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Saturday, July 02, 2011

Why nobody can answer the "what kind of music do you like?" question

At a drinks do the other day a woman asked me the question I dread the most.
"What kind of music do you like?"
I know she was only trying to make small talk. I really shouldn't shrivel up the way I do. I wouldn't have a problem if she'd said "read any good books lately?" or "have you been on holiday yet?" because those questions demand direct, specific answers.
Two kinds of people ask me the "what kind of music?" question. There are those who don't know I've got the better part of 20,000 records at home and therefore my relationship with music could be said to be complicated.
Then there are the people who know I've got a lot of records and expect me to be somehow expert in predicting what they might like.
In truth there is nothing you can say in response to the question that doesn't make you sound like either a dunderhead or a raging pseud.
I've heard all these and more. I've probably said some of them.
"Anything with a good tune" is the only honest answer but it's been unusable since 1965.
"You probably wouldn't have heard of them" makes you sound 17-years-old, which is the emotional age of most men when it comes to discussing music.
"Coldplay and Beyonce" makes you sound like a sheep.
"The Arctic Monkeys" makes you sound like Gordon Brown.
"Anything but country and western" marks you out as both snob and moron.
"I don't like music" is just plain rude.
"Oh, bit of trance, bit of rare groove etc" makes you sound like a cloth-eared category shopper.
"Oh, I always think Louis Armstrong had a point when he said there were just two kinds of music: good and bad" makes you sound pompous enough to punch.
To avoid any of these and other catastrophes I tend to look down and mumble "all sorts of things", at which point my interlocutor will invariably say "oh, like me!"
That's the interesting thing about taste. Everyone thinks theirs is broad. Mostly it's not. When you've worked around music and music fiends as long as I have you learn that only a tiny handful of people are familiar with a wide range of music and catholic taste when it comes to appreciating it. And they tend to keep quiet about it because they know how much they don't know.
Anyway, my wife appeared and rescued me mid-mumble with a change of subject. I've thought about it a lot since. I think in future if people ask me what kind of music I like I shall respond brightly with "The Beatles!"
At least it's honest.