A few months ago I was talking about music with a friend my age who said he missed the feeling he used to get when he was younger and heard a song that really shook him to his core in that visceral HOLY SHIT FUCK YEAH!!! way that is, to me, almost unique to music (movies do get there, occasionally)*. I reluctantly empathized, but to my mind this sort of thing is an inevitable aspect of aging; you get older, all of the music you’ve heard piles up, you’re harder to impress…and for better and worse you experience almost everything more intensely when you’re younger. So it goes.
So the bad news is that I’ll probably never feel music as passionately I did when I was 18 and blasting Zeppelin in my parents’ van on the way out to my job at the golf course. Yea, verily, that shit was awesome. The good news, for me at least, is that there’s a trade-off; music might not be as exciting as it was when I was younger, but it’s more interesting. How so?
Well, when I first started developing an interest in music I wasn’t inclined to ask many questions about it beyond “Do I like this?” Then I got a bit older and started digging through grown-ups’ music collections in search of other groups who sounded like the artists and styles I liked. In high school I was obsessively deciphering song lyrics (at 17 I could have completed a doctorate in Pink Floyd Studies), making dozens of mix tapes for myself and others, and studiously hovering over magazines and books like The Rolling Stone Album Guide. By the time I got to university I had started tracking down the obscure bands who inspired the famous ones and paying attention to stuff I’d never really noticed before like basslines, the differences between famous studios, record labels and producers…you name it. Around the turn of the millennium (coincidentally – or not – right around the time I started buying records, and then of course there’s the internet) the whole thing hit critical mass; everything I learn leads to something else – usually multiple somethings – and the more I learn the more I realize how little I actually know. And it will. Never. End; there’s always going to be another album I haven’t heard, another musician I read about in Wax Poetics, another…hey, I saw this guy’s name on the back of that other record and wow I didn’t know that Jewish Klezmer bands inspired early blues and jazz musicians and Rick James and Neil Young were once in a band together and one of the earliest hip-hop beats was from a song by a white guy in a movie named The Thing With Two Heads and what the hell Karen Carpenter was actually a shit-hot drummer? and…
* Music is my favourite art form, and whatever comes in second isn’t even close.