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Re: How much of our love of scores can be classified objective?
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• Posted by: Bernhard H. Heidkamp   <Send E-Mail>
• Date: Monday, June 27, 2022, at 12:10 p.m.
• IP Address:
• In Response to: How much of our love of scores can be classifi... (Riley KZ)

> So we talk and debate this kind of stuff a lot - what’s objectively or
> subjectively bad or good when it comes to art. I think usually we fall on
> the side of 80% of what we like is purely subjective and the 20%
> objectivity, say, happens if an instrument is accidentally out of tune and
> therefore “not good”, I dunno.

> But how much of this, especially with film scores and the role they must
> play, can be just quantifiably and objectively labelled as great (or bad)
> regardless of your personal opinion? A little? Some? Tons?

> Mostly asking because I watched Once Upon a Time in the West again the
> other day and I just don’t think I’m wrong in saying it’s objectively
> great movie music. Personally, yes I love it and love listening to it, but
> man, even if I didn’t, how it fits the flick perfectly and helps tell the
> story (and fill us in on character motivation and emotion) is just
> objectively goddamn great. Like, 100% so, not that 80% silliness I
> mentioned earlier.

> I dunno….what do you folks think? How much is personal, and are there are
> any famous or major times where we can just say “screw personal, that’s
> masterful music right there”?

I actually think it's almost completely subjective.

To use your example: IF an instrument is out of tune, we would consider that bad.

But what about tracks like "Bad Orchestra" from ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, which purposefully uses out of tune instruments? Then we applaud it!

Another example with another parameter: Many of us would agree, that THE LORD OF THE RINGS is a masterpiece for it's intricate and sophisticated use of leitmotifs. But then scores, like my beloved favourite score THE LAST AIRBENDER would be bad, because it doesn't feature leitmotifs.

In the last couple of years, I came to the realisation, that every "objective" critical analysis of something hinges on parameters that were chosen subjectively.

When *I* choose to evaluate a score by it's themes and motifs, it's a choice that *I* made. I chose that aspect to be an important one. Others might disagree though.

To move that topic to movies: We criticize movies when they don't have a coherent script or lacking character work. If I just put this out there, many would agree that these things make a film objectively bad.

So why do so many agree that 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEA is a masterpiece? We don't meet the main character halfway through the movie and let's be honest...he isn't the most compelling one. Obviously, that movie does this on purpose and it's brilliant, but do you see the point I'm making?

Even stuff like orchestrations and harmonies aren't objective. We tend to call scores that overly rely on rhythmic percussion "simplistic" but that comes from a very western mindset rooted in western classical music. We're kinda devalueing a lot of african music by default, even if we don't intend to.

And even if we agreed that complex orchestrations with a lot of counterpoint are what make a piece of music good...then suddenly a lot of LORD OF THE RINGS is kinda bad, as it's just string-carpets for long stretches of time.

So my reasoning is: Objectivity exists only within certain parameters which have to be chosen subjectively beforehand. Then, when you have a community like us, where a lot of people share similar subjectively chosen parameters, you have a certain degree of objectivity within that certain group and even that objectivity is wonky and fragile as sometimes even two people who bth value, let's say, complex orchestration and both have enough knowledge about it, will disagree.

And even this opinion piece on the topic of objectivity is trying to find an objective answer, while probably still being subjective, as I set a certain, subjectively chosen definition of these terms

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