlovian salivation.

In regards to familiarity, take the film Titanic for example, or revenge films where the hero's family is killed and he/she seeks revenge. Disney and others have dozens of the girl picks the nice poor guy over the not so nice rich guy. Vendetta stories are a dime a dozen.

When one first sees one of these films, it sets of some base emotion. When you've seen it dozens of times, it no longer has an emotional effect. Its the same with music. Once you've heard the big pop hooks dozens of times, it no longer amazes.

So kids that have never heard such a thing are still amazed and we are still making new kids, but the least common tends to appeal more to the critically minded and thus we have the term criteria, and this is where objective criticism comes from in my opinion, or at least the traditional one that is used in most art forms.

The more experienced in the appreciation of an art form, generally don't give high marks for commonality and taking the easy route to that which makes the least experienced salivate.

So if you prefer, we can use the terms "more" or "less original" and to what degree.
 
Sound4People
 
Reply Sun 19 Apr, 2009 02:27 pm
@de budding,
de_budding wrote:
If music is so subjective how can certain works or artists rise to such untold fame and popularity?
Dan.


Ok, I have read This is Your Brain on Music, but I don't see any objective persepct to music still. I don't disagree that music would be good for a developing brain, but everytime someone claims that this form of music is better for a brain than this kinda music, it seems way too pseudo-scientific. The first point you made is demostrably stupid. Are you telling me, you believe every artist who is famous deserved their fame? Even if you are many people do not believe that. But I do. Very much so. I believe that every artist who got famous appealed to some group of people at some point in time and that is why they are famous. There is nothing objective about it. I also don't believe people who say not every artist deserves their fame are wrong. Rather I think that to them not every artist deserves their fame, and to another person that artist would. There are no universal musicians. The Bealtes would probaly be the most well liked music in the history of the world or way up there (I mean you could argue Beethoven or a few others but for the sake of argument assume they are, I don't necessarily believe that). I don't like them. Am I wrong not to like them? I would be if there was some objective criteria to measuring their music, and whats more is I would admit it.

I know all about how the music you listen to early in life influences you. In the book I remember him using the example of Chinese Opera. If you listen to it as a kid you will probaly like it as an Adult. This is just more proof of the subjectiveness of music. My Dad played Stravinsky and Bartok while I was a kid. I hated it. 20th century classical is now the majority of the music I listen too. And I think it's because my Dad played it while I was a kid. Just because our brains can be set to like a sort of music doesn't make it objective. In fact it makes it more subjective, because the only thing to measure the music is how much you like it.

Now to you Sympathy, I don't disagree with anything you said. Infact its to the point that I can't argue. We are indeed arguing the same thing. Man, semantics are harsh. You basically pointed out the subjectiveness of originality and that's exactly what I said in an eariler post.

P.S. I've really enjoyed arguing with the both of you. I gotta find somewhere else to post also. I feel like an idiot for only posting here.
 
gojo1978
 
Reply Sun 19 Apr, 2009 06:52 pm
@de budding,
de_budding wrote:
As simply (and perhaps crudely) put as possible, what are the explicit criteria music has to meet for you to consider it 'good'?

For me it must be original within its own frame of reference (or genre), must be technically sound (must include musical difficulty and player skill), must have definitive intentions (e.g. to portray a certain message, or display creative exploration of a certain musical or recording technique) and above all it must utilise the compositional skills of subtlety.


For my part, I would actually disagree with all of the above, and, as a perfect example of why, I give you Oasis. The first two albums, particularly the first, Definitely Maybe, were superb, but contained precisely none of those facets.

Plain ol' harmony and melody go a long way, really. If those basics are in place, they can usually always transcend genres. Harmonious, melodic music is great in the format of rock, disco, dance, classical... the list goes on and on. Most agreed upon classics from any genre will usually exhibit these characteristics, and will have been written by someone who really knows what they're doing.

Musicianship and virtuosity is great, but it is not necessary. There has been a lot of great music which is very simple. Three chords and the truth, etc. You always hear it, the simple ideas are always the best.
 
Sound4People
 
Reply Sun 19 Apr, 2009 10:52 pm
@gojo1978,
gojo1978 wrote:
Most agreed upon classics from any genre will usually exhibit these characteristics, and will have been written by someone who really knows what they're doing.


