Hi Darling Ones,
Sometime last week while I was dealing with the consequences of all my bad decisions, I read an excellent essay by Caryn Rose that has been rattling around inside me ever since.
In her essay, “‘no commitment’ will end up meaning exactly that,” Rose writes about the dismal state of touring for musicians, annoying people who talk through concerts, and how nobody cares about music the way they used to because they got no skin in the game.
Because we are cranky old ladies of the same ilk, I agree with 99% of what she has to say. The only point I disagree with is that people who care the most get to shows early so they can be In the front. I only disagree because when I went to shows I cared a whole bunch and never once was in the front.
I’m 6’5″ which is a heinous crime to a lot of concert-goers. I’m not allowed to be any place in the venue where I might block someone’s view. I’ve been poked, pinched, kicked, and yelled at by people who were offended by my existence in front of them. And I always, always, always stood at the back of the room. Always.
But did I not come to argue with Caryn, I came to agree with her and Trent Reznor, whom she quotes as saying, “People listen to music while they’re doing something else, you know?”
This quote reminded me of a conversation I had with my friend, EM, a few months ago. EM is also a music person and a Westernerd. Even though the Venn diagram of our musical tastes is quite pathetic (I think we have three bands in common), she gets it. She reads a lot about music and knows a ton of musical history that is not really in my wheelhouse (early punk & new wave).
So it came as kind of surprise to me when she was stunned by my revelation that I often do nothing but listen to music.
What I mean is that listening to music is my activity for some period of time.
Sure I listen to music while I clean, work, cook, whatever. But there are many, many times a week where all I do is sit and listen to music. Most of last week instead of watching TV I listened to the Plains’ record I Walked With You a Ways
When my mom came over for family dinner last night, I was sitting on the couch listening to music.
”What are you doing?” she asked, looking at my TV that was turned off.
“Listening to music,” I said.
EM found this habit equally befuddling.
“What do you do while you’re listening?” EM asked.
“I listen to the music,” I said. “I pay attention the lyrics. I think about what the song says and what it sounds like. I try to figure out how it makes me feel. Sometimes I do it with my eyes closed. Sometimes I look out the window.”
“Huh,” she said.
“Yeah,” I said.
Her curiosity stunned me. Don’t all music people do this?
When I was a kid my friends and I would do this all the time. We’d sit in my room for hours listening to records and then talking about the records. When I was in college we’d drive around and listen to music and talk about the CD we’d just listened to.
Did music streaming ruin this too? Was it the intentionality and physical act of choosing the music, popping it on that led us to focus on it. I mean why put in the effort to argue about what you were gonna listen to if you’re just gonna talk over it?
Now, there are a lot of people who think they’re music people because they like it and whatnot, but they are not. They are, I believe, the backgrounders. They listen to music in the car or whatever. Usually their taste in music stops whenever they graduate school, whether it’s high school or college. They are not on an eternal quest for a new favorite song.* This is not judgement, just facts.
I was recently informed by a friend that we do not judge people based on their music taste like it’s 2005 and we just got our hands on the binder of CDs they keep in their car. And in response I said to him, “Fuck that noise.” Because dude had just admitted that “Under the Bridge” might be one of this Top 10 songs for sentimental reasons, and if you cannot judge your dearest friends for shit like this what is even the point of living?
Speaking of points, I kind of lost mine there.
I think my point is that everyone should try to do nothing but listen to music sometime soon. Just do that. Don’t do the dishes or read a book or crush candy on your phone. Don’t relegate it to the background, let it be the foreground. Just sit there and listen to music and I bet you feel something brand new or hear something you never heard before.
Turn it up,
P.S. Last night was the first time I had Family Dinner since my dad died and I was super anxious about it. It went really well and I managed to keep all my sadness inside because didn’t want to be a giant bummer. I hosted a lot of family dinner that were just my parents (The Olds) and my nephew + his girlfriend (The Youths). I liked watching the Boomers and the Zoomers talk and interact over dinner. It made me really miss my dad and the outlandish stories from his past he’d tell to make The Youths laugh.
Currently my favorite song is “666” by Jeremy Messersmith. I’ve watched the video so many times that I’ve got most of the dance moves down and can be frequently spotted doing the “Shake it the left, shake it to the right, shake it like you’re horny and it’s Friday night?”