“Do you like music?”
If I ask it, it means I like you. It means I’m offering you a dog whistle opportunity to bare your soul to me. I am being vulnerable and hoping that you will be too.
Most people don’t know what to do with this question. “Of course I like music,” they think. “Is that not normal?”
Well, it is. But not the way I like it.
If I ever settle down with a life partner, it will be someone who answered that question in the spirit it was meant – someone, like me, for whom music is a centrepiece, an anchor, a filter for reality, the highest and deepest of all art forms; someone whose life can be forced to pause for the resolution of a harmony, driven forward by a rhythm, permeated through with the colour of a sound.
I used to review music. I worked for various publications, knocking out 400-word commentaries on new releases and overusing phrases like “jangly guitars” and “thumping bass”. I spoke to a friend about my disenchantment with it a few years ago. He said he didn’t have any time for that pseudo-objective style of reviewing, which is so subject to fashion and commercial pressures. Instead, he thought music journalism should be personal: we should say how particular music fits into our lives, how it makes us feel.
I don’t think it was incidental that he gave one of my favourite answers to my question: a dumbstruck silence at the question’s insufficiency.
So I’ve moved on. I’m not going to review music like I used to – impotently transcribing it into words. I’m going to set the scene. I’m going to let you in.
Do you like music?