Jul. 10th, 2012

thetatiana: (Default)
I wonder about people who say "this sucks" about books (or movies, or music, for that matter) that decades or centuries of readers/viewers/listeners have adored and marveled at. Do they really think they're right and all those others are wrong?

I mean, I completely dislike Mozart, and think everything he wrote was utter rot. I have a great difficulty in understanding how it is that some people like him. I'm even tempted to think all his proponents are simply aping others because they wanna seem like one of the cool kids. I want to think that but I know it's not true. I do know multiple people whose musical taste I trust who really truly honestly think Mozart is great. And after all, he's one of the canon of good composers, right? Probably in the top five of all time by most people's reckoning.

So whatever is going on when I listen to Mozart is at least partly my fault and my loss. I know that. I mean, it's happened to me in the past quite a few times that some artist to whom I once felt indifference or even active dislike suddenly clicks for me and I love, love, love, him/her/them.

When Dad started playing Maurice Ravel on piano, those odd dissonant notes struck me as ugly and unpleasant. I used to kid him about liking Ravel because he was *romantic* (said with that peculiar wavery tone that denotes kid-taunting). Dad was very sensitive about his machoness, so I knew that would really sting. But no, he was also supremely confident in his musical taste. If he liked it, it was good. (c.f. Count Basie, "If it sounds good, it is good.") And I'm the same. So he blithely continued playing that weird and unpleasant Ravel until the day came that I found that oh my gosh I loved it. I couldn't get enough. The odd out-of-tune notes were suddenly just exactly right, had just the amazing piquancy and grace that satisfied me deep in my gut.

I started requesting it all the time, and Dad, who never did honor requests, mostly quit playing it, hah. So I ate my words. Never taunt others about their taste, boys and girls, for you never know when someone you hate, someone you always thought was an utter lightweight and unworthy of your time, might turn out to grab you by the ears or eyeballs and take you for a long, passionate ride.

This had happened to me about different bands during my life, too. Led Zeppelin used to drive me nuts, it was played so much, ugh. Then I happened to see a documentary The Song Remains the Same on MTV and I started really listening to Jimmy Page play guitar and suddenly instead of gritting my teeth and bearing it when my brother played them, I actually began to love them. Same thing happened with Jimi Hendrix. When I started seriously trying to play guitar myself is when I first noticed the utter ease with which his fingers tossed off those beautiful, exquisite riffs from his iconic Stratocaster.

This also happened with different composers: Stravinsky, Bach, I can't think who else. It turned out, actually, that most anything I liked at first listen wouldn't last very long. It was like too much icing and not enough cake, or else too many potatoes and not enough meat, which is the phrase Dad (who was an extremely good musician) used to describe Wagner (to whom both of us feel indifference). The stuff it took me a while to get was actually much better and I liked it far longer, in almost every case.

Okay so now that I've gotten to my main point, I fear I've already damned myself already by contradicting it. But my question is this. Why, when some people find they dislike someone, like Tolkien or Shakespeare, whom gazillions of other people have loved for decades or centuries, who has the greatest reputation long term for doing excellent delicious work, do they state it as though the artist is simply bad, period? Why can they not see how ignorant that makes them sound?

And then they have the temerity to try and back it up with arguments: his prose is stilted (no, his people are speaking as befits epic heroes), his jokes utterly suck (okay, that's true -- but beside the point). They act like the fault is not in them but in the work itself. I mean, sure, they're entitled to their opinions, but there should be at least some inkling that their opinions represent their ignorance more than the true worth of the work in question, shouldn't there? How is it people can feel perfectly confident saying something like, "Oh that Shakespeare sucks. He's just a bunch of cliches!"? I never can get that. Please reply.

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