Sunday, 29 July 2012

How do you react to music?

I always find it interesting to observe how people react to music. I don't make a conscious decision to actually observe in the scientific sense, it just happens. I was at a friend's wedding a few weeks ago, and the DJ had the same issue faced by all DJs at weddings. How do you please everyone? You've got people there from teenagers to the grandparents, and everyone has their own tastes in music. This guy was a pro who had done similar events before, and although he couldn't possibly please all the people all the time, he managed to please most of them at least some of the time. The most fun thing to observe through all this was when a song would end, and the couples on the dance floor would wait for a few seconds to hear what was coming on next. Then there would be the dejected walk back to their seats or the look of excitement in their eyes as they liked the next song and could stay up dancing. By the way, Billy Idol and Rick Springfield can still block a dance floor 30 years after their time on the Top 40.

Our reactions to music are pretty instantaneous, especially when you recognize the song. If you hear the beginning of a song you like, you might start to move and dance right away. If you are at home or in the car, you might reach for the volume control to turn it up. You might start singing along with the words or doing your best air guitar moves. If you go see a cover band in your local club and they play a bunch of songs you like, then you will like that band and want to hear them play again. Music is emotional and it gets tied up in our memories because of that.

If you are in your 30s or older, you are still listening to songs you liked 20 years ago (or more). When we are teenagers we really start to develop our own musical tastes as we move from music that our parents chose to play around the house or in the car and into songs recommended by friends and peers. The songs you like most as a teenager will often stick with you for the rest of your life. And sometimes it's not about the song itself, but about the time in your life, and the memories evoked by the song. A song sometimes acts like a snapshot of time, bringing you back to a special day or person in your past. This is an amazing, awesome thing, and should be enjoyed. However, it occurs to me that it can also be part of the reason why so many people in their 40s and 50s don't like the music that's popular with teenagers or people in their 20s. Since you are hearing the song at a different point in your life, it doesn't exist in the same context for you as it does for the younger people. Your reaction to it is not emotionally based, like when you hear your favourite song by Queen, U2, Metallica, Garth Brooks, or whoever you liked "back in the day".

When I hear people the same age as me call songs on this week's Top 40 "crap", I know it's because they're listening emotionally. They hear electronic sound effects and auto-tune and decide the song is lousy. If it had distorted guitars and real drums it would be "real music". I don't buy it. Today's music IS different in many ways than what was on the radio 20-30 years ago, but it's also the same in many ways. The part that is the MOST different is how you react to it.
By the way, I'd love to get some feedback on this blog. You can leave a comment here. If you'd like to comment or contact me less publicly my email is and I am @FlipprNL on Twitter too.

1 comment:

  1. This is so true. I do emotionally tie myself to songs; from songs from when I was a teen in school, my early 20's, songs when my baby was young to even now. As I think of some of those songs from "Black Betty", "Walk like an Egyptian", "Smooth" and "500 miles" They all bring me to someplace...not always good. Thanks for the perpective!