For my birthday this past weekend, I implored my mother to get me just one item: a portable CD player. Today’s rationalized world may scoff at this artifact of a bygone era – inconvenient, limited, obsolete.
Lately, however, I am becoming dissatisfied with my current niche within pop-culture – compulsively mass-torrenting late at night, ravenously scouring the internet for new music to satiate my unquenchable need and spending nauseating periods in the car listening to “new” songs that are as addictively catchy as every other song aired in the last five or so years.
In fact, I find that my “music tolerance” is reaching a point where my degenerated temporal lobes can no longer be stimulated by auto-tuned melodies, energizing polyphonics or even the freshest of backbeats. My once-vivacious solo dance sessions have gradually become half-hearted and robotic. I feel nostalgic for the days when I was content to appreciate a single CD for half an hour.
I have always had a soft spot for the 90s – not because the music was quality (it wasn’t), but because I love that rush that comes with listening to a song that used to make me feel so damn good. Back in the 90s and early 2000s, I had the ability to get the same high from certain songs or albums every time I listened to them, no matter how many times I had in a given span of time.
Remember those days? The days when we were committed to our favorite bands, when it was possible to have a favorite current song distinguishable from any other, when there was more to music than just mindless consumption or formulating some fake identity? Remember your favorite CD?
The listening experience used to be about love – now it’s about lust. The feedback loop between our desire for stimulation and quick gratification and the music industry’s desire to make a profit has dehumanized what music once was in favor of something shallow, technical and straight to the point.
According to neuroscientists, our collective attention spans are shortening due to the constant bombardment of new information, new technology, new everything we can imagine in our day-to-day lives.
Current mainstream music is no exception – we have shifted our attention away from those few favorite CDs in favor of abundant “one-week stands,” songs in which we gladly immerse ourselves for a short period of time before our brains grow bored and demand more, more and more.
Not long ago, I felt inwardly that those people who only listen to “indie” or “underground” music were elitists – prudes, in a sense, towards the raucous fun that is mainstream audio. Sure, it’s unoriginal, it’s conformist, but it’s a good time.
I also felt disdain for those who claim to have “good taste” in music just because they listen to obscure or underground bands that virtually no one has ever heard of and are frankly kind of terrible.
However, as my starry-eyed high from this musical trip wears off, I find myself able to understand and respect the “indie-only” lifestyle – it’s like indulging only in nourishing, organic beverages instead of poisoning the liver with mass intakes of cheap vodka. I have also come to decide what “good taste” is regarding the field of music.
These days, good taste in music is having any taste at all. It’s having a sensitive ear, as opposed to an ear burnt raw by one hot track after another. It is having a mind that hasn’t deteriorated completely from an ever-increasing overload of mindless stimulation via today’s oversaturated media.
The ability to appreciate music is attained through a return to the habits of that bygone era: getting by with nothing but a CD player and a rack of favorite albums that never get old.