Pet Peeve Questions/Comments about Music

Okay, I’ve just got to take a minute to write this post.  I try to stay as positive and non-judgmental as possible, but I fall short.  I’ve just got to get this out.  I get a lot of questions about music and I love to answer them, but I’ll let you in on a little secret:

There are some questions that I HATE to answer.

These include, but are not exclusive to:

  • “Do you still listen to regular music?/What sort of regular music do you like?”

My first thought is, “What is ‘regular’ music?”  What they really mean is “What sort of popular music do you like?”  This question is built on a false paradigm.  As if there’s this idea of “classical” or “high brow” music and then there’s “fun” or “regular” music.

In my mind, music is music, but if we must divide it out there are really only 3 different kinds of music: Classical, Popular and Folk.  Almost all music can be put into these three and a lot of music has actually been in all three categories.  When Mozart was writing his music, it was popular.  He was the Madonna of his day.  Now, because he’s dead and his music is no longer in style we deem it “classical.”  Jazz has many origins in folk music, no one really knows exactly how it came about nor who their authors were.  It became very popular in the beginning and middle of the twentieth century but now isn’t as popular as it was once was and has now become canonized and codified in a way so that we study it at universities in depth and become “classical.”  This is sort of a fast answer to a much broader topic.

For some reason, people get this idea that because I study classical music that I either destain ALL popular music and never listen to it, or that I only study classical music because I have to, that I’d really rather be in a rock band and they want me to confess it.  Neither is true.

  • (When talking about my choral music) “Do you ever want to write for orchestras in the future?”

I actually hear this question a lot from profesional musicians and non-musicians alike.  Among the non-musicians, most of the time it’s out of curiosity in what my goals are.  A lot of times the question is, “Do you want to write for films?”  I can understand that curiosity, even if the answer is no.

With professional musicians I’m not so understanding.  Usually when I get this question there’s an undertone of “C’mon, when are you going to start writing real, legitimate music?  When are you going to grow out of this choral thing?”  There’s this idea that writing choral music is this annoying, little brother of instrumental music and that musicians will start there and eventually write their “serious” music for orchestras or chamber groups.

  • Do you like (insert genre here)?

Depends on what’s in said genre.  I find intriguing and compelling things in all genres, even if I don’t enjoy the majority of their music.

  • “I could never study music and I feel bad for those who do.  They can’t enjoy music anymore.”  

This isn’t really a question, but the comment actually makes me fume.  This come from the idea that the study of something squeezes all the enjoyment out of something.  Some people go to college and major in something and then suddenly putting work in to it takes all the fun out.  Hence, many people study something they hate simply because it’s lucrative.  I’ve never understood either mentality.

Going to a botanical garden, who will enjoy it more?  The average joe or a botanist?  You and I will be able to enjoy it quite a bit, but a botanist will probably go bananas seeing so many different kinds of plants and will be like a kid in a candy store.  Because of my studies, my enjoyment of music has grown exponentially.  I’ve been exposed to tremendous amounts of beautiful (and some not so beautiful) music and gained a love and appreciation for it.  I don’t love all music, but to me it’s all valid.

Here’s a list of popular music I’ve listened to in the past.  I’ve decided to strike through the groups that I no longer enjoy or listen to.  It’s telling and perhaps a little embarassing, but here’s an honest look:

30 Seconds to Mars


Julie Andrews

Tori Amos


The Beatles

Dave Brubeck



Sheryl Crow

Jamie Cullum

Linkin Park

Miles Davis

Joao and Astrud Gilberto

Jimmy Eat World


John Mayer



Ok Go

Sarah McLachlin

Alanis Morissette

Benton Paul


Rage Against the Machine

Red Hot Chili Peppers

Snow Patrol

Joss Stone

Sigur Ros


White Stripes

Stevie Wonder

The Who

As you can see, I still listen to and enjoy the vast majority of music I listened to in High School and beyond.  Anyway, something I’ve been thinking about. Some honest, perhaps harsh, responses.  Or maybe just grumpy ramblings.  I just choose to study choral music because it’s my favorite genre of music.


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