What makes good music good?


Which in my book, is shorthand for ‘things that we don’t really understand’. Perhaps I should even call it ‘Magick’ which is shorthand for ‘things we don’t really understand but are still able to play with’.

For the record, those are both words I make up definitions for as needed, so don’t keep me at my word on that. Language is pliable, deal with it.

And then, a part of me says ‘is there really such a thing as good music’?

I mean. Don’t get me wrong. I love music, I feel passion with and for and at and in music. I try to wrap as much of my life in it as possible. It is often the only thing that keeps me moving.

But it’s purely subjective, right? It’s the process of enjoying the music that makes the music good, which is a collaborative thing.

I find it easier to collaborate with, say, Four Tet than Steps, but does that make one objectively better than the other? It’s arguable. For a start, Steps probably make music that more people want to take part in. Part of me wants to argue that Four Tet’s sensibility and depth makes him encourage a deeper engagement, but I can’t say that for certain.

So what makes good music good may just be a good listener.

I’m listening to In Rainbows, by Radiohead. We’ve just got to ‘Nude’. Last night I listened to the same thing, and this particular track grabbed my heart and squeezed. Right now, I can see how lovely it is, but it isn’t getting physical with me. It’s letting me get on with my work, and wrapping around me. It feels like home, but it is keeping it’s distance.

But its me that’s engaging with it. It’s me that pours into it. It’s me that lets it grab me.

Music is a combination of rhythm, melody and harmony. It’s people playing the ‘right’ things at the ‘right’ time. It’s a textural art, except the textures are stretched through time, so it’s also temporal. It’s not always great at expressing ideas, but it seems to appeal to something deeply emotional. It can be made to mean things through lyrics, choice of sound source or the story behind something, but in essence, it is this ethereal pattern.

But the magic, the stuff that makes it special, is our expectation, our understanding. Our ears work hard to pick threads through the layers of sound, guess what comes next, follow the rises and falls, play along and sing along.

Great music gives you an immense playground to do all this in. Great music has a depth that you can dive into. Great music takes you by surprise, every time you listen. Great music becomes a part of you.

And you become a part of it.

Music is something you give yourself too. It’s something you dance with, sing with, and play with. Even when you are motionless and silent.

You make music good.

Illustration by Jaime


About Alabaster Crippens

Joiner of Dots. Player of Games. Unreliable Narrator. Dancing Fool.
This entry was posted in Illustrations by Jaime, Questions by Martin. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to What makes good music good?

  1. Pingback: Awesome sounds « JAIME HUXTABLE

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