I am one of those lovers of music that has no musical background. I wasn’t in band in high school; I never sang in a choir, I never even managed a successful stretch of lessons that allowed me to learn an instrument. I toyed with the idea of learning the violin, but I am afraid that my attention span was not what it needed to be to get through the grueling exercise of learning scales and basic songs so that I might build a repertoire of musical talent. When I got married, my wife was a trained classical musician and refused to listen to my screeching in the den without offering some kind of intervention, and, since I wasn’t interested in her input, I decided to give it up altogether.
I have found solace in music, though. I have known some musicians, and I have dabbled in writing lyrics for less than successful musicians whose talents were limited to hammering out chords on old and under utilized guitars. I like to hear what the great musicians of our day have accomplished with their musical prowess and their feel for the language. When I suggested that Bob Dylan was one of the more influential poets of our age in my college literature class, the teacher huffed and wrote me off as a stow away from the music department hiding out in the intersession English class for quick credit. Little did she know that not only was I not from the music department, but none of the music students would know me from Adam if I walked down the hall during the regular semester. It so happens that the art department was an annex of the music building, so I actually did walk those halls regularly, and, I can tell you, no one that could carry a tune recognized me.
I find myself today browsing through the music at the library, though, while on outings to acquire new books that will either lull my kids to sleep or stimulate their interest in a subject, and selecting the more folk and acoustic selections from the small collection that they have. I enjoy the silences during the kids’ nap time when I can listen to the music and hear the integration of the lyrics and the instruments, to imagine how this artist must have come up with this particular recipe for a song. Then, on the rare occasions when my children or my wife are fed up with talk radio and they insist that we hear some tunes in the car, I find myself lost in the intricacies of the music, amazed at how these elements have all come together to entertain us.
I am not a lover of pop culture. There are some albums and some musicians that I have loaded into the computer and I listen to them all the time. I have some CD’s that have endured over the years, and those get played occasionally. I have some favorite songs, and I sometimes get to hear them on the radio, but overall the music I listen to is loaned out by friends or borrowed from the library. I like it that way. It is like reading a book in a way, I get to experience it and, when it is over, I close it and move on.
I guess I am not that much different than your average listener. I like music and I like to hear what the musicians have to say, and I am particularly interested in how they say it. I don’t care about the message so much, but I am intrigued by the delivery. I do tend to connect with the messages that are relevant to me at specific times in my life, but like other forms of art and expression, the things that speak to me are surprising, even to me.
Music is the art of the ear and the heart, and we should pay attention to what grabs us.
Listen to what you like, and like whatever strikes you as worthy. Life is too short to allow the rest of the world to influence our love for music in ways that do not speak to us. Some music sells, and it is typically not very good. But there is always the musician that is rewarded for his or her talent, and that should be worth at least a listen.
I say: try it all. You might like some of it.