The other day, this guy said to me: I DON’T LIKE MUSIC.
I laughed. I laughed the sort of laugh that gives a not-so-subtle clue to right the conversation after such a bold statement. A few seconds of silence. I left a gaping hole for a counter statement, a qualifier, an escape. Nothing.
I asked the requisite questions to help him establish some sort of middle ground or nuance in his statement. You must mean you just hate Skrillex? Or, But you must like Mozart sonatas for their still-game-defining sense of phrase? Nothing.
Turns out this guy was entirely genuine with his statement. No, it didn’t offend me, which was his first question. Not in the least. It did, however, make me deeply curious as to how a living being can hold a belief like that and still, well, breathe.
I’ve been making music for years, professionally and for enjoyment itself, and I find that listening and playing music is a way to commune with existence, to trace my mood and being with another’s expression. On paper, that looks more than a little sappy here, but you’d be hard-pressed to find someone whose Spotify playlists aren’t influenced by their mood, their day, their week. You know the feeling—you turn on the radio and that perfect song is playing. That’s a powerful thing, in my opinion.
For me (and yes, we’re going to verge unabashedly on the cliche here), music parallels what it feels like to live. Ups, downs, melodies (like stories), textures (like colors), harmony (like emotion), rhythm, tension, release—you know the deal. The parallels abound. Hell, the more I thought about it, this guy was basically saying: ‘I don’t like sex.’ What? Surely, you must have been with some pretty awful partners.
Music is not alone in its ability to mirror the contours and rhythm of existence. Photography, fine art, dance, and my most recent obsession, design: they’re all visual music for me. And like music (and, in turn, life), they have a rhythm, melody, story, harmony, and dissonance. They distill the abstract entity of ‘life experience’ into something that we can touch, hear, see. It underlines what we’re feeling when we’re moved to create them.
All art is proof, in a way, that we exist and feel. And I have a difficult time separating what music does for me and what fantastic interior design does, for example. There’s really no distinction for me. What I’m trying to say is that the further I tried to dig, the stronger it made my convictions about how truly inseparable music, design, and experience are for me—and, as a result, the stranger that guy’s comment seemed.
Perhaps you can avoid music, but design? It’s ubiquitous. It’s what makes us choose a couch, a phone, a car, a home, a jacket. So while the phrase ‘I don’t like music’ is pretty batty, the phrase ‘I don’t like design’ is then perhaps more unfathomable than its musical counterpart. But I couldn’t help but ask how one doesn’t imply the other. If you don’t like music, how can you like design? It’s made up of the same ‘things.’ And if music and design are unattractive to you, what is attractive?
I guess I’ll never know. I’ve joked about the implausibility of meeting someone who simply ‘doesn’t like music.’ Now that I’ve heard it uttered in earnest, my response is simple: I don’t understand and I never will. With that, this column will be a media-agnostic space dedicated to talking about my muses in music, design, art, and culture. It won’t draw distinctions between the disciplines. Because for me, it’s really the same: a way of piecing together, and interacting with, our experience. And in my humble opinion, not listening to the music—even if it’s not actually music at all—is a grand mistake.