Absalom, a forty-three year old man and a connoisseur of rock music in Kiato gave us a fair warning in the first place: “Rock and girls don’t mix, lads. If you want to pull a chick, listen to Greek stuff”.
In a town of 10,000 residents, the girls that were listening to rock music and patronized the sole rock club could be counted on the fingers of one hand. Therefore, if you were a rocker, the possibility to spend the night with no one but your hand to keep you company was greater than our ages added-up.
And yet, even though we were seventeen years old and our hormones were pouring out of our ears, we couldn’t picture ourselves listening to some other music.
The music we liked was more important to us even than sex. Freud, probably, went wrong somewhere.
The music a person listens to determines them way more than the books they read, their profession – and their sign.
This was more evident in the army where we were all dressed identically, had the same haircut and we were sleeping in the same barrack room.
It was easy to choose a mate; listening to the same music would suffice.
The rockers clustered together, the metalheads nearby, those who were fans of Greek music somewhere further and those who were into electronic music ignored us all. Oh, and one single guy who was listening to and playing classical music was like an alien.
I can’t recall asking one single person what his sign was.
In the outside world which is often as irrational as the army, the musical races are more distinguishable.
You can tell someone who listens to modern Greek music from someone who listens to folk music from a mile.
And they (those who share a similar taste in music) feel a special connection between them, stronger than many other imaginary connections. A black metaller from Oslo will feel a brotherly love surging for a black metaller from Buenos Aires.
They feel more that they belong to the same team with them than another Argentinean who listens to Astor Piazzola or a Norwegian who listens to Edvard Grieg.
The fastest way to figure a stranger out – and if you match – is to ask them what music they listen to (and their favourite band).
Music is not like the cinema or literature. It is a far more personalized art, it is part of our life; maybe because it affects our brain a lot more. (see Music is Life).
Or maybe because the music we choose as our favourite is the one that suits better our character and then this music (this particular genre) alters the way we perceive the world. What comes first? The chicken or the egg?
I was listening to a radio show where the producer was interviewing a metaller who had written a very long book about the music he loved (entitled Metaller for 665 days and one…life for those who are interested.)
The things he said about the dynamic process of that music, its link with the occult and his closing words (“in the beginning there was chaos”) brought to mind a friend of mine, older than Absalom, who was also a metaller.
It got me wondering and so I asked my friend if it was metal music that introduced him to metaphysical systems like Crawley’s (Mr. Crowley, what went on in your head?). He admitted that more or less this was the way it happened.
I remembered how I was turned on to Pink Floyd which is my favourite band, ever. I read the lyrics first, they struck a chord with me and then I began listening to them avidly. But could it be that their thoughts, lyrics and music moulded me as a person?
Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
How do we choose a specific kind of music as our favourite when we are adolescents?
Someone with an explosive temper will never gravitate towards arty Greek music. A hooligan who listens to Beethoven is but a fictional entity – just like Kubrick’s central character on The Clockwork Orange.
Usually we listen to what suits us better. But which is the pool where we can choose from?
Let’s say that we are free to choose between any kind of music. Still, are our potential choices unrelated to other parameters that shaped our life (which we surely didn’t choose)?
Therefore, we can dive deeper – we just have to be careful not to drown – and find out what comes before music for example geography, climate and even the plants.
The repetitive, relaxed and slow (very much like the beat of a heart, say the biologists) tempo of reggae music is at home with Jamaica, especially to ganja (the Sanskrit name of cannabis) users.
(There is also a joke about it: what did a rastafari Jamaican say when he ran out of ganja? – Man, this reggae music sucks).
The music that originates from Aegean Sea is way more allegro compared to Epirus’.
When it comes to black metal, the Scandinavians do it way better than the Mediterraneans. Why? Could it be that they hold much more suppressed feelings and this music is the means to let off some steam?
Every kind of music that involves complex dance rhythms (samba, salsa, calypso, mambo) was developed in the New World by African slaves. Why? Could it be that the Negroes carried a different musical tradition?
Classical music (vaguely speaking) was born and developed in the Old World – in Europe to be more precise. Should we retrace our history –all the way back to Pythagoras- to figure it out?
Moreover, we should not forget what Marx pointed out:”cultural phenomena are shaped by the material practices of the society that produces them”. It is the poor and the marginalized who give birth to new genres (see blues, rap, punk, rembetiko).
We should not overlook the devilish mutiny of the youth. No music genre was ever created by the power and the elderly. It is always the young ones who change music, be it pop, rock or electronic; and until the music labels pick up on that, it is regarded as rebellious.
The notes aren’t just twelve, but the human brain can perceive a limited spectrum of sounds. They can be combined in a finite number which, nevertheless, tends to infinity.
Primitive types of music, like the folk ones, have many things in common (the Chinese folk is pentatonic just like the blues that originated from the negro slaves).
The new technology of the instruments changes music, too. The clarionet morphed into clarinet which is now a traditional instrument in Greek culture. It was the Negroes who introduced the guitar to the New World.
The social conditions have an impact on music. Europe was the home of Bach and the USA the home of Louis Armstrong.
The other arts like literature, cinema, theater and painting affect music, too. Perhaps Mozart would compose film scores if he lived in our time.
And then it’s us who grow up in an already shaped world and we pick up a music genre that suits us better for sentimental or other reasons (national, racial or sexist).
We think that it was a free choice, neglecting the countless parameters of the equation that led us to this freedom of choice.
After that, the music we prefer becomes an identity, it defines us as individuals and separates or unites us with the other people.
In modern world, the time of the internet, everyone has immediate access to every kind of music to every country and race.
But the divisions endure just like the musical races. Everybody holds up the music they like as the best. They can argue for their claim fervently, just like dyed-in-the-wool religious people or football fans are prone to do.
And pretty much like as it happens when it comes to football teams, it’s extremely rare that somebody will be converted to another music. There is a relevant chart which shows that the metalheads are the most relentless fans.
PS: When they ask you what your favourite music is, the worst answer you can give is “everything” because it is an indication that you are a humdrum person, as if you never chose anything.
PPS: Personal remark: What is the music I listen to? Well, as much as I can because without it I feel as though something is missing from my life.
But my favourite band will be forever Pink Floyd.
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Translated by Alexandros Mantas:
The photo is from here Music Fans Are Crazy