what is the difference between good and bad music

my friend says rap is bad music. another friend says mahler is a terrible composer.

is it all subjective, i.e., a matter of opinion ? or are there standards which can distinguish good from bad music, however one defines these terms ?

if there are standards, can one specify them or refer me to a source ?
Good music sounds good, bad music sounds bad.

I hope that clears things up.:-)
Well, one friend is right and the other is wrong.
You mean bad as in whack, or bad as in phat. 'Cause bad rap music could be phat, or it could be whack.

Feel me?
I like good music. I don't like bad music.
When I was in the USAF back in 73 I remember argueing the merits of rock vs country music with a co-worker from Texas. After a few discussions that went nowhere he said in his Texas drawl, "if don't say anything about my music, I won't say anything about that shit you listen to." That about sums it up for me.
"Wine, women and song" is an expression that goes well together and, to me, beauty is in the senses of the beholder. Can you really set rules for greatness in any of these categories which are not, in the end, subjective? After all, each is entirely too complex to be absolutely defined or measured.
Beauty is truly in the eye (or ear) of the beholder. What moves your heart? I enjoy everything from Miles to The Pixies from Delibes to The Beastie Boys. It runs the gamut at our house. Enjoy!
I could send you the list of my music collection - it's pretty definitive as to what is good music. Some people disagree with me, but they're just idiots.
Good music moves the soul and engages the mind. Bad music is annoying, or worse, unimportant to the listener--just as hate is not the opposite of love, indifference is the opposite of 'like' or acceptance in this context.
Think Mozart's work,and though completely disparate, Nat King Cole, Cannonball Adderly, Nancy Wilson, Mundel Lowe, Ella Fitzgerald, Dean, when serious, and now, a current favorite of mine Michael Buble, who is not only talented but a great showman to be so young.
Better recordings don't hurt our impressions of what we perceive to be 'good or bad'.
Music is art--Monet is brilliant if you love deep rich colors--some of the Dutch if you like perceived photo like clarity of some of their facial works, (now, though debatably, done with mirrors and 'tracing'. But who cares, it's marvelous to me.
The beholder can be vastly overrated when it comes to relative taste. But the audience makes these decisions with their money. IMHO

I could send you the list of my music collection - it's pretty definitive as to what is good music. Some people disagree with me, but they're just idiots.

That made me burst out in laughter, thanks.
Your ears.
Good/bad music has both a subjective and an objective benchmark.

From a subjective point of view, if the music connects with you, it is good. What somebody else thinks is totally irrelevant. As my favourite audiophile company says; "If it sounds good, it is".

From an objective point of view, there is definitely good and bad music. This is the type of thing you study in a formal music school. Composition is but one example. There would certainly be standards against which Mahler's compositions could be judged. However, even here there is room for interpretation, disagreement and debate. Standards change with time. That's why music history consists of distinct eras. Poor composition according to the standard of one era could in fact be the emergence of a new standard, or it could be the poor implementation of an existing standard. There are certainly standards against which you friend's opinion of Mahler can be benchmarked. It is also possible that your friend is simply giving his subjective opinion, and then trying to give it greater legitimacy by cloaking it with reference to an objective standard, i.e. musical composition and its associated theory.

