Why we need to expand our own musical horizons

Written by Josh Moorby

From our early teens onwards there is a sparsely acknowledged rite of passage which insists we define ourselves (almost entirely) by music, and by what music we lis

From our early teens onwards there is a sparsely acknowledged rite of passage which insists we define ourselves (almost entirely) by music, and by what music we listen to. Whilst the clannish mentality between fans of different artists or bands is well documented, less so is the trap of becoming too comfortable within a handful of genres, not wanting to challenge the music we define ourselves by—of settling, before you even know a tenth of what’s out there to listen to. 

Growing tastes

It’s always difficult to remember when, but, at some point, you became a music fan. Usually as an accident, or through intervention of others, there was a turning-point where you decided to actively search out and listen to new music – because it was all new at this point.

Yet, in the overall lifecycle of listening, it seems that many of us close down our curiosity and eventually settle with our favourite musical style. And, whilst there’s nothing strictly wrong with this state of mind, there is a widening expanse of music that people are passively avoiding because they’re in an kind of audio comfort-zone; a point where enough music has amassed on their iPod to render searching for new music ‘too much of a hassle’.

I stand by the belief that if you are a music fan then there is no excuse to settle. Though there are always going to be artists and genres that you hate, there’s bound to be many out there that you need. In a time of free downloads and converters; musical ignorance, sadly, is a choice.

Something borrowed, something new

Admittedly, the reason I challenge and highlight this state of mind – a numbness with music, is because it was a state of mine. The act of listening to only your stock tracks and albums is restrictive, as it was for me. For those who define themselves by musical taste, there’s always, always more on offer. There’s also quite a few ways to find it.

The easiest way to break out of audible drudgery is to raid the music collection of anyone in close proximity. Either by hardcase or USB, there’s always going to be an unheard of artist or at least a decent single. By any means, the willingness to find something new is a strong first step, and usually a fruitful one at that.

But, aside from mates’ music, who better to offer advice on music than Saul Hudson (more commonly known as Slash)? Feel free to mould this one into an online alternative, but Slash’s advice follows his own musical experience, and his way of discovering new tunes.

The technique of one of the world’s most infamous guitarists was just to pick up a new album. Nothing tricky, nothing complex.

Whether it was the cover that attracted him, the name or just because it was someone that he’d never had chance to listen to – Slash had an aspect of faith in choosing music at times, and as a curious fanboy, I must say that I’ve had some surprisingly favourable results in experimenting with this method. I suppose this technique depends on how actively you want to exist outside of a rigid music taste, but if you really want a breath of life in your collections, this helps a hell of a lot. 

However, on a side note, the aim here isn’t to have a ridiculously well-rounded playlist and a comprehensive knowledge of each section in HMV. No, just to realize that there’s a lot more out there to listen to and love, and that you have more chance of finding something truly great if you diversify.

Musical musings

Surely, one reason for our habitual relationship with music is the fact that new and interesting music can be so difficult to find. There’s only a few times when you can blindly stumble on a new favourite or a seriously amazing act, but the chance is reason enough to try, reason enough to attempt just that.

The more music you experiment with, the more accurate your musical compass becomes – if you live amidst a small stash of genres then there’s never going to be anything to draw you out of habit and towards new artists and songs. There’s something ultimately rewarding about uncovering a great band that you’ve never heard before and loving their sound from the start. You don’t have to be a pre-teen to search for new styles. As Krissi Murison recently wrote in The Sunday Times: ‘You’re never too old for music to change your life.’

A statement that I’m in vehement agreement with.

Yes, music might have become ‘good or bad rather than life or death,’ but it does so only when you allow your tastes and curiosities to be bound in 16GB of sameness.

In short, listen to more, settle less and actively enjoy. It’s not musically-stunted to have your favourites, but there’s a lot more out there to listen to. 

Image: Flickr / CarbonNYC