Does objectively good and bad music exist?

It's only cool if no one's heard of it.

Moderators: SecondTalon, Moderators General, Prelates

DR6
Posts: 170
Joined: Thu Nov 01, 2012 1:44 pm UTC

Does objectively good and bad music exist?

Postby DR6 » Sat Feb 23, 2013 9:06 am UTC

I posted this somewhere on reddit, supporting that it doesn't, but all I got was circular ad hominems(you say that because you have shitty taste and got told) and circular vanilla arguments(using "Mozart and Lil Wayne" as a counterexample without justifying further). It was probably my fault too for being too aggressive(it was r/negareddit and in the title a generalized too much against the kind of people who use their tastes to put themselves over others, and I was too aggressive in general), but anyway I thought that maybe better discussion could be possible.

So I'll just explain my claim: music can't be objectively good or bad. My reasoning is:
1- To talk about "good music" and "bad music" you need a at least a way to distinguish between the two, be it just what you feel or more complicated arguments.
2- For objectively good and bad music to exist, there must be at least a way of doing it that can be measured objectively and whose relevance is objective too(there's no doubt that The Beatles is simpler than Beethoven, but what if someone likes simplicity rather than complexity, or doesn't care at all?)
3- No such method exist, therefore
4- Music can't be objectively good or bad.

(As you can observe, it could be applied to movies, food, books... too)

My claim is falsable: you just have to find a counterexample for 3.

Thoughts?

PD: Oh, and if you think you agree with me, just think of the worst artist you can think of and the best you can think of. I'm saying that there is no objective difference. Just doublecheck if you actually agree with that.

bosonicyouth
Posts: 92
Joined: Sat May 01, 2010 8:59 am UTC
Location: Brisbane, Australia

Re: Does objectively good and bad music exist?

Postby bosonicyouth » Mon Feb 25, 2013 1:51 am UTC

It's an old subject that has received a lot more serious attention for other formats.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Literary_criticism

I think that by the mid-20th century, most philosophers converged on the common conclusion, often begrudgingly, that there is no objective metric for the quality of any work of art in isolation. There are some attractive semi-objective indicators of quality (intent a.k.a. art for art's sake, novelty, critical reception) but these all have obvious flaws. This doesn't really phase me much, despite being an enormous music snob. Making a subjective case for why such-and-such a band (Mumford and Sons) is horse shit is one of life's little pleasures.

User avatar
Woopate
Scrapple
Posts: 503
Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2010 10:34 am UTC

Re: Does objectively good and bad music exist?

Postby Woopate » Mon Feb 25, 2013 6:02 am UTC

A radio segment on the station I listen to did a segment on music that is close to unlistenable because it deliberately disrupts the patterns that make music appealing and turn it into something like noise. Now I'm not sure if you can call it "bad" despite the fact it's hard to listen to and certainly not enjoyable, because they succeeded in the artistic statement they were making. That particular segment was terminated and the old recordings have not been released so I can't find them for you, but I bet if you explore that avenue you will find songs similar to the ones I described.

bosonicyouth
Posts: 92
Joined: Sat May 01, 2010 8:59 am UTC
Location: Brisbane, Australia

Re: Does objectively good and bad music exist?

Postby bosonicyouth » Mon Feb 25, 2013 6:16 am UTC

Noise is a genre, but it's not for everyone

Роберт
Posts: 4285
Joined: Wed May 14, 2008 1:56 am UTC

Re: Does objectively good and bad music exist?

Postby Роберт » Mon Feb 25, 2013 6:43 pm UTC

You would need a goal or a purpose of music to determine whether the music is good or bad. And there is no single purpose for music, there's a HUGE variety of goals and purposes for music. And even when judging how well music met specific goals, it's too much effort to define metrics to determine how well it met those goals.

There are certainly ways for some music to be "better" than other music at certain goals, objectively... but who defines what the goals are?
The Great Hippo wrote:[T]he way we treat suspected terrorists genuinely terrifies me.

DR6
Posts: 170
Joined: Thu Nov 01, 2012 1:44 pm UTC

Re: Does objectively good and bad music exist?

Postby DR6 » Mon Feb 25, 2013 9:33 pm UTC

bosonicyouth wrote:It's an old subject that has received a lot more serious attention for other formats.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Literary_criticism

I think that by the mid-20th century, most philosophers converged on the common conclusion, often begrudgingly, that there is no objective metric for the quality of any work of art in isolation. There are some attractive semi-objective indicators of quality (intent a.k.a. art for art's sake, novelty, critical reception) but these all have obvious flaws. This doesn't really phase me much, despite being an enormous music snob. Making a subjective case for why such-and-such a band (Mumford and Sons) is horse shit is one of life's little pleasures.

... well, I kind of expected I would be no pioneer. Great info.

