‘I Hate Music’

by Carl Wilson

That was the status update today from my friend Mike out in Portland. Yet all Mike does on Facebook is post clips of great songs. Mike’s life has been devoted to music, at least chief among the many arts to which he’s passionately committed. I read his Chemical Imbalance zine when I was in university and was astonished to learn later we weren’t much different in age; today I read Yeti with the same gratitude for his curatorial, editorial and mixtapetorial skills, his preternatural nose for artistic quality and surprise, also manifest in the pre-war gospel and other reissues he compiles. (More recently we’ve hung out, and he is at least as great a guy as he is a cultural weathervane.)

Whatever prompted Mike today to say he hated music, it resonated with me. I was on the verge of that feeling for most of the past year or two. I was burnt out on sound. I was tired of talking about music, “following” it, “keeping up,” downloading, and most of all ranking and rating. (That last part may not change.) Late last year I hinted at it, but didn’t go all the way, when I said I was losing the patience to listen to albums. My friend Ann Powers responded that she was finding it takes a lot of patience to listen to a whole song! But was that the culture, or just us, longtime pro/semi-pro listeners, hitting our internal walls?

Or maybe this is just a cycle we go through in our love affairs with art forms, especially the forms closest to us. (Rather as we go through cycles of infatuation and disenchantment with the people most intimate to us.) Because now, for no particular reason, it seems to be lifting.

I was at a wedding reception at a rock club last weekend, and the bride happened to be someone who puts on (excellent) shows, so of course she had great bands playing her nuptials: Montreal’s Think About Life, and Toronto’s Bonjay. Both of them sounded better than ever before.

Partly it was the happy occasion. Partly, I think they both had grown since I’d seen them last. But also, those last times, I simply couldn’t bring myself to care. Now I was feeling every moment heightened by rhythm and harmony, transported to places music and I hadn’t visited together for a long while.

There was a soothing cascade of relief: So the temporary separation between me and music wasn’t middle-aged bitterness finally setting in? Thank heaven.

So now I’m curious, perhaps to stave off any relapses: Have you found your affections for your most beloved artforms waning and waxing over time? What do you peg it to, the tides, events in your life, more or less vibrant periods in the form itself? All manner of speculation welcome in the Comments bullpen.


Filed under carl wilson, music

4 responses to “‘I Hate Music’

  1. Tags are pretty accurate to help us answer, to be honest :)
    Been there, done that. And some live music just in the right time for you is the key. At least it was for me last time it happened.
    You don’t need the best band in town on stage to get it: just one who is able to remind you why you loved music in the first place.
    Because it’s all about helping people feel, and express themselves. And you need this. We’re all in desperate need for this, actually.
    You can’t get over it only with your sharp thoughts abou how and why. Seems to me that Music has to heal the music hatred it created in the first place (the addiction idea).

  2. Can’t recall ever hating music. Sounds like professional burnout. Glad to hear it’s passing.

  3. “the patience to listen to albums”: almost all albums-as-albums, with extremely few exceptions, are at best chipped with mediocre songs.

    “more or less vibrant periods in the form itself”: irrelevant, to me, since the recorded past is fathomless — not just in quality, but in quantity: always more there to discover and, hopefully, fall in love with.

  4. I go through periods where working to keep up is the hardest thing to do (operative word there is work), other times where the frustration is more in the knowledge that keeping up, really keeping up, is impossible, really. I go through periods, some times long periods, where all I want to do is listen to one artist, or one style of music from one period, or one song as recorded by lots of people, or just one record, over and over, in which cases everything that isn’t part of that moment’s “one” constitutes a conspiracy against me. But I never hate music. It’s more that I hate my own inabilities (is that different than saying, I hate ME?) to take it in and to hear it as well I’d like, to be the kind of listener I think a fully developed human being can be.