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Sunday, April 20th, 2014

Listening Outside Your Comfort Zone

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014: Arts, Music & Dance.

I was brought up on eclectic music, but I have had my obsessions, like the early 70s when I only listened to classical, or the 80s when I only chose to listen to African music. Yet even during those times, my girlfriends and roommates played other kinds of music constantly all around me; music listening had not yet been privatized via iPods and earbuds.

Obsessions were part of my youth, when I was more worried about rebelling or establishing my identity. Later I gave that up. I’d much rather learn and evolve than get stuck with an “identity.”

Now that private listening has become the norm, my younger friends are migrating to streaming services. As others have noted, even when it’s “curated,” streaming music delivers primarily that which is already familiar to you. Pandora creates “radio” based on your favorite artists. I’m sorry, but that’s no way to discover new music.

As an artist committed to, or rather, dependent on, lifelong learning and unlimited exploration, I have only limited interest in listening to the kind of music I already know and like. That’s one reason why I still listen to terrestrial radio with live DJs. While I’m working at home, I stream a handful of stations that play eclectic music that often surprises me and turns me onto something I didn’t know and like before, including one internet-only station that happens to play my music. I’ve discovered these terrestrial stations during my travels, by actually being in the places where they’re located, places I developed a connection with, and having them available online is the icing on the cake.

In this context, I regularly listen to shows featuring styles of music I don’t like, because sometimes a single track will stand out and teach me something.

Still, I know a lot of older musicians who should know better, who only listen to the one or two kinds of music they’ve identified with: folk, country, rock, jazz, world, etc. Musicians who revere jazz or traditional music and make sweeping judgements against rock, electronic or punk. And of course the nostalgic baby boomers with their classic rock addiction. That’s a great way to stagnate, dudes.

Or you could try listening outside your comfort zone – you might learn something and have some unexpected fun!

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