I used to listen to music. My dad had a big cd collection, mostly classical, and I remember listening to any of those cds any chance I had. At a certain point, my family bought an LP player and I discovered my dad’s sizable collection of LPs too.
One morning, I think I was in seventh grade, I put on a cd and sat listening instead of getting ready for school. I have a distinct memory of my mom’s frustration as she discovered me still not dressed, listening to the Dvorak New World Symphony. She told me to turn the music off and get dressed, but I didn’t want to. I was hearing the symphony for the first time and I wanted to hear the end of it. There was only eight minutes left, after all.
I lost that battle.
As I grew older, my listening showed no signs of waning. I remember buying my first discman. What a life changer that was. I could always have music with me, even though I mostly ended up listening at home late at night. Then there was the pain of running out of batteries and not being able to buy more until the next day. I probably would have sold my soul for a pair of double A’s.
Then there was the time when the family finally bought a car with a CD player. Suddenly, I looked forward to car rides. It was even better when I got permission to drive unsupervised. Music in the car, any music I wanted (still mostly classical), and as loud as I wanted.
I kept listening all through my college years, too. I played music all day, I studied music all day, and I came home and listened to more music at night. I’d get obsessed with certain pieces too. For a while, I listened to Verdi’s Requiem every Saturday afternoon. There was a time when I could listen to the entirety of Mahler 2 multiple times a day and love it more every time. There were also the Haydn years, when I became obsessed with listening to all 104 of the Haydn symphonies. That took only a couple of weeks…perhaps this is why I have no friends…I even got the complete Haydn works on CD as a present and I was in Haydn heaven for a good long while.
But gradually, I found myself listening to music less and less. Somehow, listening to music wasn’t giving me the same rush as it always did. I’d get into my car and find myself listening to NPR, or I’d walk down the street listening to a podcast or an audiobook and I’d be perfectly happy.
It worried me actually. Was I getting tired of music? Was I losing interest in it? Maybe I should go to law school after all. All ridiculous thoughts of course.
Really, I think what happened was that I was finally finding some balance in my life between work and play. For so long, I had been obsessed with music. I thought about it day and night, and listened to it non stop. It became too much. I needed something else to occupy my free time, something that wasn’t related to what I do as work. Hence the podcasts, or NPR, or audiobooks. It didn’t mean I loved music less. In fact, I think not listening to music as much made me love it more. It made me appreciate that I often get to spend my days surrounded by music, either making it or teaching it.
But I don’t regret all the time I spent listening to music, either. I think in many ways, all that time listening made me the musician that I am. It made me discover new things that I may not have discovered. It really formed how I think about music. And every once in a while, the old listening obsession comes back. Like when I discovered Jordi Savall, or the Gardiner recordings of the Beethoven symphonies, or the Italian cantatas of Handel…