Last week, I revealed my longtime dislike for the sound of saxophones. Since then, I’ve realized I’m hardly alone. There is a Facebook group devoted to the anti-sax “cause,” and a lovely song by Sean Na Na, and a pretty awesome tee-shirt…It seems “I hate saxophones” almost qualifies as a meme.
Perhaps not surprisingly, a handful of local saxophonists responded negatively to the column – one in private email; two in a joint letter to the editor of the Missoulian.
As is customary for matters covered in the paper, I’ll let that back-and-forth stand on its own, with one minor clarification: I’m right and they’re wrong.
But I do think the conversation reflects two broader points that are near and dear to my heart. And if you’ll hear me out, I promise a fun little treat at the end!
First is the question of bias in the media. Traditionally, it has been held by both ethicists and the general public that newspaper reporters should seek to discard bias when reporting the news. That seemed to be the argument of the letter writers.
Here’s the thing: Every reporter has his or her biases, whether acknowledged or not. Would readers rather know those biases; or be left to guess them? I tend to think the former. I know my views on that question don’t mesh with what most journalism professors would tell you. But the popularity of talk radio, Fox News and blogs would seem to support my view, at least in the eyes of some.
There is much more to explore on that subject, and healthy debate to be had; but in this context it actually seems kind of moot, for a more basic reason: Nickell’s Bag is a column (and a blog), not “straight” reportage. The reason that my picture runs with the column in the paper is to emphasize that there is some individual personality and, yes, bias to these musings.
Secondly, when talking with people about music, I often hear the refrain, “I like all kinds of music.” Here’s a bold assertion based on little beyond my own bias: I tend to think that people who say that don’t really care deeply about any music.
It is a rickety thesis, to be sure. Nobody that I’ve found has ever attempted a scientific examination of the issue. My only “proof” is a logical leap of faith from another, more closely studied realm of our culture: politics.
Pollsters will tell you that truly “independent” voters – those who don’t affiliate themselves with a particular party – tend to be the least likely to actually vote in elections, because they are simply less engaged and passionate about political discourse.
Music isn’t politics, of course. Or is it? Maybe we should ask the Dixie Chicks…
In my work, it’s important that I try to comprehend what people value in different types of music, and to help guide the right audience to the right music when I can. Same with other forms of art and entertainment.
But if I didn’t know where I stood on the map of musical tastes, I probably wouldn’t be much of a guide.
Okay, enough being serious. I do think the saxophone can serve important purposes, actually. Just watch this video!