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It’s hard to judge music, but I have to. It’s a necessary part of things for me. As those of you who have read my previous posts (here, here or here, for example) know, to be consistent when doing so may be impossible.
When I’m writing my own songs or making records, it’s at least possible to be definitive. I just have to do stuff that I believe in. Not easy, but possible. As Pandora’s music curator, though, it’s a whole different thing. I have to maintain a sense of aesthetics in general; a sense of musical quality that goes beyond my own opinions and tastes.
It’s a narrow path to walk.
On one side there is a kind of musical moralism which says: “this is good and that is bad; and therefore you should listen to this and not that.” On the other side is what you might call musical sociopathy, with its relativistic axiom: “there is no such thing as musical quality; everything is equally good.”
I don’t relate to either of those points of view at all, and I don’t want to.
Happily, though, I’ve found a strategy that is just imprecise enough to filter out esoteric pitfalls while allowing for some ideas to get through: I talk about music as if it’s food.
In my next post I’ll get into some of the specific ways I indulge in this intellectual costume party. Today it’s just about a mix tape and a general principle.
Food Groups and Pyramids
Some foods are high in sugar but probably won’t get you through a day in the mines. Other kinds of foods are not too tasty, but your internal organs really like them. And any kind of food is probably bad for you if it’s all you ever eat.
Is the same true for music?
Lots of the time, if people get mad and say that popular music is bad music, they are really upset by how much of that music people are listening to. I mean, everyone likes a piece of candy now and then, right? But there’s candy and then there’s candy. If you have some every so often, lovely. But if candy is all that’s available, then some people might get sick of it (there’d be some happy kids though, at least while they still had teeth).
All Things in Moderation, Including Moderation
I bet we can all agree that, food-wise, a balanced diet is a good thing. This week’s theory is that the same thing holds for music.
Like any balanced diet, the one I’m serving up contains meats, vegetables, tv dinners, cakes, chocolate-covered insects, wine, fast food, gourmet experiments, regional cuisine, ripple, crumpets, juice, astronaut food, water, vitamins, chemicals, delicacies, gross reality show eating-challenge food, and of course, candy.
I’ll look forward to hearing how the station strikes you, and writing about it next time.