Common opinions--what's at work?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Terrapin Station, Feb 10, 2018.

  1. Terrapin Station

    Terrapin Station Forum Resident Thread Starter

    NYC Man
    I don't suppose this thread will go too well (haha), but I've often wondered about this:

    We often see common or consensus opinions about things. For example, "Plastic Ono Band is the best John Lennon album," "The first six Sabbath albums are the only ones worth bothering with," "Kind of Blue is the best Miles Davis album," or "You should skip over Radiohead's fist album, Pablo Honey." Maybe I could think of better examples, but there are some pretty clear consensus opinions about some albums, some artists, and so on at any rate.


    To what extent do you think these common opinions are due to people being biologically similar to each other versus people being socially influenced by each other?

    Do you think that if we took 100 people, raised them in a controlled environment with no exposure to others' opinions, and gave them large record collections to listen to over the course of many years, 80 (or however many of them) would still think that Plastic Ono Band is the best John Lennon album?

    I know that whenever you suggest that social influence is a signficant factor, people tend to get offended. It's usually hard to talk about that, which is why I'm dubious that this thread will go well.

    What do you think?
    Jarleboy, angelo73, Jayseph and 11 others like this.
  2. Monosterio

    Monosterio Forum Resident

    South Florida
    These are the correct opinions:

    Imagine is Lennon’s best album.
    Kind of Blue is the best Miles album.
    You shouldn’t bother at all with Sabbath or Radiohead.


  3. If I Can Dream_23

    If I Can Dream_23 Forum Resident

    United States
    An interesting topic.

    I can't say that I know the answer but like a lot of things, I suspect it's a bit of both. That is, "great works" are often considered great by a majority because of the quality in which the work connects to a majority based on cultural or time-tested musical qualities that a majority of us find pleasing, rhythmic, acceptable, or likeable. And then there is also at least some element of influence, word of mouth, or cultural or social influence going on too. People may know that something is deemed classic or great thus they make more an attempt to at least explore it. Thus, the odds are always greater that coveted albums stay coveted (at least in terms of word of mouth or reference).

    And I agree that we don't like to admit that, but I can't help but think I'd be a fool to claim absolutely 0% part of that occurs. Just like I never "trust" those who say album covers don't effect the perception of an album, or that nostalgia plays 0% in shaping one's tastes. I just can't fathom how either could be possible. Assuming we are human. :)

    Which doesn't mean that we "base" our tastes off influences or perceptions. I think we all hopefully have our own open mind and judgment when it comes to what we like. After all, the threads are constant proof of that, despite the small amount that may influence all of us from the outside.
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2018
  4. BluesOvertookMe

    BluesOvertookMe Forum Resident

    Seabrook, TX, USA
    I agree with you that social influence is a major factor, but some are more affected than others.

    And those that stop after six Black Sabbath albums are missing out on a lot of good music.
  5. BurtThomasWard

    BurtThomasWard Guided by Loke In Memoriam

    Of course!

    It implies that they are easily led or perhaps just stupid. What's even worse is that they known it is true. Hence the taking of offense :D
  6. Tristero

    Tristero Forum Resident

    Interesting question. I don't think that biology enters into it much. At various points in their career, an artist or band just seems to hit their stride, finding the sound that really works for them, the one that most fans really respond to, and a consensus gradually emerges. I wouldn't deny that there is often a kind of herd mentality when it comes to some commonly held viewpoints. I personally feel that Sgt. Peppers is pretty overrated and it was hailed as the ultimate rock masterpiece for so long that some listeners just accepted it as such, just like it's "common wisdom" that Their Satanic Majesties Request is a second rate Pepper clone, even though the two records don't sound all that similar to me, despite both being broadly psychedelic. Still, I recognize that I'm an outlier on those particular questions and I don't have any particular reason to question the sincerity of someone who loves Pepper. Similarly, I'm not as totally bowled over by Ziggy Stardust as some people are, though I do enjoy it and I recognize that it was the point where everything came together for Bowie, both in terms of the band's sound and the thematic presentation, whereas albums like Space Oddity and The Man Who Sold The World were only sporadically successful.
    angelo73, jerico, davers and 3 others like this.
  7. Stone Turntable

    Stone Turntable Dedicated Listener

    New Mexico USA
    Oh God, not another thread on nature vs. nurture!



