At the Experience Music Project there is this room devoted to the guitar, an amazing room. In this room was a video playing featuring classic guitar greats like Les Paul and Django Reinhardt and those who can just make the guitar sing. Meanwhile, in the room next door was an exhibit on Jimi Hendrix, another amazing guitarist. But Jimi Hendrix didn’t make his guitar sing as much as it was screaming. Both rooms filled with excellent guitar playing, yet there are people who would love one room and hate the other. This happens often, actually this happens with anyone who dislikes some kind of music.
I wanted to know why this is the case and I have a theory.
Now you may say that it is just a matter of taste and it isn’t any different than why some people like beef but hate pork. I would agree with that to an extent. Food tastes has some basis in evolution. If we all liked the same thing we would deplete that food source quickly and the race would die out. Or we would be more likely to fight for the food like bums over a discarded taco. Or a taste would develop based on the food available. Music has no impact on evolution or survival of the species. My point here: shut up.
The enjoyment of music comes from more than just the sound of the music. Obviously if a musician can’t play in tune, or if they string notes together like a Picasso painting , or sound like Pip farting on a snare drum then the music won’t be enjoyable. These things are important to the enjoyment of music, but if that was all there was to it then I would like the Beatles and your mom would like Iron Maiden.
The other key aspect to our enjoyment is what the music represents. Let’s take a look at Bob Dylan going electric. For years Bob Dylan mumbled through songs while playing the acoustic guitar and playing quite well. Then in 1965 he switched to the electric guitar, but still kept the mumbling. This switch angered Dylan’s fans. This was the same man playing the same instrument and still playing it well, so why would that upset people? It’s what that electric guitar represented, the new face of rock and roll. Despite the fact that Dylan warned the times were a-changin’, people were not ready and did not want this change.
We as a species are very hesitant for change. We desire a certain level of stability and tend to put a lot of thought into any change we may make. So we often have fear and hesitation towards change, especially when we’re not in charge of it. Which can explain why our parents are always against the music we listen to. It represents the changing world that they aren’t ready for or a part of.
With enough time, whatever seems new will eventually become the norm, that’s just how time works. So it stands there is a chance a person won’t think of certain music as a change, as what’s to come but rather just as what is. My mom has recently started listening to Bruno Mars, which is something she wouldn’t have done ten years ago. The gentle hip hop that Bruno Mars creates is something my mom doesn’t associate with the new and changing world. It is now part of the norm.
The idea of change is just one example that one might associate with music. Let’s go back to something I mentioned earlier. I do not like the Beatles. Many people will read that as blasphemous or that I am nuttier than the Planters factory. I never had that experience of my life changing when I heard the Beatles for the first time. The Beatles were never anything special to me, just another band that everyone seemed to love. Because I was hearing from everyone how great this band was and how everyone was swooning over these British fucks I started to become disenchanted with them. I associated the Beatles with music snobbery. No one could ever live up to this band. I had such a foul attitude any time I listened to the Beatles that eventually the foul attitude and the Beatles became forever linked. At this point in my life I appreciate what the Beatles have done for music and I understand they’re not a terrible band, but I still have this connection and this idea that makes the Beatles a band I’d least like to listen to at any given moment.
I used to tell people my thoughts on the Beatles partly just to piss them off. People have always seemed to have such an unyielding love for this band and I just wanted to pick at that. It was like an atheist needling at a Christian’s beliefs in hopes of changing their thoughts. I’ve stopped doing this for a few reasons A) I didn’t want to be that kind of prick anymore, B) I really don’t give a shit if someone likes a band or not, they’re the ones listening to it and, more importantly C) I realize it’s not just about liking the music. Sometimes people like a musician because of their early exposure due to a parent’s love of the musician. Can I really fault someone for trying to keep a connection to a parent? Just another example of how music is more than just sound.
This isn’t something we only do when we’re younger. If you have a wife or husband or some other long relationship there’s a chance you and your partner have a song. Something that makes you think of the other person and that special relationship you have. There is a chance that song isn’t very good, but it is forever linked with that person and for that you will love it, until your heart is broken, then you’ll be fucking annoying should that song ever come on while at a bar.
Sometimes the association is not so obvious and plays more on a subconscious level. Many of my friendships have come as a result of a love of punk rock. Not a particular song or band, but the genre in general. Just like minded folk enjoying this fast three-chord music. Punk would find its way into whatever activity we were doing. So without even trying I was making this connection that punk rock meant good times and happiness and friends. This is my personal story, but it can apply to anyone whatever shitty music they and their friends listen to.
Some of us like to pretend music is the most important thing in the world, and some of us like to pretend it doesn’t matter that much. We’re all right. But music is so much more than the sound it makes. And while we are all hearing the same notes we’re hearing completely different songs. Which is why your wife doesn’t like “Ace of Spades” nearly as much as you do, or at all.
In the end, it’s all a question of Hart.
08 Mar 2012 Lee S. Hart