04
Feb
12

An analogy

I like peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches. I like them a lot. I like them for a variety of reasons.

I also like filet mignon Wellington and creme brûlée.

But I am fully prepared to admit that the preparation of a PBJ is easy. Almost brainless. The preparation of the other dish might quite rightly qualify as culinary art, if well executed. And you’d never get a job as a chef if all you could do was make PBJs.

So why do we defer to the tastes of the masses when evaluating music? I thought educated people understood that argumentum ad populum is a fallacy. The fact that you “like” something isn’t enough to support a claim that it has value which must be universally acknowledged. But for some reason people have enshrined the attitude conveyed in Frank Zappa’s famous quote: “if it sounds good to you, it’s bitchin’!” Which on a certain level is fine, as long as you don’t cross the line into canonizing the mundane and the easy. I think PBJs are bitchin’, but I also think they’re a poor example of culinary skill. You’ll never catch me donating to the Foundation for the Dissemination of Peanut-Butter-and-Jelly-Sandwich-Making Techniques. I’m not arguing that we shouldn’t enjoy peanut-butter sandwiches. Just that we should call a spade a spade.

So here I sit, watching in horror as people snarf down, almost exclusively all the PBJs on offer from bands like Coldplay, or “artists” like Ben Folds. Meanwhile, Bach’s creme brûlée is starting to grow mold. Those who consider themselves “omnivores” are no consolation. How can you equate peanut-butter and jelly with complicated dishes that require lots of knowledge and experience to create?

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