What Makes Music Aesthetically Pleasing? It Can Be the Setting

What makes music aesthetically pleasing? I’m sure every time you listen to a musical performance whether it be live or recorded. Every sound you hear is either aesthetically pleasing to your ear or not as pleasing or even terrible.

There are many different styles of music ranging from primitive to Baroque to Renaissance to Classical to Romantic to early 20th Century music followed by many styles of American music including Mountain to Folk to Jazz (Blues) which split into Be-Bop, Country, and Rock ’n Roll and its many forms to present day including Rap. I think it’s fair to say that the church and the Bible contributed much to many of the above mentioned styles even R ’n R. Some of the greatest rock stars got their start in church. You don’t have to love every kind of music to appreciate the quality of the product.

Ironically the church at first considered R ‘n R satan’s music. As a general music teacher in elementary school I once received a somewhat nasty letter from an irate religious parent stating that they couldn’t find a devil’s message in a mild rock song I played at the end of class but THERE MUST BE A HIDDEN MESSAGE! My principal laughed and rolled his eyes over the whole thing.

OK, back to all those forms played well in the proper settings, with an agreeable audience will be very aesthetically pleasing. If a very proficient rock band tries to play jazz at a college mixer, not good.

Actual instruments can invade areas where they shouldn’t be. Since the saxophone was invented circa 1845, its usually not too welcome in orchestra settings, mostly because it’s so damn loud. There are a few exceptions but in general nothing worth mentioning. Basically not very aesthetic in that environment.

On the other hand, the violin was perfected during and probably helped define the classical period. In America, the violin is known as a fiddle (named after a German immigrant violin maker named Fidal) with a bridge modification. The fiddle became a primary staple and solo instrument in early American music like: isolated mountain music, the blues, and country music.

While rock bands have a nucleus of guitars, bass guitar, and drums, the violins add an elegance almost contrary to the concept of rock ’n roll. The sustained notes of the bowed strings gives the guitars an unexpected warmth that can only translate to aesthetically beautiful.

Here comes the second surprise. Let’s put a cherry on top of the cake, that being stick a saxophone playing a rock solo backed by those warm violins. The perfect blend! Aesthetics taken to the next level.

Unfortunately, there are violinists that think that since they can play the solos, they should be featured soloists. All I can say is “Sorry, save your solos for other more appropriate music. Musicians should know their stations in the music world. Just because you can do something, it doesn’t mean it should be forced down the public’s throat just to satisfy your egos.

Really good musicians sometimes use gimmicks to be set apart from the norm. A good example is the band leader of a late night show. He features a toy melodica to play the main theme song….Come on it’s terrible sounding, but it DID catch my attention in an annoying way and I AM writing about it. He apparently reached his objective!

I don’t mean to set myself up as judge and jury, but I do have two very experienced ears and I LISTEN. In this case, no aesthetic value was a consideration.

If you are hired to perform at a venue, please play for the listeners, not for your ego, unless they are one and the same. There is nothing more gratifying than when you are playing what you do best and people come up to you and say “You didn’t play anything we didn’t like!”

Oooooooooh Yessssssssssss