Good Music: What It Is and Who Gets to Decide
by John J. Sheinbaum
University of Chicago Press, 2019
Paper: 978-0-226-59338-8 | eISBN: 978-0-226-59341-8 | Cloth: 978-0-226-59324-1
Library of Congress Classification ML3880.S515 2018
Dewey Decimal Classification 781.17

Over the past two centuries Western culture has largely valorized a particular kind of “good” music—highly serious, wondrously deep, stylistically authentic, heroically created, and strikingly original—and, at the same time, has marginalized music that does not live up to those ideals.
In Good Music, John J. Sheinbaum explores these traditional models for valuing music. By engaging examples such as Handel oratorios, Beethoven and Mahler symphonies, jazz improvisations, Bruce Springsteen, and prog rock, he argues that metaphors of perfection do justice to neither the perceived strengths nor the assumed weaknesses of the music in question. Instead, he proposes an alternative model of appreciation where abstract notions of virtue need not dictate our understanding. Good music can, with pride, be playful rather than serious, diverse rather than unified, engaging to both body and mind, in dialogue with manifold styles and genres, and collaborative to the core. We can widen the scope of what music we value and reconsider the conventional rituals surrounding it, while retaining the joys of making music, listening closely, and caring passionately.

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