I was watching a TED talk recently presented by Benjamin Zander, he is a famous conductor. His talk was about the power of classical music and how everyone will love it. He played ‘Prelude by Chopin’ and asked us to follow him on a journey through the track and to picture in our minds a recent loss of a friend, a family member or a loved one we can never have… I honestly didn’t quite understand the point he was making until he started playing. As it happens, a few weeks earlier, I had sort of lost someone from my life and it was a sad moment, and while I listened to the music, with every chord, with every note, I felt what he was on about. It was a beautiful piece and I did end up with tears in my eyes. Zander wanted me to appreciate the power of classical music, how we can follow each note and actually feel everything that Chopin had to say, and what he wanted to say… was just sadness, feelings of emptiness and loss. The message to me was music is powerful. Because I can certainly connect this feeling to other times that I have felt vulnerable in a similar way.
This morning, there was tweet I read from @melshizzle, who is a really witty English student from the UK that I follow. She tweeted, ‘Oh my god, this girl on the subway has just heard Bleeding in Love by Leona Lewis for the 8th time and I can hear it through her earphones!’ I laughed, but then I thought about the times I have heard ‘Linger by cranberries’ over and over again, trying to forget a memory. Was this girl on the subway just feeling sad? Well, it made for a fun tweet didn’t it? But I sort of wish I had the whole story.
When I think about how I define myself sometimes, I say things like, ‘oh I’m punctual, I’m very active, I am passionate about what I do, I’m enthusiastic, creative… I have an infectious drive to do things…’ but really, if I have to define myself, I would do it by what I like and dislike. There is this beautiful saying..
‘It’s not what you are like, but what you like… that matters’
An extraordinary thing to say. Naturally the context saying is about love and relationships. About how we connect and its actually backed up by science. I read an article once, I can’t remember where… it said, people fall in love or tend to like others who are form the same socio-economic background, similar faith, similar beliefs, similar likes… Now, I understand if that’s not you… but would you really hang out with a ghetto rapper from queens if you are from I don’t know… the most conservative Indian family? Most likely not. Just think about the people you hang out with every day. You hang out with people who like things you like. This makes the kind of music you like VERY IMPORTANT.
Tracing my origins of music likes and dislikes, I, like every other soul born in the 80’s was introduced to my first piece of English music in the form of ‘Michael Jackson’s Thriller’. As I grew up, MJ was replaced by ‘Prince’ and ‘The Beatles’ and ‘Bob Dylan’, but inevitably, I fell victim to the 90’s pop music. And yes that means the catchy tunes of ‘backstreet boys’ and ‘Boyzone’ and other artists that I would much rather tear my ears out than listen to again. Actually, ‘Boyzone’ aren’t all that bad, I listen to them even today. But don’t tell anyone, that will be our little secret.
Anyway, as I grew older, I discovered rock music and there was phase in my life that lasted for far too long when ‘Pink Floyd’, ‘Pearl Jam’ and ‘Dire Straits’ were the be-all and end-all for music. I call this the lost years. Don’t get me wrong. Amazing bands, and I heard other rock music legends as well. But I sort of fell into the trap of just listening to what everyone around me was listening. But if music is to be a differentiator, if it is to be the thing that helps someone decide if they like what YOU like… then shouldn’t I be constantly on the search for what I like?
And this is where the power of YouTube and 8tracks and other awesome sites comes into play. 8tracks in particular is my current favorite. It’s this site where people prepare a mixtape. And you can’t quite skip the songs, so you have to listen to what the author of the mixtape created. So when I was listening to Zander’s piece from Chopin, I was sad… right? I went to 8tracks and searched for ‘sad’ and ‘crying’ as the tags and there were these amazing mix tapes of artists, many of whom I had never heard of. But the music was so well selected… it was stunning. And this brings me back to the idea of a journey. Chopin’s prelude was but one track… 8tracks is a playlist. You are on a journey that the author of the playlist created. You don’t control what’s next and this is scary… right? Cause you might just get a Justin Bieber track… or god forbid… Taylor Swift. But there is serendipity here. Which as I recently read… ‘serendipity is when you settle for something interesting because finding what you want is so damn hard’ But the thing is, 8tracks… its hand crafted selection, so you know what the author truly ‘likes’.
And when I think of what that means for me? Well… one of these days I’m going to meet someone who do does like the music I like. Indie rock, folk, hell ‘Simon and Garfunkel’, ‘The shins’, ‘Belle and Sebastian’ and ‘The Velvet Underground’. I will find that someone and maybe I can introduce her to a Regina Skeptor… because when I do, it’s not the common that we like, but the new things we can share that will really define us. And then I could, much like Zander introduce her to the new music and have her experience the same joy, the same emotions as I have felt.
Yes, Music is powerful. And I hope we all keep exploring. Cause you can all love a ‘Rhianna’ and a ‘Beyonce’, but it’s the random unknown artist that we love and treasure that is really what makes our identity.