Could somebody please explain

I know what the dictionary says that it means, but here's the problem....every so often - increasingly frequently because people are starting to know that I am into audio and even more into music - some aquaintance (ie., colleague, co-worker, friend of a friend, etc.) will hand me a CD and say something like: You have to listen to this disk, it's got heavy jazz/classical/latin/blues (pick one..or two) influences but it's hard to pin down just what it really is. It's very eclectic."

Invariably the disk is crap.

The disk is usually generously given to me by an individual who wouldn't know a pianissimo from a pinada, and I am left to wonder just what is meant by the "eclectic" designation. Here are some of the possible meanings under consideration:

1. I don't understand even a fragment of what is going on here musically, so this disk must be really good.

2. I paid good money for this thing and I hate it, so I'll try and pass it off on someone else and call it eclectic.

3. It sounds like world music, and world music is eclectic (the "peace, love, dope" approach).

4. It's eclectic and I like it, so if you don't, you're an idiot.

5. Since I listen to eclectic music you have to think that I am intelligent.

I often wonder what response I would recieive if I merely returned the disk and said" It's not eclectic, it's sh**. Stop worrying about it and go listen to some music you like."

Any thoughts?
Maybe it sounds different from genres they can easily identify, and seems to incorporate more than one of them, so they hang the "eclectic" label on it.

Maybe it's music they genuinely like.

Maybe you're an awful snob.
Say thank you, and give him one of your "eclectic" disc's, proclaim its greatness, and send him on his way telling him he may not understand it now, but with repeated hearing he will ultimately come to understand it, as you do. Then smile a whole lot as you enjoy your joke and as you wait for him to feed back to you someday about how great he has found it. When that occurs you will have arrived!
I suggest Victoria Jackson: Ukelele Lady as the first title to try out Newbee's suggestion with. ;-)
I agree with Dubin...on the labeling part, not the snob. I think it just gets grouped in a genre unknowingly. To me I have always felt that eclectic was another word for "new age" without any further implications, I guess to keep from association with some religious cult. I think the genre labeling today is gotten more confusing with radio stations playing C&W and claiming to be a "rock" station and so on.
But it sounds like you and your friend have different tastes in music and he compliments you by seeking your opinion. Maybe he wants to bolster his opinion with someones opinion that he values. AKA flattery
You could just take for what it seems to be. Your friend is giving you music to listen to and wants your opinion. Since you are in doubt you could just assume this person is both sincere and generous. After all, what really is your opinion on music worth? If you really see that this music is crap and feel the need to help this person see the light, why not just return the favor? Give your friend some of the music you prize as being the real thing. Tell them why you like it. Ask them to hear what you hear.That would allow you to take your criticism to a constructive place- get your point across without degrading this persons intentions. Also, if the person is really fishing for validation and direction from you- and given you have a sense of what it is they are trying to get to ( music that seems intelligent may indicate they would like to develop an ear for what is generally approved of as being intelligent), you have the opportunity to help them to this end. That is trust.

Thanks for the responses, both enjoyable and informative - and quite honestly a spin that I had never considered. Wellfed, I already had a disk in mind for Newbee's approach - Stereolab's "Emporer King
Ketchup"; I think my definition(s) of eclectic describe it nicely. Drubin - I doubt you'd consider me a snob but your reminder is well advised. Timf - a wise and well thought out response; I will certainly try your approach.
Oops, sorry Theo - didn't mean to forget you. Another interesting slant to consider. Thanks again guys!
Musical taste is so varied and personal. I love Bartok but I know that most of the time it will clear the room. A member of our audio club loves Free Jazz but knows from experience that one cut is enough when we all get together. My eighteen-year-old daughter plays popular tunes that sound to me like musical suicide notes.

It's all eclectic to someone.
Bartok will clear the room? Play Schoenberg in the other room, then.

In all seriousness, I've been listening to Bartok for so long that I forgot that many still consider him to be "one of those modern composers. Yuk." IMHO, he stands with Stravinsky as the two greatest composers of the 20th century.

Listen with an open mind. Try to like it, but don't go out of your way. There's not enough time and too much stuff that really IS good.

Well, Bartok wouldn't clear me out of the room :) I really do try to keep an open mind, and I also enjoy the opportunity to listen to new material.What I don't like is the expectation from the individual giving me the disk that I am obligated to like the music on the disk.

From reading the original post, I realize the the situation I am trying to describe is difficult to understand (and perhaps vaguely explained ???), but rest assured:

1. I do like listening to new music.
2. I do like sharing music and talking about music with others.
3. I am not trying to establish moral superiority by dumping on others people's opinions of music.
4. I do realize that what floats my boat may sink somboby else's.

I would simply be more comfortable when being offered a disk if the offer was made like so:

"Why don't you try this and see what you think?"

As opposed to:

"You will love this, it's eclectic."

By the definition of eclectic, if I don't like the music, then I do not understand what the best elements or best practices of the music are, which of course is a load of hogwash. And I restate - every time I listen to a disk labelled eclectic, it sucks.

As you say Tfkaudio, so much really good music, so little time.
AFAIK, eclectic just means unusual or difficult to catagorize. Lots of artists are eclectic; right now Im listening to Eddie From Ohio, filed under Pop/Rock at Borders, but I've heard folk, pop, Spirtual, and bluegrass so far this am on this one disk. Another perhaps would be Eva Cassady, moving from jazz to R&B to folk to gospel to blues.
I always's thought Frank Zappa was 'eclectic'. Perhaps 'eclectic' it is just 'genius' in disguise...
The Smokester: If Bartok clears your friends out of the room, it might be time to seek some more sophisticated listening buddies!
To the Bartok lovers that responded here: Anyone live in the SF Bay area? Want to have a Bartok fest? Bring over your best vinyl for a spin? Drop me an email.
The_smokester: I live in Berkeley! I'm out of the country until July 1 though. are what you is...

Frank wasn't ecletic..he by-passed eclectic and went straight to genius. I saw him in concert five times when I was a younger man. While I don't listen to him anywhere near as much as I used to, I didn't doubt then, & still don't doubt today that 200-300 years from now his music will still be around..just as Mozart, today. I once dated (and married...and divorced...:-) a classical pianist who had never heard of Frank or his music...basically her entire "music world" consisted of only classical styles. She heard one of Frank's CDs I was playing way back when and said..."wow...this guy's music is amazing..."

In tune with this thread...if you want an "ecletic" spin on Frank try the Omnibus Wind Ensemble's "Music by Frank Zappa" CD on the Opus 3 label:

Frank - Now THAT might actually be eclectic!
When i used to live in an apartment, most every one of my neighbors had commented to me "you sure do listen to some strange music" or something similar. As such, i must be a big fan of "eclictic" music. That is, compared to what most others listen to. Maybe that's part of why i am the way that i am : ) Sean

PS... Here's a review of one of my favourite "eclectic" performers that sometimes changes styles quite drastically. Since it is only one guy, i have a hard time calling them a "band". This is true even though he has 19 different albums and countless other recordings to his credit.

"If only the countless lesser talents who trail in the great man's wake had this much imagination; sounds with this much evocative power and atmospheric intelligence are woefully few and far between.” – Kerrang, 2003.