Music as a concept is good. It is sound organised in such a way that can be intriguing to the ear of the listener. But what makes a piece of music, an improvisation, or even a song, good?
There are many opinions on the topic of good music. Daniel Robert Dinu described music as sounding bad or good depending on timbre and the relationship between melody and harmony. He also states that “in western music there are two types of scales, the major and the minor. The best way to explain the difference between them is simply, major scales sound happy and minor scales sound sad,” and you probably know how I feel about that (it’s bullshit). He also doesn’t mention rhythm and cites Morgan Freeman as being more listenable than Justin Bieber (which I don’t dispute, but he is conflating subjects).
Clearly this Dinu fellow has been huffing on the glass barbie. So I work backwards by starting with what I think is good music. Well, I don’t think much of it is good and a lot of it just is, and if it captivates my full attention for the entire duration, then I enjoy it (that is until I hear exactly that again, and maybe again, then I start to appreciate it less and less and eventually destroy it, meaning none of it is good for long). I played my significant other, playwright and blogger, Jessica Bellamy some music. She found Freddie Hubbard, Toto, 1000 Names, Xavier Cugat, Miles Davis, and Marc Hannaford all fun (I am so lucky). But then I redirected to a clip of Jeremy Ellis, and instantly her radar for dickheadery pinged. For those of you unfamiliar with Jeremy Ellis, he’s basically a button pusher – just an extremely dexterous and technically proficient one who does all of his button pushing live (as he explains “when I stop pushing buttons, the music stops”). I guess, he does give off a dickhead vibe; google glass, mane of curly red hair not unlike the comedian Carrot Top, and stage banter that is beyond arrogant. But not once did Jess say anything was ‘good’ (even though I was trying to squeeze that answer out of her).
Good music isn’t an artist or song or personality, then. What about being good at what you do? Take, for example, trumpeter Peter Evans: a trumpeter who is doing shit on the instrument that is unfathomable to 99.9% of the brass-playing population. Yet Evans has received so much online hate for his albums and performances. Jack Walrath once called him a fraud and posted a berating and sarcastic review of Mostly Other People Do The Killing’s Blue on Amazon (under a guise). Jack happens to be one of the most abysmal excuses for a trumpeter I’ve ever heard, and recently posted clips of himself on a jazz trumpet forum that made my ears bleed (self-inflicted, I just wanted the noise to stop). BUT, that album simply isn’t good to Jack Walrath (Jack Walrath’s favourite trumpeter is Jack Walrath, by the way). So even if you’re blindingly good at your instrument, there’s no guarantee that you’ll make music that is universally good.
So, you or I can’t make good music, nor can Morgan Freeman. But, we are still entitled to think music is good, because music is an art and art is subject to our individual tastes. So that means making good music is subjective too; which I often forget when I’m being critical of Justin Bieber (who doesn’t actually make music, he’s just a singer).
What’s my point again? Oh yeah, that’s right – I don’t care about your opinion of what you think good music is, and I don’t expect you to care about mine. BUT, maybe we should be listening for what others think is good in music, it might surprise you. Nicki Minaj displays incredible timbral versatility with her voice and is a major contributor to the subversion of male dominated rap culture. Late Coltrane is a great study in intensity and the new (at-the-time) relationships between harmony and melody. And that Snarky Barky band that’s playing around town at the moment play boring music really well together. Point is, you can find the good in anything and even then, doesn’t mean it’s actually good.
All in all – all music is good, just as much as it’s totally shit. Glad that’s settled.