Saturday 6 November 2010

Have We Lost Music? Have I?

I made a decision about an hour ago, that even though I'm really tired, I wanted to listen to a song before I slept. I'm not really sure what brought this on, but I felt the need for it.

I got into bed and I flicked through my iPhone for a song. I chose 'Mona Lisa's And Mad Hatters' by Elton John. I listened. Really listened. How often do I do this? Not often enough. It's something I always did, all through my life -- I'd be eight years old, with the headphones in the living room listening to my parent's Rod Stewart records, or I'd be fourteen and spend four hours a night rolling the dial back and forth and hitting record the moment I heard great music. Even in the Napster days, I'd spend near enough all of my time discovering and falling in love with music.

But somewhere that stopped happening. I sometimes think I'm really listening, but I'm not; I'm just using a song to make a train ride less boring, or listening to an old favorite to jolt me into a better mood.

What hit me just now, listening to the Elton John song, is that I was really appreciating how great it sounded and how much it was resonating with me. I was even appreciating the sound of it coming out of my iPhone-- it somehow sounded like old radio.

I still see my love for music as a big part of my identity, and so do people who know me. But I think I've been more inclined to lose it, in recent years. It almost feels like wasting time to truly get lost in the flow of music you love. There's a voice that says you should spend time doing work, or writing, or planning something, and it says it's okay to listen to music but only as a companion to what I'm really supposed to be doing. But when did I forget that listening to music IS what I'm supposed to be doing? Springsteen said "we learned more from a three minute record, baby, than we ever learned in school." It's not just school. You learn more from a three minute record than you do from most things.

A YouTube playlist for when I'm researching, or an iPod playlist for when I'm jogging-- these are great things but they're not, really, what it's all about. Can anyone relate to this? I'm so tired and am writing in such a zombie state that i feel like I may actually be dreaming. But I wanted to write about this feeling. It's not just a feeling, it's a part of me, and it's saying "stop writing, and listen to another song."

Care to share?


  1. I think I understand. Sort of. I grew up in a very musical house, there was always something playing, even if it was just background noise. Now living away from home I can't deal with silence and I need my music more than ever to fill it. Sometimes I do feel like you do now, that's it's just noise to keep me focused on my work or whatever because I'm busy doing More Important Things. But then it will shuffle to something I haven't heard in ages, something I forgot even had, and it will hit my like a ton of bricks like the first time I ever heard it and I have to drop everything and listen.

    I hope that made sense. It might not, it's been a long weekend.

  2. I know exactly what you mean! Music has become more of a distraction than a found appreciation...

    Makes me want to listen. :) great post!

  3. Music is distracting. I can't work and listen to music. I can surf the net while listening to music and it's when I listen to my music most. But I usually make time every night to listen to some music while lying in bed.

  4. Sometimes I like to put some chunky headphones on and just listen to music. Just to listen to it. Sometimes in the dark, if it's that sort of music. A bit of Sigur Ros maybe. These times are important. If the music's good, if it means something to you, then it's very important.

  5. I relate to this completely. There's so much to be done nowadays, and so many people to see that there is rarely time to just sit and listen. Digital music is an incredible convenience, but it takes away the pleasure of sitting with a pile of CDs; looking for hidden cover art, devouring the credits for other band refs and trivia, listening actively to the whole and how the parts comprise that.

    I think it's because the alternative for so many years was sitting downstairs with my parents, this devotion became my active committment. And then at uni, there was a lot of research to defer...

  6. Thanks all - some fascinating comments!

    ALIVE - wow, it's amazing that your feelings around music are so vivid. I am a bit jealous. Jealous because; I always thought I was like that, but now; I fear, I don't have this amazing sensitive for music quite as much as you do. Never lose it!

  7. Nothing beats putting on an album and lying on the floor while sipping whiskey. Really listening is something I should do more often because I get so caught up in life that I forget. Thanks for the reminder.

  8. Just stumbled onto this page, some really great thought provoking -and resonating- posts.
    I can empathise completey regarding lost music. My collection could be regarded as ecclectic but I feel really it contains music that moves me.
    It might be a tune which triggers a kaliedoscope of memories, like when I hear 'Closing Time' by Semisonic we'd play it occasionally upon closing shop at my part-time uni job, it now makes me think of all the fun people and experiences there. It could be a song which jolts me back to a single moment, even an insignificant one, like when I was driving to uni once in my first car, full of hopes dreams and self confidence, singing 'Bleed it Out' by Linking Park at the top of my voice. A song might remind me of a strong emotion I experienced and hearing it again will put me right back in the same frame of mind, 'The Scientist' by Coldplay was playing when my heart realised it was broken, as much as I enjoy the sound of the song I can't now listen to it without being in a good mood.
    Or by truly listening to the lyrics, the harmony, the tone and feel of a song it may simply create a new mood for me to plunge into. Whether it's happy and enlightening or sad and melancholy, that's the beauty of music.

  9. Oddly, I'd written something along these lines in my blog here:

    For me, life isn't worth living without music. It's a whole world of memories, some from the past and some yet to come

  10. I feel this way all the time. It's hard to take time out of life to stop and listen- to anyone or anything- but we need to do it more often as adults (or not-quite-adults, like me).