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In one phrase: "Listen and let listen." This book is a great meditation about variety of tastes and tolerance for the taste of others. I find it greatIn one phrase: "Listen and let listen." This book is a great meditation about variety of tastes and tolerance for the taste of others. I find it great that music "experts" are reminded they should be more tolerant with "lay" people's tastes. After all, the pop music buffs were the first to emancipate themselves from the high-handed judgmentalism of classical music experts. You can't first claim that you have the right to love pop because you can't argue about tastes and then turn on people who love Céline Dion (or Italo pop, or Schlager, you name it) because that's bad taste. After all, these people do not want to listen to art, they want to have fun. It may be the case that people who like this music tend to be more socially conservative, less open to change, but (1) if at all true, this shouldn't make anybody pass a high-handed wholesale condemnation over this group; and (2) is it better to like punk and be all protest and destruction? Both takes are one-dimensional, and it seems that a balance of musical tastes and world views is better than the extremes.
And while you shouldn't make fun of the listeners, you should als be careful about judging the musicians: don't blame the entertainers for not being "artists," that's just not their goal. What's more, many musicians do serve both purposes, with different works: Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Aerosmith all had their fair share of schmaltz in their careers. And that's also true for listeners. As Wilson points out, we all just want to have fun sometimes, we all have "guilty pleasures." Why the guilt? It's ok to not always over-analyze what you are hearing. We're multidimensional beings with different moods at different times of our lives, requiring different soundtracks. And some more ambitious works are just not fun or emotional enough sometimes to do the job.
That said, I think it's ok to say that some works do more than just entertain. And for these works, there is reason to talk about value, mastery, sophistication, art, meaning. Some works make you think, question, some are edifying, some can make you a better person, if you let them. While it's true that some of the worst Nazi henchmen listened to Beethoven, it's also true that many successful social programs for children employ the power of classical music, like El Sistema or YOSAL.
Wilson claims that we are entering a "post-taste" era. I'm not so sure. People will always find some way to discriminate, be it music, clothes, manners, movies, you name it. "Tastism" is here to stay, and it should be put in the same drawer as racism, sexism, ageism, and all the other ugly sides of humanity. This book reminds us that we need to fight these urges in ourselves, and call out when we see them in others. This edition of the book also includes some contributions by other writers, which are of very mixed quality. While I particularly liked the essays by Nick Hornby and Mary Gaitskill, I found that Novoselic's, Franco's and Powers' pieces were misplaced and not related at all to Wilson's book and just served the contributors to showcase themselves....more