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Taste, and mine

Your Humble Blogger distributed the Play Playlist List for LWF on Opening Night, as is my wont, and got several pleasant comments about it. As I haven’t worked with anyone in the cast or crew before, they can’t compare it to earlier Mixes, but they did pick up the wide-range of styles.

  1. Adele, “Rumour Has It”
  2. Steve Gibson & The Red Caps,“Dirt Dishin’ Daisy”
  3. Original Broadway Cast of The Music Man,“Pick-A-Little, Talk-A-Little”
  4. Louis Armstrong & Duke Ellington,“Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me”
  5. The Everly Brothers,“Wake Up Little Susie”
  6. Amy Winehouse & Paul Weller,“I Heard It through the Grapevine”
  7. Bonnie Raitt,“Something To Talk About”
  8. Me First And The Gimme Gimmes,“Take It on the Run”
  9. The Spazzys,“My Boyfriend’s Back”
  10. The Go-Go’s,“Our Lips Are Sealed ” (Fatboy Slim Remix)
  11. Lou Reed,“New York Telephone Conversation”
  12. Original Broadway Cast of Fiddler on the Roof,“The Rumor”
  13. Louis Jordan,“You Run Your Mouth (And I’ll Run My Business)”
  14. Mills Brothers,“I Heard”
  15. Elvis Presley,“(Marie’s The Name) His Latest Flame”
  16. Kippington Lodge,“Rumors”
  17. Mose Allison,“Your Mind Is On Vacation”
  18. The King Cousins,“The Telephone Hour”
  19. Maxine Brown,“Oh No, Not My Baby”
  20. The Ink Spots,“Whispering Grass”
  21. Dave Dudley,“Talk Of The Town”
  22. Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe,“Baby It’s You”
  23. Billie Holiday,“Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone”

My director asked me, after listening to the thing over a few days, if I really listened to all those kinds of music. I admitted that I don’t listen to much current music, but that Adele was ubiquitous (particularly since I work on a college campus) so I added it. Otherwise, yeah, I listen to all that stuff. He said he was impressed. I didn’t mention that I restricted my range to songs with lyrics in the English language, and that I didn’t actually include examples of all the kinds of music I listen to. No klezmer, no Early Music, no Dixieland or Afro-Caribbean Jazz, not even any ska or reggae (I suspect I could fairly easily have found some that fit). Pretty much the list had Pop, Rock, Jazz, R&B, Showtunes, and if you want to make it a separate category, Oldies.

A day or two after that, I came across, on the internet, some people who were mocking an absent person’s comment that he liked "all kinds of music". This was, they said, because he had no taste at all. Anyone who actually likes music, naturally, will like some kinds of music and dislike other kinds, because such a person will have personal tastes, tastes that come from thinking about what he is listening to. And I thought—do I have taste?

In fact, there’s lots of music I don’t like. I don’t listen to modern Country (or Country Rock, as I think of it) at all, and I don’t particularly like what I think of as Country and Western (Glenn Campbell and Loretta Lynn, Charlie Daniels and Larry Gatlin that sort of thing). I don’t listen to Hip-Hop or Rap; I have a few rap songs on my hard drive (mostly a guest vocalist contributing to a song by some pop group I like) but on the whole, I can do without it. I don’t like much disco; I don’t like much of the modern dance music that sounds to me like disco with louder drum machines. I don’t listen to metal of any kind. I don’t choose to listen to orchestral or choral music; I strongly prefer small groups. I don’t listen to any operatic-style opera (is that clear at all? I mean: Philip Glass and John Adams and Kurt Weill don’t sound like opera to me) either, both because of the orchestration and I find very high soprano voices irritating. On the other hand, I do listen to Gilbert & Sullivan, and while I say that Sullivan is the price for the Gilbert, in fact I like Arthur Sullivan’s melodies more than somewhat.

The distinction, perhaps, is that I have listened to the operettas enough to like them. I’ve noticed, in myself, that there are a lot of songs I like, not because I like other songs that sound like them, or because those songs are better than similar songs, but simply because they are familiar to me, having heard them so many times. Most of them are crappy songs on good albums, songs that I have come to love simply because I love them, indefensibly. Others, well, I don’t know for sure. Stuff my elder siblings listened to when I was a kid? The big example of that is Queen—a lot of their stuff sounds awful to me, but there are songs I love which sound exactly the same as the ones I can’t stand. I don’t mean the stuff that sounds different, like “Bohemian Rhapsody” or “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”, but “I’m in Love with my Car” or “Somebody to Love” or “Now I’m Here”, the stuff with the shredding guitar. The ones I like are the ones I have heard a thousand times; the ones I dislike are the ones that, for whatever reason, I haven’t. Is there any taste involved in that?

To sum up: Yes, I listen to lots of different kinds of music, in different genres. No, I don’t like everything; there are things that are to my taste and things that are not to my taste. On the other other hand, my taste is only partially a matter of what I think of as real taste; even within a genre, while I have Sources of Listener Pleasure and Sources of Listener Irritation, my actual fondness for a song has as much to do with the circumstances of my hearing it as with the song itself. Had I not been looking for a recent song to put on this mix, the verse-to-chorus ratio of the Adele song might have irritated me enough to make me dislike the song, which in actual fact, I like quite a bit.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,