A Rant Against The Quantification Of Aesthetics
September 25, 2014 11:23 AM   Subscribe

"That's my 'favourite' thing about music: encountering in the moment each artwork, however humble, already dignified by the sheer distinction of being incomparably human and thus, irreducibly, itself." 13 Reasons Why I Can't Pick My 13 Favourite Records, By Drew Daniel.
posted by naju (27 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
This already has 2 favorites, this post will be a winner! Or at least in the top 10.
posted by sammyo at 11:34 AM on September 25, 2014


Not going to read his reasons, because the slideshow format is too stupid for words to use on something like this, but boy do I agree with him nonetheless.

How can you define your favourites when there's more good music than any person can know about, let alone listen to? How can you it narrow it down to thirteen when that means leaving out whole genres of music, no matter what you choose? Apart from sentimental or nostalgic reasons, what possible argument could you make for chosen just those thirteen records, and how interesting is it to people not you to know you like a given song because it reminds you of your first love?
posted by MartinWisse at 11:36 AM on September 25, 2014 [3 favorites]


Forget about Thurston Moore and Kim Gordom, or Wiz and Amber Rose; the day that Dr. Drew Daniel and Martin Schmidt break up is the day that my belief in love sputters out and dies, like glowing embers overwhelmed by a flood of urine.

How did you two meet?

Drew: I was go-go dancing on a bar, wearing a plastic fish jockstrap and he came up to talk to me.

Martin: Like, ‘I have five dollars. Do you want it?’

Drew: Yeah, he put a dollar in my jockstrap.

posted by Juliet Banana at 11:39 AM on September 25, 2014 [6 favorites]


OH GOD SUCH MUCH OVERTHINKING WHYYYYYYYYYYYYY

(beats head with desk)

DOES THIS PERSON REALLY THINK WE DO NOT KNOW ALL SUCH LISTS ARE CONTINGENT AND COMPROMISED WE'RE NOT MORONS JUST TELL US WHAT YOU FUCKING LIKE ALREADY

(collapses into a pile of unnnnnnnnngh)
posted by jscalzi at 11:49 AM on September 25, 2014 [8 favorites]


This is a brilliant essay! Written by someone who's thought very deeply about it.

MartinWisse, since you're not reading it I thought you'd like to know: "Reason Eleven: It Is Driven By Ad Revenue Structure" is on page 12 of the slideshow :-)
posted by ianso at 11:51 AM on September 25, 2014 [3 favorites]


I have some kind of odd blind spot for this. If you demand from me a list of my 10 favorite books, I suddenly won't be able to remember a single book.
posted by thelonius at 11:57 AM on September 25, 2014 [3 favorites]


One of his reasons was that the list format works great for ad-revenue, which is why his reasons were listed in slide format. And deslideified didn't work because they lack a protocol for dealing with the Quietus.
posted by Renoroc at 12:01 PM on September 25, 2014


I <3 Drew Daniels. Fun post, except slideshows are the devil's own skin tag.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 12:11 PM on September 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


Forgot to add, Top X lists are bad things.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 12:16 PM on September 25, 2014


I had no idea who the author was before reading this list, but having read it, I figure that if you ask a literature professor who happens to be a musician for a list of his favorite records, you should expect a rant about art and commerce. And having said that, I liked it and agreed with most of it.
posted by immlass at 12:18 PM on September 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


Huh, I'm surprised to see the Quietus comment section is mostly negative/angry sounding. I agree with Ned Raggett: "Based on many of the comments here, a lot of y'all are really terrified at the prospect of actually sitting down with what makes your own taste and why. You should try it sometime."
posted by naju at 12:30 PM on September 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


"...there's something self-serving and suspect about Public Displays of Taste."

Yeah. It's fun!
posted by brundlefly at 12:37 PM on September 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


I can't abide the slideshow AND it wouldn't work on deslidify. But I tried to read it anyway - I got through the first slide and had to stop.

I'm trying now to articulate (intelligently as possible) what, exactly, bothers me about this so much, but it just comes to blabbering.

