I’ve often told friends I’m a terrible musician because I don’t listen to music. I’m like a writer that doesn’t read.
So far, admitting it hasn’t done a thing to actually get me to change it. The furthest I could go was to make the connection between my own lack of support for music and the lack of support for my own music, but that was about it.
I have a few weird reasons for not listening. The first is that I don’t have the equipment. My computer is very cheap and the speakers are atrocious. My noise-cancellation headphones are falling apart from overuse, and hunched over a laptop isn’t exactly the most comfortable way to enjoy a good album. Getting an iPod (ten years after the rest of the world) has changed this considerably, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
The second is that I’m a lyrics snob. The other day, while listening to a new album that was just put out by a prestigious band, who shall remain nameless because I don’t know who actually writes their lyrics and they all seem musically talented and are probably good guys… well, I heard the same lines. In three separate songs. And then they rhymed “store” with “store”. It wasn’t my car, and it wasn’t my stereo, but it was my teeth I was grinding. My companions made the argument that the music was good. It was. Maybe I am, in fact, doing the wrong thing by trying to listen to the lyrics. Maybe that’s why I cram so many words into most of my songs- to give people a sort of auditory TLDNR. Anyhow, the point is that a lot of music frustrates me for that reason. And it’s a major turnoff, honestly. I adored Wilco until I listened to “A Shot in the Arm” closely for the first time, and heard the lines:
“We fell in love
In the key of C
We walked along
Down by the sea
You followed me down
The neck to D
And fell again
Into the sea”
I still adore some Wilco. But I look at them differently now. Bad lyrics are kind of like seeing a gorgeous model in a light that really emphasizes her cellulite. Jeff Tweedy is still the only person I’ve heard use the word “assassin” as a verb, and I can dig that. I just… sea?
The third reason is that I’m flat ass broke and always have been. As a rule, I don’t tend to pay to go see shows. I get around this by watching free shows, and have had the good luck, in the past, to attend some with friends who were willing to foot the entry.
#4: I had really bad social anxiety until about a year and a half ago. If I went anywhere alone, I’d freak out. This generally lead to the type of bar-provided self-calming that subsequently meant I was either highly personable until I threw up or running down the street trying valiantly to convince God and everyone that I, Oshinn Reid, could do the best impression of a loon any of them had ever heard. (The point of this paragraph is actually that I rarely went out alone, due to ^^^. Rest assured these instances were few and mainly contained between the ages of 20 and 22.)
The last reason I am an awful music supporter is that, though it may come as a tremendous surprise, I like silence. No one gets to see this, because when I’m around people I talk incessantly. The main reason for my socially-inspired gregariousness is that I am a sharing person; but when I am alone, with no one to share with, I am quiet. It’s kind of hard to prove this. Maybe I should get a webcam. But when the choice has always gone between silence and music at home, I choose silence. Maybe because I allow myself so little of it elsewhere. But then, I don’t talk while walking alone in the woods either.
So. All that aside, let’s return to the theme of my new iPod, which I refuse to get positively silly over, because if I let myself I’d probably get positively silly over it. Suffice to say that it has changed my life. (See, silly.) I haven’t had takealong music since I was a kid. Whenever I used a Discman or equivalent during my later teens and adult years, it was never a truly portable experience. I would use it at the gym, balancing it precariously in a cupholder so that my headphones wouldn’t fall off while I endlessly climbed stairs; or on the bus, clenching it in my lap while I traversed Phoenix or Chicago. Anyone who has used a Discman will know that it in no way can be used in any circumstance where you are jolting, so running or even extremely bumpy car rides are out, and the necessity of holding it in one hand so that it won’t skip kind of makes the portability completely useless. But I never upgraded, because I was broke, and also because for about ten years I’ve been convinced that technological advancement is the Superdevil (which would be valid, if I wasn’t also a tremendous hypocrite. I mean, I don’t juice by hand or bathe out of a bucket.) So I’m ten years late to the game. But not too late, oh no.
Maybe you remember the first time you heard music with noise-cancellation headphones. You might also remember the first time you listened to music on an iPod. No one I know can seem to. But in the past year, playing music, I’ve come to realize that good sound is imperative to music appreciation. The first album I listened to on my iPod was Ratatat’s LP4. Device tucked discreetly in a pocket, earbuds wedged tightly in, no skipping to worry about, I did not walk with my dog at midnight around this equestrian and yachting community- I danced. I mean really danced. And I never dance, for most of the same reasons as never listening to music, except replace bad lyrics with total insecurity about how badly I dance. Since that glorious day, my worldview has opened.
(In case you need ear candy)
Today I was examining my cobwebby profile on Reverbnation and thought I’d see what the other musicians around this humid area were doing. I ran across this boy. I’ve been really into doing things I wouldn’t ordinarily do lately (recognizing what a prat you have been for ages can really inspire you that way) so I listened to his first song, “King Me“.
It took me back to Tennessee, where the anger at my poverty-required sobriety in a stuffy bar dissipated into astonishment at seeing Umbrella Tree, and then Poly and Uncle Skeleton, perform live. It reminded me of seeing Wanda Jackson at Manuel Couture. It brought me back to the first time I saw Muse, which was a year or two after I stopped being impressed by their incessant arpeggios and calls for revolution (that show being important because it proved that live music can affect you no matter what your prejudices.) It reminded me of all these things because it was live and it was here and it was good. I was pretty surprised.
I shouldn’t be, of course. After all, this is what people do. I mean, don’t you?
Peace and love.