I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve heard a friend, in response to a piece of music or film or some other piece of art, proclaim, “It’s rubbish,” (or use much stronger language 😉 ) when actually what they mean is, “I don’t like it.”
That bugs me a bit.
Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not losing sleep over it.
“It’s Not Music”
However, what really gets my goat is when someone will simply write off a piece that doesn’t fit their specifications for tunes that they enjoy listening to by the sweeping statement: “It’s not music.” It drives me up the wall!
Objectivity vs Subjectivity
I was playing violin with an orchestra recently, and there was a Karl Jenkins piece on the programme. Now, not all of Karl’s music is my cup of tea, and he really takes the recycling of his own material to the extremes, but equally, on the other hand, there are some of his pieces which are really quite gorgeous.
But you, dear reader, are under no illusions that this is nothing but my opinion. You could hate or love all Karl Jenkins’ music and I would respect that as a subjective opinion also.
So, back to the story of the concert… one of the pieces we were playing had the exact same rhythmic pattern on the violins on the same note (and most of the time in the other strings, I think) for going on 50 bars or so: a fairly long time. A little mind-numbing to play, I must admit. Not the most fun, however the percussive effect was particularly impressive at completely apt at that point in the piece. Great fun to listen to (though that did mean I kept losing my place… must concentrate harder… but it’s soooo pretty… etc)
The young violinist sat next to me agreed on the mind-numbingness. But then continued on to designate this piece, “not music.”
I could have screamed.
“No,” I replied (as calmly as I could, blood slowly rising to boiling point).
“It’s not music. Look at it,” she said, pointing to the fifty bars of repetitiousness.
“Just because you don’t like it, and don’t enjoy playing it, doesn’t mean it’s not music,” said I. “Karl didn’t write this piece for you to enjoy playing it, it’s all about the effect.”
She just looked at me. We silently agreed to disagree. I think.
This seems to be a common attitude that I encounter most days though. There’s a pretentiousness, a condescension that’s pretty pervasive in the ‘Classical’ music world which looks upon any music that is remotely commercial as objectively ‘not music’. They are mistaking their subjective opinion on the quality of the music for an objective reality.
Just because it’s commercially viable, because it appeals to the masses, does not immediately discount such a piece as not being music! (yes, I am on the verge of pulling out my hair right now…)
It works both ways. There are some completely crazy ‘Classical’ music pieces out there written in the last hundred years or so that the average joe would be hard pressed to define as music.
Most famously, John Cage’s 4’33”, or four minutes, thirty-three seconds of silence, is one that really pushes the boundaries, forcing the audience to truly listen to surrounding, ambient, random noises in a more musical way… because that frame’s been put around these sounds with the structure given by the title of a duration, a start and a finish, so these ambient sounds become music.
Because that’s what the composer intended. He (or she) doesn’t care whether you agree or not. 😉
Music is simply organised sound in time. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like it: once it is ‘framed’ and designated as music, it is music. There’s no escaping it.
Rant over. As you were. 😉