Assuming you don’t live under a rock, you probably heard a whole lot of blaring music this past weekend. And depending on who you are, you might not particularly enjoy much of the music that was played. I know one of my friends repeatedly complained about the music as being really low-quality (not his exact words) and an actual hindrance or annoyance. On some levels, I believe he’s probably right. It doesn’t take much searching to find music with more staying power or aesthetic beauty than the music that is commonly played at parties at this campus and others. All the same, I do believe my friend was missing the point when he made these complaints. In music, as in life, there is a time and a place for everything, and Frolics requires music that large groups of drunk people can dance to and enjoy without thinking too much. In other words, a particular type of music was necessary to sustain the vibe, and this same music is not the type of music that most people would listen to by themselves just to relax, or put on in the background just to enjoy. Music was at the forefront of everyone’s attention, and the music had to fulfill its specific intended role, so that the atmosphere could be sustained and the partygoers kept happy. While we all may have missed out on getting to listen to especially moving music, we did get exactly what we were looking for in most cases, and the music, regardless of its quality, functioned effectively. In a totally different vein, my friend and I listened to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon to chill in his room before partaking in the night’s festivities. As great as this album is, its uses only go so far; it’s great to just lie down and listen to in a quiet room, but it would have been terribly out of place at the parties down the hill.
Opposing situations like these give us one of the many reasons as to why it’s not really possibly to give music any sort of objective value. Two different songs might have been composed with very different objectives, and any differences between the two are more easily explained by the different objectives than by any supposition of musical superiority. Comparing two songs from different genres is like asking which is better between movies like The Dark Knight and something like The Fault in Our Stars; the two movies have entirely different objectives, so asking which is better doesn’t really make any sense, and whatever answer someone gives you tells you more about them and their interests than it does about the actual movies. Even for songs in the same genre, it’s still a question of subjectivity. It’s like asking if someone prefers Spiderman or Batman; you can’t invalidate their answer or prove they’re wrong, much like you can’t tell somebody they’re incorrect for liking certain songs or certain genres. Music is merely intended to fulfill some role, and you can’t devalue it if it manages to meaningfully accomplish some such role for some listeners.