I am sure that Beethoven is probably "good" and the Sex Pistols are probably "bad" having reference to objective standards. From a subjective point of view, it's your own preference as to which is "good" and which is "bad" and nobody call tell you otherwise.
Good music is every CD in our collection. Bad music is what my parents think of it.
I like some of lrsky's ideas, agree good music should reflect who we are, somehow is connected to our soul. But of course we all have different degrees in soul, roughly said. ..."bad music is annoying" Agree, what we claim as bad grates on our nerves. Though I'm strictly a classical listener, with some world folk interest (as is everyone here I'm sure), there are quite a few classical composers that I don't like and a few that I can't stand. As Lrsky said, its not a matter of hate, its that I'm totally indifferent, and hope never to hear a note from several on my strong dislike list.
We should all decide for ourselves what we are attracted to, that in some way relate us to the world we live in, conects us to something greater than ourselves. My 25 fav classical composers do that. Mozart is one. And I am not sure what Lrsky is saying about Mozart..."Think Mozart's work, and though completely disparate..." What are you saying?
Now among my 25 fav, Beethoven is not at all represented. The 4th sym, only via Bruno Walter is OK, but have no intentions of listening to it. The 3 overtures are also OK, but not in my cd collection. . Mahler is also another I have no interest at all.
I get my Mahler via Shostakovich and Schonberg's early works. In that respect I acknowledge Mahler. But as to his works, I'll pass , no thanks.
At the moment I am suggesting simular ideas over at Gramophone's classical forum. ..That is, should we blindly accept historical traditions, or is it better to first know the composers of the 20th century, after which we can decide which historical composers are meaningful to us. There's hardly anything in the 19th century classical that I find of interest.
"the beholder can be vastly over-rated.....the audience"...is the most important element.
Well that may have been true before the dawn of recorded medium, records, now cds. But I'm afraid its the individual that rules. What the group has established in a historical time reference, is now not so important. We now have a choice to hear at home what we want, and are not limited to the concert hall's offerings, as our previous generations were.
Its the individual that is of of highest importance. The group consciousness will always lag in development. They are the last to "get it".
Now as to modern pop culture, I discovered at least one song i love, heard it on KLSU radio here in Baton Rouge last week, purely luck. It was a Indie music type group here from BR, called Blessed Yes, a song called Trace, a real smash hit (60's brit expression).
btw the group lost in the MTVU's(MTV university) contest this week against 20 other college bands. The winner was obviously from california, student population capital of the US, and got the more votes. I heard a few songs from the winning group. Dull stuff. . Hated it....IMHO the wrong band got the win....and so it goes. The majority rules. I'm afraid.
it would seem that good music is anything i like and bad music is anything i don't like.

what if i change my mind ? the music hasn't changed only my attitude towards it.

it would seem that, intrinsically, there is no good or bad music, because one man's preference may be distasteful to another.

one could generalize to art, movies, books, wine, food--the aesthetic arts.

if there are no standards than one should be tolerant to all music and respectful of others opinions even if personally disliking the selections of others.
Mrtennis, if all you heard since childhood is "BEETHOVEN IS GREAT" a thousnad X's. You really don't know if this is true or not, until FIRST you are old enough/experienced from hearing many other composers.
What age that is, depends on the individual. I knew from eraly days of classical transition, from R7R, that I had not much interest in Beethoven. Yet he sure was talked about quite alot. Still is in 2006.
Many of those Beethoven fans have not heard a note of some of my favorite late 20th century composers.
I'm tolerant of Beethoven, just not all the hype haloed around his shrine, by those with very limited experience in classical music.
This is what I find disturbing. Like everything now a days, sharp lines of division are being drawn. Now that i got a few issues off my chest, I can try to be more tolerant towards fans of certain composers. But then again free speech of ones opinions should also not be sensored.
Don't follow the crowd, say what you really feel.
I don't consider myself particularly well informed about classical music, sometimes mistaking one composer for another (or unable to identify) when I hear a piece. What I do have is a passion for all kinds of music, old and new.

My listening tastes run from old pop such as the Everly Brothers, Ray Charles, Booker T & MG's, Elvis, Bobby Darin, Les Paul and Mary Ford, Nat King Cole and countless others. I like to rock with the Doors, Beatles, Peter Green, Jimi Hendrix, Early Fleetwood Mac, Led Zep, Stones, Dylan, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Elvis Costello, Roger Waters, Robert Fripp, and countless others.

Vocals by Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, June Christy, Rosemary Clooney, Helen Humes, Nancy Wilson, Anita O'day, Carmen McRae, Mahalia Jackson, Della Reese, Peggy Lee, Jeri Adams, Polly Bergen and Dakota Station.

