Monday, August 20, 2012

Music I hate more than the Eagles

Why do people hate the Eagles so much? Last week on Twitter I discovered that Graham Foust, Michael Robbins and Joshua Harmon avidly, vehemently hate the Eagles. Notably all these writers lived through more of the '70s than I did, so perhaps they have been forced to confront the Eagles in a more direct way than I ever have. To me, they seem so middle-of-the-road musically that they're not worth detesting; feeling strongly one way or the other feels disproportional.

But I wonder if there isn't some element of displacement, i.e. what people are really reacting to is the Eagles' fan base, rather than the music itself. Or, at least, the music wouldn't be so offensive it weren't so popular. That, I can understand; Billy Collins' poetry wouldn't be so maddening if he weren't making all the money.

Anyway, I basically don't care about the Eagles. I don't love them or hate them. I have always had a weird soft spot for Don Henley; I'll listen to "Boys of Summer" any way, any day.

Here's some stuff, musically, that I do hate, or at least find actively irritating:

Most Tom Waits. I used to just hate it all, indiscriminately, but John is a huge Tom Waits fan and went out of his way to try to find material that I might like. With exposure I have found that some of his songs are charming. He seems to have a tendency, though, to write these really textbook SONG type songs, like they just feel very standard to me. He's also inclined toward slow songs in major keys, which I irrationally dislike almost always. See:



So boring to me.

Much of Wilco. I feel like Wilco is the most overrated band of the 2000s. With a few quite likable exceptions, all their songs sound the same to me, and that sound is incredibly grating. Like this awful song I can't believe anyone would listen to on purpose:



Make it stop!

More indie-folky whatnot: Iron & Wine, Devendra Banhart, Belle & Sebastian. I mean, ugh:



I don't really care if these people have technical musical skills (I wouldn't know the difference between a pretty good and a very good guitar player). What I hate is the sensibility. This music has no edge! It's like pork chops for dinner.

Basically, I like sad songs and dance songs, that's what it comes down to.

And then there's popular stuff that I don't hate but just don't understand: Like, what is the appeal of Hall & Oates? I don't even think their songs are catchy.

76 comments:

  1. I love the Eagles. That anyone could not be moved by Timothy B. Schmidt's falsetto at the end of "Take It to the Limit" is inconceivable to me -- and just when you think he's given it his all, he comes back for one more go. It's classic 70s radio. Graham Foust, did you have a rough childhood? I'm going to have to take a look at A Mouth in California with a more jaundiced eye now.

    Take it easy,

    Dan

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    1. I am kind of a sucker for falsetto. Bono has some fabulous falsetto moments -- there's another band that a lot of people hate, right? And U2 did get intolerable over the years, but damn if those early songs don't still kick butt. "With or Without You" is absolutely my favorite song to catch on the radio (particularly while driving at night).

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    2. E, I have made a playlist of all the U2 songs I DON'T hate, and they're all the slow early ones. With or Without You, Bad, All I Want Is You, Mothers of the Disappeared... It's a short playlist.

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    3. I really like Bono's cover of "I Can't Help Falling in Love with You" -- that's one of his great falsetto moments at the end.

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  2. Yep, I love the Eagles too, in all of their MOR/AOR glory. Great singing and decent instrumental chops too. Music I hate? Green Day!

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    1. Ah! Which is worse, early Green Day or late Green Day? I vote late, though I have a certain reluctant fondness for that one acoustic song, "The Time of Your Life"...

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  3. It feels surprising to find someone who doesn't like Wilco, even though there is nothing surprising about it. With Wilco, maybe it's a sort of Nirvana-like effect, where the audience is a big part of the point. Wilco is for people who hate themselves. I don't know if that's what Tweedy was going for, but the music is not merely whiny, it's plausibly alcoholic and depressed and self-hating. I don't see why anyone who is mentally healthy would like Wilco, but for some people it captures how they feel in a way that is pretty rare in popular music.

    It goes without saying that I have no use for it.

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    1. "Wilco is for people who hate themselves" -- ha. Is that it? Certainly a lot of writers I know love them and writers tend to count self-loathing among their hobbies. I like a lot of depressing, moody music though, stuff that might fairly be called "whiny." (For example I like the first Bon Iver album very much.)

