"I like pretty much anything…"

so goes the beginning to So many people’s list of favourite music on MySpace. They then proceed to list only music that has a) singers, b) that sing in english and c) bands with drum kits, or programmed drums that sound like drum kits.

THAT’S NOT ‘PRETTY MUCH ANYTHING’!! By any stretch of the imagination, that’s a very very narrow range of what’s on offer in the world of music. This faux cosmopolitan approach to music is fostered by radio and TV shows that claim to have a hugely wide booking policy that reminds me of that line in The Blues Brothers ‘we have both types of music – Country AND Western’.

I feel like bombarding these people with MP3s of Gamalan orchestras and Harry Partch, Tuvan throat singing and Gustav Mahler, Bollywood soundtracks and Andean pan pipes, Noel Coward and Fats Waller, Henry Purcell and Meshuggah… ‘pretty much anything’ really, until they say ‘I have, in the greater scheme of things, incredibly conservative music taste, it runs the gamut of ‘white-boy stadium guitar nonense’ from Coldplay to Stereophonics, but I have got a Boards Of Canada album, cos someone told me they were cool, and it was cheap in Borders.’

For the record, I don’t like ‘pretty much anything’ – I actively dislike most of the music I’ve heard in my life. It’s not out of some musicological misanthropy, it’s just that even across the range of styles and genres I like, I tend to only like the best of it. The reason being that most music isn’t very good. That’s what’s magical about music – if it was as easy as breathing, we wouldn’t value it at all. We wouldn’t have favourites, in the same way that most of us don’t have favourite ‘walkers’ – (“ooh, just look at the way he puts one foot in front of the other”) – we can almost all do it, it’s a hugely useful skill, but it’s not generally considered a uniquely artistic one in the way that making great music is.

That said, our reasons for liking music go beyond the sound of the music itself, often. There are emotional resonances based on things we’ve heard before, there are cultural, social and personal connections with the performers and writers, there are lyrics that grab us and draw us into styles we wouldn’t previously have bothered with, there’s music played by people we know (The Cheat is always laughing at me for spending most of my time listening to music by friends of mine), there’s music that we encounter in good situations (opening for a favourite band, soundtracking a favourite film, or just on in the background when great things happen).

But that still doesn’t come close to ‘pretty much anything’ – so if you have that on your myspace page, please go and change it, and put something more honest! ;o)