Male vocals like Peter Himmelman, Tom Waits and Daniel Lanois. Country by Emmylou Harris, Patsy Cline and Hank Williams. 80's pop by XTC, Dead Can Dance and Cocteau Twins. I absolutely love Bjork and Radiohead. Have lots of Nirvana, Neil Young, CSN&Y, Eric Clapton, James Brown, Jimmy Reed, Elmer Snowden, Etta James, Stevie Wonder and Al Green.

I have a whole section of jazz and blues including hundreds of the Fantasy titles (Contemporary, Pablo, Galaxy, Prestige). Dozens of Mosaic box sets, including Miles Davis, Don Cherry, Ike Quebec, Bill Evans, Lightning Hopkins and too many others to list.

I have a nice Jazz collection from Concord (California), and shelves of ECM, Impulse, Blue Note, Roulette, A&M Horizon and a mass of Capital, Columbia, RCA and other popular labels. For those who are familiar with Jazz artists on these labels, you know how varied the sound is. All but the last mentioned (Capital, Columbia and RCA) tend to have a "house" sound and artists that are associated with that sound, especially Blue Note and ECM.

I have dozens of classical titles on London, Decca and the RCA shaded dogs. I have a few DG and Mercury as well.

I have a section dedicated to classical female vocals, including Frederica von Stade, Cecilia Bartoli, Dawn Upshaw, Kathy Battle and Mady Mesple.

I also listen to Eminem, The Streets, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Coldplay, Yello, The Shins, The Eels and The Postal Service.

I have a section of movie sound tracks, Broadway plays, spoken word and such. I have some old country from folks like Faron Youg and Roy Acuff and modern bluegrass such as Alison Krauss and Martina McBride and all of the incredible releases by Johnny Cash on American Recordings.

I have several pieces of electronic music by Karlheinz Stockhausen, Laurie Anderson, Phillip Glass, Jan Jelinek and the Nascent french jazz movement by artists such as Michel Portal, Barre Phillips and others.

I am constantly in search of music. As far as I'm concerned, for every piece of new music I find, buy and learn to love, the value of my life and my music system increases.
To borrow from a famous dog trainer: "There is no bad music only bad listeners."
All music is good, until purchased....if you know more than 3 people who own the same cd, it can't be any good. for vinyl, I believe the number is 2.....with the declining sales in the music industry, it is projected that these respective 'is music good? #'s' will be down to 2 and 1.........hope this clears everything up
Rap may be good, but is it music?
Does anybody besides me wish that I could be Albertporter when I grow up?
I am with PCS about being like Albertporter when I grow up. Awesome collection of artists that makes me want to check out the ones in your list that I am not familiar with.
the changeability of personal taste is fascinating: how many times have we pulled out a piece of music we used to love/not love, only to find that our feeling about it has flipped 180 degrees? it makes selling 'unwanted' CDs/LPs a risky proposition indeed...

another interesting note on this subject: some musical instruments (stringed especially) are just naturally louder and have better timbre when they are tuned properly. now how do you explain that? are there preexisting C#s in the universe?

