Musical taste – it’s a “me thing”

I’ve been writing a series of essays for InterludeHK on pianists and their composers. Some are obvious choices – Gould, Schiff and Hewitt for Bach, for example. The selections are neither comprehensive nor definitive, and are by their very nature subjective – because they are selected by me. These articles are simply intended to offer readers some listening suggestions or a pointer to explore pianists and/or recordings with which they may not be familiar.

I tend not to read comments on my published essays these days, but I was amused – though not surprised – by some of the responses to my Pianists and their Composers articles. It is inevitable that such compilations will omit your favourite pianist for Bach, Beethoven, Schubert et al, and your choices will not necessarily align with mine.

“Wot, no XX, XX or XXX?” declared a ruffled reader on Twitter in response to my article on the music of Chopin. “How could you omit so-and-so?” demanded another on reading the article on Beethoven’s piano sonatas.

These responses demonstrate several important truths. First, that fans of classical music in general, and specific composers and artists in particular, care very deeply and are very attached to their favourite artists; secondly, that taste is a very personal, “me” thing.

Our musical taste is shaped from an early age, influenced initially by our parents’ listening habits, later by teachers, peers, friends, study, growing maturity, curiosity…. Our taste evolves and changes due to our experience of music, life experience, and a whole host of other factors – from mixtapes/playlists shared between friends at college to our first proper rock or classical concert or grand opera. Today the availability of a seemingly infinite amount of music of all genres means one’s taste and musical curiosity knows no bounds, if one allows it to graze freerange, uninhibited and with an open mind. Your taste won’t align with mine – and that’s fine. How dull life would be if we all liked the same thing!

But a word of caution: the quickest way to alienate me, or indeed anyone else who enjoys listening to music, is to tell them that their taste is “wrong”, or “bad”. Most of us don’t like music because we are told we should like it; nor do we stop liking it because we told shouldn’t like it!

Shameless begging bit:

This site is free to access and ad-free, and takes many hours to research, write, and maintain. If you find joy and value in what I do, please consider making a donation to support the continuance of this site