[2 November 2000]
Just as many times people rarely can describe why they’re drawn to a form of music other than speaking in generalities, “it’s restful”, “it’s a pick-me-up”, “it says something to me”, the opposite is equally true. People many times develop aversions to a particular song or a form of music without being able to describe why they want to avoid it other than saying “I don’t like it”.
How we hear music and respond to it ultimately depends on who we are as individuals and our experiences in life. Sometimes these echoes of us are spelled out lyrically. For instance, a person hearing a song about having a broken heart, the level to which they might respond to that song, has to do with their own attitudes and experiences of disappointment or betrayal in love. In a similar manner, it’s easy to imagine a song becoming “our song” to a couple when they’re beginning to come together in a relationship, becoming emblematic of their emotions. Should the relationship end, their individual attitudes toward hearing that particular piece of music again will change and evoke different feelings in each. What’s not so easy to understand, because persons simply can’t understand it themselves, is a situation like this: a woman who never really minded let’s say “acid rock” develops an aversion to that music and just can’t bear to hear it, after her son is killed in Viet Nam. In that case, there might be an unspoken association with that music as being representative of all the anti-Viet Nam protests. Somehow that form of music is now at odds with her on a personal level.
How odd and almost incoherent to say that because of a personal experience many years ago I dislike “new age” guitar music, although the genre “new age” had not yet been invented that form of spacey acoustic noodling had. I know this about myself and I can accept it. I also have to grudgingly admit that now decades later I still detest the music and what it represents to me. What is surprising is that I can find so many other reasons to dislike this form of music. I wonder sometimes why I am so inclined to believe those reasons, especially when voiced by other people. But they help steel my argument and make me right about why I dislike “new age” guitar music, they make me right in my feelings.
When I think back to that single time when just hearing this type of music was so inappropriate to me, I come up with only perjoratives. Self-contained, selfish, self-absorbed, precious, bourgeois, privileged, leisured, pretentious, lazy, hedonistic, smug, presumptuous, and entitled. Lacquered, sensitive, pampered, plumped, pudgy, fluffed up, airless, classist, pompous, pedantic and manicured. Immature, insincere, manipulated, contrived, hermetic, cowardly, rich, useless, unfeeling, mannered, and technical. Polished, pseudo-intellectual, layered, shallow, fallacious, self-righteous, superior, correct, comfortable, placid, lustrous, stuffy, and safe. Over-organized, collecting, glossy, chilly, arch, demanding, tidy, artificial, indifferent, that list could go on.
How could a music that is designed to be a non-threatening and harmless wash of sound evoke such a violent response in me? Aside from the fact as a form I think it’s just childish poo-poo? It’s that unintelligible and incoherent emotional attachment we as human beings make to music. Years ago, I had been dealing with the violent death of a loved one in the family home, a violent death in a small town that had never seen a killing, replete with official investigations, extreme emotionalism and family hysteria. After probably too long of this for my own good, I had bailed for relief and took a walk ending up across town at a neighbor’s. That young man who I regarded as a friend was playing that music to make himself feel better. As he played, he would chat and giggle with another visitor. That music did not understand me.
The music was ineffectual at doing what it was designed to do, at least for me. And so, it was false. It was unsympathetic and emotionally-dampened. It was also as indifferent as it was forced and stilted, almost insulting the way an attempt at condolence can sound mildly-intentioned or like a rehearsed murmur. How completely at odds with my reality of that point in time and my memories now of it. Of course, the other person could turn this around and say the same thing: How selfish of you to be wrapped up in your own concerns when I am just enjoying my music.
Unfair it is that I carry my emotional baggage with me and unreasonable of me, too. So here’s poor Tino Izzo and his Nostalgia Trails.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/izzotino-nostalgic/