Good MusicWhat It Is and Who Gets to Decide

Good MusicWhat It Is and Who Gets to Decide

John J. Sheinbaum

Print publication date: 2019

ISBN: 9780226593241

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


Over the past two centuries Western culture has valorized a particular kind of “good” music—highly serious, magnificently unified, wondrously deep, stylistically authentic, heroically created, and strikingly original—and has marginalized music that does not live up to those ideals. These standards encompass ethical assumptions about the functions of music, concepts of authorship and creativity, and relationships among aspects of the music itself. This book explores these traditional models for valuing music. By engaging with examples such as Handel oratorios, Beethoven and Mahler symphonies, jazz improvisations, the Beatles, progressive rock, and Bruce Springsteen, Good Music argues that metaphors of perfection do justice neither to the perceived strengths nor the assumed weaknesses of the music. Instead, an alternative, transformed model of appreciation is proposed where abstract notions of virtue need not dictate our understanding. Good music can, with pride, be playful rather than serious, diverse rather than unified, engaging to both body and mind, in dialogue with manifold styles and genres, and collaborative to the core. We can widen the scope of what music we value and reconsider the conventional rituals surrounding it, while retaining the joys of making music, listening closely, and caring passionately.