Musical observation

Somewhere along the way, I read an article about music that you should definitely listen to while you’re out observing. It reminded me of another article from a UK newspaper listing the top-10 most dangerous songs to have playing in your car while driving. I think Grieg made both lists.

Anyway, my reaction to these lists was perhaps a sign of my experience with musical bias; I thought they were both totally ridiculous. As a former professional DJ, I know a thing or two about any collection of music appealing to various groups of people in different situations. This understanding is why I only performed at three weddings, ever, and only for people I knew personally. It’s damn near impossible to make a list of songs and claim that they’re going to have the same effect on anyone besides the list-maker with any consistency. Making suggestions is one thing, but saying anything qualitative about these kinds of compilations is silly, more so as they try to be very general.

When I was a wee lad, I talked my mom into calling an 800 number I saw on TV and ordering me a 3CD set of music called Cosmic Dreams, which is essentially an unofficial soundtrack for Cosmos. These CDs are somewhere in my basement, in storage, but lately I was thinking how cool it would be to listen to this stuff while on site. Of course, this is a collection of insanely cheesy new-age stuff and if I tried to make my wife listen to it, she’d either run for the hills or shove an eyepiece up my nose.

Astronomer or not, there is virtually never any opportunity available for you to impose your musical tastes on others while not also being an annoying  jerk. Even making lists is fine, so long as you remember you’re representing your own taste. Suggestions work best when your audience has an awkwardness-free way to not listen to them. I’m not trying to say suggestions are bad, really, simply don’t confuse them with making people hear examples or acting as though you know what people are going to like. Radio DJs can have the frequency changed on them and DJs in clubs can have their audience clear the dancefloor, either way it’s not personal. Wedding DJs, on the other hand, have drunk (and sometimes irate) relatives of the marrying couple tell them to “Stop playing this club crap and start playing some smooth jazz! FOR THE LADIES!” That last one feels a bit personal.

The point is: you should listen to whatever you want, if you even want to listen to anything at all. There’s something to be said for silence, but perhaps more to be said for headphones.


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