Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Afraid... of music? But I'm a musician!

[disclaimer: I wrote this post at 10pm last night and haven't re-read it... ]

My latest epiphany: 
I think I am actually afraid of music.
But I’m a musician.  Why in the world would I be afraid of music?
Let me qualify: by “music” here, I mean the musical world as a phenomenon, including all published music ever written, in all the eras of world history.  I don’t mean the making of live music (I’m never afraid of that - it thrills me), or the making of my own music (I’m slightly intimidated to try, and always feel slightly unoriginal, but not afraid).
What makes me afraid?  Tonight, I finally put my finger on it: 
it’s my perfectionism
my need for control
and my all-or-nothing-ness.  
Here are the facts:
  • It kills me that it’s impossible for me to listen to every single song ever written before coming to my conclusions about what I prefer (lack of thoroughness).
  • It’s pretty hard for anyone to simply decision-make logically about music, that it’s by nature a gut-level like or dislike thing that I can’t control (lack of control).
  • I make logistical excuses for why we don’t listen to music around the house (we don’t have a home sound system; my iPod is too small to load everything on at the same time, which requires an extra step of changing out my music every so often, which I rarely get around to), when the reality is I don’t really know exactly what I feel like listening to at any given moment because I’m not versed in what’s “out there” and I’m not even tuned in to my own musical preferences.  I always feel the stuff I have is boring and old and worn out, but I don’t know how to refresh because there’s so much new to pick from.  I hardly know what I prefer because I don’t even know what all my options are, and because I can’t see all my options I find it hard to make a decision?  
  • I’m constantly feeling guilty for being a once-upon-a-time classical musician yet not owning more classical music, listening to more classical music, not exposing my kids to a broader range of music… but when I go to remedy any of those, the range of choices is so incredibly overwhelming I don’t know where to start.
I feel so weird!  Who relates to music like this?  Who lets music be a source of guilt?  Good grief!  
{Not my sister.  Definitely.}
Here’s an odd observation: To tell me what I should listen to next, I rely almost solely on music people give me.  Isn’t that weird?  Like, what - God’s supposed to drop my next listening assignment out of the sky, because there’s just so much to listen to I can’t handle it and feel overwhelmed, so I throw up my hands and give up and don’t listen to anything until it bonks me on the head?  Good grief, again!
Really.  Seriously.  This feels like a problem.  Is it a problem?  Was I always like this?  Just “take it as it comes”, never “go get it myself”?  Always being told what to like, listening to things just because everybody else around me was listening to them?  True, I have always enjoyed riding in other people’s cars and I do just drink in gratefully whatever they happen to turn on (although the limited taxi-menu of either Russian rap or Central Asian crooning is a bit hard to swallow).  But why, in the world?  I’m music-starved in my own home?  There must be something wrong with me.
Why can’t I just pan the smorgasbord, pick at random, and enjoy it?  Are my music tastes so narrow and “old-fogey-ish” that if I pick at random I’m sure not to enjoy it?  Is it because buying music is expensive, even as mp3s, and I’m enough of a prude to still feel generous twinges of conscience about ripping or stealing or “borrowing” from someone else?
Yes, I feel overwhelmed by the smorgasbord.  For every new cool band I learn the name of, 10 or 20 more will pop up next week, so what’s the use? 
And yes, I’m so grateful (though feeling slightly guilty) when someone whose musical tastes I trust hands me a memory stick of eclectic “new” music, because I finally feel the gates creak open and my musical self expand, which is what I’m always longing for, secretly and shyly.  
I just don’t know why I’m so hung up about it all.
My dad would probably say it’s because I’m an “uptight chicky-babe.”  
He’s probably right.  


  1. Carolyn, my friend, I have felt many of things you mention and I am not even a musician.

    I completely rely on other people's suggestions. Tyler has really gotten into music in the last several years. He loves talking to Clayton. So my favorite bands now are all bands he introduced me to which makes me feel like maybe I am a copycat. At the same time I don't like everything he does, so that helps me feel like I have my own taste, whatever that taste may be.

    But let me just say this: music-listening is a very demanding hobby. I am not joking. I don't know about you, but I am lucky to carve out 30 minutes or so a day to do whatever I absolutely want to do. That is not nearly enough time for new music appreciation.

    So, whether you are an uptight chicky-babe, I cannot address that, but I think you and I just may have to wait for a different season and be thankful for the Katies we know who give us a glimpse of an exciting world we may get to explore at another time.

  2. Carolyn!!!
    You are so hilarious! As I was reading this post, I could totally picture you saying it... =)
    I identify strongly with much of what you share. Sometimes it literally feels like "it's not fair that somewhere in the world something musical is happening that is really unique and amazing and I'll never now about it". That's just not fair and I demand to be included in all things music! HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! As ridiculous as that sounds, I really feel that way sometimes.

    Here's what I'm hearing as I process your post:
    I hear you saying, "In my heart of hearts I'm a musician!!!!!"
    And you are. And you always will be. It's who God made you. Not because of your musical skills (of which you have plenty), but because God has given you that special desire and hunger to be involved in music, listen to it, use it, play with it, revel in it, etc. And, like Eric Liddell who felt God's pleasure when he ran, you feel God's pleasure when you play the piano and sing, or just listen to music and sing along with your soul, etc.
    But there are times, as we well know by now, that even these good God-given desires need to be put aside for a time (sometimes a long time...) to attend to other needs and desires that God has for us. No mystery there.

    Anyway, I hear your inner musician screaming out "DON'T FORGET ME!!!" I hear you! And don't worry: you won't forget. Though it seems very far off right now, there will come a day when your kids will not need care 24/7 and when you'll get a home sound system, or a better ipod and you'll find time to begin rediscovering the musician in you. She's never going to go away. She's just waiting her turn.

    Your good friend and fellow musician!