That old question…

June 20, 2007

In the I Hate Music forum the other day, a listener that I respect the opionion of (and I believe reads this here blog) posted something that made me stop and think. Someone had solicited opinions on Vorhernach the recent album by Axel Dörner and Toshimaru Nakamura on the Ftarri label, to which he responded “I think it’s good, but I don’t like it. And don’t know why.”

Well this really got me thinking. how can you think something is good but not like it at the same time? On what criteria do we judge “good” if not the personal pleasure we get from it? I guess we could admire the technical ability of a piece of music, or applaud the dedication of a musician to a project, yet not like the end result, but does that make your response to the final release good? Is pure craftsmanship or even the polar opposite a strong enough criteria to make something “good” without actually liking it? Maybe.

I’ve heard similar comments made about the music of Derek Bailey in the past, something like “well clearly he’s doing great things, but its its just not my cup of tea”, maybe I’ve even said similar things about other people before myself, but is this possible? If you are being honest with yourself can you really say you think something is good but also admit to disliking it?

Just a question. I’m not sure of the answer. Now I have to go and write reviews before Dan Warburton has my guts for garters 😉

Comment (1)

  • Robert

    June 20, 2007 at 12:33 pm

    I personally don’t see any conflict toward your wide point whatsoever. In fact I am constantly trying to get people to understand that because they don’t like something doesn’t mean its bad. For instance I like dark roasted coffee and am not so into the sour light roasted stuff. That doesn’t mean its bad though, its just not my kind of thing. Using ones own taste as an arbiter for everyone is a level of hubris I cannot take. IMO the educated man should also be able to distinguish when something is well done even if it is an area that they don’t like at all. Maybe not to the degree a true aficionado can but at least roughly. I think in general I can tell the difference between well crafted pop music and mass produced product as an example.

    Now within an area or thing that one does like that this does become a bit more nuanced. For instance I don’t have much of a problem in saying that the third disc of the AMM Laminal set is bad. In this case it is within my taste a group I love but its not a great concert for them. So while some may like it and that is their prerogative in this case I’d think they are wrong. Now to say that one doesn’t like something in the area they do like and to think that its good, well that is a bit more odd. In general I’d put this down to peer pressure: “Everyone else likes this, so I should”. Basically its just fear. Bailey is a good example, so many of his partisans will attack or at least dismiss you outright if the proper degree of worship is not displayed. So people say he is great but it’s not their thing. This sort of thing is depressing as it suppresses critical assessment, but it is pretty much how it goes in any scene.

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