The criteria you list for judging a piece of music, genre, skill, are potentially uninteresting, and you should have an open mind. But all of us close off certain areas simply because we aren't interested in them. I recognise their merit, but for me personally I may not like them. As for skill, well, I sometimes admire that in a performer, or composer, I don't totally dismiss this, I have certain favourite players, and it's inspiring to see them play to such a high standard, but only those that use the technique in the service of the music, not the technique as an end in itself.CJ Miller wrote:What I find makes artistic idioms potentially limiting is that most people seem to use them as a shortcut for a sort of shared context. For example, "What genre of music is this 'supposed to be'?", or "How skilled is this performer compared to other performers?". These are, to me, fundamentally uninteresting questions. The only reason they recur is because the casual listener does not have sufficient interest to really analyze a piece of music based upon its own merits. If we can assume that it was 'supposed to be' (for example) a chromatic piece in 4/4 time then we can quickly compare it to superficially similar musics without really needing to think much about it. Borrowing a cultural context like this I think is quite lazy. Trying to work within established idioms is at least as pretentious as trying to avoid them is, but always continues to happen mainly because the former is simply far easier. And while this presented a nearly overwhelming obstacle for people composing and/or performing instrumental music - I think that this situation makes electronic music even more challenging. The idiomatic character now includes not only musical tradition, but also the usual gestural interactions of the human organism. This I think makes it far easier for listeners to ignore electronic music for which they lack some sort of established context.
But I would argue that music has it easier in this regard than digital video and animation. People often joke about some music being "abstract", but there has never been (so far as I am aware) any trends towards representational music - as people usually contrast abstraction in the visual arts. The modern capability of photo-realistic graphics in computer visual effects and games seems to have led to a trend where the marketplace has room for little else between the poles of realism and pure graphic design. I have increasingly encountered remarks that visuals which do not strive for realism are immediately perceived as bad, or unskilled, or cheap. Of course, that they are immediately perceived as such once again demonstrates that lack of formal analysis, instead relying upon assumptions of shared cultural contexts.
I am surprised at how difficult it can be for the individual artist to help cultivate appropriate expectations for those who happen upon their media. Explaining that the work was intended to be stylized rather than realistic, or in its own new genre - really seems to do very little to provide context in casual situations. When people feel that they themselves are not part of the culture they are experiencing, they seem to rely on perceived populist attitudes, or the critical judgement of a specialized elite. There is hardly any direct dialectical process for discussing the intentions and background behind a work. Instead, most people rely upon semi-deliberate use of a proliferation of stereotypes. But stereotypes are deliberately kept at a surface level, trying to 'characterize' what is observed while avoiding any kind of formal critique. If shared context is so crucial, I am alarmed that what must frequently pass for shared context is of such a facile nature.
I suppose I see the problem being idioms as assumed and implicit, rather than deliberate and explicit.