It’s easy to get comfortable with what you like. You watch the shows and movies that you’ve always enjoyed, you listen to the music you’ve always enjoyed – it makes sense. After all, you found what works. Why fix what isn’t broken? While your tastes aren’t broken per se, they have gotten stagnant, complacent even. What once resonated with you when you were younger might not resonate now, you just haven’t reevaluated it. This, to me, applies more to music, but it could easily apply to television, movies, art styles, and all creative endeavors, albeit with amendments.
Many people find their tastes in high school and keep them. That might be fine, though it seems stunted. The reason I’m even exploring this idea is because when I assessed my own tastes, I realized that I listen to nearly none of the music I listened to when I was younger, save for a few artists that continued to grow as I grew. I don’t identify with those artists of my youth. The younger version of me had a whole different mess of emotions going on, and the artists that connect with that no longer appeal to me. In fact, when I hear music from that time, I’m repelled and repulsed by it. I don’t even see the value in it any more.
This piece isn’t to rag on music I don’t like, though believe me, I would love to write pieces like that – man, that would be so much fun. No, what I realized in reassessing my tastes and how they’ve changed is that all of the music I like now was an acquired taste. Without fail, when I go through the list of artists I regularly listen to and appreciate, I recall being challenged by the music at first. I tried to get into jazz when I was younger, but only in my late 20’s did it click for me. Then, finding something like Bitches Brew by Miles Davis opened my mind. It wouldn’t have done so earlier, I would’ve been annoyed by it, I wouldn’t have seen the value.
The same goes for the band Swans and Nick Cave, it took me a bit to understand what was going on, what the artist was going for. Then, once I got my teeth into it, I found two of the most fascinating artists, and two of my favorites. I was rewarded for my patience, for daring to challenge my tastes with music that could be a bit difficult to listen to at first.
But by far, the most challenging music I ever dove into was that of a man named Scott Walker. Walker was part of a 60’s pop group called The Walker Brothers, but broke away for a solo career that became increasingly more experimental. He released a trilogy of albums over a period of decades – Tilt, The Drift, and Bish Bosch – that completely challenged what a “song” is. The vocals often went unaccompanied, Walker’s forlorn wail heard naked, only to be crushed by dismal and chaotic instrumentation moments later that truly startle. The music, when I was at my lowest, brought me even lower – and there was something about that which I found so intriguing. This music hurt me, I was impressed, and I was hooked.
But the music that I left behind, it was too easy. It asked nothing of me. It only required that I live in the past, something I’m never keen on doing. I take comfort in the idea that I’ve severed my former tastes, only to start anew from scratch. What I enjoy now inspires me, challenges me. When I listen to jazz, I feel mentally invigorated. The music is a pure exploration of sound and the mind, not held back by lyrics and pop tropes – no clichés, just expression. I’m grateful for the music I had when I had it, but I’m so glad it’s gone.