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Queen Guitar Rhapsodies

Good music, bad music, what’s the difference?

Try as I might I can’t get a handle on my own New Year resolution number eight: to not waste a moment on indifferent music and to dedicate all my energies to only good music. The more I think about it, the more difficult it is to define good music.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying I cannot identify good or indifferent music when I hear it. I can. My problem is defining the character of each, so let me rely on conventional wisdom in this regard to see whether it can help me do so.

Good music is original and expresses something new
If this were true it would cast most music to the waste paper basket of history and we would be stuck with endless replays of a handful of works. This might be a definition of great music, which is something else over and above my question.

Good music has to be complex
No, I don’t think so. Some good and even great music is simple and repetitive. Repetitive? I hear you say. Yes, as in Ravel’s Bolero, and as in the repeating sequence of a four chord cycle which dominated Western music for hundreds of years.

Good music has a wide emotional range
Yes maybe. But Samuel Barber’s Adagio for strings and the theme from the slow movement of Joaquin Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez would not qualify since they dwell in a narrow emotional world of melancholy and nostalgia.

Good music is expressive and revealing of a personal emotional state
Yes, but so also is bad music.

Good music is contained in memorable and heart-stopping moments
Yes, but a continuous succession would become emotionally draining on the listener, and maybe only works well as film music.

Well, enough teasing. What is the answer? Maybe good music is the pleasing combination of elements of most or all of the above factors in one and the same piece. Stir and mix the ingredients in the right proportions, and there you have it, a good piece of music.

I am glad I have sorted that out. Now I can go back to fulfilling my New Year Resolution number eight. It has also given me a clue as to how to go about composing good music, which is scary, because that was nearly my New Year’s resolution number six where I set myself to compose a great piece. Thankfully, although all great pieces are good, only a few good pieces are great. I think I may have to revise that one, lower my sights, and first try to write a good piece according to my own definition, rather than a great one.

That is quite enough to be getting on with for now and the rest of the year.

Listen to:
Ravel’s Bolero
Samuel Barber’s Adagio For Strings
Joaquin Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez, second movement

January 2012

Printed from: http://www.carlosbonell.com/blog/?p=975 .
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