The NeoJWFan Guide to Experiencing Ye Olde Music
Are you a head-banging Zimmerrite? Do you feel that film music before the 2000s just doesn’t have enough of a beat? Not enough drums? Do you wonder what the old fogey’s mean when they say things like “dynamics,” “range,” “subtlety,” and other such terminology? Then this guide is for you! And when you’re done, you’ll be able to listen to something as difficult to penetrate as Jerry Goldsmith’s “Christus Apollo” and walk away feeling like the music moved you. So if you want that feeling, read on!
What’s wrong with me?
In short, nothing. You’re perfectly normal, your brain has just formed neural pathways in a way that makes listening to Ye Olde music a bit more challenging. It’s like trying to listen to someone speak Chinese when the only language you’ve ever spoken and heard is Klingon. You’re just not going to get it. You’re not smarter or wiser for speaking one language and not another. Though people who are fluent in multiple languages are better than people who speak only one. So why not expand your ability to enjoy more music? It gets you hot women or men. Not really. But you’ll be happier. And you’ll have some trippy experiences along the way.
But I enjoy modern film music just fine! So it’s the Ye Olde Music that sucks!
Not really. Modern film music is written for a very particular set of conditions. It’s written to compete or dodge a much more sophisticated and dense soundscape in a film. It’s written for a world of iPods and iPhones where everyone is walking, driving, running, jogging, writing, reading, cooking, fucking, pooping, and dying to music. Believe it or not, how you respond to music is hugely impacted by these contexts. You’re just not going to enjoy Schindler’s List as much on a bright sunny day while jogging outside after you got a promotion.
To enjoy Ye Olde Film Music, or Classical Music, or any other music that was written before music became so ubiquitous in our lives, you’re going to need to change how you experience that music.
Will this cost me money?
Of course, you fucking idiot. It will cost electricity to run your electronics (which cost money) that play music. If you don’t have electronics or electricity you have to go to a concert hall, which costs money. Get the hell out of here if you have that Communistic “I want to expand my horizons for free” mindset. Your fucking being alive cost the life of a plant or animal. Unless you’ve got god damned solar panels attached to your body. But even in that case, the Sun had to set itself on fucking fire, crush itself to an agonizing death over billions of years to create the fusion that generates the energy that gives you life, you free-loading ass hole. Anyways, I digress.
Seriously, what the hell do I need?
A quiet room to yourself
A music player of some sort
Decent headphones or speakers
No distractions (set your fucking phone on airplane mode if you’re using it to do this)
Booze, tea, or some kind of beverage that makes you happy
20–30 minutes to wind your brain down, and however much time you need to listen to the music
An open mind, open enough to be open, but not so much that your brain falls out and causes a mess all over your rug. Brains are very gelatinous, so imagine a bowl of jello hitting the rug. It’ll splash everywhere and cause quite a mess. Seriously, it’s really creepy how liquid like the brain is (there’s a video on YouTube of a doctor training people what a recently removed brain is like, check it out, it’s kinda deeply interesting in an unsettling way).
A mop, in case your brain does fall out
A blindfold if you live in the northern regions of the world where the sun won’t fucking quit.
Optionally: a chair to sit in. Or sit on the floor like a hippy. Your back’s gonna be begging for some support by the end of the session though.
Step 1 – The first 5–10 minutes
Wait for the sun to go down for maximum effect. If you can’t do that, have some blindfolds ready. This is gonna get kinky.
Part of learning is making sure that you’re in the proper condition to learn. If you’re starving, thirsty, in dire need of a piss or number two, then now’s not the time to expand your neural pathways. You’ll just be miserable. And misery is not a great way to expand your horizons.
So take these first 5–10 minutes to first and foremost disable all your distractions. Tell the people in the same building as you to take a hike (it’s good for their health). Set your phone and notification devices to airplane mode. Then go take the most relaxing piss and/or dump you’ve ever taken. Wash your hands. Wash your hands after the bathroom, you filthy bastard. And just make sure you get yourself in the moment. Feel the piss leaving your body. Feel the soapy suds on your hands as you wash your hands, because you wash your hands after using the bathroom and you’re not a filthy bastard.
With your clean hands, if you’re hungry or thirsty, have a snack and something hydrating. Get that blood sugar up, so you’re not the Incredible Hulk.
Step 2 – The following 10–15 minutes
If you’re hydrated and not hungry, if you’re not in dire need of a piss or a dump, then have a cup or glass of your favorite happy beverage. Water, wine, beer, coffee, tea, whatever. Really take the time to enjoy it. This is your experiential beverage, you don’t need much, but enough to enjoy yourself in the next few minutes. If you’ve got an album liner or PDF about the music you’re going to listen to nearby, now’s the time to leisurely peruse it.
Step 3 – The last 5 minutes before listening
Get your gear set up, and take a seat. You can lie down if you want, but you might fall asleep. Get the room dark, or if you can’t do that, get the blindfold. Close your eyes and prepare yourself to press play.
At this point make any adjustments you’d like to your audio equipment so you’ll have a comfortable but ear/room feeling listening experience. Unless you can’t hear anything or are about to go deaf, the goal is not to sit around fiddling with the volume controls while actually listening.
Step 4 – The listening experience
Keep your eyes closed, the room dark. Press play. No rewinds. No fast forwards. No pauses. If you like that moment that just passed by, too fucking bad, it’s gone. You’re a a wimp, built by the modern world to think that music is like a video game. You think any single moment in time can ever be replicated because you can rewind a song. It can’t. Each moment is unique. Listen to the music, to each note, as if it was the last. Because in a very real sense, it is the last time you’ll hear that music like you did in that moment. The next time you listen, it’ll be different. Your ears will have changed shape by microns. Ear wax will have built up in a different part of your canal. Your blood sugar will be different. The light in the room will be different. The food you ate before will be different.
Experience the music and what you feel when you hear the parts that make your hairs stand on end. And take in the feeling that you will never hear that section of the song ever again. Pretend that chill will never come again. That’s what music was to billions of people in mankind’s history. Before iPods, before the ability to rewind on demand. You’d hear that moment once, and it would make you feel something. And more than likely you’d never get that moment ever again.
That’s what Ye Olde music was made for. And because of that, the people who made Ye Olde music designed their music with that in mind. iPhones and iPods were not their plans. That singular experience drove the architecture of their music. Occasionally, if it suited their vision, the music makers of yesteryear would repeat those bits you liked, albeit in a different way. To those idiots wondering why classical music repeats so often, there’s your reason.
You don’t have to focus on the music. Just sit there, eyes closed, in the dark and be with the music. But I bet you that if you avoid the rewind button, and treat it as your last time hearing those magical moments in music, you’ll find yourself focusing harder than you thought your puny squirrel brain could. Even then, if your mind wanders, it wanders. Don’t worry about it. And again, no rewinding. No fast forwarding. What you missed is what you missed.
Step 5 – The 5 minutes After
Don’t just get up, turn on the lights, and walk away. When the music stops, sit there for a few minutes in the darkness, eyes closed. Enjoy the silence. Hear the other noises in the room. Absorb what the absence of music sounds like. Silence is so important to enjoying music.
Step 6 – Repeat and repeat often
Repeat all steps as often as you like with any music you like. But notice how much you can enjoy Ye Olde music (be it 90’s film music or Vivaldi from the 1600s), just by changing how you experience it.