“i like all kinds of music” is usually a wildly misleading untruth

Jack Black

I’m a big time snob. If I enjoyed wine, I would quickly become a giant blowhard who lectures you about how your local supermarket has some exceptionally good bottles at low prices and you’d be unwise to ignore my sage advice. I am that way with music How bad am I? Let’s just say that I side with Jack Black’s character in High Fidelity.

As a complete music snob, though, I enforce an unannounced truce with the rest of humanity. If you don’t have the good sense to listen to what I like, I will leave you alone as long as you leave me alone. Just pull back on the Bieber and I won’t assault your delicate mind with full blast Albert Ayler.

Still, people will sometimes get me in a tizzy with their musical taste by doing the following. I will be hanging out at some social event and people will chat me up about music. With no subterfuge and a spirit of beauty, I will ask, “so, what kind of music do you like?” And they say, “I like all kinds of music.” For a long time, I fell for it. I actually believed they literally liked all kinds of music. Maybe not all, of course, but a pretty wide range.

Then, I’d get into trouble. If it was a person I knew, I’d then suggest we do some musical activity together. Maybe go to a Sun))))0 concert or listen to the university women’s choir. Take in a performance put on by MFA students in the music program. They looked at me as if I were poorly manicured.  With new people, I would get excited. This person really likes all kinds of music? Perhaps they could show me some new cool music. Or even better, maybe they’ll like my brand of weird!

But no, a few polite questions usually wreck the conversation. “So, you like rhythm and blues?” or “So, you like drum and bass?” Usually, I discovered that people who say they like all kinds of music usually don’t like all kinds of musics. Nor do they like a pretty broad variety of music. They actually seemed uncomfortable when I suggest that we actually go and listen to music. I find this frustrating and I have stopped asking people about music they like.  I’ll only engage you in music talk if you are a performing musician or teacher, or you have that sweet Pauline Oliveros box set on the shelf.

Instead of fulminating, I’ve decided to think more carefully about why people say they like all kinds of music when they don’t. One hypothesis is that they simply think they do actually like all kinds of music. Perhaps they think that the only music that exists is what they like. This may describe teenagers but certainly adults know that they don’t like *some* types of music. People will often even say, “I like all music except heavy metal.”  So people know they don’t like all music for sure.

My working hypothesis is that “I like all kinds of music” is a low stakes interactional tactic employed by people to manage relationships. Let’s say that you are a casual music fan – not that there’s anything wrong with that, even if there is – and you wish to generate small talk, then it’s easy to say you like all music. Why?  The other person is equally likely to be a low commitment music person. Furthermore, most conversations aimlessly wander and are unfocused. So “I like all kinds of music” is an easy way to get through parties and small talk situations. The problem is for the minority of music fanatics. An unsuspecting music nut who hears “I like all kinds of music” may think, “this person is like me, and we will exchange views on Patsy Cline.” Nope. Disaster waiting to happen.

What do to? First, you have to marry a person is equally snobby about music. Trust me, that helps a lot. Second, make your children into music snobs. My daughter does not like jazz, but at least she’s qualified to not like it. Third, chill out and go with the flow at parties. Just say you like Beyonce and everyone will be ok.



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Written by fabiorojas

May 4, 2020 at 2:31 pm

Posted in uncategorized

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