    Hope there’s not going to be a test...
    angelo73, majorlance and Saint Johnny like this.
  8. Jerry

    Jerry Grateful Gort Staff

    New England
    Sometimes people simply overthink things.
    showtaper, angelo73, Yovra and 9 others like this.
  9. Siegmund

    Siegmund Forum Resident

    Britain, Europe
    Of the three examples that T S gives, I would agree strongly with the first, not at all with the second and largely with the third.

    The first and third examples are often touted by music fans but they may not be shared by the 'casual listening' public, whom - I'd hazard a guess - would identify Imagine as Lennon's best solo album and would listen to Pablo Honey because Creep is on it (but might quickly come to the conclusion that that is the only good track on the album).

    Other good examples - ll, lV and (possibly) Physical Grafitti are the best Led Zeppelin albums.

    Blood On The Tracks is, objectively, the best Dylan album regardless of your personal preferences.
  10. DK Pete

    DK Pete Forum Resident

    Levittown. NY
    In the end of it all, objective as one thinks they're being, it's still objectivity based on opinion. For example, I would put LZ III and HOTH above PG and present an argument for them based on what I objectively feel is a wider range of creativity and originality both in terms of the music and LZ's use of the studio. The word, "objectivity" can be a very dangerous thing.
  11. Khaki F

    Khaki F Forum Resident

    Kenosha, WI. USA
    I think it might me the other way around, meaning the skill rests on the artist, not the listener. Bear with me on this.

    There are some really smart people out there who deal with complex issues constantly. When you listen to them speak, some of them lose you instantly. You walk away with a feeling that you'll never understand them. Others have a way of taking complicated issues and putting them in terms that seem widely understood by large groups of people.

    If music is an expression of an individual's thoughts or emotions, it stands to reason that some will be able to express complicated feelings in easily grasped ways. By and large, I'd say those individuals are the artists whose work is agreed upon by many, as being worthy of special consideration. They're not catering to the lowest common denominator of any demographic, they're expressing high thoughts in accessible ways. I think maybe that's what we look to artists to do... To give a voice to emotions inside of us that we are struggling with and want to explore further. So, when some work is regarded by many as "best" or "greatest", maybe it means somebody has really nailed a particular frame of mind or emotional state, and it's reached a lot of others.
  12. If I Can Dream_23

    If I Can Dream_23 Forum Resident

    United States
    Yes, I think the good news in terms of us being able to openly judge things on our own taste or judgment is the fact that even when we are influenced or steered into an album or artist, we all seem to naturally gravitate to different albums within the broad picture.

    For instance, a friend may turn you on to Jazz or get you into Miles Davis or something. But even though you are influenced, ultimately, you may end up not connecting as deeply to Kind Of Blue, and instead you end up liking his fusion work best. Or you may get influenced to try the genre but instead end up liking Glenn Miller and Big Band music better than the more contemporary artists.

    So I do think that even though influence or cultural trends effects all of us to a minor or heavy degree, there is a limit at which we simply find what we truly like. Much the way that all of us can genuinely share a love of the Stones and yet every single one of us has a unique "top ten" in terms of their albums (well, pretty much a unique top ten)... :)
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2018
    WilliamWes and BurtThomasWard like this.
  13. BurtThomasWard

    BurtThomasWard Guided by Loke In Memoriam

    No, these are all wrong. The only correct answer to this is Presence. I know this to be true.

    That is objectivism for ya.
  14. Monosterio

    Monosterio Forum Resident

    South Florida
    It is? :confused:
  15. If I Can Dream_23

    If I Can Dream_23 Forum Resident

    United States
    Yes, it's a very slippery (and futile) term. That's why I always approach topics with so much delicacy and cynicism when claims are made of something being objective. It's just counter-purpose, and restrictive, to the free creativity of art. And most certainly our interpretations or tastes for it. Which is the ultimate consumption or determination point.

