Friday, March 26, 2004

music snobs

I have an issue to address. Neil's blog brought the thoughts on. It seems to be that the most tempting time to become a music snob is in college. This idea stems from a false notion that there is "good" music which one MUST listen to or suffer the consequences of being "out of style." This ultimately stems from a false notion born of modernity.

Music is art. Art in its very essence is subjective. Modernity has led to us trying to make "objective" statements about that which is truly subjective. Calling some art "good" and other art "bad" is pure opinion. This is not to say that there isn't good or bad art. It is simply to admit that any designation of good or bad is my opinion. The problem comes when people communicate this opinion to others. This often becomes a statement of factual reality rather than a comment of opinion. The conversation usually begins like this: "You need to listen to some real music." Or it can reveal itself in this question: "What kind of music do you listen to..." It seems innocent enough, but buried under this question is the inevitable judgment of character. If you respond with music that is considered "good" then you will be deemed culturally acceptable. But if you answer with "pop" music or anything that doesn't sound "cool" enough for the other person, you are deemed artistically challenged and utterly tasteless.

Music snobs revel in these kinds of interaction. In an instant they can either elevate themselves above the other person or they can find a fellow snob to compete with. As if there is some sort of musical aristocracy verses a lower class peasant of the 8-track. In the end, what college students are calling "good" music simply means "cool" music. Eclectic is in right now, be it furniture or genres of music. So, for instance, if you make a CD that is of eclectic styles then you can put a "cool" sticker on in and feel good about the fact that you know what "good" music is.

Its like the Oscars. What the heck is "best-actor" anyway? The reality is it is only the opinion of a group of people belonging to the Academy. But as soon as people hand out awards for which actor was the "best" that year, they are making a universal claim. By giving the award to one person over the others, they are in a sense saying that their opinion is nearly "objective" in its truth claim. But acting is an artistic and subjective medium. To deem one actor "best" for the year is a ridiculous idea. The same is true for music.

So to all you aristocratic snobs of melody and rhythm, get over yourselves. To you who declare that the underground band which you alone happened to discover is a break through in sonic pleasure, I spit in your general direction. And yes, even to you, you who revel in your eclectic genres as if you are making some profound generational-unifying statement, I pity you. From the heights of your self-established thrones, I hope you can see the absurdity of your value judgments.


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