Well I couldn't disagree more. "agreed upon classics"? What agreed upon classics. Music you call classics I might not, and music I would call "classic" you might call just plain noise. There are no "agreed upon classics", just music that you like. Lots of music that was loved in its day, and everyone would've called a classic, you've never heard of. Musical tastes change from every generation to generation (really even less). So therefore they would differ an incredible amount every 100 years.

Lets go back to the days of Mozart. Mozart followed a very specific set of rules. Why? Not because he was taught these rules and he followed them, but rather because music sounded crude to him when he didn't follow these rules. Go back another 300 years and you arrive at the renaissance. A totally different set of rules was present. They didn't think like Mozart at all, and had they heard him it would probaly be horrifying, because it would be so radically new (Mozart loved Renaissance music by the way, theres a famous story about him listening to a very complex piece by Josquin DePrez when he was 9 and him being able to write it down after hearing it once). Now I mean this is all in a relatively short time. 500 years or so. Go back to the ancient Greeks and they probaly would've had heart attacks to something like Mozart. Have you ever heard ancient greek music? I haven't and I'm a music major. I'm sure they had classics, but after time all of that washes away.

Now take the 80s and compare it to now. How many classic eighties hits are still popular. A few definatly. Go back to the 60s. Probaly even less from then. Go to the 40s. Even less. To the 20s? Even Less. Imagine going back in time and playing a modern pop song to them. It would sound radical. Tastes change and music washes with them. This idea of classics isn't as solidified as you think.
 
Sympathypains
 
Reply Mon 20 Apr, 2009 04:45 am
@Sound4People,
OK, so we basically have a couple schools of thought here.

If more people like something it is therefor good, critically, school,

and the quality and objective criteria crowd.

Since no one is addressing my points regrading relative artistic criticsm such as film and food, I am left to assume that there is no objective criticism of anything then, and if McDonalds sells more, than it is critically better food, according to some. Elements like quality and maturity are purely moot.

Again until someone from the subjective side wants to deabte this, I think we are at an impass.
 
hammersklavier
 
Reply Mon 20 Apr, 2009 05:33 am
@Sympathypains,
Sympathypains wrote:

Since no one is addressing my points regrading relative artistic criticsm such as film and food, I am left to assume that there is no objective criticism of anything then, and if McDonalds sells more, than it is critically better food, according to some. Elements like quality and maturity are purely moot.

Elaborate.
message lengthener
 
Sympathypains
 
Reply Mon 20 Apr, 2009 06:00 am
@hammersklavier,
hammersklavier wrote:
Elaborate.
message lengthener


It's fairly concise, what don't you understand?

If you're new to the conversation, try reading back a few pages.

It's regarding the recent few pages worth of debate.

To elaborate without further detail would mean to me just giving review of the last few pages.
 
Sound4People
 
Reply Mon 20 Apr, 2009 11:06 am
@Sympathypains,
I assume you mean me? Whether or not quantity sold is a good thing is a subjective matter. But here's the flaw in this logic. Here's Reductio ad absurdum time. Hunter Wasser is the greatest artist who ever lived because, his art style leads him to paint the same painting at the same time more than once. Henceforth he has a larger quanity than any other fine artist and is the greatest fine artist who ever lived.
You can see the absurdity.
 
Sympathypains
 
Reply Mon 20 Apr, 2009 09:12 pm
@Sound4People,
Sound4People wrote:
I assume you mean me? Whether or not quality sold is a good thing is a subjective matter. But here's the flaw in this logic. Here's Reductio ad absurdum time. Hunter Wasser is the greatest artist who ever lived because, his art style leads him to paint the same painting at the same time more than once. Henceforth he has a larger quanity than any other fine artist and is the greatest fine artist who ever lived.
You can see the absurdity.


You've completely lost me, sorry.
 
Sound4People
 
Reply Mon 20 Apr, 2009 10:10 pm
@Sympathypains,
I by accidently used quality when I meant quantity (I edited it so the post makes more sense, but I'm not trying to deny making that mistake).
Still I will clarify. I was trying to show than whether a large quantity of something is good or not, is still subjective. Reductio Ad Absurem. I will assume your argument is true and come to a ridiculous conclusion. Actually I will only come to one we both don't agree on.

Quantity is the only objective measure of something. So Hunter Wasser is therefore the greatest fine artist because his art style enabled him to create more than one original works (think a bunch of replicas but they were all done at the exact same time). This I will assume we both don't agree with.

I have another thing to say also. If I think McDonald's is subjectively bad (I do, I'm a vegetarian), then creating a large amount of something that's bad to me is worse than just creating one. Whether a large quantity of something is good, is still subjective. Thats the only point I'm trying to make. Sorry it wasn't clear.
 