Роберт wrote:You would need a goal or a purpose of music to determine whether the music is good or bad. And there is no single purpose for music, there's a HUGE variety of goals and purposes for music. And even when judging how well music met specific goals, it's too much effort to define metrics to determine how well it met those goals.

There are certainly ways for some music to be "better" than other music at certain goals, objectively... but who defines what the goals are?

Exactly, that's what I'm saying.

User avatar
Adam H
Posts: 1267
Joined: Thu Jun 16, 2011 6:36 pm UTC

Re: Does objectively good and bad music exist?

Postby Adam H » Mon Feb 25, 2013 10:05 pm UTC

Well, I think we need to define "objective". From the OPs context, I can tell that objectivity is universal, but that's really not part of the definition. Most definitions of objective just say something along the lines of "without emotion or personal bias", "based on facts instead of emotion", etc.

Basically, music can be objectively good to me without being objectively good to you. I just need a set of rules that I blindly apply to music in order to determine whether it is good or not. I'm not sure if anyone really does this though.

Of course, I'm just nitpicking linguistics when I know what you are driving at. So no, music cannot be universally objectively good/bad. But objectivity isn't impossible.


The best indicator of whether I like music is if it's interesting. Unfortunately, I don't understand myself well enough to know why I think some music is interesting and other music is not. It's some strange balance of complexity vs. predictability, I think. Also, it's gotta be cleanly recorded.
-Adam

User avatar
ahammel
My Little Cabbage
Posts: 2131
Joined: Mon Jan 30, 2012 12:46 am UTC
Location: Vancouver BC
Contact:

Re: Does objectively good and bad music exist?

Postby ahammel » Mon Feb 25, 2013 10:31 pm UTC

Adam H wrote:Well, I think we need to define "objective".
Observer independent?
He/Him/His/Alex
God damn these electric sex pants!

DR6
Posts: 170
Joined: Thu Nov 01, 2012 1:44 pm UTC

Re: Does objectively good and bad music exist?

Postby DR6 » Tue Feb 26, 2013 5:53 pm UTC

ahammel wrote:
Adam H wrote:Well, I think we need to define "objective".
Observer independent?
Yes, that was the definition I was using. So adam's "objectively good to me" would be an oxymoron with my definition(actually it isn't because an oxymoron is only a contradictory noun-adjective pair AFAIK, but you get my point). Of course, I should probably have defined it more clearly.

I mostly don't really have any indicators to know wether I like music other than "I want to listen to this" vs. "I don't want to listen to this".

User avatar
Adam H
Posts: 1267
Joined: Thu Jun 16, 2011 6:36 pm UTC

Re: Does objectively good and bad music exist?

Postby Adam H » Tue Feb 26, 2013 7:21 pm UTC

Yeah, I guess really what I was driving at was that this is wrong:
DR6 wrote:Oh, and if you think you agree with me, just think of the worst artist you can think of and the best you can think of. I'm saying that there is no objective difference.


There's a difference between "this objectively satifies my criteria for good music" and "this is objectively good music", and I wasn't sure what you were disputing.
-Adam

DR6
Posts: 170
Joined: Thu Nov 01, 2012 1:44 pm UTC

Re: Does objectively good and bad music exist?

Postby DR6 » Wed Feb 27, 2013 3:30 pm UTC

Adam H wrote:Yeah, I guess really what I was driving at was that this is wrong:
DR6 wrote:Oh, and if you think you agree with me, just think of the worst artist you can think of and the best you can think of. I'm saying that there is no objective difference.


There's a difference between "this objectively satifies my criteria for good music" and "this is objectively good music", and I wasn't sure what you were disputing.

The first one is still debatable. How do you know they really define your tastes? Maybe they are just a pattern you've noticed that doesn't correspond to reality(here we could either take the "how certain we can be of our knowledge" route or the "where do our tastes come from" one).

User avatar
Adam H
Posts: 1267
Joined: Thu Jun 16, 2011 6:36 pm UTC

Re: Does objectively good and bad music exist?

Postby Adam H » Wed Feb 27, 2013 4:25 pm UTC

DR6 wrote:
Adam H wrote:There's a difference between "this objectively satifies my criteria for good music" and "this is objectively good music", and I wasn't sure what you were disputing.

The first one is still debatable. How do you know they really define your tastes? Maybe they are just a pattern you've noticed that doesn't correspond to reality(here we could either take the "how certain we can be of our knowledge" route or the "where do our tastes come from" one).

Oh yeah, I totally agree it's debatable! And I think it's an interesting debate.

I suspect that it's possible for someone like a musical savant to be able to put into words exactly what they look for in music. I can't do it, but it's kind of interesting to try.