      I'm one of a handful of painfully unhip people who thinks Jay Farrar was a better songwriter than Jeff Tweedy. There's a Son Volt album that I really love, but my CD is all scratched.

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    2. Yeah, I mean, for me certainly it's about an extremely convincing, crushing depiction of self-hatred. When I am in a happy, healthy mood, there is no reason whatsoever to listen to "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot." But it's gotten some good airtime in the James household.

      I am in the same handful re Farrar v. Tweedy, probably, though it would be an easier comparison for me if "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" didn't exist. Is the Son Volt album "Trace"? I was listening to that while hating myself in Chicago in . . . 2007. I can remember it like yesterday. "Out of the Picture" is just an amazing song.

      My big wish is for Farrar (who I am guessing is an Obama supporter) and Tweedy (who I know is an Obama supporter) to reconcile long enough to, like, play a fund-raiser together or something. A certain very small subset of the population would go absolutely apeshit.

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    3. Yes, Trace! I love that album. "Windfall" and "Too Early" are so great.

      Of the Uncle Tupelo songs I know, the Farrar songs are my favorites ("Chickamauga," "Steal the Crumbs")

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    4. Those are classics, along with Farrar-written "Criminals." In my opinion, Uncle Tupelo and White Stripes are in the same league, with very little company.

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    5. This blog needs more hatred. My dream is for two lame songwriters to play a fundraiser for the fucking President? Jesus wept.

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    6. This blog's got hate to spare!

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    7. Oh yeah, I forgot about that guy that every young poet in America's heard of.

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  4. After reading these comments, I've decided there might be something to what you said about hating their fans. "That anyone could not be moved ..." Watch out for the thorns of life on yr way out of that swoon, dude.

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  5. Dan--I love the Eagles! Don Henley is awesome :)

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  6. What's wrong with Wilco? Elisa! What's wrong with you????

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    1. I find them boring and annoying! I need to take a music theory class so I can say that in a fancier-sounding way....

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    2. Don't you like "Shake It Off"? I love it.

      You can hate The Eagles BECAUSE they're so middle-of-the-road. Because they're lukewarm, neither cold nor hot, I will spew them out of my mouth. I don't care how popular they are.

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  7. Nothing wrong with alcoholic and self-hating in my book...I suppose you're probably not an Elliott Smith fan either....in any case, I'm w/ you on Iron and Wine and Devendra Banhart. Lame.

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    1. No, I like Elliot Smith. Like I said above, I'm not opposed to self-hatred. Isn't Morrissey like the poster child for self-hatred? I just don't think Jeff Tweedy writes very good songs. Personal preference!

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    2. Yeah but Morrissey loves his self-hatred, right. It's complicated!

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    3. You have to hate yourself before anyone else can hate you!

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  8. I can't stand the Eagles. Any time I've heard them in the car, nausea sets in. It's just, like, this gray area blahrock.

    I hate Steely Dan for the same reasons. Instant nausea. M thinks it's funny to torture me with "Aja" on Sunday mornings. I hate Chicago, too. And I hate Boston and I hate Kansas. And Yes. And Styx. And Rush.

    I hate the Counting Crows more than any of these bands combined.

    I hate Billy Joel more than I hate the Counting Crows.

    I like the "idea" of Tom Waits, and I really like a few of his songs that hold sentimental value for me. But I feel like once you've heard one Tom Waits song, you've heard them all. And I'm totally with you on Wilco- snoooooozeville.

    I like Devendra Banhart. I remember buying Nino Rojo when it came out. It was released the same week I went to live in England for the first time. I love his voice. He reminds me of Marc Bolan (and I love Marc Bolan). Devendra Banhart and Marc Bolan are equally self-indulgent and childlike.

    But speaking of childlike- I will never ever understand why people like Joanna Newsom.

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    1. Rush is unspeakably awful. A lot of 70s dude rock I can't abide. And I hate hate hate Billy Joel. Especially that "She's More than a Woman to Me" song -- PUKE-A-TRON!

      Boston, however, I kinda like. "More Than a Feeling"! I wouldn't kick Chicago off the radio either.

      Counting Crows is pretty terrible. That song "Round Here" is up there with Dave Matthews Band in terms of ability to make my ears bleed. There was a lot of really awful radio music in the mid-90s. Stuff that makes Matchbox 20 sound good.