Sympathypains
 
Reply Tue 21 Apr, 2009 03:06 am
@Sound4People,
Sound4People wrote:
I by accidently used quality when I meant quantity (I edited it so the post makes more sense, but I'm not trying to deny making that mistake).
Still I will clarify. I was trying to show than whether a large quantity of something is good or not, is still subjective. Reductio Ad Absurem. I will assume your argument is true and come to a ridiculous conclusion. Actually I will only come to one we both don't agree on.

Quantity is the only objective measure of something. So Hunter Wasser is therefore the greatest fine artist because his art style enabled him to create more than one original works (think a bunch of replicas but they were all done at the exact same time). This I will assume we both don't agree with.

I have another thing to say also. If I think McDonald's is subjectively bad (I do, I'm a vegetarian), then creating a large amount of something that's bad to me is worse than just creating one. Whether a large quantity of something is good, is still subjective. Thats the only point I'm trying to make. Sorry it wasn't clear.


I also think quantity is no measure of quality, but how is quantity any different than fame?

I'm going by what you said here...

Quote:
I believe that every artist who got famous appealed to some group of people at some point in time and that is why they are famous. There is nothing objective about it. I also don't believe people who say not every artist deserves their fame are wrong. Rather I think that to them not every artist deserves their fame, and to another person that artist would. There are no universal musicians. The Bealtes would probaly be the most well liked music in the history of the world or way up there (I mean you could argue Beethoven or a few others but for the sake of argument assume they are, I don't necessarily believe that). I don't like them. Am I wrong not to like them? I would be if there was some objective criteria to measuring their music, and whats more is I would admit it.



You believe there is no objective criteria to music correct?

I know artists that I personnally don't like subjectively yet I concede that they are good at what they do. How is that possible?

How is fame, which is just popularity, any different from selling lots of hamburgers?
 
Sound4People
 
Reply Tue 21 Apr, 2009 10:47 am
@Sympathypains,
Because artists often appeal to two things at once. Take some famous guitarist for example. If they are technically skilled at the guitar some people will like them (yes technically skilled is somewhere between subjective and object, if you ask 100 guitarists for the greatest guitarist who ever lived in terms of technical mastery you will probaly get about 30 answers; none of them are right or wrong), and you might say they are good at the guitar but you don't like their music. This can happen with all sorts of things like that in which you like an artist in one way, but you don't in another. That's all you are saying and that you would prefer not to listen to them.

There is no difference between fame and selling lots of hamburgers. McDonalds appeals to a large amount of people. That doesn't mean it's objectively good or bad. Same with famous artists. That's all I'm trying to say.
 
de budding
 
Reply Fri 24 Apr, 2009 10:44 am
@Sound4People,
I think perhaps then, that the judgment of music is subjective but easily quantifiable. And if there is more than one artist to be judged comparatively we are always going to be classifying and referring to extrinsic things, like other artist's work, to decide the quality of one or the other.

However, I still don't think it possible for music to be both subjective in its quality but yet have artists gain such popularity. I think either some kind of group mentality, fickleness or clever marketing accounts for such things. Either way, there must be something fundamental that accounts for wide spread fame, I find it too coincidental that, say, millions of people just all happen to like the same band or artist.

Regards,
Dan.

p.s. I enjoy these arguments too, its a pleasure.
 
Sound4People
 
Reply Fri 24 Apr, 2009 11:52 am
@de budding,
Certain people are similar. Bands (and musicians) appeal to certain things and if the person likes the appeal they will generally like the band. Its why certain people like certain genres of music and the majority of the bands in it. My reasoning is mostly from personal experience. I have met hundreds of musicians, and way more non-musicians and the diversity of their tastes just leads me to believe in no objective sense of music. I agree with your whole classification thing whole heartedly, but I think everyone would do it in a different way than everyone else.
 
de budding
 
Reply Sun 26 Apr, 2009 01:22 am
@Sound4People,
yes, and furthermore, I suppose we would all classify and compare different aspects of the music.

How about ethics in music though?
Does no one, from time to time, think music could use a strong does of ethics.
That would be a somewhat different kind of good music.


Dan.
 
Elmud
 
Reply Sun 26 Apr, 2009 05:45 pm
@Sympathypains,
Sympathy Pains. Just out of curiosity, what do you think of Bocelli?
 
 

 
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