There are many different qualities of sound in music from around the world. If you survey music from cultures around the world, it seems to me that it makes sense to conclude that what qualities we think are “good” are a matter of personal taste. Personal taste can easily be informed by the taste of those around us. But we can also just like what we like, ignoring the influence of others.

In the Sonic Sandbox, I hope people will be able to reinvent themselves, by dispensing with the notions of what are “good” or “bad” sounds. I want people to start without assumptions about what “music” is. People often judge themselves on their ability to make “beautiful” sounds, and if they get the idea that they aren’t capable of making nice sounds, they won’t even try to make sounds at all. They’ll say, “I can’t sing.” “I can’t play.” “I’m not musical.”

If people dispense with their preconceived ideas of what music is, they can feel comfortable making any sound at all. If they feel that level of comfort, they are more likely to put their hearts into making that sound, which makes it into an act of communication. Then, when they listen to each other and copy each other, they will feel supported and validated in their sound — which is something I find essential in my favorite moments.

If people listen to each other and copy each others sounds, and feel validated and supported, they may start to feel confident in their sound, and make it stronger. This will make their sounds more authentic and more completely themselves, and that leads to more powerful interactions and — dare I say it — more meaningful music.

For me, music is not about beautiful sounds. It is about beautiful communication. And by beautiful, I mean authentic — full; complete; not holding back. It is an expression of a person as they are and as they want to be. They do not hold back, but are completely themselves. They only hold back when they are giving space to others so those others can be authentically themselves. But whether being themselves or supporting others, they do it fully, without reservation.

I think it is possible to tell when people are making sounds this way because of how they look. The smiles on their faces are genuine. They don’t hold back. They don’t judge themselves or each other. They fully accept whatever they hear.

It is possible to be objective about sound. It is possible to quantitatively measure the quality of tone. You can look at the wave form and describe the frequency and the overtones and any other aspect of the waveform you think is relevant. But none of that will tell you how good or bad the tone is. You might say it is in tune or that the pitches are different. But different people enjoy different sounds. Some enjoy things being in tune. Some enjoy things being slightly out of tune. Some enjoy it when we go back and forth between being in tune and hearing the “beats” that indicate being at slightly different pitches.

What you can’t objectively measure is who is right. Each person has their own taste. Can you say that someone’s taste is wrong? All you can say is that it is something shared between a lot of people or shared by a few people. Does the number of people who like something make it objectively right? I don’t think so. I think taste is subjective, and it doesn’t matter whether everyone likes something or you’re the only one who likes something. If you like it, that’s good enough for me — even if I never want to hear what you like.

Liking sounds and getting people to like the sounds you like is not about music. It is about power. It is a way we influence each other. When we get people to like what we like, we gain status. That’s a completely different issue from whether a sound is enjoyable to someone or not.

Most aesthetic issues are about power. People try to persuade each other there is something objectively better about one thing compared to another, but it’s really about power, and about whether you can persuade someone to go along with you or not.

I don’t want people trying to persuade me to go along with them. I also don’t want to depend on my ability to persuade others to agree with me in order to feel like my life is a success. I’d rather just have fun, playing around with others. For me, that means letting go of judgment and letting go of notions of good and bad in music or in any other art form. All that matters to me is what I like. And what I like is fun. And I have more fun when people stop judging than when they come up with some standard (which is always arbitrary) and measure everything else according to how well it matches their standard.

My standard is fun. Fun depends on people being generous and being giving and being loving of differences. That’s what I want out of life. More fun!

What do you want from your life?

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