      A band that I don't think came around until the 2000s, but is very '90s in its awfulness is Train. May I never hear that song about the soy latte ever fucking again....

      I also don't understand the appeal of Ani Di Franco. Again, it's just a case of feeling like her songs aren't very good.

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    2. People who hate Steely Dan shouldn't be allowed near stereos. Everyone in this whole thread just needs to read more Christgau.

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    3. I don't think I could pick a Steely Dan song out of a line-up. All I know about them is that they were supposedly named after a vibrator. Is that an urban legend?

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    4. How can you like Devendra Banhart better than Steely Dan?

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    5. I'm obnoxiously youthful, cloyingly happy, and not a little bit twee. :D

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    6. steely dan was a dildo, if memory serves

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    7. Steely Dan I, II, & III: they're in Naked Lunch.

      My favorite Steely Dan song is "Rikki Don't Lose That Number." Love the similarity to Horace Silver's "Song for My Father."

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  9. No, it's true. They were one of the smartest bands in history. I mean, John Darnielle's kind of whatever, but he's right about them: "People use words like 'mellow' when they talk about Steely Dan. People should be lined up and shot. As desperate a vision of the world as is available anywhere, knee-deep in cocaine and Jose Cuervo Gold, ironic not in our sad postmodern sense of the word but in the effusive ugly splendor that the term really implies, letter-perfect in every way."

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    1. Ugh. I always get wapped over the head with the "smartest band ever" thing when I mention I hate Steely Dan. The first guy to do that to me was a guy who messes with sound equipment for bands. The second person was my ex-husband. :-) I just can't listen to a band because they're "smart." When people say that, I imagine a bunch of dudes who look like Bill Gates sitting in a garage making muzak.

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    2. Obviously, smart means a lot of things in the context of music. They wrote great songs.

      Not that I'm about to have another ridiculous conversation with you.

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  10. Speaking of alcoholic self-hatred, irony, and desperate visions of the world -- I feel like a lot of people hear "Triangle Man" and "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" and think that They Might Be Giants are just this goofy novelty band along the lines of, I dunno, Barenaked Ladies or something. But TMBG is up there with The Smiths in terms of tragicomedy in song as far as I'm concerned.

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    1. Speaking of all those things, as well as of class markers, country music is probably the most exciting music being made these days, besides metal. I just sort of hate all indie rock. Elisa, you should do one of these annoying P4K things: http://peopleslist.pitchfork.com/list/12013033/?fb_action_ids=10152023547275333&fb_action_types=og.recommends&fb_source=aggregation&fb_aggregation_id=246965925417366

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    2. Intriguing, how does that work? Your selections are pretty eclectic. What is indie rock, anyway? Do the New Pornographers qualify? (I love them.)

      What country music is exciting? I love country music, but when I try to listen to country stations lately I hear the most ridiculous songs. It's like 40-year-old men singing stuff like "She's Had Three Margaritas, I Think I'm in Love," or "Lord Have Mercy, She's a Pink Panties Gal" or some shit like that. Like hokey as all hell.

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    3. Yeah, some indie rock I'm obviously OK w/. I hate, you know, Beach House, Dirty Projectors, all that shit. But I have friends who love them, whatever.

      I met Neko Case at the Poetry Foundation when Ange Mlinko & I were among the few invited to a private concert she gave there. We were geeked out. & I did not feel dirty for going to the private concert at the PF.

      Country music I've liked in recent years: Brad Paisley, Gary Allan, Taylor Swift obviously although she barely qualifies as country these days, the Band Perry, Miranda Lambert. On the margins, Todd Snider & Hayes Carll.

      Hokey's part of it, as it is with most popular music. And I'm 40 & I sing about pink panties gals all the time.

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    4. I recently saw the Dirty Projectors live, never having heard their recorded music before. It was a fun live show -- I can't see digging into their discography at this point though, it's a bit extensive and esoteric for me. Also a little too exuberant.

      Gary Allan? Gary Stewart? I don't know these names. I'll look 'em up. Taylor Swift is a cutie but I wish her lyrics weren't so fucking literal and explanatory sometimes. It's like she never learned the power of fill lyrics. I don't need the freaking play by play of every event in your life!! But yeah, she's like 13 so whatever.

