What makes good music good?

Discussion in 'Hi-Fi and General Audio' started by PeteH, Feb 6, 2005.

  1. PeteH

    PeteH Natural Blue

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    I realise it's not exactly an easy question, but I'd be very interested to read your thoughts on what exactly constitutes good music. We can probably take it as read that it needs to make some kind of connection with the listener, but how does it go about doing that? And does all good music have elements in common?

    I was out at an aggressively avant-garde jazz concert a while ago, and it left me largely nonplussed because most of what was played didn't really seem to have any of the features I normally associate with music, or good music at least. Similarly I was recently listening to some very highly-regarded music in the 'popular' idiom (won't say any more than that for now :D ), and again I basically couldn't understand what people see in it, because it just seemed more-or-less free from music content as I understand it.

    Then I thought: maybe I'm not listening for the right things, or at least not listening for the same things as what people who like this sort of music are listening for. So: what makes good music good?
     
    PeteH, Feb 6, 2005
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  2. PeteH

    Tenson Moderator

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    I think its quite clear that different people look for different things and at different times!

    Some people look for something to relax them, others to make them feel emotional and others look for intellectual stimulation...depending on your mood you will look for different things. There is just as much to music and peoples taste in music as there is to peoples personalities (the creators and listeners.)

    Personally.. I don't know what I like! I mean I know what I like when I hear it but I can't say even a single property that is common in ALL my music collection. Perhaps the most important thing to me is having an emotional connection (many different types of emotion). I like stuff that doesn't make me feel anything as well like some chill out music thats just plain relaxing... but I do thin I prefer stuff that I feel some kind of emotional connection too.
     
    Tenson, Feb 7, 2005
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  3. PeteH

    wadia-miester Mighty Rearranger

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    There is no golden rule, for me good music grabs you, whatever the format (even jazz?), if it played by guys that have a passion for the sounds their making, and they are a cohesive unit, it carries you along, maybe even if its not your taste in music.
    Ever had the rythym line stuck in your head from that annoying pop song?, when then it did its job!!!!
    I play in a band (alledged as I'm a guy that hangs around musicians), no were aint that special, but some nights we just click and its damn good & the crowd grooves and has a good time, we do it becasue we enjoy it (plus I love getting bottles thrown at me), and we have a crack doing it, when the crowd gets going its a buzz. I'm sure Mozhart got his rocks off on his various encores
    Good music, you stop listening for things, it just washes over you and takes you places you aint been before. regardless of genere' (except that stuff which doubles up as musical wanking maybe?)
    I'm sure someone has written a methodical white paper on why music moves you, but thats missing the point entirely, by a wide margin imho.
    If it makes you smile, crank it up, if not give it to sideshow. Wm
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 7, 2005
    wadia-miester, Feb 7, 2005
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  4. PeteH

    julian2002 Muper Soderator

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    i agree that it's a very personal thing as to what makes music good. there are as many answers as there are instances of people listening to music however one thing for me that's held true over the years is that a piece of music will have a certain resonance for me if it;s attached to a particularly good memory.
    cheers


    julian
     
    julian2002, Feb 7, 2005
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  5. PeteH

    Saab

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    has to have a tune for me,hence why I also dislike the 'modern' jazz thing,as mocked in the Fast Show.A simple tune will do,on any instrument,doesn't need a beat,just a tune
     
    Saab, Feb 7, 2005
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  6. PeteH

    alanbeeb Grumpy young fogey

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    There have got to be as many answers to this as there are people.

    But a question for classical fans, like myself and PeteH.... Dvorak and Brahms were contemporaries who both wrote symphonies. To my ears, Dvorak has by far the better tunes and by far the better orchestration. But Brahms Symphonies are unquestionably "greater" music than Dvorak's. Why?
     
    alanbeeb, Feb 7, 2005
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  7. PeteH

    lordsummit moderate mod

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    Down to the intellectual content and development of the work.
    Brahm's symphonies are masterpieces of the symphonic art, Dvoraks are exciting collections of good tunes, well crafted but not touched by genius.
    Sometimes you have to know what it is you are looking for. I guess that's why I don't understand free-form avant-garde jazz. It's like art. There's sometimes a wealth of technique below the surface we don't appreciate unless someone points it out
     
    lordsummit, Feb 7, 2005
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  8. PeteH

    Uncle Ants In Recordeo Speramus

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    I'd have thought the answer was loud guitars, pounding drums and a jackhammer bassline ... obviously :D
     
    Uncle Ants, Feb 7, 2005
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  9. PeteH

    kingsxfan

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    Music is art, an individual, or group of individuals expressing themselves within the confines of the media. Art can be song, sculpture, picture etc, etc. Feeling an 'emotional' connection with art is what makes it appeal to you IMO. A particular piece of art is not something that we will all gravitate towards at the same particular time. I believe your life experiences dictate your tastes in music/art. If you feel no emotional connection, it will not appeal, it doesn't necessarily mean it is bad full stop.

