By: Max Bruns ~Advertising Manager~
When I was younger, although I’m only 20 now, I had a set of stock phrases that served as answers for the questions that people generally ask when they want to get to know someone. If someone asked me what my favorite food was, I would say my dad’s spaghetti sauce and Skyline. My favorite color was always a deep orange, like the sunset. My favorite movie was always Finding Nemo. My favorite book was The Book Thief or The Count of Monte Cristo. And when someone asked what my favorite song was, I would always say that I like all music EXCEPT COUNTRY. This stock phrase was said with a special vehemence, followed by a general listing of favorite genres and genres that I would tend to avoid.
Now, most people have these little stock phrases, and the point of this article is not to dissect the social niceties that go into meeting someone new. I could write a couple pages about this ritual of seemingly unimportant questioning and answering, because the truth is that the above questions actually suggest a lot more than one might expect about a person. How would you feel about a person if, for example, their favorite movie was Schindler’s List versus Borat? It’s clear that these pithy “get to know you” questions are all important, but the most important category of “get to know you” questions on the above list is undoubtedly regarding one’s favorite song or music choice.
Friedrich Nietzsche once said of music, “Without music, life would be a mistake.” Victor Hugo said, “Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.” Albert Einstein said, “If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I see my life in terms of music.” And Maya Angelou once said, “Everything in the universe has a rhythm, everything dances.” There’s a reason Ellen begins every episode with a dance down the aisles.
You, dear reader, do not need a list of societally influential figures to tell you what you already know, though. Music is a reflection of one’s soul. It’s a resounding claim on the spirit, it’s an outward image of what is inside. It’s the purpose behind life’s rhythms, it’s the truth behind thought and emotion. Music is, for many people, certainly for myself, one of the most important elements of life.
If you disagree, I would like to talk to you at length and in a very personal, intimate way about what music has done for me. I would like to show you the scars on my heart that melodies have healed, the exhaustion that has been borne away with a beat, the sorrow that has slipped silently aside under the cadences and rhythms of joyous noise. Music is not a cover-up. It’s not a way to forget, or even a momentary escape. It is the greatest healer of all. If you disagree, I would like to show you.
To return to my earlier point, then, I think we are overdue to stop asking one another upon first meeting, “What is your favorite song or genre?” unless we mean to really know each other. Because if you really want to hear everything I have to say about what music means to me when we first meet, what you are communicating to me is that you want to know who I am. You want to know why I can’t listen to “Heathens” by Twenty One Pilots without crying. You want to know what Chance the Rapper makes me think of. You want to know that Mozart’s “Requiem in D Minor” practically saved my life, if not my sanity.
To that end, I would like to take a second to apologize to country music lovers for every time I made that one genre exception when asked the music question. Now, several years and several thousand musical moments later, I realize that it was not simply rude to say that I like all music except country. In truth, it was a spit in the face of everything music represents. It was a reduction of identity for everything country music means to country music lovers. It was a denial that, in fact, country music might someday affect me to my very core. I take it back; my new answer, when someone asks me about music, is to smile and say “get to know me first.” If they take the time to do so, I will eventually admit that, while country music is not my favorite genre, I’m sure I will find the country song that sets my heart on fire someday.
If I were to change the way we communicate with each other, I would eradicate the “get to know you” questions all together, because we no longer mean them when we ask them, and they are much more important than they seem. But if I were to start somewhere, it would be with discussions of music, for all the reasons I already mentioned and countless others. Think twice before you ask someone about music when you first meet him or her, because for many people, you’re digging deeper than you could possibly know.