At some time while I was in High School, after having been a HiFi Crazy since I was twelve, I moved on to the next step and became a music snob. While all my contemporaries were rocking around the clock, getting into the sounds of Pat Boone, Elvis Presley, Tommy & the Juniors, The Coasters, The Platters, and all the rest, I became a fifteen-year-old beatnik, dressed all in black (turtlenecks and black "peggers" were the hot setup), and, as a budding intellectual wannabe, learned to play bad chess (and even worse Go), and declared that music had ceased being written after 1759, when Handel died.
Not only did I despise the music of my peers, regarding it as "shallow", "musically illiterate" and "juvenile" (this, remember, from a fifteen-year-old), but I lavished particular contempt on all of the popular concert classics, (remember, also, that "concert", in those days, meant "classical"), which, curling my lip, I declared to be "War Horses", and "plebeian". The pieces I was referring to, of course, were such wonders as Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture", "Beethoven's 5th Symphony", Rossini's "William Tell Overture" (the "Lone Ranger" theme), Liszt's "Les Preludes" (the other ["...meanwhile, back at the ranch..."] "Lone Ranger" theme), Mozart's "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik", Enesco's "Rumanian Rhapsody No. 1", the Brahms "Hungarian Dances", and on, and on, and on...
Although all of those were great works that were immensely popular when written and are still known and loved, even to this day; to my youthful arrogance, just the fact that every yahoo or troglodyte (See, I told you that as a kid I had had intellectual pretensions) who dared to walk upright (albeit, I was sure, with knuckles occasionally dragging), liked them was condemnation enough: If the Rubes liked something, how good could it be? More likely it was just something – like cotton candy – that was sweet; that they could savor; and that required no chewing.
It wasn't until I got into college that it finally occurred to me that if something was good enough to make it to the "Top 40", and stay there for as long as 200 years, it might actually have some substance to it, and that – like bacon – just because it was loved by the masses didn't make it any the less yummy! There's an old saying that "If you stick your head far enough up your _____, your ears will get dirty and you won't be able to hear very well." There's another one, too, that's actually an audiophile/music lover variant on a slightly different original: "There's none so deaf as him who will not hear".
All of a sudden, college-age me understood that high school me had not only been a jerk, but had denied myself a great deal of musical enjoyment, just to be able to claim a moment's mistaken superiority over "the great unwashed". Dumb. I felt like Jack, when finally faced with the fact that he had sold the cow for just a few beans. Even worse, though; my beans were really just beans, and had no magic to them at all! The truth is that "Good is good", regardless of whether it fits within whatever may be the limits of your pre-conceptions: Once I figured that out, was able to understand that the reason that the "War Horses" had become "War Horses" and stayed popular for all that time was because they had real merit that the "plebes" had been able to spot immediately, and that I had never noticed because my ears were too tightly clogged with my own arrogance.
Wow! Imagine a vision of opening doors and the "Hosannas!" of angels: Since that "Eureka!" moment of fateful and glorious observation, I've been able to expand my musical, cultural, and even intellectual horizons far beyond what they had ever been before ― to the point that now, in the musical realm, I will listen to and appreciate everything from Albinoni to Zappa; to Ricky Skaggs; to the Staples Singers; to Jazz; to Tuvan throat-singing, and I've even gone so far as to openly tout Pink Floyd's "The Wall" as the greatest opera of any kind written in the twentieth century!
What has changed is not the music, but my willingness to actually hear it! Before, I was like the little kid who has never tasted whatever food is being served, but doesn't like it anyway. And the problem was that I didn't have someone to play the part of that kid's mother and say to me "just taste it; maybe you'll like it; maybe it'll even be your new favorite!" The fact is that the problem was never with the music, but always with me. I made the mistake that, since then, have seen far too often in far too many areas of human thought and endeavor: I let a penny's worth of self-congratulation keep me from a priceless feast of human achievement.
Who played better violin? Yehudi Menuhin, Charlie Daniels, or Stéphane Grappelli? What about guitar? Stevie Ray Vaughan, Lester Flatt or Narciso Yepes? Who blew better horn? Maurice Andre or Miles Davis? How ‘bout Wynton Marsalis; a performer still alive, who seems equally comfortable playing either Jazz or Classical, and who has the "chops" for it either way? (If you don't think that's possible or just want a treat that would leave a lot of jazzmen or trumpeters in any other genre with bloody lips and broken fingers, listen to him playing the Hummel Trumpet Concerto in E Major).
We're blessed, as today with millennia of musical tradition from all over the world; written to be played in every conceivable style; for voice and for every kind of instrument imaginable; to be performed by anything from a single person to hundreds (for huge works like the Berlioz "Requiem"), or even 1011, as when Mahler's Symphony No. 8 (the "Symphony for 1,000") was last performed in Los Angeles, on February 4, 2012 [Editor's note, a new record for the longest single sentence]. We've also got more than a century of recordings of every kind of music by every kind of performer to hear and enjoy; to express or influence our mood; and to enrich our lives. And we can even, if we choose, experience and compare the great performances of past and present, to learn which we prefer and why, and go on from there to find more of whatever we want.
With all the art and artistry that's available to us today, just for the asking, it is hard to imagine how anyone could do as I did so long ago and not just embrace it all as it comes along. Instead of becoming a music snob or constraining or restricting ourselves in any other way, why not just...
Enjoy the music!