What's most/least important in music
I was thinking today about what one of my theory professors in college said, about how rhythm is the most important element in music...more than melody and harmony. While that's a relief for drummers and fundamentally accurate, I began to think about what I would like to listen to (like on a CD) and what would absolutely drive me nuts...
For example, I find that timbre is more important than rhythm. I would be okay listening to a recording of a GREAT sounding ride cymbal being played nothing remotely close to in time. However, if you took the world's worst synthesizer sound and played it in perfect rhythm, like an alarm clock going off in the morning, I would tear my hair out if I had to listen to it. Also, experimental indie bands that play in free time, but have amazing guitar tones, are definitely more listenable to me than some of the annoying garbage in the realm of pop music.
I was also thinking of my natural progression of what I liked/listened for in music as I grew as a listener/player. When I started listening to music, a catchy hook and a groovy beat are what caught my attention. Then, when I started playing music, impressive speed and technical ability is what I listened for. Then, emotive playing/singing started grabbing me. After that, technical sophistication, like syncopated and barline-crossing beats/fills and harmony with lots of extensions above a 7th started drawing me in and stretching what I listened to and how I played. Now, it seems that I'm gravitating, once again, towards anything with a great feel and a good hook. I'm back where I started, but with a deeper understanding and appreciation of everything else.
So, basically, what do YOU listen for/gravitate towards, and what do you think is the most important element of music?