Processing music

I’m always interested in hearing how people experience and process music. Musical people impress me. On the other hand, surprisingly many people ignore lyrics and just enjoy dancing or having music on the background. For me there’re pleasant sounds (melody, singer’s voice) and there’s a story coming from the song. I have sensitive hearing so I’ve always listened to less music than people usually do and have only very little knowledge about the technical side of it.

I like being able to to see where the sound comes so that’s why being too far away or not being able to see the stage takes away the pleasure of the concert. I remember concerts where I didn’t see the stage at all and those are weird experiences even sometimes just being there is valuable enough. Also, I’m like picky-eater kids who like to have everything separated on their plate. Carrots, green beans, potatoes and chicken all in their own areas. I like to be able to separate different voices and instruments. That’s why an acoustic gig with only few instruments or a symphony concert where everything is in order sound heavenly in my ears.

The story part is much more random and seems to have no logic at all. There are images and emotions related to almost every song. Sometimes the story comes the moment I hear the song. That happened with Relax. I knew immediately there’s something special in the song and whenever I hear the acoustic version of it I feel the same happiness and safety. It brings me peace. After seeing Relax at gigs so many times it has become exciting as well and gives me adrenaline. I have Relax as my ringing tone and I’m always a little bit disappointed to realize nothing exciting is happening for real, that it’s just my phone and means probably someone selling me something.

Sometimes the story is there since the beginning but becomes stronger and stronger during time. I loved Last Party since the first time I heard it but the background story made it even more powerful and I’ve given the song a lot of thought and read books and watched films about the topic (80’s HIV situation) and the song has had more effect and influence on me than any other song. Even though the issue is so heart-breaking I can still listen to the song a lot because the tone is gentle and somehow leaves me comforted.

Some songs make me see small movies in my head. This happens when there’re characters and a very clear storyline like with Karen, Lola, BIOTG or Good Wife to name a few. Often it’s still images or feelings and symphony versions make those multiply and I’m transferred to another place – I feel I’m physically in a new place – and I can smell (like the autumn ground in Over My Shoulder) or even feel wind or water or just feel very strong emotions in my whole body (like in Heroes or Overrated, for example).

Sometimes I know there should be an image or a special atmosphere but I can’t catch it and that’s what bothers me. I listen to a certain song again and again and nothing happens until I hear a particular version or there’s a trigger that helps me catch the song and that’s incredibly satisfying, I can remember several moments like that. That’s what happened with Ordinary Man and Good Guys. Both have such clear, meaningful lyrics so easy to understand but the image in my head just wasn’t right. For Ordinary Man it changed after hearing a certain, special live performance and Good Guys just kept growing in me until it finally felt right.

The trickiest for me personally are songs with mother/son issues and naturally I don’t relate to the son part but to the mother part and I always remember I’m not as good a mother as I want to be, I’m bossy and short-tempered and not patient enough and I complain too much (at least according to my sons) and I try to think surely that happens in every family but still don’t get good vibes from songs like All That She Wants. I basically never listen to it.

Sometimes I don’t get any images or special emotions from a song but it can be fine that way if the song works well performed live, the experience is still fun and very enjoyable, Celebrate or Talk About You are good examples that way. Some songs don’t have any interesting story to catch but with special intros or show elements or other added details they usually still find character and create little images and clips in my head. Boum Boum Boum is one of my favorite songs purely based on how it’s performed live, it’s exceptionally nicely done and I love the piano parts and sensual but still playful atmosphere.