albert: if you are open to Stockhausen, you might try to get your hands on Kim Cascone's 'Blue Cube' or 'Cathode Flower' - very cool computer-generated music by an associate of Angelo Badalamenti (Twin Peaks) or Jon Wall's 'Fractuur' or 'Alterstill' - music constructed of samples of 20th century composers (which doesn't sound sampled at all; it sounds composed and seamless)
Any Psychiatrist would say that what we percieve should be percieved by the vast majority of others for it to be true. This is called the reality check.
Therefore by definition Pop music is good and everything on the fringe of lunacy in terms of preference. I think that the current generation of popular music is mostly unlistenable so I am clearly unable to discern good music from bad, I listen to what makes me happy, even classical which no one listens to anymore (except a few of philes).
Rap is kinda like some sort of coded message that only a few can understand what all the lingo means. I guess they believe rap helps them to understand what the heck is going on in their world, helps that crowd to deal with current issues.
As does classical help me to deal with issues surrounding my life.
Over at gramophone I posted a topic last week: "how much of all classical music do you like?" I figured there are over 5000+ composers in the past 300 yrs, most of which do not have their scores in recorded mediums. Tulane has (had I should say, as I think flood waters from katrina flooded the basement of the library, where the music room is), the book was a encylopedia of sorts , composers past 300 yers.
I have 25 composers represented on my shelf, and have come pretty much an end of cd buying. I have found all the composers I think are interesting.
So thats only 25 composers out of a possible 100 majors, and another 200+ second tier, and then another 4K marginal composers. Thats like 1% of all classical represented on my shelf. I expect little additions, as I've completed my cd collection in classical just last month.
Some of the gramophone group didn't quite like my post.
Good to me means does the music/composer add any meaning to my life.
Not to say Brahms is bad music, just insignificant for me. Thus Brahms gets no shelf space.
How is this an insult to classical tradition?
Have I tarnished the Brahms image?
I got the feeling some european forum members wre a bit upset that an old european standard was under criticism.
As though I failed to pay proper respects to The Classical Tradition Shrines.
It's a little something called "soul."
The same was asked of Berlioz and Stravinsky.
Bartokfan, your preferences seem to match mine as far as mine go. That's not very far, so I am asking if you would care to name your 25 composers.
Tobias I 'll give a few of my top say, 10 favs. As the list after 10 represents not so much fav composers, as a few fav workd from the composer. IOW I only like a select few of Wagner's operas, Parsifal, Tristan And isolde, The Ring...and then even with those operas, only a very select few recordings. Can you see how this could lead to trouble among fervent classicphiles, and especially among Wagner fans. "you mean you don't like his opera, Flying Dutchman??? But WHY?" One should always have to explain.
Among all clasical composers of the past 300 yrs, i start at Vivaldi, though Corelli is of interest, there are few avaliable recordings, and the one to get is OOP. Should first mention, Folk music from the middleages , is pretty interesting at times. Thomas Tallis, but the recordings I like are OOP. I like a few from Bach, but not the dull Brandenburgs, way too conservative for me. , next is one mass from Haydn. Then I go to Mozart, most everything he wrote has interest ranging from some interest to profound. Then I go to Wagner;s 3 operas mention above. Wagner, the first modern composer. A few works from Grieg,, and a few operas from janacek, several of his works for chorus/orch.. Debussy a major fav, the next most important modern composer, after Wagner. Almost all of Ravel, a super favorite for me. Early Sibelius, pre 1905/sym #1 is OK. Syms 2-7 are of no interest to me.Moving onto Varese, most of second Viennese school, Schonberg, Berg, Webern. Richard Strauu has some excellent operas, select few, select few recordings. Karl Hartmann has some interesting syms. Shostakovich, most of his works. Almost all of Prokofiev. Almost all of Bartok. Some of Charles Ives works. Almost all of Vaughan Williams, select reccordings. Elliot carter, almost everything he wrote. I still have a fondness for some Rachmaninov. I see i missed Rodrigo's concerto's for guitar, select recording. I love Albeniz and also Granados solo piano.
Something from Chopin once in awhile, but not often.
Mussorgsky wrote a great first half in Boris, his Pictures at an Exhibition, with Ravel's orchestration ONLY, and only 1 or 2 recordings. The solo piano version is a bit weak.
Comming to the end of the 20th century, 2 very special composers for me are Allan Pettersson and Alfred Schnittke. btw Schnittke is equally important in music a sare his thoughts and ideas in the book, A Schnittke Reader, edited, interviewed by his close friend, Ivashkin.
I guess the foremention represent less than 1% of the major classical of the past 300 yrs. I'm not complaining. We all come from different backgrounds, and so our uniqueness will show through in our choices. As someone just wrote above, others too, its all about soul.>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
btw please ck out a new Indie music group, a local group from Baton Rouge/LSU. Blessed Yes. Go to their web site and myspace site to hear their SMASH HIT (my choice of clurse) called Trace. This to me has soul. btw Blessed Yes did not win the MTV University contest. Which is another story.
After you hear Trace, post a note on my topic Blessed Yes. Be honest, if you don't like it, tell me so, if it needs work, tell me that also. I hear the few rought spots. But remember they are only 1 yr band.
I give up, I don't know.
All music is "bad". I only listen to test tones. Music is just too unpredictable to really enjoy testing wires with. I just can't understand you guys who purport to be audiophiles wasting your time on music.
Well said Unsound!
Does society have the ears, the capacity to know just what is good/bad music?
Look at how long before Vincent Van Gogh was recognized as a ture genius of high art form.
I witness this same phenomenon in classical music. Some 20th century composers still have yet to be recognized for the superior genius they are.
It will take another 25 yrs+ to bring these composers to acknowledgment.
High genius is always far ahead of the slow poke masses.
Sorry, I was unclear.
Completely disparate, meaning totally different--let's face it, rarely are people talking about Mozart and Cannonball Adderley in the same sentence.
My tastes in 'good music' are so ecclectic.

