By Jason Menard
Sometimes it takes a new set of ears to remind you how powerful music can be – and how it can move your soul.
That new set of ears came from my five-year-old daughter. On the weekend, as I was cleaning the basement – that new mess, of course, also came from my five-year-old daughter with a healthy assist from her 12-year-old brother – I decided to break up the monotony by putting on a CD.
Compounding the fact that I was dating myself with that aging format – I find the MP3 format seems so cold – I decided to delve into my personal archives for a long-lost friend. The band doesn’t matter, but it’s safe to say that I haven’t heard them in over a decade. But as the first ballad on the CD played, my daughter perked up and came to me, arms extended, asking to dance.
As we danced, I thought about how powerful music truly is. How it can create such a heartwarming memory, and how it can literally help define who we are. That night, my daughter asked for that same CD as her nighttime music – and, with just a few chords, our common bond was strengthened again.
My daughter loves music. She sings all day. Whether it’s the songs she’s learning at school or the latest hits on radio, music is a big part of her life – just as it was for me.
But as we age, that passion for music seems to fade. As a youth, in my teenage years, my friends and I used music to define who we were – and, more importantly, who we weren’t. While others were listening to the Top-40 songs that saturated the airwaves, we were delving into our past to find music with meaning. I suppose, in a way, we were looking for depth in our music to make up for our relative lack of depth in life experience.
While others were listening to dance and pop, I was delving into Elvis, The Beatles, and Bob Dylan. Some were content to Fight for their Right to Party, while I was reliving a counter-culture youth I never experienced with Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. I chose The Cure, The Clash, and The Smiths, over The The.
I was deep. Even if growing up in a middle-class, suburban environment left me as deep as a puddle in reality, my music showed the world that I got it! I understood the world and wasn’t going to conform.
Then something funny happened. I grew up – and I started tuning out.
That same syntho-techno dance crap that I would rail against actually turned out to be pretty good. Those 80’s cheese songs that I thought were the bane of my existence actually turned out to be pretty damn fun to sing along to. And I stopped defining myself by what I listened to, choosing instead to define myself by who I am.
In essence, music no longer defined who I was. It was simply a part of my life. I didn’t need to be the tortured poet or the whimsical bard. I could simply be Jay. And if I find the new Avril Lavigne or Nelly Furtado song catchy, then who am I to second-guess? There’s no Sex Pistols’ credibility card out there – and it certainly wouldn’t be revoked if I’m caught bouncing my head to pop radio. Grandmaster Flash, NWA, and Public Enemy won’t turn their backs on me because I’m singing along with the flavour-of-the-month Hip Hop artist today.
Heck, even Parliament/Funkadelic wouldn’t begrudge listening to Justin Tim… well, on second thought, not even I’m ready to go there.
Looking back on it, the depth that I was conscribing from my music has been displaced by my life-earned knowledge and wisdom. Before I was searching for music that I could relate to, that I could play as a calling card exclaiming to the world “Here I am, here’s who I want to be.” Now, I am who I am and I’ll let that speak for itself.
We spend so much time in our adult lives searching for pleasure, it seems like such a waste when we deny ourselves a full range of musical enjoyment in our youth. But that’s just a fact of life, I guess. It’s a part of maturing. As youth, we define ourselves by those with whom we associate – for better or for worse.
In the end, I’ve found that those who are most prone to criticizing things that are popular or, even worse, not obscure enough, are usually those who are most apt to define themselves by their influences. Instead, I’d prefer to define myself by who I influence – and that starts with raising quality, generous, intelligent children.
Of course, if I can start them off with a few solid bands to help them find there way, well then there’s no harm in that? After all, eventually they’ll just tune them out and be themselves – defined by who they are, not what they listen to.
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