For as long as I can remember, music has mattered to me. Collecting tapes, CD’s, and now playlists, digital downloads, and LP’s has been important. I measure myself by the music that matters. In fact, I used to believe you could discover everything you needed to know about a person by hearing the music they consumed. Then something changed.
People began judging me for my taste. Spend enough time with any group of people and the question of what kind of music you listen to will certainly arise. Needing a quick and simple answer, I often tell people I listen to “sad white people music.” Think bands like The National, Death Cab for Cutie, Wilco, etc. Instantly, people think they know me. They build assumptions based on a few bands. These guesses are made without much thought given to an entire catalog or the entirety of my life. An overly simple answer has delivered an overly simple way of looking at the world. It also disrespects the diversity of thought, opinions, and musical expressions that can be found in my collection.
Rock, Alternative, Country, Alt-Country, Rap, Jazz, Electronic, Indie, Acoustic, Jam Bands… The list of genres I adore goes on and on. This is the list I truly want to be judged. This list also reveals something else. As a 34-year-old man, what people think of the music I listen to matters less and less. Likewise, I try my hardest to no longer judge people for their musical affinity. The reason behind the change of heart is simple. All music is trying to say the same thing. Every musical genre man has ever conceived is just an attempt to synthesize the human condition. Sure, they say it differently. Some are overly complex, and others are downright simplistic. Still, they are attempting to express the same feelings just in different ways.
Our music catalogs also express a certain level of growth. As I age, I don’t find myself gravitating to the songs of my youth. I find myself in a constant state of exploration. This is to be expected. I don’t read the same level of books, enjoy the same kind of art, or watch the same programming. My tastes are always evolving and responding to events in my life. Naturally, my sense of musical exploration follows that same slow-moving river.
All of this to say the following, pause next time you feel the need to judge someone for their musical tastes. Life is often more complex than a four-minute song can express. Human beings are more profound than one song can suggest. Indeed, the colors and flavors of life are more varied. We should respect that.
Be good to each other,
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