Joy in repetition

by Rob Horning

12 December 2007


I’m still ruminating over my insane need for musical variety. Once, when I was in high school, a friend’s girlfriend picked me up in her car to take me somewhere. I don’t remember where we were going—maybe a party or a teen dance night somewhere—but I’ll never forget what we listened to on the drive. She had filled both sides of a 90 minute cassette with the same song taped over and over again: “Burning Flame” by a band called Vitamin Z. Surprisingly enough, I had enough politeness in me then not to deride her choice of music, but I certainly complained vociferously about it later. I asked my friend who was dating her how he could stand it, but apparently he hadn’t even noticed. Hadn’t noticed? Back then it hadn’t occurred to me that there was much of anything else to notice about someone. (I suspect if I had my mind on other things besides music back then, I would have had fewer arguments and more girlfriends.)

At the time, I thought that girl was hopelessly narrow-minded, but since then I have often wondered if she was on to something. I even find myself envying her; she had the secret of being able to know her mind and be satisfied rather than be continually searching. She could find the joy in repetition that tends to elude me, that complacency of which consumerism may indeed train us to be suspicious. Consumerism seeks to instill in us repetitious routines that yield no satisfaction, merely hunger for more, for different.

I find that I am implacably restless in searching for new music, as if I stop discovering new songs, the emotions music evokes in me will also disappear. Of course, my actual experience with listening has proven to me that the music I know best and have listened to the most yields the richest emotional reactions, especially if the songs have become palimpsests of the things I was feeling each time I made a point of listening to them before. Though some songs become unfortunately encrusted with nostalgia, others remain alive and undepleted despite the freight of emotions they carry.

Nevertheless, I still have the fear that the music I know will somehow fail me and that I need to seek more, need to set aside time not for the music I already know can move me, but for the unsorted hodge podge I never cease gathering, hoping that something in that effluvia will inspire. It seems like a terrible waste, but for those unexpected moments when out of nowhere, a album track from some forgotten band delivers an unexpected spark, and it’s like falling in love all over again.

But I am waiting for the day when what I already know will be enough, when contentment won’t seem like a rumor, when I’ll turn inward with what I have and reap the harvest of all that effort of endless accumulation, when I’ll supplant the search for that spark with something deeper, with a feeling more like an eternal flame, I suppose.

We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong on the Internet. Please consider a donation to support our work. We are a wholly independent, women-owned, small company. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing, challenging times where costs have risen and advertising has dropped precipitously. PopMatters needs your help to keep publishing. Thank you.

//Mixed media


"No Dollars in Duende": On Making Uncompromising, Spirited Music

// Sound Affects

"On the elusive yet clearly existential sadness that adds layers and textures to music.

READ the article