floating to the top

one of the fabulous things about t'internet is that it allows us to express our views about anything at any time. like what i'm doing now. brilliant!

many years ago when i used to read the NME and it wasn't in colour and it were all fields round here etc i used to be fascinated by the letters page. this used to be full of things like 'i've just read your review of the new crispy ambulance single and you are clearly a moron. not only that, you are a deaf moron who wouldn't know good music if it crawled up your arse' etc. this would then be followed by some clever insult from the letters editor probably involving the correspondent's arse. and so on.

this seemed to me even then to be confusing subjective opinion with some kind of objective truth. the fact that nearly always the combatants in such debates went for the man and not the ball proved that really there was nothing to talk about. person a liked it and person b didn't. only one of them was being paid to put their speed fuelled ramblings into print, while the other had to pay for records and gig tickets and could probably only afford cheap whizz.

a while ago i wrote reviews on a regular basis and on occasion was subjected to the occasional rant from an aggrieved punter. it used to hurt a bit because i always thought i tried to be reasonable and back up my opinions in some way and didn't really want to be one of those arsehole critics confusing their opinions with fact. but i think it just goes with the territory. critics are generally arseholes, and i was one of them.

never mind.

but there still is this notion that some music is just intrinsically 'good'. browse through youtube's clips of classic rock types (anyone from little feat to steve winwood to richard thompson to camel) and at some point you'll see a comment along the lines of 'this is proper music. britney spears can't even play an instrument'. this conflation of technical skill with 'good' music is the closest you'll get to a coherent argument, however flimsy it is, and it's considered as the trump card by its proponents.

there are records that do seem to transcend criticism. it's a brave soul who'll dismiss 'nevermind', 'kind of blue', 'ok computer', 'astral weeks' or 'revolver'. it's fun to do it, but it's a pointless exercise for the most part. they have the weight of received opinion in their favour accumulated through god knows how many mojo articles and 100 best album lists (btw, i only own one of those records. check out my individuality!)

but does that mean they're intrinsically good? 'kind of blue' is only just over 50 years old. it's not quite the mona lisa or henry v or beowulf. surely time is the best judge of what's good. whatever that means - but i'm taking it to mean stuff that has some kind of widespread resonance, a crowd-sourced acceptance of 'quality'.

and there are two examples that spring to mind. recently radio 4 ran a series called 'soul music', which concentrated on telling the stories of much loved pieces. one of the oldest was this...

now there's a lot of choral music not unlike this. but somehow the miserere has stuck in people's imaginations (starting with mozart, who risked excommunication in copying it down). that it's survived for over 400 years must say something.

similarly, this was recently (to my surprise) voted the nations' favourite aria by radio 3 listeners...

now i generally don't like or understand opera, but i heard this version and immediately fell in love with it. i wasn't aware of it's popularity at all - though i do listen to a fair amount of classical music (early music in particular) i just avoid stuff that has singing on it. so mine was a completely unmediated response. i knew nothing about it, it just resonated with me. and i'm not the only one, obviously.


Garuda said...

Th album you own - it's Revolver isn't it?

Peter said...

oh, if only...

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