    What is felt to be 'good', and what is felt to be 'bad', is all down to the individual.


    KXF
     
    kingsxfan, Feb 7, 2005
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  10. PeteH

    michaelab desafinado

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    What makes music good? Erm...if I like it, it's good :D

    Michael.
     
    michaelab, Feb 7, 2005
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  11. PeteH

    Joolsburger

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    I like so many genres that it's impossible to say with any certainty but I often find that what I regard as good music is deceptively simple. Im not a big fan of fuss or adornment so maybe that's why.
     
    Joolsburger, Feb 7, 2005
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  12. PeteH

    badchamp Thermionic Member

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    Quite - inasmuch as there are no absolutes and it's all entirely subjective.

    The interesting question of course is WHY you like it.

    Lordsummits point regarding Dvorak and Brahms is quite to the point as far as orchestral music goes but whether that applies to pop or rock is another matter in that pop is presumably written more with regard to current mindsets so whether the tunes -v- intellectual argument still holds is moot.

    After a bottle of decent Rioja :D I'm not presently sure whether the music or lyrics are - for me, the aspect which I affects me most. Probably anything with a high degree of melancholy (dearest Leonard C :D ) or a good hit of Mahler or Tosca does for me for sure.
     
    badchamp, Feb 7, 2005
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  13. PeteH

    PeteH Natural Blue

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    Ah good - felt a slight sense of trepidation when I started this thread last night because I wasn't sure if anyone would actually answer. Haven't got the time just now to post my full thoughts, but I'll be back. :) W-M, I'll grant you it's difficult to put into words, but I think it's interesting to at least try.

    For now I'll say that for me lyrics certainly aren't the major issue - in pop music terms, while good or bad lyrics can add to or detract from the overall experience, it's not really part of the music per se as far as I'm concerned, and it's the actual music that I'm more interested in. On the classical side of things there's often a lot of thought put into exactly how the words are reflected in the music which can be very interesting, and digging into how the words and music are interrelated is often rewarding (there was a particularly fascinating Radio 3 'Discovering Music' about Strauss's Four Last Songs, as I recall) - but that's always going to be a bonus AFAIK rather than a major source of interest in itself, and if the music doesn't stand on its own then I'm not likely to be interested.
     
    PeteH, Feb 7, 2005
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  14. PeteH

    leonard smalls GufmeisterGeneral

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    I only like music if it has what I'd call "balls".
    I don't mean screaming rock a la Motorhead necessarily, I mean played with passion and feeling rather than with wussiness and greed.
    Saying that, I also tend to like music as opposed to singing, it's not that I don't like singing as such, but what I don't like is where the music backs the singer, as opposed to a singer being part of the music.

    I would also like to point anyone not keen on free jazz in the direction of "Derek Bailey - a history of free improvisation" by Ben Watson. A grand book that somehow manages to completely explain the atonal/arythmical nature of free improv.. And make it way cool.
     
    leonard smalls, Feb 8, 2005
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  15. PeteH

    MO! MOnkey`ead!

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    Hot, naked chicks on the video.

    That's what sells it to me.
     
    MO!, Feb 8, 2005
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  16. PeteH

    john dolan

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    A few great artists are able to convey great emotion and passion in the performances and when this happens the hairs stand up on the back of your neck and you get goose pimples.Listen to Pavarotti sing a aria he has very nice voice well trained and sings it perfectly and its enjoyable for sure then listen to the same aria sung by Mario lanza and it becomes thrilling even though he had little training and can make mistakes it doesnt matter because he delivers the passion in spades.Another example is the Jacqueline du pre performing the Elgar cello concerto she manages to do the same thing.Few artists have this ability to turn whatever they sing or play into a great performance and its the reason people like me still buy the recordings long after they are dead.
     
    john dolan, Apr 17, 2008
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  17. PeteH

    kmac

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    "Nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so"
     
    kmac, Apr 17, 2008
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  18. PeteH

    Neil

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    Music which "touches your soul" is great music. It could be an orchestral work, 'that' pop/rock song which means so much to you because it was a backing track to a particularly good (or sometimes bad!) part of your life, the Tom Waits song that brought a tear to your eye (you couldn't figure out why at the time, but it did......). Lots of stuff really, from a well constructed piece of any genre, to a feel-good 3/5 minute groove, if it "does it for you" that's good music.
    Oh yeah, a good video can help - it could be Benny Benassi' s Satisfaction or TWs Raindogs. (Very different reasons of course....)
     
