I don’t know if I’ve ever been someone who gets lost in the music. When I’m playing it I might. When I’m in the crowd I don’t.
I’ve been playing music for about 20 years now, ever since high school. It’s never come naturally to me.
I can’t remember what got me into playing music. I never had lessons growing up. It was some combination of liking punk rock and wanting to be a punk rocker. It was about my identity as much as it was loving the actual sound.
Learning to actually play has always been a challenge. My voice is naturally pretty flat, and to this day I’m not good at finding the key, or telling if my guitar is out of tune (and actually tuning my guitar if it is out of tune). I don’t have fast fingers, so when I play guitar I have to account for that.
But I am good at analyzing things. So all these years I’ve been listening to the music that I like and trying to understand what makes it work. I’ve been watching performers I like (performing also doesn’t come naturally) and trying to understand how they do what they do. And I work hard when I need to. And with music, I’ve always needed to. The fact that music is a challenge has made me stay with it.
But it can make being a listener a chore. Rather than just enjoying things, I am thinking about how they relate to what I do, and how I can incorporate things I like.
And it also means that music I don’t get is music I don’t bother with. I don’t get the scales and time signatures that Jazz musicians use. So I don’t like Jazz. Listening to Jazz for me is like listening to an audio book in a language I don’t understand.
The music I love the most now is music I can play myself- old country songs, old rock and roll songs, punk songs. Loudly singing Sin City or Streets of Bakersfield or even, ahem, D-I-V-O-R-C-E is about the only time I am in the moment and really love music.
And I love music that I can imagine myself playing but is enough outside of my own life experience that I wouldn’t- pop music, hip-hop. I love that I can listen to a rapper, because I understand rap, but know that I’ll never be a rapper.
I wonder if other people are like this. If artists go to museums and think- you know, I could fix that painting. Or wow, I wish I had thought of that, I think I’ll head home and go work on my own art instead of hanging around here. Or if novelists can’t read novels without taking notes.