Psychiatric Help: 5 Cents

Have you ever been listening to music and your mind has zoned out or you’ve already pressed ahead to the next track? This happens to me all the time.

I’m an instant gratification kind of guy. To make matters worse, the older I get the less patience I have for things.

I order books through the Barnes & Noble website, even if it’s cheaper elsewhere. Why? Because many items are same day delivery in Manhattan. (God forbid I should ever move elsewhere. Getting rid of this would take some getting used to.)

My last film score order took two weeks to arrive. I thought I’d lose my mind. I got more and more irritated with each passing day. When it finally got here, I downloaded all the tracks onto my iPod, barely gave them a listen, and then went scouring for my next purchase.

The iPod, or maybe the decaying brain cells (the 80s…who knew?), seems to have fed into this habit of constantly searching for new music. With 80 GB of film music to choose from at one time, with a flick of a thumb you can move on to something else if you get bored.

These days music serves as the soundtrack to my writing, always on in the background unless I’m heavily in editing mode. Sometimes it underscores my reading, but I have enough trouble focusing on that without any further distractions.

Remember the old days when you’d buy an album and play the hell out of it? Two, three weeks, maybe even a month, until you knew each and every note of it. Everything in life took a backseat to that album and time stood still. Problems, homework, rent, taking out the garbage, everything cowered before the pure power of music.

These days, I can count on one hand–maybe both hands–the times I’ve sat down to just listen to music in the past year. And out of those hands, there are still fingers left over. Does this have anything to do with my dislike of “disposable” digital music? Or has music simply become the background soundtrack to my life? Whatever the reason(s), it’s time to quiet the sound effects and dial up the score. I just received a new batch of scores today. Time to walk the walk.

Listening to music has, and on some level will always be, a solitary activity. But I was pea-green with envy when a friend recently told me that he and a friend of his spend time hanging out and listening to film music together.

That’s a world I want to live in.

How do you listen to music?

  1. This article sums up neatly what I’ve been feeling about music myself for the last year or so. Since I got an iPod (worse than yours, I have a 160 GB!), I’ve had an insatiable thirst for new film music albums which is rarely satisfied, even though (or maybe because) I barely give new albums even the most cursory listen. Whether using my iPod or playing music through my PC in iTunes, the old thrill of getting a CD in the mail and playing the heck out of it (and learning every note of every cue by heart) is largely gone.

    I’ve taken steps to reverse this, however. An attractive set of Ikea shelf units to hold & organize my hundreds of CDs and a sleek new CD player make the act of listening to music enjoyably old-fashioned, interactive, and rewarding, and I take a CD with me on my commute whenever possible. About the only time I let myself use an iPod is on long trips and during exercise. Otherwise, I push a CD into the player, press “PLAY” and let myself get enveloped by the music.

    Here’s to the music! No more of this silly impatience! And now, I will go finish “G.I. Joe: the Rise of Cobra” on today’s commute. :D Got halfway through it yesterday. Tomorrow will be David Newman’s “Hoffa.”

    1. Dave, thanks for your comments. And here I thought my post was just going to end up with me whining. Would love to see what shelves and CD player you use. Would you mind providing links? All of my CDs are in boxes now so to pull one out requires all sorts of hassle, hence the external hard drive. But I miss being able to pick a CD out and just listen to it.

      P.S. Haven’t listened to HOFFA in years! Time to pull that old Newman classic out. I can’t remember a note of it.

    2. P.S.S. No comment ability on your blog? Harumph! So I’ll have to say it here: Thanks for the Ubeda clips. The STAR TREK in particular thrilled me, as it does on the album. (And thanks for the link back to the post. Much appreciated.)

      I put your blog in my Google reader as well.

      1. That’s just my catch-all “melting pot” blog, mainly for sharing links, quotes and videos. At the top of the page are links to my more in-depth web pursuits, the ones I take more seriously. :)

        You’re welcome! I didn’t take those videos myself, I was just lucky to find them on YouTube. Pass ’em on!

        I think we must be some of the few who enjoy the new Trek score unequivocally.

    1. Thanks for the links, Dave. I’ve got a birthday coming up in a couple of weeks. Hmmm… (Wheels turning…)

    2. Dave, I short-URL’ed your CD player linker so it wouldn’t bleed into the sidebar. Hope you don’t mind.

    3. Dave, I short-URL’ed your CD player link so it wouldn’t bleed into the sidebar. Hope you don’t mind.

  2. I know exactly what you mean, even though I have largely grown up in the ipod age. What I have found, though, is that in good film music, the experience is usually cumulative. The complete score will create a bigger impact than any of its cues by themselves, even if there are cues that I like less than others (this, of course, can also be ruined by the order and compiling of the album). That is why, even though I do nearly all my listening on my computer, I still, when listening to film scores, usually listen to complete albums at a time, except when I am called away for some reason.

