Why Do You Listen?

‘Surround me with music, I’m not ready for the silence’

Just over a week ago, while walking home from work one night, I had an idea I thought about exploring here. Actually it was more of a question. And although it was dark and cold out, before I forgot what the question was and my reason for asking it, I reached into my bag, pulled out my notebook and jotted it down. It was a simple enough question on the surface but after making my note and resuming the walk home, I thought there could actually be something more to it. I started thinking of what my own answer to the question might be, but quickly I realized that this entire blog has been doing that right from the start.  Every time I write about how music makes me feel, about the emotions, thoughts and memories it evokes for me it answers that question.  But I thought it might be interesting to hear how other people might respond,  so off to Facebook I went.

The question I posed was simply- ‘Why do you listen to music?’ But in explaining my reason for asking it, I added-

“I want you to think about it for a minute and not just say ‘because it makes me happy, it makes me want to dance, etc’. Those are great reasons, but is there something else, deep down that makes you want to hear music, whether it is Beethoven, Black Sabbath or Beyonce? ”

I was quite frankly surprised at the depth of ways people answered the question. Though some answers were direct and to the point, others were very detailed, specific, and personal. A few people mentioned how music was a calming influence. A balance between both good and bad times. A decompression from stress and a way to make them feel better. Music helps them get there.  For others it was a time stamp of sorts, a direct link every time a song comes on to who you were with and what you were doing the first time you heard it. Some found a deep connection with the lyrics especially, with a realization that the words helped them through difficult times.  

Just like the famous question once asked to mountaineer George Mallory about why he wanted to climb Mt. Everest, several people responded with what in essence was his classic retort- ‘because it’s there’. A feeling that music always has and always will be there for them. A common theme was that music, or little snippets of music flowed through people’s heads most of the day during times when they were not able to actually listen.  Some use music to speed the passage of time on long car trips or flights. Similarly the tempo of music was another common factor, with most people seeking the right beat to fit their mood. As one person put it, almost like a legal drug one could use at will.

Another person told me that finding the right music to play was like choosing coffee or tea at the store. You know you need it…you just aren’t sure what type or brand you want. For some the seasons and weather guided them towards the music they chose to play. Others felt more of a spiritual connection to music. A direct link to God or to the universe itself. Another person mentioned how it took them to a ‘fantasy world’, a way to transport back and forth through time, stepping off only when they were ready.

I found the answers everyone gave incredibly helpful and I want to sincerely thank everyone who took the time to reply. There are too many of you to thank individually but you have my deepest gratitude! As the comments were coming in and I was replying to such great responses, I found myself nodding my head in agreement with all the great points made. In all honesty, I had thought that after several years of writing this blog and spending a great deal of time thinking about this question in my own way that I would not be surprised. But I was.  I realized that everyone’s answer was for a reason. Their reason. Not for their parents, spouses or friends. But their reasons alone. While I felt some common ground, everyone had their own unique spin on it, which I found to be perhaps the most compelling reason of all for why we listen to music.

Of course I wanted to close this with a piece of music that summed up some of these thoughts. I was wondering what type of song to use after getting so many great responses. The other night I found one purely by chance. I was having a very ‘off’ day and was looking for the right thing to suit my mood (exactly in the way described above). I chose a song I had not heard in awhile.  Once I hit play and the song came to the chorus I knew I had found exactly the right fit for this post.

Roger Glover is best known as the hard driving bass player for Deep Purple, being part of the classic MkII lineup famous for songs like Woman From Tokyo, Black Night, Highway Star and of course, Smoke On The Water. But in 2002 he recorded a gentler sort of side project-Roger Glover & The Guilty Party Featuring Randall Bramblett. It is an interesting collection of songs with Bramblett handling most of the lead vocals on an album that melds funk, soul, folk, blues and rock influences. The song I chose the other night however is sung by Roger Glover.  He has never been known as a singer, but perhaps because the song has a relaxed reggae vibe to it, he really pulls it off.

I got a shiver when I heard him sing the line quoted at the start- ‘I’m not ready for the silence.’ It seemed such a perfect fit to this post. Living in the music. Letting it surround you for all of the reasons people gave to my question. Keeping the silence away and finding a way to keep the music inside you. That is how I live, and I realized I am not alone. To prove that point on the photography side, I stopped off  in Times Square the other night at a place that always has a variety of performers. I wanted simply to capture that moment when busy commuters stopped to engage with music.  An active choice to let the music surround them and listen. Maybe for an entire song, maybe just for a few seconds. To allow them to feel the music the way they wanted to. Because it was there.

