Pressing play on my iPod while its on shuffle is often like playing russian roulette with my mood. So many times a day which, but for the grace of Pod, (pardon the lame pun) would have had me bouncing the down the street bobbing my head, instead sees me transported to a place far more sullen or blue than I had intended for me to be. On the flip side, many a dark and tiring day has been turned around by 30 minutes of driving in my car, blasting the music on full volume and singing at the top of my lungs. Now, due to my change in circumstances, i.e. moving to London and restarting my life as a student, sans automobile, the latter of these isn’t a possibility anymore. Though I still sing out loud walking down the street on my way home (provided no one else is really within ear shot).
There are literally dozens of classified genres of Music, each with its own set of “sub-genres”. But who is to say if this form of classification for music even works anymore? Sure I can understand a perceivable difference when you refer to say Rock or Pop or Classical or say Polka! But ask someone what makes Alternative-Rock different from Indie-Rock or Progressive-Rock, and the average consumer might be hard pressed to answer. Should they even have to? Why should we have to justify our musical tastes by neatly categorizes them and saying I listen to Rock or I like Jazz or I prefer House. Personally, in the same day I might find myself flitting from Country to Indie to Rock to House to Rap to World (the last of these being the category that all the bands from back home in India apparently fall into). I don’t know if I can even go as far as to say I like certain bands. Because sometimes, I’ll check out a song and think “Wow. That’s an amazing song. I absolutely love it!”. But it’ll turn out to be that the rest of the album is very, for lack of a better word, “meh”. Rarely do I find myself liking the entirety of an album, especially in the case of anything produced in say the last 30 years.
One possibility is that we are just spoilt for choice. We have so much thrown at us that its impossible to give it all a try. And we become comfortable in the idea of liking one kind of music and sticking to that. It could be that my brain sub-consciously rejects the rest of the album to keep from flooding my system with stimuli. Think about it, when you get a hold of a new favorite song, you tend to listen to it more than anything else. It almost immediately makes it to your most played playlist. But as time progresses and you find yourself some new material, the frequency with which that first track is played diminishes. If you had a new favorite song every week, you’d barely listen to anything more than a few times before it made it to the back burner. Or maybe I’m just really finicky. Either way, I like the system that I’ve developed for myself. Every few weeks I troll the internet trying to discover whats making the rounds, whats new and whats underground. Sites like http://www.wearehunted.com and http://www.8tracks.com are great for this. The former gives a religiously updated charts listing of singles by genre, and even has a great representation of indie music. The latter hosts user generated playlists, organized by tags and “moods”.
The point, which it seems I got distracted from during my rambling, is that Music is a powerful thing indeed. It serves as a source of entertainment, as an art form, as a medium for therapy. It has the power to heal and to fuel hate, to bring together and to tear apart, to remind us of our most painful or precious moments and to help us forget them just the same. So thanks ABBA (lame joke – But Bonus Points if you get it!).
I will leave you with a quote from Music and Lyrics (a movie so Hollywood cute that I cringe to admit how much I liked it), released in 2007 starring Drew Barrymore and Hugh Grant. I just think its a nice description of how we (possibly) perceive music. How a song speaks to us and the journey it takes us on.
“A melody is like seeing someone for the first time. The physical attraction. Sex… But then, as you get to know the person, that’s the lyrics. Their story. Who they are underneath. It’s the combination of the two that makes it magical.” – Sophie Fisher (Drew Barrymore), Music and Lyrics (2007)