I wonder how many other musicians find themselves bored with the act of listening to music. I like to think I have fairly eclectic taste. At any given point in time if you could tap into my headphones it would not be uncommon to hear from motown, bop, metal, blues, country, R&B, pop, classic rock, post-rock, alternative, CCM, or even dubstep blasting at an unhealthy volume. So it isn’t a lack of variety causing this. I do have a theory.
While the frequency I listen to music may play a big part (almost all the time), I think a bigger issue for me is that listening is a spectator experience. Being a spectator or consumer of music can be like a substitute for actually playing music, and as such it leaves much to be desired. There is something irreplaceable about the act of creating music, especially in a group environment, that consuming music can’t replace.
Don’t get me wrong, it is important for me as a musician to do a heavy amount of listening. Just like a person learns a language best when they are immersed in an environment in which that language is spoken constantly (and expertly but that is a different blog post for a different day), a musician is only going to be able to advance their mastery of the language of music through diligent and diverse listening habits. There is a balance, though, that is required. You have to speak that language, not just hear it, in order for it to stick. No matter how much time a person spends around Spanish speaking people, they’ll never roll that double r sound properly until they limber up their tongue and start to actually use those words. Music is the same way. This is why I think I find myself bored.
My balance between being a consumer and a creator is skewed. It not only leaves me unsatisfied as a listener, it adversely effects my experience as a musician. My ear is more attuned to interesting harmonies, phrasing, melodic content through all of my listening. My playing, however, can’t match that. You could say my ear is ahead of hands! The ultimate goal of all musicians should be to produce what you hear in your head. The disparity created by being consumer over a creator leaves the process of the latter hollow and equally frustrating. My friend Alastair posted an awesome video that talks about this in the comments to an earlier blogpost (find that here https://darrellqueen.wordpress.com/2014/04/08/creativecurse/)
The flip side is that when these things are in better balance, they actually inspire me to do more of whichever it is I am not currently doing. When these things are equal my playing leaves me wanting to listen to something new and inspiring. When in balance, my listening makes me want to run to guitar or piano and compose. The balance truly is the key for making both of these experiences fulfilling. I wonder if there is maybe a greater life lesson in there somewhere………