Categories. Sometimes they're a good thing. Sometimes they ruin the experience of art. While I'll be talking about music, this idea applies to almost all art forms. The problem lies not so much in the danger of misapplied labels but in the tendency of people to shy away from genres they 'know' they don't like.
Take the word 'ambient.' Ask 20 different people to describe ambient music and you're sure to get everything from "huh?" to "boring elevator music" to "mellow" (Dang, I hate that word…don't even like typing it) to a detailed synopsis of process music. While all of them might accurately describe some pieces of ambient music, it's clear that that particular genre is fairly wide-ranging, encompassing everything from the sonic wash of Eno's Ambient 1: Music For Airports to the more techno-ish work of Aphex Twin. Obviously, the 'definition' we're dealing with here isn't doing the job. That can't be helped though, as language can only go so far.
What bugs me is when a person rejects some music out of hand based on the category. I hear this all the time. Somebody doesn't like jazz, another incredibly wide genre of music. It's like tossing out 30 sub-genres without hearing a single note. I've heard the same of classical music. It all sounds the same you know!
OK, here I'll admit that my music obsessiveness gets the better of me: I'm always so thirsty for new forms of "sound entertainment" that I just can't imagine being so cavalier about rejecting things. Of course, my counter-examples are populated with music that I don't particularly care for: death metal, shoegazer, the former being too aggressive and one-dimensional to my ears while the latter comes across as cold and emotionless. Also, I do realize that people who aren't into music at this same level just don't listen with the same amount of attentiveness. That might explain the tendency to miss small but important differences between pieces of music. (I've pretty much given up trying to introduce things to people who don't share my musical proclivities. I want them to listen, they start talking, I say "You're not listening," they disagree, I get annoyed….and on and on.)
Still, I can see why certain genres of music, even ones that I love, might not be to everyone's liking. Today's selection provides a great example. It's fully improvised, with Bill Frisell on electric guitar and Jim Staley on trombone. It has elements of several genres including both jazz and ambient music. What it lacks are 'normal' song structures. Couple that with some oddball and abrasive sounds and I can understand how it might be off-putting to some.
But that doesn't mean that you shouldn't give it a try.