22 March 2012

Opinions and appreciation in culture and art

I've come to realize that there are certain genres or styles of performing art or types of food that I just can't seem to get into. Despite 8 years of piano lessons, I've never really understood classical music. I enjoy flashy violin solos like "Tzigane," but I have no idea what's going on in Mahler's symphonies. I don't get pop or rock music. I still can't tell the difference between various wines. Conversely, there are people who won't get my love of musical theatre, opera, and intense TV drama. (I'm still working on being a better theatre audience member.)

What does it all mean? If I don't appreciate something, is it because it's something innate about my personality (like gloomy people who can't stand Annie-esque material)? Or is it some innate prejudice (like my dad telling me as a child that pop music sucks)? Or is it that I just never met anyone who explained the merits to me, that I didn't have enough exposure to the material as a child?

Whatever the reason, I've learned that taste is very subjective. We shouldn't be dismissive of people's opinions when it comes to art and culture because everyone's opinions are born of complicated circumstances that we're likely never to know. On review websites, instead of saying that other people are wrong, you should say that you don't understand where the dissenters are coming from, or that your taste is different. And if you have a friend who loves death metal or something that you're not into, why not take this as an opportunity to learn why your friend loves the things he/she does?

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