The Subjectivity of Music

Yesterday, while at my All-State Audition, I had the opportunity to talk to one of my directors about the subjectivity of music and judging. I was waiting for my recall audition when we began to discuss that with any audition, it all comes down to what the judge thinks. It doesn’t matter how good everyone else thinks you are or are not, what the judge decides, is the final decision of whether you are “good.” As my director mentioned, it’s all about the preferences of the judge. Some judges may like a darker tone, while others may prefer something a bit brighter. Some will be really focused on tone, while other judges may really listen for technique.

What bothers me most about All-State auditions, is that you are judged by a single person. How do you know that one person will see talent and skill in your playing? If I were to have my way, there would be three judges. That way, when it’s a close call between players, the judges would be able to bounce opinions off of each other to better pick someone. I would feel a lot of pressure if I had to judge all by myself. How would you know if you picked the right person? In most cases, the judge gets one shot at listening to you. This is why you need to go in and just grab the judges attention. You need to make it easy for them to pick you.

Of course, during All-State auditions, you are not allowed to let the judge know in any way, what school you are from, or who your directors are. This is to prevent the judge from having preconceived notions about you before you even begin to play. However, other biases can occur. While I am not a brass player myself, it is known that judges can be very harsh on female brass players. While music is a subjective thing, your performance should be the only thing considered when you are being judged.

This is why judging can be difficult. There is no definite way of deciding a winner. While you can tell an obvious difference between a player who comes into an audition and can play the music, and a player who cannot, when two players are at about an equal level of skill and talent, it’s harder to pick who is “better.” There isn’t a definite finish line to cross, or baskets and touch-downs that count for clear-cut points. This is what makes music and other forms of art so subjective, but as a musician I have had to learn to accept this as an inevitable part of what I do.




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