Seasons For Art

January 22, 2010

I spent a lot of today getting increasingly angrier about… things, and one thing I tried to do to combat that was listening to some music. I’m a bit obsessive about my music, and I have an extensive collection on my computer; 6730 songs right now. One thing I like to do is listen to albums all the way through to get a feel for how the songs hold together as a unit. That hit single may be great in isolation, but how does it hold up surrounded by other material? Of course there’s a degree of separation here; as a rule, I’m not a fan of Blur. I cannot deny, however, that Song 2 is an incredible sugar rush of pop perfection. WOOHOO! indeed. I’m actively not a fan of Britney Spears, but I found myself– like my friend Steve– strangely enamored of the song “Womanizer.” Can’t help it, folks. A good song is a good song.

One way that I account for these ordering tendencies of mine is to make extensive use of the iTunes star ratings. On the one hand, these are ridiculous; how can art be rendered into “stars”? On the other, glancing at an album’s averaged star rating gives me an idea of how I like a particular set of songs in their entirety, whilst also letting me see which ones are standouts and which drag the set down. Since migrating my music over to my current computer I’ve had to go back through and re-rank all of my music. When you’ve got twenty and a half days of music and also listen to a lot of podcasts that takes a while. Today I got around to listening to an album that I remembered liking a whole lot before and eagerly anticipating revisiting.

And I was disappointed this time around.

I don’t think this is the fault of the artist, Leigh Nash. I’m struck, rather, at how blatantly subjective my own appraisal of music– and art in general, I suspect– must be. See, Nash’s songs on this album are sappy, head-over-heels-in-love songs, written while Nash was married. Given that she and her husband have now gotten divorced, I suspect she sees these songs differently as well. When I first got this album I, too, was twitterpated, and my love of the songs was duly influenced. I loved this album– Blue on Blue, for the record. Now? Only the slightly melancholy “Along the Wall” jumps out at me as an excellent track. The others? Merely competent.

It isn’t actively bad. I’ve heard plenty of music that falls in this category. It’s just… fine, and I suspect that when I get another crush, my appreciation for this album will increase again. If you’re in love there’s no better set of songs that I can think of right now. If you’re not in love they sound… really naive.

What I’m most interested in, given this revelation, is how my reaction to other art has been influenced by my “seasons.” I know, for example, that during my “rebellious phase”– what a laugh… me, rebel?– I listened to louder, crunchier music. Not so much anymore. But let’s get away from music for a bit; I used to love Star Wars books. Like… really loved them. Read them like they were going out of style, which, of course, they were. Then I hit this “classics” phase. Contemporary fiction is crap, why bother. College pulled me out of that and plunged me into non-fiction. I think I went about three years without reading an entire work of fiction while I was an undergrad. Right now I’m in a Russian lit/theology phase, but I’ve got an itch to read up on economics and emancipatory non/fiction. Yipes. I’m not sure I can trace such distinct patterns in my movie-going, but I’m sure they’re there.

So here’s me asking for feedback. Have you noticed this yourself? What seasons have you gone through? Does it affect the way to return to works?


4 Responses to “Seasons For Art”

  1. emK said

    “Along the Wall” was my favorite track, the one I listened to over and over when I got the cd from you [despite your warnings]. Interesting hm?

    Also, I still have a favorite book. I think the core of me still feels the same as I did when I was ten so apparently the book is still as good. I re-read it just a couple months ago in fact.

    I think of you whenever “womanizer” comes on. Ah, Britney Spears.

  2. Tyler said

    I hear ya Chris. Now I actually make playlists on iTunes for each season (i.e. winter09, spring09, summer09, fall09, winter10, including occasional holiday mixes). Everytime I preach I also make a playlist of songs, hymns, choruses that fit the text I’m exegeting and listen to it repetively as I prepare the sermon and study the text. But I tend to return to the playlists with fondness. Same w/ other art (I read mostly non-fiction & watch a variety of films). They always sort of “take me back” to where I was at in life at that time, what I was wrestling with, who I spent time with, etc. But there are very few that disappoint me. I guess it’s because (good or bad) I know that it influenced me, that these influences are now a part of me.

  3. Bearss said

    Oh B**chnasty,
    I find I do this also. I’ve decided to read a lot more, and have recently obtained The Omnivore’s Dilemma, but am going to read Everything Is Illuminated first. Music likes change, and bring up memories when you listen to that one song you heard three times while on a roadtrip with two of your favorite people to visit a third favorite person (and i don’t even like Bon Jovi, or own that song). I feel like music is just one of those things that you use for memory, while you also like it at the time. I recently started listen to The Builders and the Butchers, who are AWESOME by the way. I listen to music over and over and over again until I start listening to something else over and over and over again. I feel like everyone does this, other then em :D

  4. Katie said

    Oh, yeah, I totally know what you mean! Of course, I have my phases every couple months just like anyone else, but right now I’m specifically thinking of this past summer, when I just felt really isolated, frustrated, and very powerless. Kind of like your “rebellious” phase, I started regularly listening to a lot of edgier, louder, “busier” music than I normally would, and I used that as a place to escape the blandness I felt in my life…

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