On Not Being a Music Hater

Ryan Gantz – Getting Out of the Woods: A Primer on Not Being a Music Hater (via waxy.org)

I like music. All different types of music. There are so many kinds! You should feel free to listen to whatever music speaks to you. I do.

But the hard thing about music (and all types of art) is that speak can mean something different for every genre, artist, and album. The emotional, tonal, and verbal vocabulary of heavy metal is almost nothing like the vocabulary of jazz. The intention and cultural contexts differ. The listening experience goals for fans of hip-hop may be at odds with what a classical music-lover wants out of a great symphony.

And that means that it often requires intellectual/emotional openness and very close listening (or, like, dancing) to understand what a piece of music is getting at, what language it’s speaking, what feelings it wants to evoke—even who its target audience might be—before we can fairly judge what’s successful or unsuccessful about it.

That may all seem obvious. But as a consequence of these basic language differences, it’s really easy to criticize or dismiss work that falls outside a musical dialect we’re comfortable with, or the role music currently plays in our lives.