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Friday, March 1, 2024

Column: myTunes

Kick back, relax and imagine we’re taking a road trip together. We don’t know each other well (the trip was organized through a mutual friend) so conversation is scarce. After exchanging the usual pleasantries about our majors and the weather, we sit in silence as you continue to drive down the highway. Then, without permission, I reach over and grab your iPod and begin mercilessly perusing your music library, occasionally laughing to myself and shaking my head.

Are you stressed out by this hypothetical scenario? Are you amazed that hypothetical Nolan is so rude and invasive? I am, and I was the one doing the perusing.

I don’t think I’m alone in being overly protective of my musical preferences. And not protective in the confrontational “I’ll argue in defense of everything I’ve ever listened to” sense, but more in the “I change my iPhone password daily because my music is for my eyes and ears only” sense.

Sound crazy? Alright, Courage McBravepants, try this one on for size. Go to a public place (say the CoHo or the next party you go to), hook your iPod up to some speakers, throw it on shuffle and see what happens. At a party, there’s always someone that knows of a better song to play than the one you chose. At the CoHo, I imagine you’d be completely ignored or you’d constantly be confronted about
your music choices. This might sound radically different than our scenario in the car, but I don’t think it is. Both involve sharing music and both sound scary.

The way I see it, it takes a truly brave soul to set your library to shuffle within earshot of strangers and an even braver one to let them look through it. I feel that eventually the wrong song will play or they’ll find some silly music, and ridicule will certainly follow. I’m not sure if that’s true – that ridicule is a certainty – but I fear that it is. And that’s enough to stop me from being the DJ in almost any situation.

But where does this fear come from? Did I and everyone that shares in my fear have some music-related tragedy scar us in our youth, forever closing the doors of our music library to others? I don’t think so. Is it fear of confrontation or criticism in general? We all have our own opinions on sports, fashion, movies and life and don’t shy away from sharing those. Usually these opinions and arguments
aren’t malicious, but they still invite criticism. So that’s not it either. What is it about music? Why is it different?

For some reason, music holds an incredibly personal and emotional stake in our lives. Books and movies can also evoke emotional reactions – many tears have been shed in theaters and others have stained the pages of books everywhere – but music makes emotional connections. We can hear songs and instantly travel back in time, live in memory even if it’s only for a moment. Hidden between the lyrics and melodies are thoughts and images that make us who we are, and each song added to our library is another entry in the running diary of our lives.

Some of us fear sharing our music because we fear sharing our lives like an open book. My reasons for liking a song or a band may not make sense to you. I might not even be able to express why I like it. My opinion may be baseless or could lack any artistic sensibility, but my music is mine just like my memories are mine. And if I like Lady Gaga because it reminds me of racing around in a Jeep on a cold night with a girl I used to know, that’s OK by me. But I fear it won’t be OK by you.

I think that’s what it comes down to. Any connections we share with each other over a band or a song will be superficial at best. I feel our music libraries are so personal and so emotionally irrational that they should be immune to criticism. But the world has rarely been how I think it should be, so I keep my musical diary locked up. My memories are mine just like my music is mine, shared and cherished with a special few, and they’ll always be myTunes.

NOLAN SHELDON can be reached at nosheldon@ucdavis.edu.

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