The other day I had some time between work events, and decided to recline and read in the lobby of my company’s office building. There’s a cafe down there, and they have a number of comfortable couches and nice chairs.
“I know,” I said to myself, “I shall get myself a coffee, and proceed to imbibe a favorite beverage while reading and relaxing on one of those several very nice pieces of butt-bearing furniture.”
I bought a coffee, sat down, opened my book, and began to read. Unfortunately, this was not a process that kept happening. My enjoyment of the delicious coffee and the engagement with the ripping yarn open before me were interrupted by the hideously bad music that was playing in the cafe. Normally, I like cafe music. Most Portland baristas have fairly good taste, and I have no objection to, say, the solo works of Brian Eno playing away whilst I while away my time sipping a roasty stimulant.
This music, however, was not something that I could either enjoy or tune out. It was a hideous form of dominating sound that could perhaps be described as “jazz.” A saxophone warbled away, and in the background the undriving beat of automated non-drums disrupted both concentration, disengagement, and all states in between. I tried to ignore it.
I attempted to concentrate on things like the taste of delicious coffee, and the various plot twists of my book. That, however, proved difficult. The hideous muzak-jazz permeated the whole of the environment, and I began shifting uncomfortably on the comfy chair where I sat.
The track ended. I was glad.
Another track just like it started. It was more than I could take. The hideous saxophone was back and I couldn’t concentrate on my coffee, book, or anything. The only thing I wanted to do was murder the music with something pointy.
I tried to tough it out. I lasted for another track, and then, after that, something I recognized came on. It was this.
I immediately recognized the horrible strains of Kenny G’s biggest “hit,” Songbird. Suddenly, I was very happy. Not because Kenny G was playing- I was still perturbed by that, but because I had one of my biases confirmed. I learned that Kenny G is objectively bad.
I didn’t know that the offensive music had been a Kenny G album. But, I did hate it. I hated it stripped of context and presentation, stripped of personality and adornment. It was nice to know that I don’t think that Kenny G is a horrible musician (and probably a horrible person) because he has stupid hair or because middlebrow suburban Applebee’s customers enjoy him. I don’t hate him because it’s cool to hate him or because he’s an easy target. Suffering through his music, and not knowing it was his, taught me that Kenny G is objectively bad. All things being equal, his music is bad music.
It’s a rare opportunity to have one’s opinions stripped of context and tested. That cafe, though, gave me the opportunity to evaluate something I hate on a totally level playing field. Even on a level playing field, I learned that it was still awful.
Moments like that are great and valuable- finding an opinion confirmed, denied, or changed when context has been stripped away. It’s a rare thing to evaluate something in and of itself, and I walked to my next work function happily knowing that i gleefully hated Kenny G.