So here's my best attempt: bean plating on an exercise that is (usually) supposed to be ephemeral and, at best, only representational, makes me think the writer lives in another universe altogether where fun does not exist and everything has to have meaning, man. Which is fine, but it is one I don't want to inhabit or visit.
posted by Tevin at 12:59 PM on September 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


The reason I carry around an iPod Classic is so I don't have to put my 10,000 favorite songs in any kind of order.
posted by Foosnark at 1:03 PM on September 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


I threw out the first snark but clicked through mostly checking the banner and don't disagree with any of the points. But so what, a list of what I like right now or so far, is just that. Now that many folks would obsess about the importance of Ms Kardashian's personal choices over mine is understandable seeing my personal reputation in the media but my list is ok too. Well for me. Well no, actually I'm a trivial unimportant slug, but I can make a list. Well if I wanted to.
posted by sammyo at 1:08 PM on September 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


How can you define your favourites when there's more good music than any person can know about, let alone listen to?

I think there's an inherent assumption that you're talking about the music you have heard when you make a statement about your favorites. There are plenty of foods I haven't tried but I still have favorites. You can certainly define your favorites from among things you've tried, experienced, heard, tasted etc.
posted by Hoopo at 1:12 PM on September 25, 2014


I agree with his points, but I notice that he throws out the names of a few artists on each page, plus he supplies photographs presumably of his music collection. So if you want to know what he listens to, he's told you.
posted by zompist at 2:28 PM on September 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


I got up to 6 and wow, what a steaming load of self-important, over-analyzed nonsense. Is he joking?

1. "instead of my actual favorites, it might result in a list of albums that I think are important or something, which is a DISASTER!!!!!"

2. "But what does 'favorite' MEAN, man? I'm afraid someone might get confused if I do this"

3. "I'm gonna pretend this is about "greatness" instead of favorites for a minute. I am a professor that focuses on Shakespeare and have dedicated my academic career to his writing but it's not because I think there's anything that elevates him above any other literature, cuz it's racist to say some things are better than others"

4. "but what if I throw something in that makes it look like I did it as a token gesture? My integrity, gone, just like that!"

5. "I have cool friends and it might hurt their feelings so my list is gonna be totally biased and the world will be denied my true objective favorite music, wouldn't that be terrible?"

6. "but what if my list of favorites changes in the future? That would mean something written in the past about things i liked at that time would no longer be true about things I liked at some future time!"

Dude: they are asking you for a list of albums you like or think people should hear. Nobody's going to give a fuck if you put 13 of your best friends' albums on there and say "hey know what? no order here, it's just 13 albums I like and you should check out". Christ. You would never guess this guy actually makes kinda fun music.
posted by Hoopo at 2:31 PM on September 25, 2014


I agree with his points, but I notice that he throws out the names of a few artists on each page, plus he supplies photographs presumably of his music collection. So if you want to know what he listens to, he's told you.

I thought that was a clever embedded way of getting out some of what his list probably would've included before he decided to turn it into this particular essay. I don't see a contradiction there, or a troubling one anyway.

Dude: they are asking you for a list of albums you like or think people should hear.

He could've done that (and he sort of did in that embedded way), but instead he wanted to interrogate the way we unthinkingly categorize music, and the way that detracts from conversations about and enjoyment of the artform. Nearly all of your retorts to his points are pretty uncharitable, by the way! There's nothing wrong with thinking about what this obsession with lists and favorites means, or how it's built upon a bunch of vague and problematic assumptions. He's getting at a lot of stuff I've felt troubled by but could never articulate properly, it's all in one place (well, one slideshow), and I think he brings it all together into something important and worthwhile by point 13.
posted by naju at 2:42 PM on September 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


Disagreed with some of it, but read it all and will continue to think about it. But finally also:

If you're a critic or music writer who claims to love music but who regularly assigns a numeric value to artworks, please take a quiet moment to consider the effects of what you are doing upon the human beings who are the creators of those works, and ask yourself if you really believe in the quantification of art, or simply do it because that's the prevailing practice, and a good way to get clicks and attention.

hell to the yes.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:46 PM on September 25, 2014


We should stop thinking that one thing being good in its particular way means that another thing cannot also be good in its own, different, just-as-particular way. Stop playing favourites. Stop writing listicles.

