How to say “I didn’t like it”

June 11, 2008


Composers get used to civilized and noncommittal responses that usually mean “I didn’t get/like it.”

Top of the list is: “Congratulations!”

Next is the seemingly interested by ultimately not “I thought it was INTERESTING.”

Both “interesting” and “congratulations” can actually mean what they mean, but the composer must learn to perceive TONE in order to know which one they mean.

Shake hands and shout like a pirate: “You’ve done it again!” and it’s never exactly clear what “it” is.

And then there is the “let’s avoid talking about the music” approach and focus on what was clearly a great performance: “What a terrific performance!” with a big smile gets you off the hook.

There is a new one that popped up this year: “Gosh! That was such a lot of hard work!”

And now that I’ve got my poor reader confused as to what you say to a composer upon hearing their new composition. Try one of these:

“I love the flow.”
“I need to hear it again if you want me to say something intelligent about it.”
“It wasn’t my cup of tea, but I still found it interesting.”
“The range of musical languages was puzzling but satisfying.”
“I cried in the …”
“My favorite parts were…” [composers may pretend to not be interested, but they are.]
“Why did you use the electric guitar in …”
“The love duet reminds me of …”
“I especially like when it …”
“It makes me think of [spring time in the desert].”

After all, as Igor Stravinsky said: “Music is much more important than just ‘to like’.”


[Interview with Stravinsky before the premiere of “Variations: Aldous Huxley in memoriam” recorded from a KUSC broadcast.]

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