You definitely couldn't just say, "good music must have these elements and cannot have these elements". If it were possible to reduce music to a set of rules then there'd be a complex logic tree like "good music must contain these elements IFF it also contains these elements and does not contain these elements, unless it contains these elements or these elements but not both." And that would be for just one chord.

I think it's hypothetically possible to be able to define your tastes, since music is deterministic (a wave always makes the same sound). But now I've just thought of something else - you can listen to the same music twice, and you may like it once and dislike it the second time, depending on your frame of mind. And our frame of mind might not be deterministic. So maybe it's not only practically impossible, but hypothetically impossible as well.
-Adam

User avatar
TheAmazingRando
Posts: 2308
Joined: Thu Jan 03, 2008 9:58 am UTC
Location: San Diego, CA

Re: Does objectively good and bad music exist?

Postby TheAmazingRando » Fri Mar 22, 2013 7:47 pm UTC

The things that we can objectively measure aren't even consistently good or bad, so I'm going to have to say no.
For example, technical mastery would make for a great piano concerto, but a pretty lousy hardcore punk show.

I don't see why people want art to be objective. Are they so insecure about their tastes that they need to dictate them to everyone else?

User avatar
freakish777
Posts: 354
Joined: Wed Jul 13, 2011 2:14 pm UTC

Re: Does objectively good and bad music exist?

Postby freakish777 » Thu Apr 25, 2013 7:33 pm UTC

Maybe (just probably not the way you want to think about it).

I believe that the goal of (almost all) art would be to elicit an emotional response from the audience of the artwork (and barring that, usually to make money), regardless of what the emotion in question is, or the aesthetics/techniques used to achieve said emotional response.

I think an extremely interesting study would be to take 20 songs (or whatever), and get your group of study subjects to listen to them. They answer two questions. "What emotion does this song make you feel?" And "On a scale of 0 to 10, how strong was that emotion."

Something that I think is important to point out, it might be impossible to get away from "I really superhate annoying songs by <Insert Pop Artist/Unrefined Musician> because they have no talent" because the emotion being elicited/provoked in this case isn't by the piece of art in question but rather by the connotations the person has for the artist in question. Most Pop Artists aren't actually devoid of talent, but when your Pop song isn't making the audience "Happy"/"Amused" (or whatever other emotional response was intended) then it probably fails for that person. Maybe a 3rd important question would be "Would you want to listen to this song again." to try and draw some conclusions.

It would be interesting to see the results of such a study, especially if well known songs were used. While you'd be hard pressed to say "The Beatles are Objectively better than Mozart!" (or whatever), you could in fact say "The Beatles elicit more emotion than Mozart." (or insert other artists as you so choose).

As a result of beliefs on art, I tend to think of art in terms of how society views it, and in terms of value. The Beatles (to date) have provided more valuable music to society than Nightwish (as evidenced by the amount of money society has spent on music from each artist). I'm sure some fans of Nightwish who have no fondness of The Beatles will be outraged, but that's because they aren't looking at it from the standpoint of "Which is more valuable to society" without letting their emotions get in the way (the very same emotions they have for the art in question).

Роберт
Posts: 4285
Joined: Wed May 14, 2008 1:56 am UTC

Re: Does objectively good and bad music exist?

Postby Роберт » Fri Apr 26, 2013 4:21 pm UTC

Shouldn't we be measuring dopamine release?
The Great Hippo wrote:[T]he way we treat suspected terrorists genuinely terrifies me.

User avatar
ahammel
My Little Cabbage
Posts: 2131
Joined: Mon Jan 30, 2012 12:46 am UTC
Location: Vancouver BC
Contact:

Re: Does objectively good and bad music exist?

Postby ahammel » Fri Apr 26, 2013 4:33 pm UTC

freakish777 wrote:I think an extremely interesting study would be to take 20 songs (or whatever), and get your group of study subjects to listen to them. They answer two questions. "What emotion does this song make you feel?" And "On a scale of 0 to 10, how strong was that emotion."
I don't know about the rest of you, but I couldn't easily answer those questions for quite a lot of my favourite pieces of music.
He/Him/His/Alex
God damn these electric sex pants!

DR6
Posts: 170
Joined: Thu Nov 01, 2012 1:44 pm UTC

Re: Does objectively good and bad music exist?

Postby DR6 » Sat Apr 27, 2013 6:56 am UTC

freakish777 wrote:Maybe (just probably not the way you want to think about it).

I believe that the goal of (almost all) art would be to elicit an emotional response from the audience of the artwork (and barring that, usually to make money), regardless of what the emotion in question is, or the aesthetics/techniques used to achieve said emotional response.

It depend on how you define "emotion". To describe most dubstep or metal, for example, you are going to stretch the definition a bit: maybe too much-

I think it would be more generic to say that its goal is trigger certain hormon releases on the listener, be it dopamine or also, for example, oxytocin, but that makes certain assumptions about the human brain, and I don't know if they are valid.

