Music used to be something transcendent for me, something that could carry me away to different worlds. Every album was an adventure with something exciting and stimulating just around the corner, like walking through an expansive forest to find streetlights hanging from the trees or entering my bathroom to see the mirror made of reflective puzzle pieces. Wondrous and new, music was a planet unto itself that consisted of objects stitched together through the creativity of a collective, notes and melodies becoming the nails and planks while the input of each individual band member was the hammer that connected everything. For hours I could wander the streets of this new place, listening to different albums without any agenda other than the sheer joy of continual discovery.
Eventually, everything had to be supplemented with music. Was it storming outside? I had to listen to an album that complemented the weather. Was I sad? I had to listen to sad music. I feel now that it was a lazy response, one that cheapened the experiences at hand. Music as a form of escape isn’t inherently purer than doing anything else to avoid problems just because it’s music. It is counterproductive. Listening to sad music because I was sad set me up for more sadness, but listening to happy music made me feel like a clown, an idiot, trying to jump-start a good mood based on the sounds hitting my ears, like some slobbering Pavlovian dog. Music failed me at those times and it was then that I realized that I had expected too much and that, sometimes, music is simply music. It was, like many realizations, simple enough but hard to come by – music, for all the good it does us, is a vehicle for disappointment – but an equally hard realization to come to was that it is no fault of music’s that it disappoints us.
We place so much on the back of music without realizing how weak its back is, how easily it can crumble under the weight of our selfish expectations, and I am bored of music now and isn’t that equally selfish? I don’t want something new or unique; I gave up that dream when I entered the harsh world of music criticism and realized that nothing is unique. But I am realizing now that that is what makes music such an amazing medium. Deep down, I want to be a writer and I often unconsciously praise the written word over the sung word because there are only so many ways to combine chords and notes but there are infinite ways to combine words and punctuation. I have to return to my earlier notion that music was like a planet to me because music is like our planet. We are exhausting it, digging it, harvesting it, chopping it, depleting it. The inevitable conclusion is that we will run out of room, we will run out of food, we will run out of oil, we will run out of glaciers, we will run out of cold weather. The same can be said of music; many album reviews will hammer it into us that nothing new can be done, that the mine of musical ideas has already been gutted and musicians are simply offering us coal as if it was gold.
In a planetary sense, it is horrifyingly real. In a musical sense, it is beautiful and somewhat of a relief. Everyone will run out of ideas eventually and we will be left with an extensive testament to the creativity of the human race that was somewhat cheapened in its golden years by money-grubbing record executives and trend-hopping kids with no talent, but that isn’t enough to blacken the body of work that will be left behind by a century of popular musicians who gave us gifts that keep on giving, even if we sometimes expect them to give more.