Sometimes I Just Don’t Feel Like Listening to Music
My friend has taken to introducing me as her “friend with a Ph.D. in music, but whenever I go to her house, she doesn’t have any music playing!” The other day, I was listening to an interesting program on CBC Radio, about a woman who wrote a book about Cowichan sweaters and lived on a reserve with her Aboriginal husband in the 1970s. I wanted the interview to continue, but it stopped so that a song could be played. I just turned the radio off. This is a regular thing on CBC’s Metro Morning too, where five minutes before the hour/half hour, they play some Latin-jazz salsa-y song that does nothing for me at 6 am. At least then, I know approximately how late I’m going to be.
Yes, it’s true. I teach music classes, I write music reviews, I research music, and I spent most of my life studying music, and sometimes I just don’t want to listen to music.
Stupid, isn’t it, to put this on a website dedicated exclusively to the celebration of some pretty awesome music. But I’m wondering if other people occasionally have a bit of secret guilt over the same thing.
Why don’t I have music on when my friend comes over? My cat doesn’t like music. Just kidding. Actually, it’s because the landlord pays for cable so I’m getting as much as I can out of the deal while it lasts. Just kidding. Seriously, it’s because my husband and I don’t share musical taste, and he comes out and turns off the CD player as soon as I start it up. I go into the bedroom and cry, he tells me to grow up, it drags out for a few hours…
Of course I’m kidding. There are very few areas where our tastes don’t overlap, despite not having any discs in common in our collections. He has often asked me the same thing, why don’t I ever put it on?
I don’t entirely know why. First of all, I do spend at least 3-4 hours per day on solid music listening. It’s not wallpaper, it’s my main focus during those periods, but it’s usually coming through headphones so I can hear everything clearly without disrupting anyone else. Second, well, it is my job. Nobody accuses an accountant of not doing math at home, or a grocery store cashier of refusing to repeatedly count the change in their pockets backwards from $20. Considering many of my responsibilities circulate around finding the perfect example of 6/8 meter or 12-bar blues, or finding the right words to describe someone’s heartfelt concept album about their childhood, sometimes a break from that is kind of appealing. It’s not like I stray far when I do something “fun”. I end up in a ballet class (oops, hearing music), or I read books (about Keith Richards. Shit.), or I watch a movie (about the banjo? Aargh).
Actually, that brings me to another branch of this topic. We have a bunch of movies piled up to occupy our weekend evenings, so every Friday night it’s the same thing: “What do you want to watch?” “I don’t care, you decide.” “No, you decide. I decided last week.” “Well, okay, let’s eliminate by what we don’t want to watch.” Inevitably, there is one night every week where I ban music documentaries. We’ve got both versions of The Decline of Western Civilization, films about the banjo, both versions of the Maxwell Street documentary, that White Stripes movie, a 5-volume history of rock, the list goes on and on… but sometimes I just want a movie with a story. This weekend was Water for Elephants, and it was admittedly pretty disappointing compared to the next night’s Maxwell St. movie, And This is Free. Nevertheless, I kind of feel like I’m in class, or doing class prep, when I watch a movie like that.
Boy, I sound like an obnoxious jerk, don’t I? How dare I say this when I’ve been fortunate enough to spend my life immersed in my passion, right?
Well…passion? Ok. Truth is, my “passion” changes pretty frequently. I gasped my way through a clarinet audition to my university music program, thinking it might be the easiest way to get in, and was thoroughly turned down. So the next year, my audition was on piano, and it was met with about the most insulting comment on the jury sheet that I’ve ever gotten in my entire life. Whatever, that’s what classical university music programs are built on, tearing students down continually so that they don’t embarrass the teacher on the concert stage. Fair enough. Anyway, it’s cool ‘cause I got in despite the comment.
This is it! I thought. I’ll be a Beethoven expert! Music history! It’s gonna be great. Turns out Beethoven’s been done. Okay, I’ll go with the Beatles. They’ve been done too. I finally figured it out in my final undergrad year when I made weekly trips to the public library, taking out every copy of Paul McCartney and Wings, Ian Tyson, Neil Young, Stan Rogers…and realized I was pretty hot for Canadian music in the end.
All of this silly navel-gazing has a point. My overall passion, yes, has been music, but my relationship with it, and work in it, continually changes. So I don’t necessarily think of it as a passion, but as a pretty interesting job that does sporadically require a break. That means I generally don’t have background music on in the house (anyway, what is that? I can’t concentrate on anything else when music is on, so it’s never background) and it means that sometimes I want to occupy myself with an activity that has nothing to do with music. Do practicing musicians feel this way? Do music critics? Is this a normal occurrence, or should I be looking for another job?
Well, I know I should look for another job anyway, because it turns out there are no full-time jobs for doctors of country music. I just hope I don’t have to start counting change backwards again.