Dear Fatties Of A Certain Kind: it is my sad duty to inform you that wearing Sportswear doesn't actually mean you're Doing Sports. Weight loss, under these conditions, is unlikely.
I'm not looking to blame, you understand — perish the thought — but somehow this misapprehension of yours has transformed the expensive-yet-fuckugly label-branded outpourings of a thousand Asian child-employing sweatshops into something approaching fashion, and I look fucking terrible in a tracksuit. Please desist.
I have an odd relationship with music. I may not know much about it, as they say, but I Know What I Hate. Uncharacteristically, I mostly know what I love too. Particular genres, particular bands, particular songs. Sometimes I even surprise myself by discovering things I didn't know I loved but do (and it'd be cruel and unfair to point-out that such revelations tend to occur either while I'm Being Badgered Into It by Attractive People, or while under the influence of something notionally illegal).
But here's the thing: even then, even in those first petal-burst moments of spreading affection, at that first fluttering exposure to New Yay, for me it's still a restrained, transient sort of gratification. It's entirely in the moment; not Outside Of Time. It's culture, it's art, it's wonder, yes yes yes… but it lasts only as long as the song in question — or as long as the damn thing gets stuck in my mental-appendix and turned into a viral hum, anyway — and not a second longer. I don't take much from it.
Sometimes, I accept, a glorious tune will carry me off on a tide of Weird Emotion; or submerge me among strange currents of rhythm and hidden meaning. Sometimes a single riff can invoke old synaesthesias and dimly-remembered ideas. Sometimes a radio pop-vomit can summon a visceral response so instinctive, so intrinsic, that its sheer unexpectedness is enough to taint the melody — for better or for worse — forever after. These are powerful, universal responses, and you'd be a fool to ignore them.
Buuut then I switch off the stereo, or the song fades-out, or that bloody Spotify wench pipes-up like rich food repeating, or the band troops offstage, or the laptop battery chokes, or I bugger-off to do something else… And I discover that as much as I may have enjoyed or loathed that music — as much as it may've reached into my gutbits and grudgefucked my soul — it hasn't changed me.
This, I suspect, is a deeply uncool thing to confess.
Many of my pals — particularly the writerly, comicky types — appear to exist in an intense state of genuine ontological and intellectual passion for Music (and I use the word in its truest sense). Consider (the very good) Phonogram, or Spacedaddy Ellis's wavelength noodlings, or the ubiquitous "Now Listening To" tags all over the web like scabies, or the near-inescapable album-discussions which clog-up Twitter in the early EST afternoon every day.
I don't begrudge these things. Some of the time I envy these people their natural delight in sounds and lyrics and rhythms — even when the fuckers are taking the piss out of my own lack of the same — in much the same way that I used to secretly envy my childhood schoolmates when they mocked me for not supporting a soccer team. But I enjoy watching a decent game! I'd protest, to no avail. I just… I just don't care enough to learn the players' shoe-sizes!
…which was a precocious, smartarsed way of asking them to please kick my head-in and throw rocks at my crotch, of course, but you take my point. As far as those frothing little bastards were concerned I didn't "get" football and that was that, and I was therefore… well… I suppose an adult would say "culturally invisible", but in kiddie-language all that stuff about Playing With Girls and Smelling Of Wee-Wee hurt a lot more.
As with one, so with the other.
These days, whenever I hear folks having really involved, deconstructive, tribal debates about this album or that single, I have a very weird, three-way response. Part of me cringes with that special terror reserved for The Ignorant among The Enlightened (don't ask my opinion don't ask my opinion don't ask my opinion); part of me vows for the thousandth time that I must try, try, try harder to give more of a fuck; and part of me experiences an intuitive mental association with a herd of lager-swilling soccerists with team logos tattooed on their ballbags and season-tickets stored in basement shrines. All too often, y'see, there's an unpleasant whiff of sectarian self-righteousness about the whole ugly art of Enthusiasm: be it for footie, films, fucking or Futurepop.
What's weird — and this is possibly a sacrilegious notion to some of you — is that I'm convinced I'm not actually missing out on much. I like to think I have other things that occupy the same passion-vacuum niche left by Music. I have strange and magical thoughts about the Ocean — don't laugh — and yet don't feel the need to peer down my nose at people who've never swum with eels. I consider every decent meal an elegiac bombardment of inspirations, combinations and satisfactions. I'm unable to walk past an interesting-looking texture — no matter how filthy or seemingly distasteful it may be — without running my hand across it. I couldn't write fiction at the same time as listening to a familiar song if my life depended on it, but if I didn't have a simultaneous view of people — sitting, wandering, talking, reacting, emoting, living — then I'd become instantly keyboard-constipated. It's the sort of airy-fairy wank I could prattle about at length — my music is made of human life, you see, and I listen to it through my eyes… — but then you'd have to set fire to my face for Being A Git.
I also wonder, idly, if there might be some significance to the distinction between primary and secondary absorption. All the real music lovers I know, for instance, always have something playing — whether working, walking or wanking; influencing and shaping the mood — whereas I can only come close to their level of passion if I'm sitting in a dark room and giving the tune all my attention. For me music is a Primary Medium, which often makes it inconvenient, time-consuming and attention-guzzling. It's an effort to squeeze it into my day. But for most people it's Secondary: portable, put-down-able, suffusing life like a non-diagetic score. For them it's non-absorptive, but somehow immersive nonetheless: no less affecting for having to share its attention-quota with the day-to-day noodlings of Stuff.
…Buuut that feels like a long and thankless corridor to start walking down at a point nine-hundred-and-something words in. So let's cut to the Coda:
I love music, really and honestly — I just don't live it. And I'd really, really like to feel as though that's neither My Fault, nor An Irreparable Tragedy, nor an Unspeakable And Possibly Contagious Disease.
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C/O William Christensen,
515 N. Century Blvd.
Rantoul, IL 61866
(Disclaimer: Secretly, I'm nice.)