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Posts Tagged ‘’

The myth of objectivity

Wednesday, August 6th, 2003

Good ol’ Kenny (formerly? known as AllGdPple) has posted something to that I can heartily disagree with; so, in my grand and cowardly tradition, I’m going to do so here instead of in the forum, where people can respond. Actually, more lazy than cowardly: I don’t check rmp frequently enough to actually get engaged in a discussion at this point. Oh well.

He says: “a good music review should discuss the artist’s thematic intent, analysis of the structure of the piece and why the artist succeeded or failed to achieve the intended result… did the artist achieve the attempted result? then it’s a good effort.”

I’m with him for the first half, sort of. I agree that reviews should be descriptive to a certain extent. The idea is to convey to the reader what exactly the album is all about, in the sense of what what it sounds like in general (which more often than not means talking about styles and categories, unfortunately). However, using the artist’s intent to measure the value of a work is totally against my philosophy of reviewing (and of art in general). It’s the “intentional fallacy” - the artist’s intent doesn’t freakin’ matter, what matters is the listener’s reaction. Okay, so it’s not that black and white, at least I don’t think so, but there’s the idea. Intent is not the whole of the equation. Why should I care what the artist wanted to achieve if I value the work for totally different things in the first place, or if my interpretation is 180 degrees from what the artist “meant” for the work to “mean”?

Even more problematic, Kenny also says: “a piece should not be reviewed according to the reviewers taste in music, but should reflect the success or failure of the artist in achieving their intended aim.”

He later backtracks a bit and says that subjectivity is still allowable in reviews, but the above quote seems to contradict that. This is something I feel even more strongly about than the whole “intentional fallacy” thing: objectivity is an impossible ideal. Therefore, reviews should consciously take the reviewers’ specific point of view into account, so that the reader can have the most accurate idea possible of where the review is coming from. Put more provocatively, the reviewer’s taste is the point of the review as much as the album being reviewed. This is the whole reason we put up profiles of all the reviewers here at Ground & Sky: because I believe those profiles, and the knowledge available in them, make the reviews on this site more useful to readers.

Two things Kenny says, though, I fully agree with: first, that reviews should always answer the question “why” (reviews that basically say “this sucks” or “I don’t like this” aren’t very helpful); and second, that he’s “read few prog reviews that aren’t cliches.” This latter point is very much true, I think: partly because, given the relatively tiny size of the genre’s fan base, most of the prog reviews available on the net are written by amateurs like myself. And shit: music’s hard to write about. Especially music that there isn’t a highly developed language for.

I have to resort to cliches in a lot of my reviews, I’m afraid, in order to get a descriptive point across. That’s an inadequacy I’ll readily admit to, because I’m not a musicologist and I don’t possess the language or even the conceptual knowledge needed to best describe some of the music I listen to. Does that make me a bad reviewer? I don’t know.

rmp slowly descending into suckitude

Tuesday, April 29th, 2003

For a number of reasons, I’ve been pretty erratic in keeping up with in the past few months. The signal-to-noise ratio seems to be getting constantly worse, and whenever I scan the threads I usually only find a few things of interest. The forum I read most often these days is ProgressiveEars, which in the past couple years has exploded in membership and activity. The forum there has a lot of good discussion about actual music, threads about specific bands, and so on; stuff that rmp hasn’t had in volume for a while, it seems.

That said, I’m finding this current thread about Pink Floyd absolutely hilarious.

People saying dumb shit

Saturday, January 11th, 2003


European music tradition is the only important one, really. Sure, the Asian one, maybe, too, but that one has developed in other directions, and people from Western cultures (which also includes Americans, even African Americans) should stick to the European musical traditions.

That’s from rmp, in a thread full of drivel entitled “Progressive/Art Rock” (that was crossposted to a bunch of other groups, making it pretty interesting actually). There’s also a lot of the usual stuff about all rap being “c”rap (hahaha, how clever) in that thread. I love Usenet.

PopMatters has an interview with Neal Morse. It contains the sentence “Snow is not only one of the finest concept records ever recorded, but also ranks as one of the most compelling albums ever committed to disc.” Shit, and I like that site :)

Genre fandom and close-mindedness

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2000

The issue of snobbery rears its ugly head yet again on Am I the only one that no longer bothers to read any lengthy post by AllGdPpl (or whatever) anymore?

You know, I don’t really have a problem with, say, Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera. I don’t really have a problem with people that like them. I only have a problem when people insist that their favorite band or singer or teeniebopper sexpot is the best musicmaker alive, without bothering to explore the doings of other musicmakers. This is why singleminded fans of Spears or whatever bug me. Problem is, this syndrome is just as prevalent among prog-rock fans, or jazz fans, or classical fans, as anyone else.

As I expand my personal musical experience, I find myself surprised by many things I wouldn’t have thought I would like. The thing is, as I believe Paul Beecham said, if I’m listening to something I don’t think I’ll like, sometimes I just tune it out without even bothering to try. This is a Bad Thing. It’s akin to saying something horribly prejudiced, like “I know I won’t like that man because he’s black, so I won’t even bother to try.” In any case, when I do get over this problem, often I am surprised by what I like.

At the same time, you’ve got to draw the line somewhere, and I still name progressive rock as my favorite genre of music, for any number of reasons. However, I try to make sure that my dedication to the genre no longer inhibits my exploration of other genres, as it has in the past.

Speaking of other genres, Bob’s isn’t the only site entitled “Dancing About Architecture”, it seems. I found the current article on Afro-pop quite interesting. And this “dual review” is rather amusing.

rmp: where the people who know shit hang out

Friday, July 28th, 2000

I’m somewhat bewildered by all the bashing that goes on in various mailing lists I’ve only now joined or started paying attention to (I’ve been subscribing to e-prog for a looong time, for example, but not until recently have I had time to actually read any of it). That newsgroup was the first source of prog information I found on the net. Luckily I was wise enough to keep my mouth shut and lurk for a long time (years, actually) before ever posting anything, so I was never in any danger of getting flamed for being a clueless newbie saying all the wrong things (like, “Dude Pink Floyd is the best band in the world are there any other bands that sound anything like them cuz they ROOL!”).

I agree with those that say that rmp is sometimes awfully hard on said clueless newbies, but frankly, I believe that the regulars of that group are the most informed prog listeners in the world. It’s still my number one source of info.

Wise man Sean McFee

Saturday, April 8th, 2000

Sean had a few great moments on early this morning:

“I have enough trouble not being a jerk without being given a reason.”

“> I don’t hear anyone saying Bach’s old.
Well after a certain point he stopped getting older :).

“> but don’t tell me it’s not original because none of it is.
Originality is a continuum, not a boolean.