So I have loved music my whole life. I sing in the shower, in the car, while walking my dog and in the hallways at work. I remember once; while walking through a shopping center with a girl I was seeing at the time I started singing softly – She stared at me in horror and demanded that I stop…. She was clearly not ‘the one’. These days I consider myself to have a rather wide and eclectic taste in music; I listen to everything from Thrash Metal all the way through to Classical. This was not always the case – as a young man I was very very exclusively into scene and emo music and very vocal about how terrible everyone else’s taste was for liking other sounds. This is the story of the song that changed that.
Some years ago I had a friend living with me. This friend, Bob (not his actual name) was originally from Perth and was a bit more typical of a young Aussie lad than I was at the time. Bob was into Utes and Beer and Rugby. I was into Computer Games, Books and Tea. How we ever came to be as close as we were actually escapes me at the moment; but we spent a bunch of time cursing around over the weekends, talking smack and just chilling out. During this time Bob would love to play a mix of disgusting Aussie Hip Hop and much more palatable Metal in the car.
I remember asking Bob on several occasions over the months how he was able to listen to such a broad range of music – and he gave me the answer that any reasonable human would; because he enjoyed it. This continued to baffle me for months until one day , driving back from the coast via an adventurous country route, Dire Straits Pt 1 came on. I had a ‘lightbulb’ moment, I loved this song. I couldn’t tell you if I was feeling depressed that day in particular – but I can say that at the time generally I was struggling with depression. The way in which Solo described his experience with depression in this song – wrapping a smile around a tired face to hide the marks of the walk of life through dire straits. These words took root in my imagination possibly because of the clever lyrical allusion to Dire Straits that play out throughout the rest of the piece; possibly because it so mirrors my own perception of the feeling of depression.
But from this vantage I was able to move on and really start to enjoy the entirety of Horrorshow’s first album – The Grey Space. The way it described the ups and downs of late teenage life in the busy modern world – It espouses socially progressive ideology in small moments throughout and so that further drew me in. The complex instrumentation of the album made me fall deeper and deeper in love with it. After I had memorized the whole first album I moved on to Horrorshow’s second offering – Inside Story. The first track of this album has a sound byte from Firefly….. Need I say more? I loved it as much as I had The Grey Space.
After having spent about 2 months acclimating myself to the complex and mellow sounds of Inner Western Sydney Hip-Hop the jump from there to other Aussie Hip Hop artists no longer seemed so jarring or obnoxious I had a language with which to reference my likes and dislikes within each new artist or track I heard. Rather than feeling lost or bewildered by my inability to articulate in the language of the form what I felt about it – I was now passingly fluent in Hip-Hop and so much more able and willing to accept it as ‘worthy’ or ‘good’.
Like all people – I feared what I did not understand. I had been musically xenophobic and after taking the time to appreciate another musical culture – I could begin to accept that it wasn’t scary nor particularly different to my existing culture within Metal and Emo. Clearly the didactic point here is one about cultural acceptance in a wider context – but I want to be slightly more nuanced and human than that. The reason I spent time explaining the long way around how I came to this viewpoint is to show that it is very very human to be exclusionary and xenophobic and that that doesn’t make a person irredeemably bad, they just haven’t worked out the similarities that will allow them to realign their perspective yet. We should be trying to educate those folks, trying to show them the ways in which we are all similar rather than deriding them for their ‘failure’ to see the obvious humanity in our shared experience.