User avatar
freakish777
Posts: 354
Joined: Wed Jul 13, 2011 2:14 pm UTC

Re: Does objectively good and bad music exist?

Postby freakish777 » Sat Apr 27, 2013 4:44 pm UTC

Роберт wrote:Shouldn't we be measuring dopamine release?


I think that would be wrong. Some pieces of art are not supposed to give the audience a "pleasurable" emotion. Some are intended to induce, anger, confusion, sadness, etc. Emotions that aren't typically linked to dopamine.

Something else to consider, since dopamine is associated with reward-driven learning, someone viewing/listening to the piece for the 10th time is likely to end up with a stronger dopamine release than someone viewing/listening for the first time. Should a study on objectivity weight repeat listens/viewings more than first time listens/viewings? I feel like it probably should, because the more you come back to it, obviously the more you like it, but I'm not sure.

User avatar
freakish777
Posts: 354
Joined: Wed Jul 13, 2011 2:14 pm UTC

Re: Does objectively good and bad music exist?

Postby freakish777 » Sat Apr 27, 2013 5:00 pm UTC

DR6 wrote:It depend on how you define "emotion". To describe most dubstep or metal, for example, you are going to stretch the definition a bit: maybe too much-



I don't think so at all.

Both of those genres are capable of producing the following emotions for me:


Joy
Anger
Sadness
Disgust
Hope
Pride
Frustration
Fear
Contempt
Irritation
Affection
Stress
Shock

User avatar
ahammel
My Little Cabbage
Posts: 2131
Joined: Mon Jan 30, 2012 12:46 am UTC
Location: Vancouver BC
Contact:

Re: Does objectively good and bad music exist?

Postby ahammel » Sat Apr 27, 2013 7:50 pm UTC

Another problem I can think of would be that if a piece of music makes me want to strangle the composer, the performers involved, that piece of music is going to get a very high score.

I don't think it's correct to say that all music is meant to convey a particular emotion, anyway.
He/Him/His/Alex
God damn these electric sex pants!

DR6
Posts: 170
Joined: Thu Nov 01, 2012 1:44 pm UTC

Re: Does objectively good and bad music exist?

Postby DR6 » Sun Apr 28, 2013 7:01 pm UTC

freakish777 wrote:
DR6 wrote:It depend on how you define "emotion". To describe most dubstep or metal, for example, you are going to stretch the definition a bit: maybe too much-



I don't think so at all.

Both of those genres are capable of producing the following emotions for me:


Joy
Anger
Sadness
Disgust
Hope
Pride
Frustration
Fear
Contempt
Irritation
Affection
Stress
Shock

It depends on exactly what song we are talking about(Dragonforce would inspire me "joy" and "hope"), but with me that mostly isn't the case. "Sadness" is not something I would associate with either at all(that would be pop), and I don't even know how a song is supposed to inspire "pride", "fear" or "irritation".

User avatar
ahammel
My Little Cabbage
Posts: 2131
Joined: Mon Jan 30, 2012 12:46 am UTC
Location: Vancouver BC
Contact:

Re: Does objectively good and bad music exist?

Postby ahammel » Sun Apr 28, 2013 9:08 pm UTC

DR6 wrote:I don't even know how a song is supposed to inspire "pride", "fear" or "irritation".
Pride, fear, irritation.
He/Him/His/Alex
God damn these electric sex pants!

User avatar
freakish777
Posts: 354
Joined: Wed Jul 13, 2011 2:14 pm UTC

Re: Does objectively good and bad music exist?

Postby freakish777 » Sun Apr 28, 2013 9:24 pm UTC

ahammel wrote:Another problem I can think of would be that if a piece of music makes me want to strangle the composer, the performers involved, that piece of music is going to get a very high score.

I don't think it's correct to say that all music is meant to convey a particular emotion, anyway.


Already admitted that there would need to be a way around this:

freakish777 wrote:Something that I think is important to point out, it might be impossible to get away from "I really superhate annoying songs by <Insert Pop Artist/Unrefined Musician> because they have no talent" because the emotion being elicited/provoked in this case isn't by the piece of art in question but rather by the connotations the person has for the artist in question. Most Pop Artists aren't actually devoid of talent, but when your Pop song isn't making the audience "Happy"/"Amused" (or whatever other emotional response was intended) then it probably fails for that person. Maybe a 3rd important question would be "Would you want to listen to this song again." to try and draw some conclusions.





DR6 wrote:
freakish777 wrote:
DR6 wrote:It depend on how you define "emotion". To describe most dubstep or metal, for example, you are going to stretch the definition a bit: maybe too much-



I don't think so at all.

