Theme Week: Music - Day Two

A continuation of my thoughts on music in my life... also, this predates the iPod invasion, so, y'know, work with me here.


The listener evolves. It's true. Everyone does, I suppose. The listener's collection of music is the evidence of years of change. Looking back into my own collection, I have, as many others, I'm sure, said to myself, “what is this?! What the hell was I THINKING, listening to this garbage?” Chalk it up to lots of things. Fad, phases, peer pressure, last-minute-clearout-K-mart-specially-priced-bin… they're all to blame in some cases. Of course, now and then you can attribute it to just plain old personal preference, even if you can't really figure out what you preferred about some band you're afraid to admit to your next-door neighbour you listened to. Or, basically, why your preferences are what they are. But the fact is, as I change, my musical tastes change. I've noticed one or two things about the way people evolve.

First, it seems like people roll with the music scene for a while, and then, all of a sudden, stop. Kind of the same way as people who change fashion with the times, and then all of a sudden stop changing the way they dress. All judgments aside: It is not for me to decide who's in or out of style. Especially since I can hardly get my own socks to match each other, let alone what I'm wearing. So, like the clothes in your closet, the CDs in your collection sooner or later stop keeping up with the times. That's not to say that you stop buying CDs, only that you start buying Bob Seger's Greatest Hit(s) albums after he stops producing new material, if you get where I'm going here.

The good part about that is similar to the good part about saving old clothes: sooner or later it might come back into style. If you care at all about the rest of the world and the 'contemporary' music scene, this is a bonus. If you're hermetic and couldn't care less if every radio tower in the world suddenly crashed to the ground, rendering the world music-less, this is a moot point. On the other side of the fence, those who own signed copies of Beatles, Stones, or Jimi Hendrix albums and the like are feeling pretty special these days. Hell, anyone who bought CD copies of bands when they were new and popular and didn't have to pay the extra 50% charge for sitting on the shelf in a music shop for 15 years should consider himself or herself fortunate.

Especially if the world figured that any particular band would go out of style and never be heard from again, and suddenly they're in style again. See also: one hit wonders. Disco becomes retro. I rest my case.

So I've come to a point in my life (and my finances, probably) where I'm more conscious of what I buy. Maybe this has something to do with moving around the country every few years (as I change schools, usually) and having to make cuts to my CD collection with every departure, and leaving a long trail of bad CDs in my wake. Maybe it just has something to do with being entirely happy with the music that I buy, instead of being content with one or two good songs per CD in my collection, and the rest of the tracks pretty-well garbage. I've had many a conversation with friends while perusing their collections and saying, “wow, I wanted to get that but I heard it's not very good”. This is often responded to with “yah, well, it does kind of suck, but I liked that one song”. Of course, I'm on the other side of things at times, too. Many a time have I looked through my CDs left behind in my family's house, years ago, saying to myself, “wow, , I used to really like them. When did I stop liking them?”

The other evidence of evolution is through generally slowing down, usually with age. Now, before you start calling me 'sonny-boy' and 'why-you-little…', maybe you can see in your own life or in someone else's how their tastes have changed, and how they've left the louder music of their youthful days behind in favour of smooth crooners and adult-contemporary rockers.

Similarly, this type of change can be seen in the musician as well, as artists change lyrics, sounds, and/or image reflect a more mature state of mind, or more mature sounding material. Have you ever wondered why a rock band suddenly came out with a slower follow-up album, or why your favourite artist from the 70s is now making children's albums? From personal experience, I have left many of the louder bands of my past happily behind, realizing that there were very good reasons (usually) behind my like for those bands, but that through processes of everyday change (if not respect for my eardrums) I have gradually settled for something I consider 'deeper', but is generally just slower, or quieter. I'm fine with that. Really.

Now - back to my original idea - it is in revisiting one's collection (or just visiting it, for a change, instead of buying something new, listening for a month, and filing it away) that shows the evidence of change. The dynamics of musical taste can do more than just show you the way you've changed. It can show you the way the world has changed. This is probably not news to you. Everyone realizes that times in history can be categorized and recognized by the music that was popular in that day. But do you really realize that you can do the same in your own living room?

Well, maybe. There's a musical soundtrack of your own life story, just sitting, colleting dust on your wall-unit, hiding from the dreaded moving-box-with-a-little-note-taped-to-it. Dozens (?) of people you have met over the past 'x' number of years, locked up in the music that you may or may not realize is significant in your life. Let me not over-dramatize.

Sooner or later, though, most people stop rolling with the times. They stop buying altogether, for whatever reason, or they stop buying new material. It could be that whatever trend is taking over the industry is just not amiable to you, or, like me, you have found something that you really enjoy, be it a genre or a group of genres, and you stop expanding. This is not to say that you stop buying new music altogether, but rather you stop being 'adventurous'.

Perhaps I'm the only person on this earth who is considering toning down his adventurousness in musical purchases, but I doubt it. I do not consider myself to have stopped evolving, just that I'm doing it in a more constructed, informed manner. Call me naïve, call me egotistical, but I seem to enjoy my purchases more when I know what I'm getting into, and, more importantly, when I know that I will enjoy the selection because I'm the one who truly likes it, and not because the rest of the world thinks it's good and therefore I should definitely own it or fear the wrath of society. There is something special in knowing that you love your collection. There's something even better in knowing why.


Posted bythemikestand at 9:00 AM  

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