      Anyway, thanks for the recs. Yay country! I like Alison Krauss too.

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  11. Music I hate (partial list):

    My list is in two parts.

    Part 1:

    BARRY MANILOW!

    Part 2:

    Madonna

    Katy Perry, Britney Spears, etc.

    Most of Michael Jackson

    The entire velveeta cheese brigade of bands from the 1980's: Air Supply, Journey, Boston, Sheena Easton, Barry White, Electric Light Orchestra, etc. (Some of these may not technically be 1980's, but close enough.)

    "Nobody Does It Better" by whoever the hell that was. (Cf. PUKE-A-TRON above.)

    Dolly Parton

    Adele (and the thousand clones of her that are out there, waiting).

    As a footnote, the most disappointing record I ever actually bought was something by P.J. Harvey. I can't (honestly) remember the name of it now.

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    1. Stunningly ignorant. Obviously Madonna & Michael Jackson are geniuses. And hating pop music is so completely boring & predictable. And Dolly Parton? Have you actually listened to Dolly Parton albums, like Coat of Many Colors? Jesus Christ, what it must be like to be so afraid of so much good music.

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    2. Ha ha, "velveeta cheese brigade" -- I actually listened to what was basically the velveeta cheese brigade station on Pandora this weekend at a dinner party. We wanted to hear some Air Supply for some reason.

      Hating most Michael Jackson is (smooth) criminal.

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    3. Lyle, try P.J. Harvey again--the early stuff.

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    4. I actually prefer late PJ Harvey. I know! My favorite album of hers is the super-commercial one -- Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea. Not that I dislike her early stuff, but that's the album I'd take on my road trip.

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    5. Stories is my favorite too (of the ones I've heard). Although by now I think of that as early--it came out 12 years ago!

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    6. @ MichaelRobbins: LOL. No, not stunningly ignorant. Stunningly opinionated.

      I actually would have included Madonna in the "velveeta cheese brigade" (VCB) category, but she seems to me to have ambitions in the field that more average VCB musicians don't seem to have. Something quintessential in the category. So I listed her separately. * I do like Madonna somewhat as an actor. I liked her as the seductive nightclub singer in the Dick Tracy movie. And I liked her in "A League of Their Own."

      I now and then like to listen to very early Michael Jackson (i.e. some of the old Jackson 5 stuff) -- probably a nostalgia thing, the songs were on the radio and on the lunchroom jukebox when I was in high school.

      And nope, I've never listened to any of Dolly Parton's albums. Here again -- not "afraid" of the music, just stunningly opinionated. :)

      *

      I'm still not sure if I can remember the name of the P. J. Harvey album I listened to, though one of the songs on it was "To Give You My Love," and possibly that was also the name of the album. For whatever that's worth.

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  12. Hey Michael Robbins, they’re called opinions you fucking dickrider. His shitty opinion isn’t any worse or better than your shitty opinion. “Stunningly ignorant.” “Everyone in this whole thread just needs to read more Christgau.” We all do need to go read the required literature before we like music. Well-rendered truth-bomb. EXPLOSION SUCCESS. Love ya, k?

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  13. I don't know where people pick up this weird notion that just having an opinion makes you impervious to criticism. As if some opinions weren't better informed, more well-formed, better defended than others. As for what you need to read on this topic, you might start with Plato.

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  14. A while back I found an unauthorized video by a Russian film student for my favorite Tom Waits song 'Russian Dance' that I defy anyone not to like:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ypH_fNDdKio

    The study of pop music taste as "class markers" I'm aware of is Pierre Bourdieu's Distinction, charting the function of disdain for certain musicians and their fans, with an upper class, described as "employers and professionals" avoiding pop singers "making an exception for the oldest and most consecrated singers (like Edith Piaf or Charles Trenet) or those closer to operetta and bel canto" and the middle classes which reject some pop singers to "declare a preference" for others "to dignify a 'minor' genre," as with the preference for indie or classic rock.