Both of those genres are capable of producing the following emotions for me:


Joy
Anger
Sadness
Disgust
Hope
Pride
Frustration
Fear
Contempt
Irritation
Affection
Stress
Shock

It depends on exactly what song we are talking about(Dragonforce would inspire me "joy" and "hope"), but with me that mostly isn't the case. "Sadness" is not something I would associate with either at all(that would be pop), and I don't even know how a song is supposed to inspire "pride", "fear" or "irritation".



Sadness (Metal):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2vMVR7ntWc
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMA62CsFvzg
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kd6dG4nnJFg

Sadness (Dubstep):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXVQNSlFJ6M
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o-K_xgxrL4s

Pride (Metal (ish? the second one is melodic hardcore)):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NVEpqTTjkY
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLpAP7XkB9s


Pride (Dubstep):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=pl ... TU9Yryn-Q#!

Fear (Metal):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VNFglDcW7dQ
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9ENO5tHYIw
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-BjSCO05pW4

Fear (Dubstep):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=887kD3dxb0A



I sort of have other things to do with my day, so I can maybe get back to you on Irritation, or you could use your imagination? I'm leaning towards letting you do the latter (mostly because I'm beyond busy). Something to point out here, it's not important for the emotion produced in each person to be the same. If a song produces a different emotion for you (or anyone else), great! Songs are always going to mean different things to different people, and part of that is because they trigger different emotions for different people. But the strength of the emotional response, averaged across the entire audience, should be pretty indicative of "Good Art" or "Bad Art."

User avatar
freakish777
Posts: 354
Joined: Wed Jul 13, 2011 2:14 pm UTC

Re: Does objectively good and bad music exist?

Postby freakish777 » Sun Apr 28, 2013 9:26 pm UTC

Oh, we're doing that for irritation?

Well here you go (Metal Version):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pi00ykRg_5c

User avatar
ahammel
My Little Cabbage
Posts: 2131
Joined: Mon Jan 30, 2012 12:46 am UTC
Location: Vancouver BC
Contact:

Re: Does objectively good and bad music exist?

Postby ahammel » Sun Apr 28, 2013 9:27 pm UTC

freakish777 wrote:But the strength of the emotional response, averaged across the entire audience, should be pretty indicative of "Good Art" or "Bad Art."
What about music that isn't meant to evoke any particular emotional response? Is that automatically 'bad art'?
He/Him/His/Alex
God damn these electric sex pants!

User avatar
freakish777
Posts: 354
Joined: Wed Jul 13, 2011 2:14 pm UTC

Re: Does objectively good and bad music exist?

Postby freakish777 » Mon Apr 29, 2013 12:24 am UTC

ahammel wrote:
freakish777 wrote:But the strength of the emotional response, averaged across the entire audience, should be pretty indicative of "Good Art" or "Bad Art."
What about music that isn't meant to evoke any particular emotional response? Is that automatically 'bad art'?


What then, was the point of said art? If it was meant make money first and foremost, then I'm not sure it's art first and foremost (pop art maybe?).

User avatar
ahammel
My Little Cabbage
Posts: 2131
Joined: Mon Jan 30, 2012 12:46 am UTC
Location: Vancouver BC
Contact:

Re: Does objectively good and bad music exist?

Postby ahammel » Mon Apr 29, 2013 12:29 am UTC

freakish777 wrote:
ahammel wrote:What about music that isn't meant to evoke any particular emotional response? Is that automatically 'bad art'?
What then, was the point of said art?
To explore a particular musical idea, to evoke a scene or a setting, to provide entertainment, to showcase the virtuosity of the performer, etc. etc. etc.
He/Him/His/Alex
God damn these electric sex pants!

User avatar
freakish777
Posts: 354
Joined: Wed Jul 13, 2011 2:14 pm UTC

Re: Does objectively good and bad music exist?

Postby freakish777 » Mon Apr 29, 2013 12:49 am UTC

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that it has to have intended to evoke an emotion. Art is a craft, and making art for the sake of getting better is still art, as is making art for the sake of making art. But I would argue that unless it does actually evoke an emotion (not necessarily "Has something to say"), then it's not "as good of art" as pieces that do.

User avatar
freakish777
Posts: 354
Joined: Wed Jul 13, 2011 2:14 pm UTC

Re: Does objectively good and bad music exist?

Postby freakish777 » Mon Apr 29, 2013 1:30 am UTC

ahammel wrote:To explore a particular musical idea, to evoke a scene or a setting, to provide entertainment, to showcase the virtuosity of the performer, etc. etc. etc.


Evoking a scene or a setting, I would imagine that the scene or setting itself would also have emotional elements for it.