    I also can’t really remember when the last time was that I only listened to music without multi-tasking. I am always either doing algebra, surfing the internet, or reading. But I am also always paying attention to the music, and don’t usually have a problem focusing on both at the same time.

    Funny how you started out the article talking about how you want music here and now when you buy it. I have to resist this same urge when it comes to downloading music. I can either get it in better quality, with liner notes and CD case sometimes for less (used on Amazon), or I can download it and have it right now. Shouldn’t really even be a temptation, but it is.

    As far as really getting to know the music (and I talk about it in my article on Patrol, see link at the bottom), when I really love a score, I often want to study it, and find out what things are missing on the album, sometimes creating a complete edit for myself. Yes, I am one of those obsessive fans. This labor of love is something that I really enjoy putting the time into, as I become familiar with the work on a level I otherwise wouldn’t. I worked so hard on a complete edit of the score for Temple of Doom when it came out last year, that I feel like I know that score perhaps better than any other in my collection. Perhaps because of this, it is also one of my favorites.

    So anyways, those are some of my disjointed thoughts on the matter. Very good article.

    Here is the link for my article on Patrol: http://www.patrolmag.com/arts/1679/the-greatest-story-ever-composed

    1. Wow, you really ARE one of those obsessive fans. Sounds like me back in the old days when I had energy to do that sort of thing but the technology wasn’t around to do it. Those are the days when you’d hold a crappy heavy tape recorder up to the speaker of your TV and have to hear a score with the sound effects and dialogue. I also prefer to listen to full scores at a time as opposed to random tracks. And yet if I stop something in the middle, by the time I come back to it later, I’ve moved on to something else.

      Thanks for the link to your great article. Everyone should read it.

      P.S. I put your blog in my Google reader. Now add some more posts! :)

  3. There were no psychiatrists in ancient Greece, but when a person in Athens needed guidance they would go to the classical equivalent to Lucy Van Pelt: they would travel to gain wisdom from the Oracle at Delphi. The temple there was presided over by Apollo, the god of music. On the temple were two inscriptions which were thought to be essential to human happiness and well-being: One was “Know Thyself” and the other was “Nothing in Excess.” If the Greek equivalent of Jim Lochner sought advice from the oracle, he needed to look no further than the two famous inscriptions.

    When we discover something that gives us pleasure, we naturally want more of it. Whether it’s food or sex or music, we think, “If a little of it is nice, more of it will be even better.” This philosophy, if taken to its natural conclusion, ends up with disastrous results. It ends up deadening the ability to truly experience the pleasure at all. The glutton started by truly enjoying food, but in an insatiable quest for more, he finds himself eating constantly, but not really tasting anything.

    Can the sin of gluttony apply to music? Well, you write that you are almost constantly listening to music, and yet failing to experience the joy it once gave you. Sounds a bit like a person who is eating constantly without savoring the food. Maybe Jim Lochner is a musical glutton!

    The Greek admonition of “Nothing in Excess” isn’t to suggest depriving yourself of anything, but rather to avoid the joy-killing effects of gluttony. The idea is to learn to truly experience the food, the sex, and the music. The goal is to sensitize your palate, not to kill it. And excess accomplishes the latter. The Greek philosopher Epicurus understood this, and so advocated pleasure by enjoying things in modest quantity. To be an epicurean means you get the maximum pleasure out of food, sex, and music because, taken in small amounts, you can actually savor the food, relish the sex, and hear….really hear…the music.

    The other inscription on the temple at Delphi was “Know Thyself.” No one can know you like you can know you. Friends, family, a therapist, a counselor, or even Lucy Van Pelt cannot get inside your skull. Only you can know if you are a musical glutton. If you find that you are, you might want to try this exercise: Spend one week with no music. Not a note. That’s going to mean no movies or TV, since the idea is to “cleanse the palate” completely. In our culture, it’s very hard to avoid music, but it might be worth the effort. At the end of one week, put your headphones on, close your eyes and listen….really listen….to Mozart’s clarinet quintet. It may be a life-changing experiment that will reconnect you with your love of music.

    1. I see those Greek myth courses have paid off! ;) But, as usual, you make some very valid points. Pardon the analogy, but music has almost become like Cheetos–very yummy but something I can devour with my brain on auto-pilot without savoring the Yellow 6, lactic acid, and MSG. (Not to intimate that Cheetos are on the same level as music.) As you know, moderation is not often a word applied to me, but something I should probably practice.

      As for a week without music, I can’t see that happening. At least, not while I’ve got some paid writing gigs at hand. I might be an interesting experiment, but I think you can probably picture me rocking back and forth on the floor, drooling into my lap. Or flicking the lamp light on and off (a la FATAL ATTRACTION), except that I wouldn’t even be allowed the Puccini that accompanies it!

      As for the Mozart Clarinet Quintet, thank you for not suggestion Bach or Hummel. ;)

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