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A question entitled "What makes a song a Christmas song?" was closed as opinion-based.

Apart from lyrics, what features have been common to Christmas music in different traditions and eras of classical, folk and modern music?

Have there been specific melodic intervals, structure, harmony, rhythm, tempo, instruments, etc. that are uniquely or strongly associated with Christmas music in different eras and settings? Are any of them universal or nearly so?

I struck me as odd that the question was closed because it explicitly asks for analysis. Perhaps someone answers "yes, a commonality is X." They would support this position with analysis of musical examples. If someone else disagreed, they would provide counterexamples (also in the form of musical analysis). To me, it seemed like these positions would be objective, not subjective. For example, an answer claiming "all Christmas music falls within 70-130 bpm" is not opinion-based. It's easily rebutted with facts.

I also thought there would likely be general agreement that the correct answer is "no, analysis will not reveal shared musical qualities in nearly all Christmas music." But if most/all users were to agree about the answer, then the question doesn't seem very opinion-based. But maybe this question was also closed for being low-quality/too obvious?

Could someone kindly explain why this was closed and the ways it's opinion-based (which I seem to be missing)?

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    A better close reason probably would be "needs more focus", since the entire gamut of Christmas music is far too broad to offer a cogent analysis. None of the present answers offer much insight, certainly none analytical in the way the question asks, and all amount to "this question is unanswerable." The close reason may be technically incorrect, but closing the question is the right answer.
    – Aaron
    Dec 18, 2021 at 1:37
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    @Aaron, I disagree if answers say the Q is unanswerable. A question whose answer is ultimately "no" is not unanswerable IMO. That is, I don't think the entire gamut of Christmas music needs to be analyzed to answer this question. Garnering un-insightful answers isn't a close reason, but is the problem here that the Q is too simple/obvious? I think someone who studied Christmas music extensively would have more interesting points to make, which might be missed even by trained musicians who haven't studied those songs (but only play/listen to them annually).
    – jdjazz
    Dec 18, 2021 at 5:31
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    A general comment: sometimes people select various reasons to close a question, and once it's closed, only one reason is displayed. This may make an incorrect impression that all voters selected the displayed reason. Dec 25, 2021 at 18:58

2 Answers 2

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There’s plenty of justification for closure in the existing comments on the question.

We already know that there isn’t going to be general agreement that the answer is “no” because there’s one answer already that isn’t “no” and two others that are not unequivocal “no”s.

I think it’s tantamount to genre identification.

Also too broad.

Explicitly asking for analysis doesn’t by itself make a question appropriate.

I think someone who studied Christmas music extensively would have more interesting points to make

Even if that’s true, it also doesn’t automatically make any question a good fit. In this case, it brings us to the issue of what is considered Christmas music for the purposes of the question.

The scope of what is Christmas music in the first place is subjective. Are we analyzing Für Elise or not? What about Beethoven’s 9th? What about Christmas in Hollis? (Many people have asserted in my presence that rap is not music, so even with Christmas in the title, whether it’s Christmas music is subjective.)

Also the question shows zero research or independent thought. I’m one of that last people to ask for research before asking, as popular as that requirement is on SE. But in this case it seems egregious. Even a casual listener with no musical training should be able to conclude that what is considered Christmas music constitutes every genre and style and there’s no pinning it down.

