ThoughtStorms Wiki

Context : OnArt, OnMusic, OnBeauty

Quora Answer : How can you objectively quantify how good music is without being biased against newer music?

May 25, 2017

There are facts which can be objectively true but are also relational.

For example, it's objectively true that the moon is the satellite of the Earth. But it can't do that by itself. It needs the Earth's collaboration.

Without the Earth, the moon isn't a satellite of anything.

Similarly, it's an objective truth that London is the capital of the UK. But only because people in other parts of the country agree.

Being "good" in music (or any art) is the same kind of thing. It's an objective property which is nevertheless partly due to a relation with the audience.

How your music has affected listeners throughout history is one of the constituents of how good it is.

That isn't to say that goodness is a synonym for mere popularity. There's more to goodness than that. But if a piece of music doesn't impact musical history in some sense, when it gets the opportunity, then I don't think it can be said to be good.

How the audience responds matters.

However, that audience response is over a longer period of time. It's not enough to be hugely popular in a short burst of modishness, because you have copied all the fashionable tropes of the time. Music also has to attract and hold attention after the moment of its creation has passed. When people are no longer caught up with a particular bunch of surface details.

For example, back in 1979 I suspect it was more or less impossible to separate which Disco records were great pieces of music vs. which were ephemeral fluff. Today, it's obvious that there's a bunch of records which have "stood the test of time". These are pieces that are loved, that get a party excited, that have musical flair and imagination and touch and uplift listeners from every generation.

We now know these records are "good".

But obviously, very new music has the problem that it hasn't been sufficiently tested for us to be sure. We have some good hunches now about disco records. But come back in 100 years for a really reliable opinion. Today's music, probably very few people except a few DJs who play a lot of records at clubs have much intuition about.

Transcluded from OnGenre

Quora Answer : In objective terms, should rock'n'roll be considered the only good type of music?

Jul 16, 2020


The relationship between "good and bad" in music and "types" or "genres" of music is more interesting than some people think. Because genre can modify what counts as good and bad.

You can't set up some criteria for what makes a good classical sonata and then judge a 3 minute punk single on those same criteria. Punk has none of the things you'll be looking for. But will have all kinds of other virtues that sonata can't even imagine.

And that fact is fascinating.

But it's certainly not the case that only certain genres are, or can be, good.

All genres have good music within them. But what make the music good seems to change subtly from genre to genre.

Quora Answer : Why are some people so judgmental about other people's tastes in books, music and movies?

Aug 10, 2013

I'm going to try making a defence of this position. Though, obviously, the easy answer is to say that taste is just subjective / relative.

The good reason to be judgemental is because you believe that aesthetic value is real and not simply relative. If you do believe that art can be "better" and "worse", then why wouldn't you try to correct people's mistaken beliefs about it, just as you'd help people improve their understanding of science or ethics?

Quora is about sharing knowledge not indulging people's ignorance. So it should also be about promoting the truth and criticizing erroneous beliefs and tastes.