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Re: How much of our love of scores can be classified objective?
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• Posted by: AhN   <Send E-Mail>
• Date: Monday, June 27, 2022, at 5:41 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'd say that whatever attributes we treat as "objectively good" are still subjective, it's just that the conventional wisdom/prevailing sentiment is that those attributes are important and good. To a lot of what Bernhard said, whatever criteria we use are pretty arbitrary and can change from score to score. In my reviews I try to boil it down to two things: 1. What is the composer trying to do, and 2. Does it work for me? First one is pretty straightforward, and filled with the objective things: style, instrumentation, rhythm, melody. Second one is where we dig into the whys. Yes that's entirely subjective, but that's where the fun comes into the review.

I've half-joked before that Wrath of Khan is an objectively good score. I'm sure there's someone out there who is bafflingly left cold by that score, or actively dislikes it. Just because everyone I can think of agrees with me and because that person's viewpoint is beyond my comprehension doesn't mean I'm actually right in that it's objectively good. We can say Horner uses techniques XYZ (fact) and his goal was to make audiences feel ABC (fact), and we can empirically determine those techniques are effective for a lot of people, but that doesn't mean it's universal.

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