[Dixielandjazz] Good and bad music

Anton Crouch a.crouch at unsw.edu.au
Wed Feb 4 15:28:43 PST 2004

Hello all

Fred Spencer's question about the source for this oft-mentioned "quotation"
set me thinking - yes, everyone knows it but nobody's sure who said it. We
tend to ascribe it to the "good and great" (eg, Louis Armstrong or Duke
Ellington in jazz; Thomas Beecham in classical music) but I have the
feeling that it is probably much older than any of us.

I did a bit of (far from exhaustive) searching and found:

Composer Peter Warlock (Philip Heseltine) > "music is neither old nor
modern - it is either good or bad music", in "The Sackbut", 1926.

Conductor Thomas Beecham > a distinction between good and bad music in his
autobiography "A Mingled Chime", 1943. I don't have the actual quote.

Conductor Thomas Beecham > Ed Murrow's TV programme "Small World",17
November 1957. Journalist Norman Ross leads a panel discussion with Beecham
in Nice, Maria Callas in Milan and Victor Borge in rural Massachusetts.
It's a long time ago but my memory is that Borge mentions "light music" and
Beecham retorts that there is no such thing - there is only good and bad

Writer Fran Lebowitz > "There are two kinds of music - good and bad music.
Good music is music that I want to hear. Bad music is music that I don't
want to hear", in The sound of music: enough already, 1987 (in Writing in
the disciplines: a reader for writers. Mary L Kennedy et al (eds), Prentice
Hall, NJ)

Lebowitz's comment is particularly appropriate to DJML  :-)

All the best (and not the worst)

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