I sure have some stuff that I can’t stand. Mostly anything that can be described as “prog” or “avant garde,” and anything that has been subjected to Autotune or Beat Detective. But honestly, so what? And I don’t care what you hate, either.
I don’t hate Justin Bieber. If he’s willing to do the work, and people are paying money to enjoy his stuff, go him. Go them. It’s not like he’s exerting pressure on me to change what I do, or getting in the way between me and my instrument(s). He’s doing what he likes, and I really do think that a lot of the hate energy directed to him is misdirected energy meant to be directed to the pre-teen girls who like him. We really do like in a culture that hates young girls. Hates. Anything they love is instantly worthless and deserving of violent death. Plenty of insecure women also chime in on this as a means of demonstrating to men how very unlike that they are. It’s insane. If boys can have their porno bimbos to wank off to, girls can swoon over Justin Bieber. He’s completely harmless, and people have fun at his concerts. (How soon we forget that the Beatles began their musical existence as a desperately cute which-one-is-your-favorite boy band.)
I don’t hate him. I don’t sneer at any mention of his name as a means of gaining cred with anyone. I don’t hate Yanni. I don’t hate Kenny G. I don’t hate André Rieu. I don’t hate Lang Lang. I don’t hate … oh Christ, whoever else is in that category of performer. I really, simply don’t.
I don’t seek to gain cred from hating the right musicians. I can’t stomach the idea of making judgmental snobs nod approvingly at me by badmouthing the right people, with particular viciousness extended to anyone liked by pre-teen girls.
I think it’s sick. I think it’s psychologically disturbing. I think it speaks to something frighteningly Roman-Polanski-like about the person who says it, male or female. Say it to me, and I see illness behind your eyes.
I don’t care who you hate. Just play. Play your instrument and let me hear what you have to say, and I’ll decide what I think of you.
I still recall a few weird snob conversations I’ve had with people — one was really offensive — where the first thing out of the other people’s mouths was, “You know, the kind of people I have no respect for are … ” followed by some bullshit opinion. Who the hell starts a conversation about music, about anything, like that? Who in their right mind thinks that is a valid way to open a conversation about what may be one of the most profound and moving of all human creations? “Before we get started, I will establish myself as an übermensch by making sure I list all the people I think are less than human. You will then of course establish yourself as one of the Right Sort by agreeing with me, right? Because you crave my approval? That’s the script, right?”
Go to hell.
I’ve marked this post with the tag “classical culture,” but it really could be anything. Most snob cultures suffer from this, especially snob cultures that are fundamentally based on ability, as music is. If you haven’t the necessary ability to gain status in the community, you generally turn to the second-best form of gaining status: despising the right things. Often, these people are the last ones to actually play an instrument, because they are so caught up with being seen as cool and having high status that they are unwilling to take the risks one must take to learn an instrument: to screw up where other people can witness it. To be publicly incompetent. To sound like shit, and in front of people!
This is why people who actually do things are often softer in their judgments. Loudly despising the wrong sort where one is sure to be overheard by the right sort is a mark of the insecure sixth-rate amateur.
I found a comment on a hockey board a while back that struck me from its similarity to this whole situation, made by someone who played the game as a hobby:
“Being a hockey fan for over 45 years (used to go to Rambler games, came home from Vietnam to discover we had an NHL team, bought two season tickets, held them for 10 years, but had to give them up […]) I finally decided I wanted to play hockey.
First I had to learn to skate. Then I had to learn to skate backwards. Then there was keeping the puck on my stick for more than a nanosecond, and then making and receiving passes. At each stage my admiration for pro players grew exponentially. I found myself becoming truly annoyed at the drunk in row B who was constantly castigating the players for what he termed “stupid plays”.
For me, opening a conversation with, “These are the people I have no respect for” translates as, “Hello, I’m the drunk in row B.”
Also, remember what I said above — that I tend to dislike prog and avant garde? Guess who two of my favorite musicians are? Jeff Schmidt (totally prog; his time signatures are practically irrational numbers) and Zoë Keating (the “avant cellist,” remember?). Dunno of any autotuned pop crap that I’ve liked, but I’m sure one song is out there someplace. (ETA: There’s that Cher album that came out a while back. Catchy kitsch, and a fun bunch of songs. I’ve got the album, and it pretty much ushered in the era of autotune, although the album never tried to hide the fact that it featured autotune.) Generalizations are worth nothing.