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Tuesday, June 01, 2004
Not-liking-music-ism (NLMI)

Possible Reasons Why Someone Might Not Like[1] Music

  • No time to listen to music; job, errands, family, friends keep you too busy and/or far away from audio equipment to be able to give any piece of music a close enough listen to like it. You may have some songs you've heard and know vaguely and enjoy in the way you enjoy a sunny day, unexpectedly, and occasionally with aforethought, but without much seeking. Alternately, you might have liked music much more in your younger years and occasionally will follow the old pattern of consumption[3] for one or two albums a year, but even these you will only listen to a few times, and the albums will be things that have been almost entirely impossible for you to ignore due to media coverage.

  • No mental space to listen to music; worries, depression, anxiety, problem-solving, and/or other various mental disorders/preoccupations (see: OCD, horniness, self-consciousness) take up so much of your mental activity that there's no space in your brain to admit an awareness of music, much less to seek it out. Not a problem if your disorder either allows for a focus on music or is soothed by same[4], but otherwise you just can't bring yourself to care.

  • Don't find anything to relate to in music; it does not speak to you, does not seem to even acknowledge that you or someone like you could possibly exist. This does not have to be strictly because of the lyrics, although this would certainly be the primary reason; you could just simply not enjoy the particular kind of sounds that make up modern music, or the recording tone, or the simple fact that it's arranged rather than random, "natural" noise. You could also distrust the fairly unitary worldview seemingly evidenced by most musicians, either because it is too anti-intellectual or because it is too divorced from the world of work or because it is immoral and libertineous. The attitude could be that, regardless of the actual attitude and life experience of the particular artist or even the particular song, music itself is tainted. But more often, finding music foreign would be a reaction to the lyrics of the vast majority of songs, pop or otherwise, which are either unpiercably abstruse or circle around a set of concerns that are, by and large, limited to those under the age of thirty, and usually do not apply to the present-day realities of people who have a career and a family.[5] That people in this situation relate to the music anyway reflects a simple combination of nostalgia and fantasy images of the self, but this should by no means be regarded as the normal or expected reaction.

  • Cannot hear; are deaf.

  • Do not think music is very important; regard it as a trifle, an entertainment, a foolish leisure-time activity, or simply something they are not interested in. Listening to music is, in this view, perhaps analagous to how an atheist views the act of attending church services, or, at a less-hostile level, how someone outside the packaging industry would regard a packaging industry magazine. Maybe it's offensively wrong, or maybe it's simply something you have no interest in, but the question to a music lover would not be "what kind of music do you like?" but "why do you like music?" It's far from a given, because it is inessential, and perhaps even foolish.

  • Unable to listen to music; either because of a lack of funds or a lack of access, do not actually have the wherewithal to listen to recorded or live music. No money to buy CDs, no record store or internet access, no local live performances, etc.

  • Interest is in another art form; would be interested if that art form was no longer present, but attention is too caught up in visual art or literature to like music.

    Possible Solutions

  • Assigned listening; every month, all citizens receive an album (which can also be a compilation of singles) that they must listen to, without doing anything else, a set number of times--say, 20. This can be accomplished through specially-designed players that record each listen and can only be operated when the ambient noise level and movement of the listener is below a certain point, or through centralized listening stations that one must go to and listen to the music in a controlled environment. Alternately, you could get half-credit for listening while performing other activities, such as riding public transportation or driving or reading or drinking alcohol or consuming drugs.[6] This way, everyone would be forced to be substantially exposed to a piece of music that they might not have heard otherwise. They might not like it, but they would at least have to give it an honest attempt. Failure to do so would be punishable with a fine and/or jail time.

  • Change the marketing and distribution system for music; ensure that a wider variety gets out to the mainstream. However, as we see above, it's unlikely that a lack of variety is necessarily causing a lack of liking; most people who don't have the time or inclination to be exposed to new music also don't have the time or inclination to actually enjoy it.

  • Enforce a quota system; monitor and regulate how often compositions get played in public settings (stores, restaurants, TV programs, etc.) and require that each venue only play any given composition X number of times in any given day; all other spots must be filled up with other compositions. Require further that any given composition can only be played its maximum number of times a certain number of days a week and month, so that public music programs cannot simply employ a fixed set of compositions played at their quota limit. Thus different songs would have to have regular public airings.

  • Write different songs; these songs would appeal, lyrically and/or musically, to the viewpoints and situations of those who currently do not like music.

  • Institute a program of music education; design a curriculum and course for the schools that makes music relevant and instills the necessary knowledge and interest for deriving pleasure from music. (Note: this solution may in fact fall under the following section.)

    Impossible Solutions

  • Restore hearing; with magic ray.

  • Remove all worries and cares; give everyone as much money and leisure time as they want, abolish all undesired labor, remove all family tensions.

  • Cure mental disorders; but without hampering creativity or deadening senses.

  • Eliminate all other art forms; except as they relate to music.

    Examining this systematic breakdown of the causes and possible solutions for NLMI, one can see that it is both more and less of a grievous threat than it has been made out to be, and that its practitioners may not even be aware that they are practicing it. The question may then become not how it can be overcome but whether it should be.

    [1] Let's define this loosely, but any definition should encompass a combination of excitement, engagement, desire to know and discover more, and unconscious acquiring of knowledge[2]. The opposite of liking would be that listening to music doesn't provide you with much pleasure and you don't do it very much.
    [2] Last one: ever found yourself talking to someone about a subject you're interested in but don't actually research or conscious try to learn about or anything like that and at some point in the conversation let out this little tidbit that you say with an only slightly smaller level of assurance than you would your own name, except it's about who played sax on two tracks of an album from 1972, and your conversational partner kind of pauses for a second and looks at you? Like that.
    [3] Which often goes something like this: hear song on radio or see video on TV, like it, hear/see it a few more times, really like it, find out who it is, buy album, listen almost exclusively to album for a few weeks, tail off on listening, still put it on once or twice a month thereafter.
    [4] It's unclear how much this factor accounts for the actual liking of music, but it's an interesting subject; music-as-therapy addressed later or not at all, as it's a touchy/embarassing/maudlin subject.
    [5] But not, obviously, their past experience.
    [6] The latter bit requiring additional legislation.