It is just too easy to confuse narrow-mindedness with integrity when judging artistic and musical matters. The most significant aspects of aesthetic experience are ‘intangible’ factors such as tone and style, elements with a protean, perhaps even chaotic, capacity to mutate – elements that may well mutate into strange, new modalities at variance with conventional expectations.
It is certainly too easy to equate personal taste with qualitative values, basing reactions on a very narrow range of likes and dislikes, disparaging the involuntary, visceral frisson nouveau denigrating the products of mass consumption on the one hand or deriding non-proletarian ‘elitism’ on the other. Yet, perhaps strangeness is the hallmark of ‘quality’ – after all anything ‘new’ will appear strange at first sight. You might say this is a hackneyed truism – perhaps, but there is always a tendency to equate the familiar with the good – timid souls respond favourably to the accustomed, often rejecting ‘originality’ as tasteless, inept or unpleasant. It is a fact that taste is conservative, encouraging stagnation of the sensibilities. This is usually the case despite a craving for novelty.
Of course much of that which claims to be ‘new’ is just luvvie-chic, essentially ersatz. Some discrimination is needed to separate the ‘true’ from the ‘false’, especially when these may appear interchangeable categories. It is too easy to sneer at the decorative, ephemeral or the derivative, praising an inferior ‘original’ in the name of authenticity. It is too easy to dismiss fashion, our hyper-cultural ‘post-postmodern’ lingua franca, (where style is everything) as facile. It is so easy to take the line of least resistance – clinging to outmoded, even ascetic ideas of cultural worth in the name of so-called ‘values’. Today it is most likely that an inversion of value will take us to the heart of the ‘real’. Street fashion may be more ‘authentic’ in this regard than – for example – the gallery-culture of the ‘fine arts’.
What can be more cringe-making than the rapt attention of an audience at a ‘classical’ music concert, or the worthy pronouncements of critics on the latest ‘good’ film?
Hail the Muse of Chaos!