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Something to be Hopeful For

Last week I wrote a love letter to my Zune, prompted by the fact that I had listened to it so much while I was writing.  That got me thinking about something else that is tangentially related to writing that I feel is a good note to end the year on.

When I was a kid, I grew up hearing a lot of classic rock and seeing the world treat it with reverence.  Not only reverence - a sort of textbook definition of good taste.  If you said you liked Deep Purple, for example, it was just automatically assumed that this was a Correct Opinion and you were kind of untouchable.

But virtually any music released after 1979 was up in the air.  If you said you were a fan of Bananarama, there was a smarmy, tongue-in-cheek attitude that went with it; kind of like, "Seriously, you still like that?  It's the '90s!"

That attitude rolled along into the '00s.  Unless music was overtly bleak or mumbly, I never noticed people paying much respect to it once it got more than ten years old.  It gave me a terrible fear that nothing good could ever last.

Even worse: I never met anybody over the age of 25 who didn't have the opinion that "music today sucks," regardless of how you defined "today."  As I grew into adolescence, I was under the impression that this was the natural evolution of society.  As a kid, you listen to music that your parents don't understand, then as a teenager you form your tastes that become Good Music, the stuff that your parents thought was Good Music became Classic Rock, and then when you turned 25 you just naturally didn't like anything new anymore.

It was a weird, no-win situation and the whole thing made me feel sick.  I liked my music.  All of it.  Take a group like Korn or Powerman 5000.  I didn't want to surrender them to the pit of obsolescence and have to roll my eyes at some point and say, "Oh, that was a dumb phase, right guys?"  I didn't want them to be "crappy music that kids today listen to."  And I didn't want them to become "old," either - confined to the museum of music history.

The impression I got was that, outside of the music that the Baby Boomers liked, you were not allowed to enjoy music beyond an extremely narrow shelf life.  And if you said you liked that music, then you outed yourself as either lame or naive or both.  Eventually, you would have to become a cranky old bastard who hated new things and felt ashamed of old things.

Then I turned 30.  You know what happened?

I continued to listen to new music.  And I continued to like all of it.

I have more music in my collection than ever before.  I'm listening to more styles, more bands, more everything than ever before.  And I love it.  There's no "kids these days" nonsense and there's no dusty music museum.  It's all just one big, wonderful, amazing thing that moves me every moment of every day.

Individual songs also mean more to me than ever before.  For the first time in my life, I feel connected to the lyrics and notes, even when it's a song that I'm told is "cheesecake pop" or whatever-the-fuck dismissive term people want to give it.  When I was younger, I listened to music with guarded reservation, as if I didn't want to get too close because I knew it would die one day - and now that I've dropped that bullshit, everything just sounds better and more important.

I don't dread future trends. I don't despise anything from the past.  I can look at music as a whole and just enjoy the beauty of an incredible art form that transcends everything.  And even when I hear something I don't care for, I can still respect it.

For all our talk about the immortality of art, it is just as vulnerable and impermanent as life.  People can forget works, or works can get destroyed, or maybe everybody just stops caring.  But if I can retain such a positive and enthusiastic appreciation for music, it gives me hope that maybe we actually can keep art alive a little bit longer.

And if I can still be this excited to listen to Republica now, maybe it means some kid in 30 years might still be excited to read one of my novels.  Maybe there actually is a point to me bothering to write it after all.