Saturday, March 19, 2011

How To Hate Music...

My father used to tell me that time was brutal to art. He believed that any work, given enough exposure, would eventually become devalued in the eyes of the public, and even to the individual creator. He cautioned me on my attempts to forge a life for myself centered around music, because he feared that if I began to hate the very thing that sustained me, I would be in danger of a life without purpose. For years we'd argue back and forth, even to the point of heated words. He'd say outlandish things like "Son, one day you may not ever want to hear Stairway To Heaven again!" I'd shout back with rock and roll integrity dripping from my Pearl Jam T-Shirt about the LOVE of music and how the same song could still send a shiver down my spine and remind me of what it was like to be 8 years old, popping that Zep 4 cassette tape in for the first time. Unbeknownst to me, these conversations would actually set the table for an accidental social experiment that is the subject of this blog post.

About 5 years ago my dear friend Rashid (R Jedi for all you twitter birds) generously sold me his Xbox 360 for what I considered to be a very fair price. Around the same time, I was able to use the extra cash to buy a surround sound system off of my buddy Chris (Mr_C_Fox). Upon figuring out the sea of wires and connections that consumed most of one obscenity filled evening, I was finally ready to reap the benefits of my patience and wise spending. I jumped head first into learning all about this new system of mine and it wasn't long before I even figured out a way to hook it up to my Mac, thus giving me the dream of being able to listen to my own music while playing video games in surround sound... HEAVEN! Really, that's all it takes for me.  So I threw in my shiny used copy of whatever the hell NHL game was current at the time and set my music to shuffle.

BWAHHHH WONNNNG "I'm such an asshole, god I'm such a stain." The opening lines to Stabbing Westward's "I Don't Believe" come blaring out at me in a rush of excitement and noise. It had been quite a while since I'd heard the song, as being in my twenties and in a relationship had brought me to new tastes in my daily listening habits. As I listened to the track, cool memories of blasting heavy industrial music with my brother came flashing back to me, so I decided to listen to the whole album... followed by some Nine Inch Nails, then some Gravity Kills, and on and on it went for the rest of the night. A victory in every sense of the word! Here in the course of one evening I'd got a bunch of great new stuff and reconnected with some music from my youth... TAKE THAT DAD!

Everything was all good. In fact, the next day at work all I could think about was what musical adventures were waiting for me once I got home. I booted up my Xbox seconds after walking through the door, set up a game, hit the shuffle button and...  BWAHHHH WONNNNG "I'm such an asshole, god I'm such a stain."  Hmmm what are the chances of that, I remember thinking to myself as I prepared to skip the track. In all my years of owning an ipod and itunes, I couldn't ever remember starting a shuffle session with the same song 2 days in a row. I hit the skip button and was warmly greeted by "Gone." Definitely my most played tune by The Black Crowes at the time, and on I went with more multitasking goodness.

Fast forward 5 years and a lot has changed. My lady and I now enjoy our own apartment, I'm living out my life's ambition in a wonderful band called August On Sunday, I read a lot more, and I'm all around a much wiser and more centered person. Life is definitely good, but some things haven't changed much at all. I still dig hockey and I've still got that Xbox and surround sound and wouldn't you know it, my shuffles still start the same way... BWAHHHH WONNNNG "I'm such an asshole, god I'm such a stain." EVERY DAY OF MY LIFE for the... last... 5... years. I had unknowingly thrust myself into the roll of testing the limits of my fathers theory!

In preparing this blog, the memory of that first night with the Xbox is the only positive experience I have left with the song... hearing that juvenile opening line over and over again took me from a person who once championed Stabbing Westward as an example of an excellent industrial band to where I stand today. I despise Stabbing Westward... in fact this week I deleted their catalogue from my computer so as to make this blog my final experience. I now despise them to the point where if someone mentions them in a room, I become immediately leery of that person. Are you getting this? I'm drawing lines in reality based on how much I can't stand this band's music (which I've only been listening to in 8 second bursts).  Familiarity breeds contempt, repetition leads to understanding, bombardment brings disgust!

So this is the conclusion I've come to. See, my dad was on to something for sure. I just think he devalued the wrong things. The art is still there, a snapshot in time, a feeling forever captured in a moment of honesty. What's truly brutal to art is not time... it's us. We change so much as people from day to day, week to week, year to year, that we begin to resent what we've loved for not being able to effect us the way it once did, or worse, we CLING to it as a gospel of when everything made sense and the world was perfect. The simple fact is, had I not gone through this experience, I wouldn't be listening to Stabbing Westward any more or less then I was 5 years ago. My tastes have expanded and so has my knowledge of rock and roll as an art form. In the pantheon of rock greatness they are very much an average band, and I know that now.

What does this all mean to us today? Well I guess its a cautionary tale of sorts. We live in a world of instant gratification and mass media bombardment. Anything you've ever wanted to know is just a short keystroke away. So are the opinions of millions of people.  In fact, there are so many out there for you that  you could live an entire life of other peoples thoughts and no one would be any the wiser. Music isn't dead, art isn't dead. It's just the era of the extravert, where mean is the new cool and letting your inner self shine is just message board fodder.

Twitter and Charlie Sheen people! being shocking > making sense. 140 characters, easy.

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