Why does music mean such different things to different people?
I think it’s high time for me to have a more serious relationship with music.
It struck me today, really strongly, that music is a far smaller part of my life than it could be. Since my iPod was stolen a year and a half ago (!), I haven’t owned any MP3s, for the most part I can’t remember song lyrics or titles or band names to save my life, or at least I haven’t particularly bothered to thus far, and my use of services like Last FM and Pandora has been limited at best. I really enjoy live shows but don’t make it to them as often as I could.
Overall, I mostly just find myself throwing on local radio stations in the background when I do work or random stuff around the house, or when out running, walking, driving. The funny thing is that I almost always have it on, though — virtually any time that I am home or walking — I really enjoy having music in the background.
So what gives? This state of affairs really doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of “who I am”… not only did I dance and play music myself (although classical piano might not really count for this) for years and years… I also feel like in general I am constantly seeking meaning, an aesthetic spin, beauty, in daily life experiences, and I often feel like flat words simply aren’t ENOUGH to say what I want to, can’t capture what I am inchoately trying to express… and it just seems so obvious that a real relationship with music would open up a whole new realm for expression, experience, exploration that I currently tap into shockingly little.
How did this come to be, I wonder… where does one’s relationship with music COME from? My starting hypothesis/assumption is that it is probably mostly about exposure, especially early in life, from parents, peers, etc. I read an interesting discussion once about the music of Igor Stravinsky… He (deliberately) wrote music that was considered so ugly and discordant, compared to the standards of the time, that when it was first performed, it literally provoked audience riots. After some time, however, it became highly revered and appreciated. The point being that the neural pathways that enable appreciation of certain sounds are malleable, and can be altered over time. (I read this bit on Stravinsky in Jonathan Lehrer’s fun little book Proust was a Neuroscientist.)
Unfortunately, the implications of this for the sophistication and range of my own current musical taste are not too good :) … As a young kid, I had my head in a book all the time and was totally oblivious to whatever it was my friends were listening to, and the main music I actually HEARD was whatever pop/soft rock stations my mother would play around the house. This is probably why I find it pleasant and relaxing to have local radio on in the background… probably brings back feelings of happy comfortable childhood, ensconced in my home and family love. (Thanks a lot, mom, for helping to foreclose my chances of becoming a punk rock star.)
Of course, since childhood, I have had — or could have had — plenty of opportunities to take my musical exposure into my own hands, and to seek it out, but somehow this has never become a top priority for me. Perhaps it’s simply that, never having gotten truly “hooked” on it any kind of deliberate, intense, focused way as a child, I perhaps have just never really missed it, have had no way of knowing just how much richer my life could be than it currently is — or something like that.
But I think it’s time to change this. I want to know what I don’t know… or rather, I want to hear what I haven’t heard, would like to develop a real relationship with music, and bring it closer in to my experience of life… not only in the background, but in the foreground too.