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  • In addition, a negative can't be proved. A definitive "no" would require asserting every possible musical trait and showing a counterexample. It would be an effectively infinite process.
    – Aaron
    Dec 20, 2021 at 4:33
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    -1 because I strongly disagree that the question shows zero research or independent thought. I think that makes a big assumption about the person asking the question. We can't judge their prior thought or what motivated their curiosity simply from what they wrote. If the question said "I want to limit 'Christmas music' to songs with lyrics about Christmas," then would this would address your point about subjectivity? Because I think people are overlooking this genuine intention. In my mind, this answer cites two reasons: genre identification and too broad, but neither is explained.
    – jdjazz
    Dec 21, 2021 at 5:35
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    @jdjazz “why was this question closed?” (list of reasons) “I don’t agree with those reasons so i still don’t see why this question what closed”. I mean; if you reject answers to your question, then you’re not going to get an answer. If you’re actually curious what other people are thinking, then you’ll have to open your mind a bit to different points of view. Dec 21, 2021 at 5:44
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    Do I really need to specify in the Q that I'm looking for valid reasons? This answer (a) makes unfair assumptions about the asker's lack of independent thought, (b) overlooks what I thought was a genuine attempt in the question to be clear about Christmas music, and (c) lists two conclusions with no explanation or justification. Also, I'm not sure why you've given a platform to the ignorant belief that "rap isn't music." Ignorance exists. I don't see how this is related to having a nuanced discussion about the questions you asked regarding what the asker intends "Christmas music" to encompass.
    – jdjazz
    Dec 21, 2021 at 5:54
  • @jdjazz What I’m trying to say is there are no invalid reasons to VTC. Votes to close are inherently subjective. That’s why the moderation is done by humans, not an algorithm. Im not saying you have to clarify that you want valid reasons to close. Im trying to say that you can’t tell someone that’s not why they voted to close or why they would vote to close. It’s their reason. It’s like asking someone what their favorite color is and when they say “blue” you say “you can’t pick blue as a favorite color” Dec 21, 2021 at 13:14
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    @jdjazz Overall, you and I disagree on this. Which is ok. If we all agreed on everything there would be no need for a meta stack. I’m not trying to make you agree with me, I’m only trying to clarify the nature of my thinking that is different from yours. I have no desire for you to agree with me, I assumed your question here was to understand the nature of the disagreement, so I’ve attempted to outline points of view that seem different from yours. If you want to claim these other points of view are invalid, then A) I wonder why you asked and B) you’re not going to change minds that way. Dec 21, 2021 at 13:25
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    @ToddWilcox, you attacked the user who asked the question, and I think that's unfair and totally unnecessary. Instead of saying the person had zero independent thought (which is completely impossible for you to judge and makes assumptions about their intellect), just say the question is too basic. Your answer also includes a statement that rap isn't music. I realize that calling these things out puts you on the defensive, but me doing so is not an indication that my mind is already made up on the substantive points.
    – jdjazz
    Dec 22, 2021 at 16:41
  • @jdjazz I’m not going to respond to any more of your comments. You have my thoughts on the question and then some. Make what you like of them. Dec 22, 2021 at 23:03
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    @ToddWilcox, in the future I recommend limiting your comments to substance. Insinuations about the person's intellect, laziness, or rap are not productive or warranted.
    – jdjazz
    Jan 3, 2022 at 19:42
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Todd's answer and Aaron's comment are already terrific answers to this.

But as the ultimate closer of the question, I should probably chime in. I felt that this was one of those questions that had multiple possible closure reasons: it needed more focus, it was potentially opinion-based (there are plenty of songs where people would disagree if it's a Christmas song), it was ultimately a genre-identification question, and so on. The choice of "opinion-based" was because prior users had already settled on that as the close reason. If I could do it again, I'd change that, but that's why it has the reason it has.

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  • For the sake of trying to improve the question, let's imagine it provided a clear definition of "Christmas music," for purposes of the question. Would this address the issues of being opinion-based, genre identification, and unfocused? For ex, how many problems are resolved if the asker says "For my purposes, I intend for 'Christmas music' to refer to Western songs in English with lyrics about Christmas." Many answers on this site don't include the sort of justification Aaron is asking for. "Don't ask subjective questions" doesn't mean questions must be answerable through deductive reasoning.
    – jdjazz
    Dec 21, 2021 at 6:27
  • @jdjazz IMHO, asking why one particular song is considered Christmas music is definitely focused enough but could potentially be subjective because not necessarily everyone will agree on whether that song is Christmas music in the first place. I’m not coming up with great ideas on how to make the question on topic, because the overall notion of being or not being Christmas music connects with both subjectivity and genre identification. Dec 21, 2021 at 13:20
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    @jdjazz I'm not sure I fully understand your hypothetical; it sounds like a question that asks what Christmas music is while simultaneously defining what Christmas music is.
    – Richard
    Dec 21, 2021 at 14:58
  • @Richard, where in the question does it ask what Christmas music is?
    – jdjazz
    Dec 22, 2021 at 15:46
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    @jdjazz Unless we're really splitting hairs, "what is Christmas music" and "what makes a Christmas song a Christmas song" are the same question. But perhaps I'm missing something, so I'd happily hear how these two are different.
    – Richard
    Dec 22, 2021 at 16:57
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    @Richard, I agree completely that "what is Christmas music" is the same as "what makes a Christmas song a Christmas song." Neither of those questions was asked in the post. We have to read past the title because it doesn't match what's actually in the body of the post; the title isn't an accurate summary. IMO here's a clearer articulation of the Q, as described in the post: "Consider the subset of songs that contain lyrics about Christmas. Within this subset, are there any other common musical elements (besides the lyrics, which are shared by definition)?" I thought an edit like this may help.
    – jdjazz
    Dec 23, 2021 at 3:01

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