    Neil, Apr 17, 2008
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  19. PeteH

    Corky 20th Century survivor

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    My thoughts, the short version:

    It must be a good and striking sound

    It needs to be an original voice, or being played 'as if' original, as if the musician is hearing for the first time too - is excited and passionate about bringing me into it - it must have passion and the musician must be connected and engaged with the music, the ideas, the harmonies, the rhythm, the poetry - and the audience

    It is likely the product of long hard work - even spontaneous music comes from long hours (years really), at the horn/guitar/keyboard, etc.

    Mozart can be 'bad music' if it is played by someone that does not care.



    And a longer version:
    Like a painter, a musician needs to make marks that strike us and hold our attention. And then they must have something to say - something that is sufficiently interesting to deserve our continued attention - otherwise it's just nicely produced drivel. I think it's originality (often some risk taking), craft gained from long hard hours at the horn, desk, keyboard, etc. passion, belief and having something to say - not aural wallpaper. And being engaged with the process, connected to the music they are playing.

    And not packaging the hard work of others - like (to my personal ears) Eric Clapton was doing by the time he got to Slow Hand and most manufactured pop does.

    I'm not saying that good music is the same thing as hard work, but my experience has been that 'good' nearly always happens when someone has worked and worked and worked. Even pop music is like that. Occasionally, a hastily thrown together pop band will produce something 'good' that survives to become a classic. But mostly, the harder a genius works, the more their genius appears to the rest of us.

    Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and Miles Davis for example.

    Killing good music is easy to do - just go through the motions, like bands and orchestras just playing the dots. When that happens, the art has long gone and the only thing left is a soulless assemblage of notes and tunes.

    I went to see the Charlie Mingus Band at Ronnie Scott's about five years ago and they were going through the motions - they seemed bored, they weren't engaged. The lead trumpet was organising his book during the last number! Mingus' music is often fabulous; but playing like that actively prevents it being good music. The '93 band, led by Sam Burtis produced brilliance and excitement with the same numbers in Nostalgia In Time Square - totally different experience and that wasn't even live!

    I went to see John Mayall's band at my local theatre a couple of years ago - he has that very talented and able Texan (I think - is it Buddy Whittington?) guitarist. During one of his solos, he quoted the whole of the Jimmy Page solo from Heartbreaker. Note perfect to much applause. To me, it was lifeless. The original wasn't note perfect, it was raw and sweaty and to my ears, 'good music'. Page was pushing the boundaries. Standing on the shoulders of all he had learned from but made it his own to produce that and then rest of what made that band so good.

    And seeing Peter Green and the Splinter Group in the same theatre. His lead guitarist is very able and professional and Peter Green was often lost. But when he found himself, what he was doing was speaking as an original, like a poet and not producing other people's notes. Good music - to me.

    I like Verdi and Puccini - I'd mostly call that good music. To my father-in-law, those guys are 'pop music', not real, not serious.

    I like quite a lot of Berlioz, despite his reputation for theft. But that possibly because I play trombone and he's one of the few composers to give trombones something more to do than wake the audience up.
     
    Corky, Apr 17, 2008
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  20. PeteH

    Rocker

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    Music to me is all about silence and filling that silence with appropriate sounds. I was never really a lyrics person, the sound of the instruments is what does it for me. A lot of contemporary music is really down to the mixing engineer and what he/she hears. I often find myself noticing the few seconds of acoustic guitar positioned just left of the LHS speaker, the acoustic guitar that is completely different sounding to the acoustic guitar on the right side of the soundstage. And how the power of the instrument is portrayed, not as loudness but as the existence of a real musical instrument. For an example of what I am referring to, listen to 'Jack and Diane' by John Mellencamp.

    Other times I will listen to solo piano and marvel at the weight and tone of the instrument. Again it is not a loudness issue but a tonality one, combine a good instrument with a capable player and a decent tune and if the player adds his/her bit [timing, emphasis etc.] to the piece, this to me is music.
     
    Rocker, Apr 18, 2008
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