Hope that clears it some.
Good Thread, and fun to see such a response.

Its amazing how many of you guys seem to actually listen to music and care whether or not its "good or bad". Hell, I thought this hobby was all about listening to trains, planes, and cannon shots.

Maybe, for the more advanced musicphiles amoungt us we need a modern 1812 Overture with Napoleon leaving Russia on a train as jets roar overhead and the Russians are firing their cannons at him!. Go figure - Music (for the masses). I'm amazed! We might even get it on multi-channel DVD so even if you're deaf you can get the picture and feel the vibrations.

Reminds me of Professor Johnson's old LP "Amazing Sound Show" (or something like that). They captured an African drumming group beating up a storm. Absolutely loved it!! Drove the wife and kids out of the house! Ask them about bad 'music'. :-)
Lrsky, there is one composer in "classical form"(outdated term, as each composer is very different) that strikes me as one that many of you R&R/blues, maybe even jazz fans may find interesting. Alfred Schnittke. I'm not saying you will like his music, nut it surely is quite unique among all the composers of the 20th century. I have almost everything he wrote and would be difficult to put any of his works in a order of favs.
I guess if I could recommend one, it would be his Concerto Grosso4/Sym5. The work goes by that title, as it is at the same time, a concerto grossso and a sym. Jarvi/Gothenburg/BIS. It was my intro to Schnittke one night at Tulane's ML, 1 month before Katrina hit, After settling in Baton Rouge I made an all out effort to collect all Schnittke. Have not been dissapointed.
Maybe when some of you are ready to make atransition into classical, that might be a good place to start.
I also love Allan Pettersson quite alot. Syms 2-11,13-15.
Both late 20th century.
If you don't care for Schinntke's CG 4 and Pettersson's sym 7, there is no need to go further into either composer.
But don;t toss the cds , wait another 5 or so yrs and try em again. Maybe something will click.
I left R&R late 70's.
The classical music forum is going through some ever needed changes, however some are violently resisting these changes, in hopes of maintaining The Institution.
Now that my system sounds better than ever, I listen to all kinds of "bad music" and love it! Perhaps all music is good if you allow yourself to get connected and hear it right, but then again...
hi bartokfan:

one does not know anything. one hears music and experiences it as good or bad. knowledge has nothing to do with it.

the assessment of genius is slo subjective. there are no standards of quality only opinion.

if a standard is devised, another standard will compete with it and there will always bedisagreement among serious listeners as to what good and bad is.

i believe the question of quality applies to evrything--art, wine, food, books, movies etc.

its all subjective if you like it its good, if you don't its bad.

it's a philosophical argument with no conclusion.

knowledge is based upon deduction from principles, axioms and definitions, it follows from a premise.

with respect to music, there are no premises as there are in mathematics, only opinions.

