I have a question – how do you listen to music? I´m interested in what role music plays in people´s lives. Do you listen while doing nothing else? Do you listen while doing certain activities? Do you read the lyrics? Is your preferred place in the car, or headphones, or in the park, at work, while studying? How do you find new music? Radio? Internet? Friends? Bars? Do you listen together, or in solitude? Do you buy records, or download?
As a songwriter it´s interesting to know how & what people are responding to….I´m curious for some food for thought…..any random info welcome! x (Jim Kroft on Facebook, June 26th 2012)
This is my answer:
A life without music I cannot imagine. As my best friend once said: “I think too much as it is, I need music to make me feel”. Music is the path to my emotions, my heart and in the best cases my soul. It takes me to places I have never been and opens doors I didn’t know existed. It puts my fears and deepest desires into words, it shows me new worlds and guides me through them, it is a good companion on my search for a place in life and an expression of my every mood. For me, music equals love.
As a teenager and in my 20ies I constantly surrounded myself with music. When I was at home there was always a tape or CD playing and when I was out, you rarely saw me without a walkman or discman. These days, I don’t mind silence once in a while, but I still carry my iPod almost everywhere I go. I love the idea of having my entire CD collection (well over 1000) with me at all times so whenever I get it into my head to listen to some obscure song I have not heard in years, I can be sure it will be on there, provided that it was in my collection in the first place. Once in the while I surprise myself by putting on shuffle mode and trying to guess the songs that come up – it’s a fun game to play, because there are always songs and even artists that I had completely forgotten about.
More often than not though, I seek out specific songs or a specific band. I’m not sure my taste in music is really as broad as I would like to think, but the music I listen to switches with my moods and I’d find it terribly boring to only listen to one or two bands all the time. Yet, my listening habits come in phases and depending on how I feel and how my life is going in general. There are a few bands that I can almost always listen to, but everything else comes and goes and what I might have exclusively listened to last week may be forgotten the next and not be on my playlist again until weeks, months or even years from today.
At times I tend to treat music as background noise, something that is on to keep me company and make the room I’m in feel less empty. Still, not all background noise fits for all occasions and I often find myself staring at my CD shelf, reading titles, letting my hand wander across the rows of CDs until something catches my eye and I try out if this is the right music for the moment. However, this is only one way of listening to music for me. It is much too important to merely fill an empty room or provide the backdrop for other activities.
To really experience music, I need to listen to it on my own, either at home on my stereo or elsewhere on my headphones. Interestingly it does not matter what type of headphones they are and I don’t need an expensive stereo system or CD quality files to enjoy what I’m listening to. All that matters is that I am alone with the sound, that the noise of the world does not intrude and I can let my thoughts and emotions run free. Then and only then I will dive into the songs, following melodies and lyrics down to the deepest meaning and not come up for air until I have made a song mine, have understood and found a meaning that rings true for me. Some music is more inviting in this respect than other. Some music means more to me to begin with. Some music demands my full attention every time I listen to it, while other music just stays out of focus and it’s OK like that.
Music is with me wherever I go, either on my iPod or just playing in my mind. I listen to music when I walk, when I travel and sometimes when I work. I use it as a safe harbor when I need to shut out the world and be alone with my thoughts, I use it to compliment or contrast a specific mood I’m in, I use it for company as well as for entertainment.
Listening does not have to be a solitary activity though. My favorite way of experiencing music is hearing it live, preferably right in front of the stage, among the crowd. Then listening turns into action. I scream, I dance, I jump and most of all I sing along, often belt out the words at the top of my lungs. If things go as they are supposed to, I allow the music to take me over; I feel it with my whole body, my heart and my soul. While I’m letting familiar melodies guide my emotions and familiar lyrics turn into a universal language, I become part of something bigger, lost in music like everyone around me, united by a shared experience.
I find new music in a number of different ways, but more often than not it’s somewhat accidental. It may be something I have heard on the radio while still half asleep that got stuck in my head and haunted me for days, it may be a band that someone recommended, a random link I have followed on someone’s Twitter, something I came across while channel surfing on TV or a support act I enjoyed. It is not important how new music first comes to me, but how I respond to it. I can’t really pinpoint the qualities a song needs to have to make me like it, but I can say that it is usually the music that draws me in and the lyrics that make me stay. Some songs I immediately fall in love with and some grow on me over time, but if I cannot relate to the lyrics it will never be more than background noise. That’s fine too and certainly has a place in my collection, but the music that really means something to me is music where not only the melodies but also the words speak to me.
On first listen I rarely look at the lyrics. I want my first impression to be unhindered by my brain trying to make sense of the words. I may still pay attention to what is being sung, but generally it’s melody first and worrying about words later. Bands I already know and love because of their lyrics are an exception to this rule, but even with them I try to get an impression of the song through the music first. I even listen to bands that sing in languages I don’t understand and still enjoy the songs. However, when something grabs my attention, I will turn to the lyrics to find out what a song is all about (and if need be, I will find or make a translation). Lyrics fascinate me, because they can tell so many different stories, depending on the background of the listener. The best ones are those that leave room for interpretation, they have layers of meanings for me to dig into. The melody gives me a feel for the song, the lyrics confirm or contrast that feeling.
This leads me back to where I started: I love music, because it makes me feel and I listen to music, because it makes me feel alive. Music provides guidance in dark times, comfort when I’m sad, and an outlet when I’m angry. Most of all, music has the power to always make me happy. It is for sure the love of my life and possibly the only one that will stay with me until the end.