Monday, March 23, 2009

Do I like this music or do I appreciate it?

Some music I like.  Some music I love.  Some music I appreciate.  And some music, none of the above.

No one can tell us we're wrong to like (or dislike) a piece of music.  They can disagree, but they are inaccurate if they say our opinion is wrong.

I have an appreciation for some music which I seldom choose to listen to, and probably will never put on my iPod playlist.  Yet when I do hear it, I might be struck by its beauty, or its complexity or its catchiness or something else.  I might think the composer is a terribly clever individual, if only for catching a moment of the zeitgeist and setting it to a 1-4-5 chord progression!

It's interesting to ask yourself why you do (or don't) like a particular piece of music.

I like some music because it's relaxing.  A bit of light classical, mainstream jazz or blues, middle of the road acoustic pop/rock.

I like some music because it creates a mood of formality, expectation etc. If you go to a cocktail party, its always good to hear some upbeat music that people can talk over to get the party going.  Some 50s swing or solo guitar or piano-bar style piano, maybe.  If you go to a wedding, you know when the bride is coming down the aisle, because there will be appropriate music.

I like some music because it motivates me and makes manual tasks go faster. Try doing the housework to 50s rock'n'roll.

I like some music because I understand it, I have some grasp of what is happening and what the composer's intention was.  There is an extra level of satisfaction in listening to such music.

I like some music because its demanding and hard - I don't understand it, and I have to work to appreciate it.  I find music in this category takes all my attention - its not background music, and to enjoy it I have to really listen.  Ravel's trios for violin, cello and piano fell into this category for me.  So does some experimental jazz. 

I like some music because it makes me daydream or see colours or patterns.

I like some music because it reminds me of a particular memory or time in my life.  Cliff Richard's Wired for Sound will always remind me of a beach trip in 1981.  Don Henley's Boys of Summer and Pat Benatar's We Belong were the summer anthems of 1984.

I like some music because it makes me feel part of group. Football theme songs, school songs, and Men at Work's I come from a land Downunder fall into this category.

I may hate some music because of any or all of the above reasons too.  

The main reason I grow to hate a particular piece of music is its tendency to become "earworm" - the song you can't get out of your head, no matter how hard you try.  Into this category fall all the humorous songs of Monty Python, and the Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack and more recently, anything by Katy Perry.

So the next time you hear a piece of music, and think, "I don't like that..." see if you can find a way to appreciate it -- or at least appreciate what it is you don't like.