Exploring a particular artistic technique or aesthetic for the sake of groundbreaking it, is valid. Film is accepted as art, The Matrix was the first movie to use bullet time, these apparently are the first color films. But being the first to use a technique doesn't necessarily make you a great artist. Is The Matrix great art? If so, why? Or why not?

Entertainment is not (necessarily) art. That said, music pop artists for the most part tend to make music that makes their target audience "Happy." Similarly the best dance songs are the ones you sing along every word to because you have a special emotional connection to it. [Tangent] Here's an installation piece at a museum that I've had described to me. You walk into a room. There's a single table in this room, and on it is a bag of balloons. Next to the table is a large Helium canister with a nozzle for filling the balloons. As people fill the room, not knowing what is going on, someone decides to fill a balloon. People get bored. Eventually someone lets go of their balloon. It goes up to the ceiling. As it hits the ceiling, it pops and makes a loud noise (possibly frightening some people). Everyone looks up. They suddenly realize that different parts of the ceiling are covered in nails. This creates a lot of amusement. Some people want to let their balloons go where there's nails so they'll pop, and some want to let them go where there aren't nails, and don't want to risk their balloon popping and therefore take them with them. The point here is that amusement is an emotion, but not all entertainment is amusing, not all entertainment knows how to create and release tension (in this case people being frightened by the balloon popping created tension and upon realizing nails were on the ceiling, released the tension and presented with a decision).

Showcasing the virtuosity of a performer is something I have mixed ideas about (and not sure it really applies a whole lot to other art forms), but I still think it comes back to whether or not the piece in particular is going to be taking you on an emotional journey. Compare Drumming Competition Winning performances such as this (or other solos): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pRTAu52G9Lg to this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8kKXGncL38 (I'll understand if you wanted to argue that Yoshiki gets an unfair advantage of added background arrangement, but meh, I'm not too concerned here). Being able to play any note you want at any time on command certainly makes you a great performer (great musician even), but it doesn't necessarily make you a great artist (if you aren't writing the songs, then how much credit do you owe to the person writing it for you looking great?). Someone I have the utmost respect for as a technically great musician is Robin Finck, but the fact of the matter is, he doesn't really write music. Obviously I still think he's a great performer and a great musician, but I'm not sure I would say he's a great musical artist (maybe great performance artist for some of his stage presence?).

"Bad Art," to me, would be if all of society is audience to a piece of art, and it fails to make anyone feel anything. Incidentally, this is sort of a very very loose definition of art. Double Rainbow guy clearly believes nature is art in and of itself (and my loose definition sort of upholds his viewpoint, which makes me feel icky inside). From a logical perspective, I'm not really sure I have a problem with that other than the icky feeling of agreeing with Double Rainbow guy.

User avatar
Adam H
Posts: 1267
Joined: Thu Jun 16, 2011 6:36 pm UTC

Re: Does objectively good and bad music exist?

Postby Adam H » Mon Apr 29, 2013 2:26 pm UTC

If "this" is my favorite song because it makes me really really emotional, and you surveyed a million people and found out that no one else gets emotional when listening to "this", is "this" objectively bad music? Is my emotion invalid?
-Adam

Роберт
Posts: 4285
Joined: Wed May 14, 2008 1:56 am UTC

Re: Does objectively good and bad music exist?

Postby Роберт » Mon Apr 29, 2013 2:38 pm UTC

freakish777 wrote:
Роберт wrote:Shouldn't we be measuring dopamine release?


I think that would be wrong. Some pieces of art are not supposed to give the audience a "pleasurable" emotion. Some are intended to induce, anger, confusion, sadness, etc. Emotions that aren't typically linked to dopamine.

Ahem.

http://www.cracked.com/article_20398_5- ... rable.html
Think about how much of our entertainment is based around negative emotions. Why do we like [...] sad songs?
[...] But the science says that [...] the pleasure/reward centers of your brain light up and release dopamine. And you can get addicted to whatever causes your brain to release dopamine, whether it's chocolate or fistfights.

If you enjoy it and want to do it again, it's probably releasing dopamine, even if it makes you sad/angry/creeped out/hornly/horrified. I was trying to think of the best objective measure of how "good" music is, and that was my best idea.
The Great Hippo wrote:[T]he way we treat suspected terrorists genuinely terrifies me.

User avatar
ahammel
My Little Cabbage
Posts: 2131
Joined: Mon Jan 30, 2012 12:46 am UTC
Location: Vancouver BC
Contact:

Re: Does objectively good and bad music exist?

Postby ahammel » Mon Apr 29, 2013 2:52 pm UTC

To give a concrete examples: J. S. Bach's The Art of the Fugue is not an especially emotional piece of music. It's about squeezing all the possible contrapuntal possibilities from a single subject. It does not evoke any particularly strong emotional response from me, except perhaps for extramusical reasons (it ends in the middle of a phrase, supposedly because the composer died before he could finish it). I think it's among the greatest pieces of music ever written, but I couldn't tell you so using the emotional response scale.