So now let me hear from you in the comments below-why do you listen to music?

Burn Me Up Slowly-Written By Roger Glover

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All Photographs By Robert P. Doyle

21 thoughts on “Why Do You Listen?

  1. Ken Woolass

    Hello again Robert. I was as taken with this post as with the one I discovered your Blog. Ralph Mctell/Peking/Round the wild cape horn. I am obsessed with live music. I listen to music and marvel at the thought and hard work that artists,true artists put into producing a piece? often lyrics equal the most profound and moving poetry, the phraseology often picks you up, a nuance will draw you in, taking you to a place within yourself, in a way no other art form takes you? that in no way detracts from the other great arts when produced by a time served master.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Ken, nice to see you back again! I could not agree with what you say more. I absolutely admire and respect musicians for every subtle nuance and phrase that goes into a song. I’m fascinated watching clips of musicians in the studio ‘constructing’ a song. Those subtleties that come together to make something powerful. That is a wonderful observation and I thank you for the comment!


  2. Waitaminute….you…in Times Square? Do I need to pinch myself or what? But seriously, you’ve woven this post together very nicely from the poll (sort-to-speak) that you did the other day. I smiled when I saw my answer mentioned.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey you know I HAD to include your answer! And yes, you can pinch yourself. The only thing I will say is the Time Square subway station is huge, but walking through is a little less hectic than above ground! And thank you, I felt like you were all my co-writers on this one!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t really have an answer, Robert. All of the above and perhaps, more. I listen to music because it helps me go on. I can’t imagine life without it. I’ll sing my heart, lungs and guts out, tap on any object I find if I am stranded on an island with no music device with me. I guess that’s how music evolved in the first place – because it’s primal to humans. It’s like love or breathing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ‘Like love or breathing’!! Love it Amrita! It is a difficult question though. So many of the answers related something similar. As in music was always there, and some rudimentary form of it is always there. I thought about digging into the deeper scientific reasons people respond to music, but instead decided on the personal approach of what compels you to. One of my favorite answers someone gave me was that it was hard to describe why, but it made moments of sadness easier, and moments of happiness happier. They could not rationalize why that was the case…it just was, which is why I thought of the George Mallory quote. I found myself agreeing and understanding every single answer I received on the question. I was impressed that people were so passionate about it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. One of my favourite quotes on listening to music is, of course, from High Fidelity – Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable, or am I miserable because I listen to pop music? As much as I try to come up with an answer for myself, I guess I’ll never know!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I need to read/watch High Fidelity again. It has been a long time, and considering one half of this blog is about music, it is a pivotal influence! I will admit that it was a question where I knew I would not get a singular, solid answer that would be Aha…of course, that is the reason! It was more about seeing how people would answer, and how deep they would get. Which as it turns out, people really did.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Nova

    Hey Robert, I have a different reason each time. 🙂

    Music could be my answer for peace. Or I might wanna drown in my grief another day.

    Making up a song might bring a smile to my face on a boring day or I would sing along to vent my frustration.

    Music had been the way to hint my feelings to my first love and Music is a beautiful bond that keep our choir together.

    Music can set apart the flavour of everyday in my life or Music maybe my last straw to hold onto…. a divine element – truly a Gift.

    There’s a song that reminds me of my lost days or my very best days.

    And Music is my personal timeline when I remember my Life in terms of the musical jewels I discovered along the way.

    I hear music in the Quietness of the Dawn. I hear the flowers talk to me in lilting notes on my morning walks.

    I hear music when I gaze at the constellations and lie under the deep blue velvet sky.

    I hear music when I talk to my heart in those lonely hours of my life.

    Most importantly, thank you for your beautiful article. I am happy I stopped by because you gave me a couple of beautiful moments in the middle of a busy day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow..just wow. I cannot begin to thank you enough for this amazing reply. I share your thoughts as well, but I do not think I could express them in such a beautiful way as you just did. The late great English fiddle player once said-‘You can do anything you want to music, it doesn’t mind.’ Which is so very true. But in the listening to music, what I realized in the replies to my question is that music is always there, for whatever purpose when needed. Thank you again!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Nova

    You’re welcome. It was truly my pleasure talking to you. Actually, there’s music in this! When two people from opposite sides of the world meet. I am planning to read all your articles soon. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Top Posts Of 2017 – Soundtrack Of A Photograph

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