Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Share your music with me

Have you ever had someone try and make a mix tape/CD/flash drive of mp3s for you? Sure you have. We all have at some point or another. Some of us even make them ourselves.

In other words, you know what it's like to have to sit down and listen to a set of songs picked out by someone else. Whether or not they had you in mind when they were making the mix, inevitably there will be some disconnect. No matter how well anyone knows you or your musical taste, no one is infallible in guessing what someone else might like.

For my whole life I've been obsessed with music. People probably don't get this about me because they don't see me walking around everywhere with my headphones stuck to my ears. Scratch that, I do walk around with my headphones in everywhere, but they're not overtly obvious headphones -  rather earbuds - so I doubt many people notice.

Anyway, the point is, looking at me you wouldn't think I'm a music aficionado. I don't wear band t-shirts or have stickers on my laptop professing my love for various artists. And actually, I'm not a music aficionado.

Is it for lack of caring? No. Lack of interest? No to that too. Lack of willingness to be exposed? Sort of, but not exactly. A really particular and picky ear? Yes, that's it.

A while back I picked up this book called Love is a Mix Tape which is by a now contributing editor at Rolling Stone named Rob Sheffield. It's this really interesting take on a love story that uses a soundtrack (set of mix tapes) as a means of expressing the history of the couple. Kind of like Nick Hornby's High Fidelity, but a little less about lists (the main character, who incidentally also goes by the name 'Rob,' talks a lot about how he likes to make top-five lists) and a little bit more about the music itself.

While I was reading this book, I admired the expansiveness of its protagonist/narrator's music collection. There was so much depth to the quantity and the quality of his interests, even if I couldn't hear it directly from the pages. He's the kind of guy you want writing about music because he has strong opinions and he knows exactly what he likes.

I bring this up because I've always respected people for trying to introduce me to their music. Music is one of those things that can inspire us so passionately that we want to share it with the world. When someone understands where we're coming from, we rejoice all the more at the solidarity of taste.

So why have I been cursed with such a harsh and limited means of assessing music?

The amount of times I've had to explain to someone why I like certain songs and not others has become practically unquantifiable. For the record, my excuse is that I must have a visceral reaction to music to truly appreciate it. While I can be an objective and passive listener, the only way I will go back and listen to a song is if it "makes my heart sink."

It kind of amuses me how many times I've had people try to make my heart sink in this way, as well. Not in a mocking way, but in a truly thankful way. I've had so many people try and send me their music, hoping they can make sense of my taste in some logical way that allows them to predict what I'll like and what I won't. I think it's because my reasoning is so evasive that they feel compelled to keep trying. And it's fun. For me, at least. Maybe it's frustrating for them.

Since I was very little, my dad always told me his rule for listening to music. "Give it three listens," he would say. A single listen doesn't give you a full understanding of the music, but by play number three, you'll feel confident enough to make a judgment.

For some time I tried to follow this mantra. Three times or nothing. Surely this will make me a more willing listener. Sadly, things didn't work out that way. Eventually I went back to only listening to a song once and subsequently chucking it or adding it to my list of tunes "to download."

My own weariness in this area has made me respect people with openness to music so much more. In the way that I have more liberal taste in film and art and television and plays, I wish I felt as open to varied styles of music. Yet, I still consider myself a lover of the craft because of how music makes me feel. That is, the music that can make me feel. Not all songs are capable.

That's the point of it, though, right? I guess if you work for Rolling Stone you might have a different definition of what makes music. Something more substantial and mechanical than mine. But for me it's all about the visceral reaction. If I don't feel a lump in my chest, then something just hasn't clicked.

With all that said, though, I love when you or anyone else shares music with me. I encourage it to be done, actually. Because there's something so wonderful about getting to send someone a song. It's more than recommending a movie or a play or something to someone. It has so much room for growth and simultaneous admiration. The bonds I've made through music, as well as the bonds I see other people make through music, are some of the strongest and most interesting collaborations we have in this world.

So why stop searching and sharing? There's certainly no reason to ask people to stop sharing music with me, even if it's such a shot in the dark as far as my tastes go. Because I love it. Or I love trying to love it anyway. I hope that's good enough.

No comments:

Post a Comment