Роберт wrote:If you enjoy it and want to do it again, it's probably releasing dopamine, even if it makes you sad/angry/creeped out/hornly/horrified. I was trying to think of the best objective measure of how "good" music is, and that was my best idea.
That sounds like an objective measure of how much the subject liked the music. That's a different thing.
He/Him/His/Alex
God damn these electric sex pants!

User avatar
freakish777
Posts: 354
Joined: Wed Jul 13, 2011 2:14 pm UTC

Re: Does objectively good and bad music exist?

Postby freakish777 » Mon Apr 29, 2013 5:09 pm UTC

ahammel wrote:
Роберт wrote:If you enjoy it and want to do it again, it's probably releasing dopamine, even if it makes you sad/angry/creeped out/hornly/horrified. I was trying to think of the best objective measure of how "good" music is, and that was my best idea.
That sounds like an objective measure of how much the subject liked the music. That's a different thing.


Right. Again:

Something else to consider, since dopamine is associated with reward-driven learning, someone viewing/listening to the piece for the 10th time is likely to end up with a stronger dopamine release than someone viewing/listening for the first time. Should a study on objectivity weight repeat listens/viewings more than first time listens/viewings? I feel like it probably should, because the more you come back to it, obviously the more you like it, but I'm not sure.


How much the audience likes the piece isn't necessarily indicative as to why it is good or bad art.

Ahammel, can you describe what about The Art of the Fugue makes it the best in your opinion? Does your description of it being good require any special knowledge (taking music theory courses for example), or would a casual audience member (with no special knowledge of music) think it was good also?

Adam H wrote:If "this" is my favorite song because it makes me really really emotional, and you surveyed a million people and found out that no one else gets emotional when listening to "this", is "this" objectively bad music? Is my emotion invalid?


Your emotion will never be invalid.

Again, I'm going off of the basis that objectivity can only really be found if we're considering society as a whole. If one in a million people get emotional over a song, that song has a world market of maybe 7,000 people, if that. So, probably not very valuable to society. However, if those 7000 people are willing to pay $100 to own the song (instead of 99 cents on itunes), than may it is valuable to society after all?

User avatar
ahammel
My Little Cabbage
Posts: 2131
Joined: Mon Jan 30, 2012 12:46 am UTC
Location: Vancouver BC
Contact:

Re: Does objectively good and bad music exist?

Postby ahammel » Mon Apr 29, 2013 5:20 pm UTC

freakish777 wrote:Ahammel, can you describe what about The Art of the Fugue makes it the best in your opinion? Does your description of it being good require any special knowledge (taking music theory courses for example), or would a casual audience member (with no special knowledge of music) think it was good also?

I find it very difficult to describe what I enjoy about a piece of music. I suppose it has something to do with skill with which the different voices are arranged to achieve a beautiful result and the variety of different effects that are achieved from variations on such a simple theme. (I would make a lousy music critic).

I have never taken a music theory course, but I have done a little bit of amateur reading about counterpoint. Bach's late contrapuntal works (including the Art) have a reputation for being difficult to enjoy. I thought it was a bit weird the first time I heard it, and I suppose the average casual listener might as well.
He/Him/His/Alex
God damn these electric sex pants!

Роберт
Posts: 4285
Joined: Wed May 14, 2008 1:56 am UTC

Re: Does objectively good and bad music exist?

Postby Роберт » Mon Apr 29, 2013 7:17 pm UTC

Right, well... I don't think that measurements of dopamine release are the One True Way of seeing how good a song is. It just seems like the most objective metric that is roughly close to the goal of most music. A survey determining how strong the emotional impact the user experienced seems like a less objective and useful metric.

I still say there's no real objective measure of determining how good music is. Total amount of money a population would be willing to spend for it seems like another metric that could be used. One that rates rich people as more important than poor people, though.
The Great Hippo wrote:[T]he way we treat suspected terrorists genuinely terrifies me.

User avatar
freakish777
Posts: 354
Joined: Wed Jul 13, 2011 2:14 pm UTC

Re: Does objectively good and bad music exist?

Postby freakish777 » Tue Apr 30, 2013 5:11 pm UTC

Роберт wrote:Total amount of money a population would be willing to spend for it seems like another metric that could be used. One that rates rich people as more important than poor people, though.


Yeah, using total money spent admittedly becomes extremely problematic when you're talking about the sales of multi-million dollar paintings/sculptures and individual millionaires bidding against each other to own the piece. Potentially less problematic when you're talking about museums bidding against each other. Ideally, that seems like a better situation for society, having the art piece end up somewhere publicly accessible even if for a fee, instead of in a private collection. Far less problematic when you're talking about .mp3 sales (though still carrying some flaws).

