Last week, in his Telegraph blog, Michael White discussed the music that bores us. This month’s BBC Music Magazine asks critics which classical works bore them into submission, and Michael White suggests there are some “surprising” answers.
Why are there surprising answers? If someone doesn’t like Vivaldi’s Gloria (one of the cited examples), then someone doesn’t like it. I love Fauré’s Requiem, yet if someone dislikes it, that’s their personal choice. I personally am not a huge fan of some particularly repetitive dance music (the drag’n’drop sample types, where nothing further has been done – you know the sort!), or shouty screamy music. That doesn’t mean I’m automatically anti anyone that does like that music, nor does it mean I think their opinions are invalid.
From an early age, we get used to the concept of individuals having different musical preferences, most commonly through the form of popular music. Some people might like Take That, the others Slipknot. Liking either doesn’t mean they’re any less intelligent, interesting, or ‘human’ – just that their musical tastes lie in a different direction. Considering this is so ingrained in us, it baffles me that musical preference is often viewed differently in the contemporary classical world.
There seem to be certain musicians, composers, academics and musicologists, that think that everyone has to like the type of music they like. Be it serialism, Mahler, Bach or Ligeti, there is a group of people who believe that their particular musical preferences are more ‘correct’ than others, in a form of musical snobbery.
As mentioned before, this problem seems to be particularly prevalent in academia, which reveals a deeper issue inherent in composition departments across the world. If the academic examining a piece of composition doesn’t like the work, will that affect its grade? What if they don’t ‘get’ it, like some of the audience do? How can you define a ‘good’ piece fairly and accurately? Of course, those who do said examining will list a hundred ways they do it: They examine technique, voicings, the way things are expressed, ally it with current contemporary compositional thinking. But regardless of all this, an examiner’s judgement may be subconsciously clouded by the fact they like or dislike a piece of music.
I should take this moment to mention that my experiences on Twitter make me somewhat more cheered about some of the attitudes that engulf the contemporary music scene. I’ve met incredibly talented, interesting and open-minded people, who come from a range of musical backgrounds, working in different styles (for different purposes, often), that all get on brilliantly. I wonder if this is to do with the generation of peoples using Twitter – or maybe the mindset of those who do Twitter?
I’m not sure if I’ve called for a revolution on my blog before, but if not, I should have done. I constantly talk about things I believe that we as composers should pursue, ideals – like the fact that young composers should look for mentors and teachers, but ultimately make their own decisions, unless they wish to write precisely like their elders. Similarly, we need to abolish blatent musical snobbery, and replace it with openness. If someone doesn’t like Einaudi, they should be free to say so, and not judged on that. If you want to make it more academic, there should be reasoning attached to such a statement – but it should never be assumed that someone is more elite, musical, or intelligent because of their preference. We are all different and individual, which will be reflected in our likes and dislikes, and is something we should learn to embrace, not judge.