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On Good Taste

In response to something somewhere else:

I consider 'taste' as personal, but 'good' as intersubjective. What appeals to any one person is largely dependent on their circumstances and exposure, and may not be readily changed by reasoning. But it is not necessary to base one's idea of 'good' wholly upon one's tastes.

After all, one can be told how and why slices of sharp cheddar and tart apple complement eachother, and thus recognize this as a good combination worthy of recommendation to others, yet still not enjoy it (much, if at all) personally. One can recognize a good banjo player without especially enjoying the sound a banjo makes. And so on.

Of course, not everybody is capable of or interested in being able to appreciate or understand things which do not particularly appeal to or please them. It is something of an acquired taste, and bias can get in its way. Everybody has their limits. I still cannot quite hear why Charles Mingus is so revered in jazz circles, and I cannot see why so many people list Fargo as one of the best movies of all time. I am so thoroughly disgusted by mayonnaise (and imitation mayo), I can only think of any item which includes it as barely tolerable at best. I don't care how enticing a sandwich sounds; if you put aioli on it, you've ruined it.


  1. I listened to a couple of his songs. 'Moaning' was alright. The counterpoint on the baritone saxophone part in the beginning was nice. There were some other songs whose names I can't recall and which I didn't listen to in much depth. Something about porkpie hats.

    They mostly just bored me, as most jazz/blues does, because it seems like the songs go all over the place and I've yet to hear a catchy melody with a saxophone, barring Roxie's Suite by Danny Elfman from the Chicago soundtrack. The saxophone in that is more interesting to me than anything I heard on youtube from Charles Mingus, and also similar musicians like Stevie Ray Vaughn, who while he doesn't use the saxophone (that I know of...) has a similar meandering style of play with the guitar where it just seems like he's free associating the notes and kind of going with the flow of the song, interspersing tons of flourishes, while maybe weaving them around a very skeletal unifying rhythmn.

    Also, it's probably worth pointing out that of the two versions of 'Moaning' I listened to, only one of them had any dislikes (2, and one of them was my own. I didn't have the heart to dislike the other one) They both had over several hundred likes I believe. What I'm saying is it seems as though he has a bit of cult following, so there might be pressure on people to say he appeals to them . . .or to at least not disagree that he's appealing, in order to avoid confrontation.
    I think it's more about intersubjectivity, and identifying as part of a group, than personal taste. Or maybe personal taste is modified by the former in such a way that people trick themselves into believing that they like them which they really don't, at first. THey just feel such an immense pressure on them from external social expectations that their body ends up adapting itself so it gels with the community and they are no longer who they once were.

  2. 'them' in the last paragraph I'm referring to just to 'things', such as mayonaise, Charles Mingus, chocolate, alcohol, etc....

  3. *mayonnaise...

  4. Societal decrees can certainly impact individual judgments. I think that's what's going on every time someone calls 'Mona Lisa' the best painting ever. But I don't think most people like mayo just because other people say it's good on sandwiches. Perhaps my trust is misplaced, but when jazz enthusiasts whose opinions I generally find trustworthy (and who know more about the style than I, even though I know a bit) tell me Mingus is one of the best bass players, composers, and band leaders in the genre, despite being a jerk, I trust they know what they're talking about.

    Not to say we have to dig what he plays.


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