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Playing Music for Friends

July 18, 2012

Playing music for my friends comic

In my circle of close friends, my name has apparently become a verb meaning “to change a song before it is over.” My friends joke that they’ve never heard the end of a song at Paul D’s house. It’s actually really hard for me to overcome this, and as counterintuitive as this may sound, it’s because music is so important to me. But believe me, I often wish I didn’t care so much about what my friends think of the music I like.

I believe that what music you listen to is less important than why you listen to it. Most people who rely on corporate radio for their music have no idea why they like Nickelback or Nicki Minaj. They just listen and absorb because that’s what requires the least effort. They are not challenged by the experience. Furthermore, there’s nothing to indicate the musical lineage of these artists. Who are their influences? What is their voice? What do they contribute to the musical landscape? And perhaps most importantly: how will they be remembered? Will we still be listening to them in 10 years? 20?

In many cases, especially with mall-punk (“punk wock”), an artist’s influences don’t extend beyond the last 5 years or so. (I spoke with a kid some time ago who was absolutely astonished to learn that Kurt Cobain’s favorite band was the Beatles. There are younger people who don’t even know who Kurt Cobain is!) The interval of influence is even shorter for most hip-hop and R&B. They have no idea who Grandmaster Flash is. And there is no genre more capricious than “club music.” LMFAO indeed…

But my point is not to rant about “kids today” like some crotchety, opinionated old man. (“Who’s scruffy-lookin’?”) I didn’t create the little comic I’ve attached to this post, but it resonated with me. And when I shared it on Facebook friends swarmed in to Like & Share it. I’m clearly not the only one, so what is so salient about this little stick-figure comic?

For my part I believe I gravitate toward artists that have a value, a uniqueness of some sort (if not, they’d better be very, very good at copying others), and I always want so desperately for everyone to see what I see in them. Or, more accurately, hear what I hear. But I get nervous when people don’t have an immediate reaction one way or the other. I worry that the other listeners are getting bored. Rationally, I understand that not everybody has my penchant for guitar rock. Not everyone appreciates fecundity quite the way I do.

In the front part of my thinking place, I know not everyone is going to absolutely love every song I put on at a party. But the back part rages, “why can you not see how awesome this is!?” I remain a work in progress.

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One Comment
  1. Lloyd permalink
    July 18, 2012 4:44 pm

    Fascinating post, great cartoon. I definitely understand the feelings you’re talking about.

    I hope this doesn’t sound flip, but at some point I just started trying to remember that people are who they are and they like what they like, and trying not to dwell on the issue too much beyond that. Being happily married to someone who is not a music enthusiast (someone who is fine to turn on pop radio as a diversion and/or background noise and not much else) has been, shall we say, instructive for me. That said, I do still feel concern over musical choices on the rare occasions when we host people who I know are “into music,” and I will probably continue to do so, while trying to just stay relaxed about the whole thing too.

    Speaking of which, re: the whole “changing songs before they’re over” and “name becoming a verb” thing, it occurs to me that none of that would happen if you guys didn’t generously, repeatedly, offer your home and your time as “go-to” hosts and entertainers. You’ve played a lot of songs for a lot of people over the years, and I’m sure everyone has heard a lot of stuff they have liked at your house, in addition to stuff that, for whatever reason, they didn’t respond to.

    You care because you want to help people have fun. Nothing at all is wrong with that. If it helps, I can attest that your skipped songs here and there are wrapped up in damn near 20 years of abundant positive memories that you’ve helped me and dozens of other people create. Personally, I wouldn’t trade those skipped songs for anything, my friend.

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