What I Look For in a (Musical) Relationship

Very rare does there exist the Swiss-Army friend, that someone we can turn to in any situation. The friend I consult for a tax attorney recommendation is miles from the character I would tap to (hypothetically) find drugs in a foreign country. I specialize my friends with an internal master list of whom I could contact for any given. It is pinnacle of friendship efficiency, with said individuals often quite enthusiastic about being tapped for their specialty.

This specialization began, however, subconsciously. I only realized it through many years of introspection into my quest of supreme balance and life efficiency. As I began to understand this innate programmatic organization of friends, I questioned where else am I doing this very same thing? I spent time consciously inventorying all parts of my to try and spot a pattern.

One fateful day I begrudgingly sat down to write. Ever the procrastinator, I had to drag my ass to find any motivation to begin. Knowing a slog laid ahead, I instinctually grabbed my noise cancelling headphones and threw the Grateful Dead on. Every I hear the Jerry Garcia in attempt of something creative, I can hear him whisperer “Just let is flow, man”, and work ensues. Always Jerry. Always the Dead. Bingo. Pattern identified. In my headphones I found enlightenment. With the music I choose to listen when alone, I realized I’m subconsciously matching the band with the task at hand. My relationship with these artists runs deeper than just “This song is fire”.

From the moment I awake, I look for the perfect the music to complement the activity at hand. The methodology begins by first identifying what emotional state I desire to be. With getting out of bed, I need to defeat lethargic. Similar to how an intense trainer gets a client into an almost angry vengeful frenzy on that last rep on the bench press, I look for a musician to figuratively (and sometimes literally) yell “Let’s get this day started!” I find rock & roll or hip-hop artists great for this particular message. A want the music to percolate with so much energy that it shatters my bedroom state. Often knowing the lyrics, I’m presenting the opportunity to sing along as well. The singing results in the lyrics narrative of the song replacing my internal monologue “I’m so tired and hate every moment not in the sheets”. The music preaches how to start the day, to which I listen and do just that.

I turn to music to improve my day in my commute. Here I need that friend I would bring on a road trip: Someone who permeates entertainment in the otherwise mundane repetitive task. A quality storyteller is capable of this, and for such reasons my commute playlists feature bands with more traditional storytelling narratives. This entails an energy drop from the fresh out of bed music, as often the powerful shredding of a rock and roll lick can obscure the particulars of a story. Some of the more poetic hip-hop artists with heartfelt messages provoking introspection fit this bill. Also bands with elements of folk come into play, as folk tales are one of the historically oldest forms of storytelling. I am looking to be intellectually engaged by the music, as not much else is going on around me.

Alas, I arrive at my office and the assistance I am in need of once again shifts. I have work to focus on, meaning a compelling narrative takes my eyes off of the prize. The music now needs to be in the background as to allow important business to be conducted. I think of it like an important lunchtime sales meeting where I’m going for the close. If the waiter suddenly comes up and tries to steal the limelight with a meandering personal anecdotes all meal long, I’m going to be pissed. I want purely functionally support of the meal and nothing else. I need the space to talk and persuade.

Too many words in my ears distracts from the business I’m conducting. Silence, conversely, leaves me too much space to putter around creating an opening for other forms of distractions. For this, I turn to heavily melodious mostly instrumental tracks. I like to pick an entire album to play through as to give a straight 40-minute work window. When done, I can take a couple minute break, choose a new album, and work once more. The rhythm of a beat gives me something to step too, with me working to the time signature of the beat.

My mind works best when it’s in rhythm. It is when I get jerky and inconstant with my thoughts that I start to get frustrated and lost. Music gets me in this rhythm by removing the white noise that draws my attention elsewhere. When I put on headphones, they act as both as a cue and physical barrier to tune out external stimuli. I learned this from playing competitive tennis. I perform best when I have one song and one rhythm running through my head on repeat which you can catch my singing under my breath on a good. It allows me not to rush, and focus on the rhythm of my strokes. It occupies my noisy monkey mind enough I allow my body to stick to work freely of interference of thought. As I’m typing this now, my fingers are moving to the beat of the Sugar Magnolia by the Grateful Dead, creating a rhythm for the words to flow, keeping my mind away from the man mopping the floor of the cafeteria beside me.

Once a week I get home and hey! It’s Friday night!. I want to get loose, and when I do, I LOVE to dance. Like my debauched college party friends to whom I’d never introduce to my mother, I also have songs that get me to move my hips. In any other scenario, these songs may be ostentatious, but in context of Friday night boogie down…jackpot. This is where the pop, electric, and anything with a killer drop can thrive. Walk into any club with a disco ball in the country, and I can assure you they ain’t playing the Grateful Dead. They play the songs with which to get down.

All music is not meant to be treated the same. Every song as its time and place, much like some of our more idiosyncratic friends. It’s why I try not trash any particular genre, as I may be ignorant of where those songs thrive. Nothing is worse than somebody who dismisses an entire genre because they are closing their minds to experiencing that perfect moment where everyone stomps their feet and clap their hands to some Red Dirt Country.

Music, as with people, should be evaluated with an open mind. Perhaps it’s the wrong song for this bar, or the wrong man for the job. There is a time and a place for everything, and I’m looking to try it all.

So, if you got any ideas, let me know!