    In the education field, where Bourdieu, of course, works, he finds that the regular classroom practice of engaging high art with popular taste causes teachers to select out songs that "assert their own taste in the choice of singers who offer populist poetry in the primary-school tradition," and "intellectuals, artists, and higher-education teachers" are "between.. refusal.. and acceptance.. of universality.." a function perhaps related to the decision of Rothenberg and Joris to include Tom Waits' lyrics to Swordfishtrombones in the Poems for the Millenium anthology. On side two of Swordfishtrombones, I can only listen to the title song and 'Soldier's Things,' which illustrates how you can select out both great Tom Waits and unlistenable Tom Waits depending on the point you want to make.

    When we can't go to a beach bar without Spring Breakers reciting Elisa's poetry in unison, we will all wish we had undertaken to study the lyrics of The Eagles.

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    1. Distinction was hugely influential for me. I really see all taste, not just musical taste, as an elaborate system of signaling. Which is not to say it doesn't often feel real to the first person. (I certainly seem to enjoy the music I like...)

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  15. I'm curious about how conscious or deliberate this signaling is supposed to be. With my favorite music, it's clear to me that I like it purely because it sounds good to me. I just hear it and go, "I like this," the same way a sunny 72-degree day makes me go, "I like this weather." I don't like nice weather because the cool kids like nice weather, I like it because I like it, you know?

    I guess I can understand if you're cynical about other people's motivations, but it makes me scratch my head that you would have any doubt about your *own* tastes: "I certainly seem to enjoy the music I like..." Isn't "seeming to enjoy" good enough then? What more could you ask of yourself?

    So I guess my question is, what would you say is the difference between "feeling real" and "being real"? To me there's no difference. If I "feel like" I'm in love, for example, I consider that to be the same as "being" in love.

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    1. For most people it's not conscious at all. It's just that everyone tends to like the same shit as the people they hang out with, and the people they hang out with is largely determined by class (including not just tax bracket but "intellectual capital"). Some people may be conscious phonies, but that has nothing to do with the fact that the stuff most people "genuinely like" is largely determined by class.

      As for the difference between feeling real and being real, it's largely academic, but still worth pointing out. IMO. I feel the same way about free will. I don't believe we have "free will" in the sense that most people conceive of it, but we might as well be free, it's essentially a philosophic distinction.

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    2. Yeah, it's not a matter of whether you "really" like something. No doubt you do. But it just so happens that yr tastes were formed within & through class distinctions. If you'd grown up in a different situation, you might well "really" like something else. The question isn't whether you genuinely like it, it's how you got to be the person you genuinely are.

      And it's worth noting again, as Elisa did, that class for Bourdieu is much more complicated than mere economic status. I mean, I doubt any of us here are rich (I'm rather poor at the moment, please help), but it would be sort of ridiculous, with all our degrees & publications & highly developed aesthetic tastes, to claim that we belong to the dominated classes.

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    3. Well said. I like this part especially: "The question isn't whether you genuinely like it, it's how you got to be the person you genuinely are."

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    4. Also worth noting: It might be easy to assume that rich, educated people are "faking it" when they claim to like high-brow stuff like opera, but it would have to work the other way too -- blue-collar workers would be "faking it" when they claim to like, I dunno, Bruce Springsteen. I mean the point is it works at every level, not just as you move "up."

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    5. I can see how your background might influence what kind of music you're exposed to early on, but once you've been exposed, I don't see how this influence extends beyond that and carries through to determine whether you actually *like* a certain music or not, which to me really does feel involuntary. Like, okay, my parents liked to play Vivaldi's Four Seasons a lot when I was a little kid, which probably influenced me to be more interested in classical music than other kids. I get that. But as far as my actual enjoyment of Vivaldi, as opposed to a potential dislike of Vivaldi, how is that preference determined by my background? Do you see what I'm getting at? Maybe I'm misunderstanding this whole thing.

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    6. Yeah, you're missing it. It doesn't matter what you listen to as a kid. It's not about early formative experiences so much as the cultural milieu you can't escape. Or, if you do escape one milieu, you necessarily move into another one.

      Don't think about it in terms of yourself so much. Look at broad swaths of people. Surely you've noticed that cohorts tend to have pretty homogeneous tastes. The whole "stuff white people like" thing is really about class -- it's not about white people so much as yuppies. Non-white yuppies like farmer's markets and white non-yuppies don't care.

