Turn that down will you!

When I was younger I listened to music a lot. From my teens and all the way into my early thirties I used to listen to music all the time. No matter what I was doing, there was always something playing on the stereo. Or, if I was out and about, in my earbuds. Hell, I used to go to sleep listening to music!

Over the past decade though, my interest in casual music listening has gradually faded. These days I hardly listen to music at all if I don’t have a particular reason for listening. These reasons vary (reference listening while mixing, trying to get ideas when I’m stuck on something, listening to songs people post on my facebook wall) but one thing’s for certain: listening for pure enjoyment is rarely among them.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this. It’s an interesting phenomenon and I have a feeling I’m not alone in this, especially when it comes to musicians. Here’s a few potential reasons:

– If you have done a lot of music listening, regardless of genre(s), there comes a point when you start feeling that you’ve heard everything before. This is probably because… well, you have. Nothing’s new under the sun in the world of music, where everyone’s influenced by someone who came before, and everything moves in repeating cycles. This is a cynical viewpoint, but probably not too far off the mark. This in turn leads to losing interest in discovering new stuff.

– If you’ve been a musician for a long time, you probably lack the ability to listen non-analytically. It’s an occupational hazard. We spend years honing our abilities by practicing and comparing ourselves to others, and figuring out what goes into writing a song or playing an instrument or whatever. Before we know it, we can’t listen to music without picking it apart in our heads. And this gets tiring in the long run. Listening to a random piece of music becomes a mental chore rather than an aesthetic experience.

– We are all completely saturated by music these days. No matter where you go or when, there’s music playing. There’s the places where you expect to hear music, of course, like at a bar or watching a movie or TV show. But it’s everywhere else too. Whether it’s over the supermarket PA, at the gym, or the bus driver blasting the local FM station, we’re constantly bombarded by music we can’t choose not to hear. Just watching a commercial break on TV will expose you to a dozen pieces of music in half as many minutes. Combine this with the two above factors and it’s no wonder that we start longing for some damn peace and quiet every once in a while.

I think all these things play a part. But at least for me personally, they aren’t the only reasons for not desiring to listen to music every waking hour. If I were so sick of hearing music, I wouldn’t spend so much time creating it, right? It’s also this: being constantly exposed to other music draws my focus away from my own. And this is more annoying than all of the above combined. Turn that down will you, I’m writing music in my head here!

So even if I sometimes miss the days of putting an album on and just disappearing into the music, I’m not losing any sleep over it. Life is short and when it comes down to it, I much prefer spending time working on my own music than listening to the music of others. There’s nothing judgmental in that, just a matter of getting one’s priorities sorted.

And for the record: I do listen to music for enjoyment, and for discovering and learning new things. It just happens a lot more infrequently these days than it used to.

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One Response to Turn that down will you!

  1. Boot Hamilton (ReaperMadness @ REAPER Forum) says:

    Mattias – Your post, “Turn that down will you!” struck a chord with me. It seems as though we may share at least part of the same brain. But you are much more eloquent than I. After 50+ years at it (with an admittedly rather long break to actually earn some money), it’s rather tough to find a simple (minded?) enjoyment from listening to, well, most anything you’re likely to accidentally encounter. Hell, I played with some of the blues greats in Chicago in the ’60’s, and I don’t ever listen to the stuff anymore. It’s got to be something very, very special… something I consider a true gem – maybe along the lines of, say… ’39 Duke Ellington, Rhapsody in Blue, Ein Heldenleben, Early ’50’s Atlantic R&B, Coltrane & Ellington doing “In a Sentimental Mood”. There’s actually a lot of stuff out there, but surprisingly little time to enjoy. Maybe that’s the problem. Time – the most commodity. I don’t know; I just wanted to make contact to tell you that, at least for me, you really put into words the irony of this aspect of a composer’s relationship with music.

    I am very impressed by your orchestrations, by the way. How did a rock(?) bass player like you end up in a place like this? Nice accomplishment, my man (I may have to talk to you in more detail about this someday).

    And thanks for the “follow” on SoundCloud.

    Be well,


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