A metric that seem strictly worse than any metric suggested thus far in the thread: Total YouTube views. "Lolz! Rebecca Black > All the works of Beethoven combined!"

[tangent]Something I really wish YouTube would do is show the Like/Dislike Ratio bar in search results, so I can skip poor content when I'm in discovery mode.[/tangent]

User avatar
ahammel
My Little Cabbage
Posts: 2131
Joined: Mon Jan 30, 2012 12:46 am UTC
Location: Vancouver BC
Contact:

Re: Does objectively good and bad music exist?

Postby ahammel » Tue Apr 30, 2013 5:50 pm UTC

freakish777 wrote:A metric that seem strictly worse than any metric suggested thus far in the thread: Total YouTube views. "Lolz! Rebecca Black > All the works of Beethoven combined!"
"Friday" and the Moonlight sonata actually have about the same number of views.
He/Him/His/Alex
God damn these electric sex pants!

User avatar
freakish777
Posts: 354
Joined: Wed Jul 13, 2011 2:14 pm UTC

Re: Does objectively good and bad music exist?

Postby freakish777 » Wed May 01, 2013 1:43 pm UTC

ahammel wrote:
freakish777 wrote:A metric that seem strictly worse than any metric suggested thus far in the thread: Total YouTube views. "Lolz! Rebecca Black > All the works of Beethoven combined!"
"Friday" and the Moonlight sonata actually have about the same number of views.


My bad. Still a bad metric.

Роберт
Posts: 4285
Joined: Wed May 14, 2008 1:56 am UTC

Re: Does objectively good and bad music exist?

Postby Роберт » Wed May 01, 2013 2:13 pm UTC

Right. Youtube views is starting to really deviate from a generalized goal. The factors the affect Youtube views are somewhat decoupled from the purpose of music. I mean, you can pick all sorts of metrics (number of times played at weddings), and some songs would perform better than others, but what does that prove? What is the goal of music?

Even if you tried to pick something general, like "hours play time per year in a population of 100,000", there's no way to decouple that from marketing etc. And even if you did, that making "song you want to hear over and over again" be "better" than "song that you hear and are completely satisfied with, and would listen again (in a month or two)". Is music that you want to hear frequently "better" than music you don't?

I don't think so, but again - any metric we pick is going to be one that implies music has certain goals that it may or may not really have.
The Great Hippo wrote:[T]he way we treat suspected terrorists genuinely terrifies me.

Maraki
Posts: 35
Joined: Mon Jun 13, 2011 5:16 pm UTC

Re: Does objectively good and bad music exist?

Postby Maraki » Thu May 02, 2013 7:29 am UTC

One issue that you all seem to be skirting around is the actual definition of music - is music just organized sound? If so, I guess the best piece of music would just be constantly switching octaves on the same note name for the entirety of the piece. If music is more than just organized sound, what is it? Define music, and I think the goal of objectively defining good and bad music will be a lot simpler.

Spoiler:
Dictionary.com wrote:1.an art of sound in time that expresses ideas and emotions in significant forms through the elements of rhythm, melody, harmony, and color.
2.the tones or sounds employed, occurring in single line (melody) or multiple lines (harmony), and sounded or to be sounded by one or more voices or instruments, or both.
3.musical work or compositions for singing or playing.
4.the written or printed score of a musical composition.
5.such scores collectively.
6.any sweet, pleasing, or harmonious sounds or sound: the music of the waves.
7.appreciation of or responsiveness to musical sounds or harmonies: Music was in his very soul.
8.Fox Hunting. the cry of the hounds.


Out of these definitions from Dictionary.com, I think we can safely disregard 3-5, 7, and 8 for our purposes

Spoiler:
Dictionary.com wrote:1.an art of sound in time that expresses ideas and emotions in significant forms through the elements of rhythm, melody, harmony, and color.
2.the tones or sounds employed, occurring in single line (melody) or multiple lines (harmony), and sounded or to be sounded by one or more voices or instruments, or both.
6.any sweet, pleasing, or harmonious sounds or sound: the music of the waves.


Out of these three definitions left, I think number 6 is the hardest to define, followed by number 2. I, personally would go about trying to define the first definition, specifically on the last half of it - all you have to do is define what the best rhythm, melody, harmony, and colour are. Most of these can be answered by deriving them from the golden ratio, if that's an agreeable 'best number', and the colour part really means (according to my interpretation) the actually sound of all other elements - and, mathematically speaking, the clearest sound is a sine wave.

So there you go, you can now define the best possible music (mathematically speaking), and then compare other music to see how 'bad' it is in relation to this 'perfect' music.


Return to “Music”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 12 guests