Some good friends and I get together every few weeks to hang out, listen to songs and to talk about how we think they work. This past week we talked about several pairs of songs that sound similar but are still very different in mood or meaning. One of the examples was Good Old Desk by Harry Nilsson vs. Hummingbird by Wilco).
743217574222_160W_160H.jpg vs. 075597980929_160W_146H.jpg
After a while, the discussion about individual songs expanded into a general aesthetics nerd-off, and after reading up on the subject a bit (online – no book recommendations yet), I find myself wondering how you listeners evaluate the music you like.
What are the characteristics you look for in songs and artists? How many different ways can a song work for you? Do you distinguish between so-called “guilty pleasures” and music that is somehow “great”? If so, is the distinction a matter of taste, or a result of some kind of systematic philosophy?
Do tell…
ps – Wow, many new books for me to read now. Thanks to everyone for posting, even if it makes my bookshelf collapse…. I’m going to keep posting to that entry as I find more good music books, and I encourage everyone to do the same, if inspired.


  1. gp
    February 02, 2007 at 8:21am
    I apologize to everyone who has posted - I couldn't read every person's entry. In fact, all I read was the first line of the latest one regarding intelligent music. I mostly agree with the idea. Although I have mellowd from my younger punk years I sometimes find myself listening to a power rock song because it drives my foot to the ground so hard and so fast and my mind begins to race. At the same time, I'm an elitist and I enjoy Dylan or Glen Phillips for their poetry. I think every musician has his or her own style, own need, and own abilities. If you can produce a record or put on a live show that is worth tuning in to, then I will hopefully enjoy it. I realize it is mostly immeasurable and entirely perceptive, but there is something to be said for a musician who makes music that just, well, works. Use your voice as an instrument or a soapbox, use your guitar as an instrument or a soapbox, do what you know and know it better than you had ever hoped. And by the way, kudos to the kids at Pandora - I'd spent a couple of months away from the site and I am wicked impressed with its larger library!
  2. Jasonp
    February 06, 2007 at 5:05pm
    I don’t know if people have moved on beyond this post but I’ll add my take on this. For me music is personal. It is tied to my mood. It is a journey I enjoy alone as to not be influenced by others reactions. Here’s my thought list: Where am I? (Influences mood) What is on my mind? (Influences mood) Am I alone? (Influences mood) I am first and foremost affected by the answers to these questions, man in his environment. I find that when listening to a new song it comes into this environment and is now subject to these conditions. Here are the 3 main scenarios I find myself in when listening to music: I’m at work; I want some quiet guitar music or some mellow jazz, no vocals (I find them distracting). I’m on my way home during the work week; I want something that reminds me of the good things in life. I’m on my way home for the weekend; I want something that says TGIF!

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