Question #3

Assume everything about your musical tastes was reversed overnight. Everything you loved, you now hate; everything you once hated, you now love. If your favorite band has always been REM, they will suddenly sound awful to you, they will become the band you dislike the most. Everything will become it’s opposite, but everything will remain in balance (and the rest of your personality will remain unchanged). So — in all likelihood — you won’t love music any less (or any more) then you do right now. There will still be artists you love and who make you happy; they will merely be the artists you currently find unlistenable. Now, I concede that this transformation would make you unhappy. But explain why.

Why would this make me unhappy? Because I’d be stuck listening to T-Pain and opera music, that’s why. Need I explain further?

Okay, fine. I’m assuming this new-taste-in-music me still has all my memories of the period in my life when I liked the music I like now. I would remember the great lyrics, the guitar solos, the beautiful voices. I would remember the fun I had at concerts and the happiness I got out of singing my lungs out to “Bad Romance” or air-guitaring to “Layla.” I would still connect that music to moments in my life — my dad quizzing me about the inspiration for Don McLean’s “American Pie” every year at Nardin’s Father-Daughter Dance; dancing to “Iris” by the Goo Goo Dolls on the lawn at Darien Lake; crowd-surfing to Fall Out Boy’s “Dance, Dance” at a concert with my friends. Except…I wouldn’t love that music anymore.

So says this argument, I would “love” fly beatz (yo) from somebody like Lil’ Wayne or Drake, or I would enjoy discussing the merits of Beethoven’s Fifth or Sixth or Nine-Hundredth or whatever Symphony, or I would be raving in my car to techno music — and doing so would make me happy. I would still absolutely love music, I would still spend my time devising plans to go to every concert imaginable, and I would be making new memories connected to this new music I love.

So why would I be unhappy? At first glance, I thought it would be because of my new musical tastes; I thought it would be because in this alternate reality, the music that I now don’t enjoy all that much, I’d find wonderful, spectacular, the best thing since sliced bread. Then I thought I’d be unhappy because I’d be longing for the days when I loved my old music; I thought it would be because this new me would wonder, as I wonder with the artists I don’t like now, how anyone could ever listen to such a cacophony.

But it’s none of those reasons. Really, the worst part about this change probably relates to the memories tied to the music. All those memories would be tainted, and I would be unable to still feel the magic that those songs added to those moments. I would still have good memories — but they wouldn’t be great because I wouldn’t be able to listen to the songs that provided the soundtrack for those moments. Now, I can pull up a song on my iPod and feel the feelings I felt when I was listening to that song in that moment…but if I don’t like those songs anymore, I would only be able to recall the memories in silence.

The way music affects you is unaffected by your musical tastes. Whether you like rap, punk, classical, or whatever, the music is important to you because of the way you interpret it and the memories you associate with it. If I suddenly hated (and I don’t mean in the way that I “hate” the Backstreet Boys now; I mean a way that I truly couldn’t listen to the music anymore because it would, I don’t know, make my ears bleed or something) all the music I love now, I’d be truly, truly sad because I would be unable to feel the way I feel now when I listen to it. 

Music is like a relationship. We may be first attracted to a song because of the lyrics or the beat — the “outer beauty” of the music, if you will — but we continue to love a song for the same reason we love a person — because of the way it makes you feel.

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