A while ago I wrote a post about the expectations that listeners bring to the music they hear.  At the end of the post, I briefly mentioned that it’s a good idea to try and trim down your list as much as possible.  To paraphrase: if I, as a listener, want to give myself the best chance of enjoying the music that I’m listening to, I should try and clear my expectations of everything that reflects my personal preferences, or as many of those things as possible.  I need to leave MY desires for the music aside and try to hear what THE ARTIST is wanting to communicate with their music.

For example, Full Metal Jacket is not a funny movie.  Now, I didn’t really think Mall Cop was all that funny either.  So then, do both these films get thumbs down because they both failed at comedy?  Obviously not.  Perhaps I might say something like, “well, I really only enjoy comedies, so FMJ just wasn’t my thing.”  But even then I would be putting the ball in my own court as to why I didn’t enjoy the movie.

I had a conversation with some friends about this the other night, and it got me thinking about the current status of my “subconcious list.”  At this point I’ve tried to eliminate anything genre-oriented from the list, so that I’m never immediately discounting music simply because of the style or sound.  And yet, my “list” clearly still has items on it, because I am often passionate about certain music being cool and other music being stupid.  So, what are the characteristics that I still assume all “good” music should have?  What do I think music should do for me as a listener in order for me to like it?

Here’s where I’m at right now:

Clarity. I really need a musician to be articulate enough with their message for me to be able to receive it.  This is a big one, because in order for me to know that an idea is cool, it has to first be discernable.  Obviously some of the burden is on my shoulders as a listener, because I need to invest myself in discovering the message, but this assumes that the artist has provided something discoverable.  I need music to go beyond just the conceptual and actually deliver in the physical.

Originality.  There are varying levels of originality in music, because nothing is ever TOTALLY new and groundbreaking.  For me though, there must be at least SOME unique qualities to the music.  I don’t need someone to create a spot-on replica of Miles’ music in the 60’s, because I already have Miles’ version.

Passion/Emotion. At the end of the day, for me at least, music will always be primarily about emotion.  I just can’t get behind something that feels cold and plastic, and I truly believe that the only real authentication of emotion in music is when others can identify the presence of that emotion.  (This goes back to the first point somewhat).

Honestly, I think that’s it… those three things.  I’m trying hard to identify other items on my list of expectations for music, and I can’t find any.  I will enjoy hip-hop, bluegrass, avant-garde, pop, traditional, and anything in between, just as long as it contains the above elements.  I’d love to hear feedback on this… am I missing anything?  Am I wrongly labeling something?

Also, I think this idea shed’s light on what Bono was talking about in yesterday’s post.