25
Jan
10

a theory of good music

People often wonder what standards apply in art. What makes Led Zeppelin better than Taylor Swift. To many people, Taylor Swift is more enjoyable, but if music quality shouldn’t be a democracy, than what are the standards that govern it?

Here is my theory. When I first listened, to Led Zeppelin, I liked many of their songs. For instance, songs like Black Dog and Rock and Roll are pretty much universally appealing. However, I skipped many other songs because they started too slow, or didn’t stand out. I just wanted to go back to the hits. But then something happened, and from my conversations with other people, this is not a rare occurrence: the more obscure songs would play longer and longer before I would realize that they were playing and the reach to move on to the next hit, and at some magical moment, the song that I thought of as “after Black Dog” became “that great song after Black Dog” that I would then find out the name of.

What this indicates to me  is that great music has the ability to train the ear to appreciate new types of music, and to make sense (not in an explicit intellectual way, but in a more intuitive way). For bands like Zeppelin, the Beatles, and the Cars (for me anyway), each song  is a gateway to the rest of the bands corpus. Not so for some pop sensations. A pop hit is a catchy tune that’s good in its own right, but its horizons are limited; it doesn’t aim at anything else. In fact, to extend the point, the best bands can regiment the ear to even move to different genres and bands altogether.

Thus, in a nutshell, my theory as it stands right now, is that good music is educational in a non-cognitive sense. Weight lifting trains muscles to lift more weight, and music, in a much more eloquent fashion, trains the ear to hear more.

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