I think Michel Serres has given us a good way to think about musical taste. In The Parasite, Serres remarks, ‘History is the locus of…immense effects with futile reasons, strong consequences from insignificant causes, rigorous effects from chance occurrences’ (20).

This sort of structure seems to me to be reproduced endlessly in our judgements about music. I’ve always been puzzled at how it could be possible for someone to dislike, say, Abba, or Webern, or John Butcher, or Tricky, or Saariaho, or whomever, when I love them so much. Could an objective schema of musical quality not be determined, and enforced(!)?

Clearly, accidental and incidental factors come into play. I’ve always conceived what I see as reactionary judgements in terms of a pre-structural framework that produces misbegettings of artists on a sort of hypersubjective plane outside of, or at least tangential to, the music as it appears to me. Needless to say, I replicate my own version of this plane when forming my own judgements. The Serres model shows us that such incidental factors very easily swell into larger and more permanent effects.

Incidentally, here’s a review of mine of a truly mind-altering event: Phill Niblock’s Stosspeng set to the first section of Carlos Casas’ Avalanche.


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