Recently I seem to have been offending people. A few more than usual, anyway. The problem, in a nutshell, is this: I say what I think. Sometimes I go to the trouble of displaying my thoughts within a framework of consiliatory compliments. Sometimes not.
I’ve been knocking around on this planet for a few years, so I’ve accumulated a lot of miscellaneous knowledge about this and that. My opinions are, I’m sure, sometimes wrong, but they’re seldom wrong in dumb or obvious ways, because I know a bunch of stuff. Nonetheless, if someone points out to me where I have erred, I will change my opinion. That’s how you learn stuff. And I will change it in public, because I’m not wedded to the idea that I have to be right, or look cool.
Among other things, I have grown increasingly impatient with bad music. There’s a lot of it around. It’s produced by people who really have only a very shadowy idea of what good music is, or how to produce it. Thanks to the Internet, anybody who produces bad music has an equal opportunity to share it with the world. Because I haven’t entirely given up the desire to keep up with what’s going on, I sometimes listen to music that has been shared online.
The interpersonal difficulty is that people who are doing bad music don’t realize they’re doing bad music. If you point out that it’s bad, they quite likely respond that you’re ignorant.
This just in: I’m not ignorant. I play in community orchestras. Sometimes I play chamber music. Sometimes I play Bach or Haydn on the piano. In my record collection is an amazing variety of wonderful music — from new age piano to Frank Zappa, from Miles Davis to the Residents, from Prokofiev to Bjork. I also write music. I know how hard it is to produce something worth listening to! I know more than a little about counterpoint, harmony theory, and mixing, about music history and the evolutionary psychology of music. Oh, and I spent 25 years or so reviewing records (first LPs and later CDs) for Keyboard. Along the way I’ve heard more different music than most people, from Roger Williams to Cecil Taylor, from Bill Evans to Kraftwerk.
The essential point to understand about opinions, of music or anything else, is that your opinion may be wrong. If you lock down on your opinion and refuse to consider that maybe you need to learn more — maybe a lot more — you’re only hurting yourself.
I don’t think there’s any requirement, in nature or society, that I show respect for each and every opinion that may be expressed, irrespective of its content. If you’re wrong, you should anticipate that I may tell you so. Or not. Depends on how I’m feeling that day.