    Like you said, we can all think we are being objective until we are blue in the face, but even the objective was objectified by the subjective. Okay, I think I'm making up words now.. :p
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2018
    davers and DK Pete like this.
  16. blaken123

    blaken123 Your Greater Tri-County CD Superstore

    United States
    I think that these kinds of common-knowledge opinions about music are a combination of biological response to music and cultural conditioning (as mentioned by OP), but also with a big dose of groupthink, which is different than a shared cultural response.
  17. Andrew J

    Andrew J Forum Resident

    South East England
    On one hand it's a potentially mindblowing idea, on the other it could be a frankenstein's monster when you found out after all that hard work that people actually want 'Now that's what I call the best wedding party music ever', or 'Cheesiest ballads' on repeat.
  18. zphage

    zphage Beatard

    Bucks County, PA
    common consensus that needs to be challenged, a short hand that grew out of a more music centric time
    gja586 likes this.
  19. DK Pete

    DK Pete Forum Resident

    Levittown. NY
    That actually makes perfect sense. Each time we think we're being objective (speaking strictly about art, by the way), it's like we take a step outside of ourselves..but you can keep stepping outside of yourself like that eternal mirror thing..each "self" that you see is still only another subjective extension of your original self. Or something like that.
    WilliamWes and If I Can Dream_23 like this.
  20. If I Can Dream_23

    If I Can Dream_23 Forum Resident

    United States
    Yes, well said!
  21. malco49

    malco49 Forum Resident

    not so sure if it is still true but for a while there was the whole "blonde on blonde" is dylan's on good record.

    and for the record i do feel "the holy 6 " as i call them are really all one needs from black sabbath.
  22. anthontherun

    anthontherun Forum Resident

    In the case of Plastic Ono Band, I guess in the objective sense people feel drawn to vulnerability and honesty. I don't think many people would argue that it's more melodically pleasing than Imagine, but it hooks us because of the human connection.

    Then again, I've heard people reduce POB to just being a millionaire whining about his childhood.
  23. DK Pete

    DK Pete Forum Resident

    Levittown. NY
    ...and of course there are all the different reasons people have for finding POB so great. For me, it's much less about the lyrical expression as it is about the raw, musical texture of the whole thing. But that's being very subjective. It's impossible to make an objective declaration of whether Imagine is better than POB or the other way around. The arguments will keep going in circles. The only thing that can be pointed out in an objective sense is that in terms of general commercial appeal, one album is "better" than the other. But "better" only in terms of commercial success which really has no bearing on artistic value.
  24. Gaslight

    Gaslight Modern Cad

    Northeast USA
    Herd mentality. Myself included btw.

    If one could wipe their "musical memory" and drop themselves into a completely different area, say for example an area heavily into country music, or perhaps another area of the globe, your tastes will inevitably change. It's a combination of what you're exposed to, and when you're exposed to it, that will drive your tastes.

    I can name a number of albums that I enjoy as "favorites", just due to being at the right place and the right time.
  25. strummer101

    strummer101 Forum Resident

    Lakewood OH
    Some interesting things:

    Question Your World: Why Do We Like the Music We Like?
    "In a recent experiment conducted by the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital, the brain was studied to see how the auditory cortex communicates with the accumbens nucleus. This is the part of the brain that shows signs of reward and pleasure. In this study they noticed that the accumbens lights up when it hears new music after the song has been filtered through the auditory cortex. Wait a minute…isn’t the auditory cortex different for different people? Yes, it sure is. That's why different people like different music."

    Why we like the music we do
    “Overall, the results of this exciting and well-designed study clearly suggest that the preference for certain musical intervals of those familiar with Western music depends on exposure to that music and not on an innate preference for certain frequency ratios.”

    The science of why we like — and dislike — certain music
    "The scientists played a randomized set of intervals to more than 100 of the (Tsimane) tribe's residents and asked them to rate the pleasantness of each. "When we played them consonant and dissonant chords, they said they're both equally pleasant," explains Ricardo Godoy, another author of the study and professor of international development at Brandeis. "That was surprising."
    Surprising, because when the team administered the same test to college students back in the U.S., the results were drastically different. The American students overwhelmingly preferred consonant intervals to dissonant ones."

    I think it starts with what you grew up hearing. Then, social pressure creates a herd mentality.

    Then there's those with maybe a different enough auditory cortex who hear things entirely differently.
    Or...they just think they're cool.

Share This Page