Albert: if you are open to Stockhausen, you might try to get your hands on Kim Cascone's 'Blue Cube' or 'Cathode Flower' - very cool computer-generated music by an associate of Angelo Badalamenti (Twin Peaks) or Jon Wall's 'Fractuur' or 'Alterstill' - music constructed of samples of 20th century composers (which doesn't sound sampled at all; it sounds composed and seamless)

I've added those to my list of musical considerations, thank you.
Mrt, from what you say , seems foolish that some japenese investment group would pay something like $60M for a Van Gogh.
If its all subjective, then to some a Van Gogh is worthless, wouldn't pay a penny for one, yet to another its priceless.
As you say its all subjective.
Nice Day
I recall yrs ago, a friend told me that Miami Sound machine, as Gloria Estafan 's group was called, that this group was going to be a big hit. At the time they only had a few songs out on spanish radio in Miami.
If anyone had seen Shakira in her early teens performing, the word was, "she's got talent and going big time", as she has. I happen to like Shakira's Dirty laundry cd. Few compare to this gal. Beats maddon's later stuff for sure.
Maddona is abit noisey, alot of show effects.
Recall Sinead O'Conner's song Nothing Compare To You. I thought what a lousey song this is...goes to the top of the charts. I now like the song, and can see how it went to the top.

I have a feeling/a hunch lets say, that Blessed Yes will make a success in some area of the diverse pop forum.
So as you see taste is not pure subjective, otherwise no one would agree on anything.
Depends on sociological, psychological factors what appeals to US, what WE feel repeled by.
US/WE, ie some group with a common link.
bartokfan, don't confuse an investment with quality. the fact that an object will sell for a large sum of money is no indication of its quality.

there is no logical relationship between price and quality. isn't that what most of us believe with respect to audio components ?? it's no different in art, or any other commercial endeavor.

how about the price of a stock. are expensive stocks "better" companies than "cheap" stocks, from the standpoint of any financial criteria ?
don't confuse popularity with quality. the fact that a lot of people eat at a restaurant or go to a movie or nominate it for an award does not indicate quality or lack thereof. you are doing an excellent job of making my case. it is subjective and people do disagree. those who don't like the music of a popular artist obviously disagree with those buy the recordings.

again, logic wins.
I agree with Mr Tennis's comments in his post to bartok fan of 4/30 where in he sez "...its all subjective, if you like it its good, if you don't its bad. Its a philosophical argument with no conclusion".

How can any intelligent person argue with that? Hell I can't even imagine why any intelligent person would even raise the question in the first place, except to create a debate empty of significance. Sort of like fishing in a trout farm pond with an empty hook!
hi newbee. you question the relevance of raising the question in the first place, yet you don't question the relevance of asking the question, what is the difference between good sound and bad sound.

i detect inconsistency.

in essence asking any question about quality of anything is philosophical.

the purpose of raising philosophical questions is to exercise our brain cells, exchange ideas, create a dialogue and have fun.
Good music evokes an emotion consistent with the music. The emotion may or may not be one you welcome at the time. For example some may not like listening to sad songs because they find it depressing, but that does not make it bad music. Bad music fails to be convincing or credible enough, or familiar or fresh enough, to get under the skin enough to unleash that emotion.
Mr Tennis, Your inconsistency detector may need recalibration. Same POV from my direction except I used a different manner of expressing it.
hi redkiwi:

one person's emotional communication may be another's non communication.

if you and i listen to the same music, you may react emotionally and i may not. is the music bad or good ? or you may react emotionally to music one time and not another time.

your reaction emotionally is more a matter of your emotional state than the music you are listening to.

if your are not receptive to the music then there may not be an emotional reaction to any music.

again, do you like the music is more important than do you react to it.

i may react emotioanlly to a piece of music but still not like it for other reasons that have nothing to do with emotions.

i respect your perspective, but have yet to be convinced that quality of music, unfortunately is at the whim of the listener.

if you want to point to the intrinsiic qualities of music that signify quality it is necessary to point out what they are.

if instead you want to refer to a reaction to the music, there are many reactions that can be viewed as favorable to the listenet besides an emotional response.
Mr. T, do you teach Philosophy at a small, Midwestern junior college?
hi evita, do i sound like a philosopher.

i have taught before. my background is psychology, economics and mathematics.

i have become more analytical, relying on logic as i passed my 60th birthday.

i am now 64.

i like discussions, it stimulates my brain and keeps me young.