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    7. YOU are determined by yr background—really by an entire network of social relations—so of course yr ENJOYMENT is determined by yr background. At the bottom of all this is a basic insight, most succinctly formulated by Sartre as "existence precedes essence." There's not some pure "you" who would enjoy Vivaldi regardless of yr circumstances. Yr circumstances determine who "you" is. Yr preference for Vivaldi could well be involuntary, but only because social relations like class determined that it would be.

      That's the hard version anyway. I doubt everything about us is determined in such a fashion. But aesthetic taste certainly seems to be.

      Regardless, it doesn't make sense to talk about what "you" enjoy as if that were somehow separate from the social circumstances through which you learned how to enjoy things. I frankly don't understand what you think is operative when you say you "enjoy" something—is it a sui generis enjoyment, Platonic, essential? Isn't it rather that you enjoy it because you're the kind of person who enjoys such things? Doesn't it make sense that there must be some way you became the kind of person who enjoys such things? That there must be reasons, lines of development, unconscious motivations, determinations, accidents, structures that made you a certain person who enjoys Vivaldi? Enjoying Vivaldi doesn't just come out of the air, or everyone would enjoy Vivaldi. The question is, again, what is it that determines who we are, & thus what our preferences are.

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    8. Yeah, I can tell this discussion is getting way over my head. I wish I was smart enough to understand this kind of thing.

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    9. (Also I'm just frustrated that you can write a post about music and get a gajillion comments, while I write a post about music and get almost none. Oh well:)

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    10. I doubt yr smarts are the issue; rather, it's an example of the phenomenon we've been discussing: cultural capital. Elisa & I have read some of the same books, that's all. You could read 'em too.

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    11. MR, you're certainly explaining this much better than I am. The idea that there is some essential YOU that can be removed from everything else is pertinent in discussions of free will too, because people always get stuck in this way of thinking like, "But if there's no free will, how can we punish criminals?!" As though it's only criminals who don't have free will, but we, the good punishers, can step outside the system and make our own choices.

      MW, you must not NETWORK as well as me.

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    12. Sure, the only problem is, those are exactly the kind of books I'm not smart enough to read!

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    13. Or I need to get more famous. But every attempt I make to seek attention lately seems to fall flat.

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    14. Well I didn't read Distinction in my free time; I read it for a class in grad school. Putting yourself in an environment that's conducive to thinking tends to make one "smarter." Maybe you should go to grad school since you clearly need some impetus to force you to quit your job.

      But if you were interested, I think you'd find the first 100-150 pages of Distinction quite readable.

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    15. "Christina Ricci" didn't take off, huh?

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    16. Well, apart from the fact that there's no subject I want to study (in school), I could never handle grad school. I could barely handle being an undergrad English major. I broke down in tears in front of my literary theory professor when I tried to explain to her why I couldn't do a particular assignment. It was just too hard for me to think abstractly. My brain just doesn't work that way.

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    17. Not really. I was thinking of posting the link in the comments to this, but how desperate for attention do I really want to seem?

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    18. Many things you have to pretend to like for a while before you acquire a genuine taste for them. Auden talks about this is The Dyer's Hand. For a while I pretended to like Wagner--more than I really did, I mean; but I played old LPs of Tristan und Isolde and The Ring over & over and wrote a paper about Wagner for a music class, and now I really like Wagner. You become who you want to be by continually pretending to be that person. You wear a mask until it becomes your face.

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  16. The one band I hate more than any other - The Magnetic Fields. About 10 of the 69 love songs are actually good, and it went downhill from there. Songs that start with "I". Songs with distortion, songs without distortion - for the sole purpose of making a point. And don't get me started on the disaster that is their latest record. ("I'd Go Anywhere with Hugh"?!?)

    Oh, and any band that brings an author to "open" for them with a reading needs to be stopped. Sorry.

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    1. I don't actually own 69 Love Songs. Hipster card revoked! I do like the handful of songs from it that I've heard (especially "I Don't Want to Get Over You"). I don't doubt most of them are crap -- you'd almost expect it, with 69 of them and all.

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  17. MichaelRobbins, this is Dan from waaaaaay at the top of this thread. You don't know me - and how could you - but... "Watch out for the thorns of life on yr way out of that swoon, dude."??? Does one have to be Donald Fagen for you to get their sarcasm?

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  18. Also, "John Darnielle's kind of whatever"? This whole thread is kind of whatever. Rush is a great band. Steely Dan are very very good but boring as hell.

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