The Power of Music... do standards actually exist?

Posted by Andrew Groves | Posted in | Posted on Sunday, June 24, 2007

Music can be compelling, unique, or downright awful. Or... can it? What determines if music is essentially "good" or "bad?" (Just a quick note: Those quotation marks are to pacify any disagreeing readers' strong opinions.) If I decide to purposefully play my guitar with only two strings instead of the typical six, or drum on pots and pans instead of drums, is my music still "good?" How about an entire album of kazoo playing?

Often I drive home from work in the evenings to the tune of artists like Andrew Peterson, Caedmon's Call, and Derek Webb. Their albums offer something more substantive than the typical, overrated pop music pervading the airwaves today. "Good" music paints pictures, illustrates truth, and carries with it a significance yet undiscovered by most. I long for the times when I can get stuck at a railroad crossing just as a "good" song begins to play. A sense of fulfillment comes over me when a "good" song finishes just as I pull into the driveway of my house. Can "bad" music do that? I don't think so.

Now, I know what you skeptics are thinking. "Art should be judged subjectively... Who are you to say what music is 'good' or 'bad?'" My response to that argument would be to ask a simple question: How would you determine what music is "good" or "bad?" Most likely, your response would be that every individual makes that determination for themselves... i.e. music that's "good" for me may not be "good" for you. But that means that no music is "good" or "bad"... it's all just out there in musicland somewhere waiting to be categorized by someone's individual opinions. My kazoo playing is musically equal with a Beethoven symphony. But if I decide that mine is better, then it is... for me, at least. This flawed thinking cannot serve to judge music with a critical eye.

I'll end with this. I know that we all like different styles of music, and that's great. But some music is just plain "good" and some is just plain "bad." That doesn't mean we all have to like the same music, but we should all make an effort to recognize "good" music when we see it.