Monday, August 29, 2011

Old Music or New?

There is a perception that the older you get the more you connect with music from your youth, especially your high school or early college years. Plenty of evidence backs that up, but I also see people attaching to music that reminds them of music from their youth. Case in point: plenty of grunge music from a few years back had the same hard acoustic sound of old Van Morrison songs; a lot of people liked both.

I usually don’t really fit the pattern. My favorite music is contemporary country, contemporary blues, 80s rock and classical. None of that was popular during my high school years and none of it sounds like the music that was. I also happen to like plenty of other music, so I’m a bit out of sync with the norm.

But I did have an interesting experience this evening. My day at work was particularly stressful. I work around music, specifically five radio stations of varying music genres. Some days I want to relax by hearing anything but that music, which often means I choose music I’ve never heard before – brand new or out-of-the-mainstream or very old. As I was surfing through the myriad of channel options on Sirius XM satellite during my drive home, I stopped on a channel without even thinking about it. Traffic was heavy so I had to pay attention to the road and not my radio.

I didn’t realize till later that I was listening to Aerosmith, Rush, Heart and Tom Petty … not exactly soothing, relaxing, stress-reducing music. However, those songs did exactly what I needed. I was feeling much better. Those songs happen to be from a period of significant personal and professional growth in my life and I subconsciously associate those sounds with good times. Those loud, edgy songs enveloped me like a soft, warm blanket and covered me with calm.

Maybe that’s why so many people hang onto songs from their youth as they age … those songs were their anchor during a volatile time in their lives and in the uncertain times of aging years, where nothing is what it was, those songs are anchors again. Security blankets. Comfort zones.

Those songs put me in a better mood today but after the fourth or fifth song I decided my brain needed stimulation; I changed to a channel playing brand new music I had never heard. Then I got home and purged music from my head entirely for awhile.

I am still awed by this piece of reality: all music is a combination of 12 notes. That’s it! There are only 12 notes. The rest is an endless combination of chords and octaves that lead to every possible emotion. People like me who search for the meaning of life, the universe and God sometimes think that the answer to that quest lies somewhere in music.


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