I’m frequently asked, “What kind of music do you like?” Clearly, the inquirer is looking for a genre or artist as a baseline. My answer has become quite consistent over the past couple of years:
“To me there are only two kinds of music, and that’s good and bad. Which one is which depends entirely on you. Either it resonates with you or it doesn’t.”
This answer usually draws an understanding smile. They know what I mean. At least, they think they do. Sometimes even I wonder if I’m describing things clearly. I like to think I am. But maybe my answer lends to slightly deeper thought.
What does it mean for music to resonate? Where does this resonation occur? How do we recognize it when it happens? From where I sit, there is no one correct answer.
I’m an intellectual being. This is not to say I think I’m smarter than most people (not even remotely). It means that most of my feelings start in my head. I’m a thinker, an analyst. I hold onto my thought process for awhile longer than I probably should. This gets me into trouble sometimes, but that’s just the way I’m wired.
More often than not, a new piece of music has to rattle around in my brain for awhile to see if it will stick. If it does, the music will make its way to one of four areas on my body: my head, my hands, my heart, or my hips. A really good piece of music will make its way to more than one area.
“Head” music challenges me on an intellectual level. I’m listening and dissecting at the same time. What time signature are they in? Where did that sound come from? How many guitar parts are there? And so on. Frank Zappa’s music is very good for this. I never stop trying to figure out how he created his compositions.
“Hands” music makes me want to join the rest of the band for that particular number, whether it’s with my guitar (which I can sort of play) or behind a drum kit (which I most definitely cannot). It can be something as simple as playing a riff with James Brown (making sure I’m up on the “one”) or something more complex and challenging like King Crimson. If I start staring at my guitars as I listen, then it’s most definitely “hands” music.
“Heart” music hits on a deeply emotional level. These are the tunes destined to ramp up my intensity (Tool, Nine Inch Nails), put me in a romantic frame of mind (Marvin Gaye, Al Green), or just flat-out make me cry like this does.
“Hips” music is pretty self-explanatory. While i am no dancer, there can be no doubting certain songs trigger that particular center, usually leading to something goofy and awkward on my part. I have friends who tell me they can’t get into music unless it makes them want to move. Sometimes this baffles me. But for the most part, I understand what they mean. I don’t spend a lot of time analyzing Prince’s music. I just get swept up in the groove.
As I said, certain music will hit me in two or more places at once. I’ll do all I can to take apart some progressive rock while I try to play along. Certain bits of post-rock or post-metal will leave me weepy even as I try to play with the band. I may not be able to dance, but I love the idea of doing a few steps with James Brown, Prince, or The Time with my guitar slung over my shoulder. The possibilities are endless.
Jazz probably does the best job of engaging multiple areas. American jazz is rooted in the blues, which goes straight to the heart. It is intellectual music that often requires improvisation, so the head is most certainly involved. And who doesn’t find themselves playing some form of “air” instrument as their favorite record plays. Hello, hands!
Music reaches us in any number of ways. How it manifests itself, however, is entirely up to the listener.
What kind of music do I like? Anything that hits me in one of the four H’s. Once that goal is accomplished, the rest is easy.
You can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (cirdecsongs) My book, I Can’t Be the Only One Hearing This: A Lifetime of Music Through Eclectic Ears, is available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine book dealers. I’m currently working on my next book, The Wizard of WOO: The Life and Music of Bernie Worrell
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