Again, hell yes.

But and still, there is greatness. An openhearted definition of it is the only honest one, and it is an ordinal rather than an interval scale. But pretending that you don't believe that Reign in Blood is great and Ludichrist's the Immaculate Deception is merely OK is disingenuous. Everyone knows this.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:52 PM on September 25, 2014


I like this a lot, because a longstanding peeve of mine has been how for some reason with music in particular more than other art forms, when it comes to criticism and evaluation, whether it's in a glossy magazine, a podcast, my this is my jam stream, or just people shooting the shit on Mefi or my living room couch, there's this given that everything's talked about in these huge, sweeping terms of "best record of the '80s" or "most significant contribution coming out of England" or "most important band of the post-WWII era" or whatever else, and I find that seemingly universal urge to compartmentalize and file and shuffle weird as hell. A sort of need to be really definitive sounding all the time, and as if music is the one arena where it's like "before I go on, well we can all agree and assume this...". As if music was not insanely personal, as much as any other art. I don't get it. And it grates.
posted by ifjuly at 2:55 PM on September 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


Cool, so we're in the snark hole now, huh?

"I got up to 6 and wow, what a steaming load of self-important, over-analyzed nonsense. Is he joking?

READING IS HARD

1. "instead of my actual favorites, it might result in a list of albums that I think are important or something, which is a DISASTER!!!!!"

Actually, he's saying that you can't trust them to be true representations of the author's tastes, just representations of the brand. So, not a disaster.

2. "But what does 'favorite' MEAN, man? I'm afraid someone might get confused if I do this"

What does favorite mean, since you've worked it out? When you're saying you have a favorite album, what do you mean?

3. "I'm gonna pretend this is about "greatness" instead of favorites for a minute. I am a professor that focuses on Shakespeare and have dedicated my academic career to his writing but it's not because I think there's anything that elevates him above any other literature, cuz it's racist to say some things are better than others"

Aww, did your white fee-fees get stepped on? Interesting or worth studying doesn't mean great. There may be reasons why he prefers Shakespeare, but he might not even prefer Shakespeare over any number of other authors. Try to not be so whiny any time you see the effects institutional racism called out.

4. "but what if I throw something in that makes it look like I did it as a token gesture? My integrity, gone, just like that!"

Why don't you ask your one black friend about that?

5. "I have cool friends and it might hurt their feelings so my list is gonna be totally biased and the world will be denied my true objective favorite music, wouldn't that be terrible?"

Look, I know this might be confusing, but some of us have friends. We even have friends that participate in the things we're supposed to be objective about. Pretty much everywhere, this is recognized to be a corrupting thing even though it's normal and understood.

6. "but what if my list of favorites changes in the future? That would mean something written in the past about things i liked at that time would no longer be true about things I liked at some future time!"

What if you suddenly are enlightened to how asinine a complaint that is? Would you feel dumb about making it, or would you just dig in deeper?

Dude: they are asking you for a list of albums you like or think people should hear. Nobody's going to give a fuck if you put 13 of your best friends' albums on there and say "hey know what? no order here, it's just 13 albums I like and you should check out". Christ. You would never guess this guy actually makes kinda fun music."

He cares. But with your knee-jerk anti-intellectual answer, we might never guess that you're capable of a comment that isn't whining and inane.
posted by klangklangston at 4:09 PM on September 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm with him on this, and have complained about lists before. They're bad answers because they're answering bad, incoherent questions. Lists can be a decent format for things like, 10 Mixtapes that Affected me in Middle School or 10 Composers to Namedrop While Faking Familiarity or any number of things. But "favorite albums" or "best" is always going to collapse under incoherence.
posted by klangklangston at 4:13 PM on September 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


This is so 100% right on. Most "Lists of a Certain Number of Favorites" are guilty of at least some of the things that he says makes favorite lists predictable and useless.
posted by 23skidoo at 4:51 PM on September 25, 2014


Oh god, I didn't link to the introduction page that kicks off the list. I'm a bad poster. Mods...
posted by naju at 6:23 PM on September 25, 2014


[Fixed!]
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:37 PM on September 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


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