The terrible thing about winter isn’t actually the depths of the cold. It’s not the enormous snow storms. It’s the half-winter days. Grey, cold, just enough snow to turn everything into a slushy mud pit, but not enough to be fun or pretty. Those types of days, you just want to stay inside and hope that there’s something you can work on from the comfort of the blanket by the radiator. And yet there’s something bizarrely nice about those days. That feeling of in here, and out there is comforting. On days like that it’s nice to sit back and just listen to a piece of music.
I listen to music everyday, but I don’t listen attentively to music nearly as often as I probably should. Giving it my full attention, listening intently, and seeing what bubbles up inside of myself in reaction. For days like this, the best piece of music is Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue.
Now Jazz is probably one of the weirdest musical genres in terms of accessibility, because while it feels random and spontaneous and unpretentious, I think it’s easy for people to feel intimidated by it somehow. Just like looking at a painting you don’t really like, I think that people will force themselves to listen to jazz that they just don’t like and sounds terrible to them. Which is insane.
While it can be good to stretch your creative muscles in your brain by exposing yourself to music, visual art, and writing that you may not “like” but can appreciate, most of the time it can just put you into a bad mood and actually antagonize you a little bit. I mean, how many times, so excited to show someone something because you enjoy it, has someone shot you down? Because when you force someone into experiencing art, they hate it. It’s a hard thing to do, but showing someone something that you love has to be done at the right time, in the right mood. What makes that piece of art special for you, or speaks to you in a certain way, is determined in large part by when you heard it in your life and what thoughts inflected the music with meaning beyond the notes that are there. Forcing it on someone else can, and likely will, turn something that they might have treasured into something they consider a travesty. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. How many beautiful pieces of art, music, and literature have been ruined because you were made to experience them like a kid in school with a short story for a grade, rather than as a person with an experience?
Two examples of what I’m talking about: Miles Davis and The Gorillaz.
The Gorillaz are one of my favorite bands and one of the coolest bands in terms of aesthetic. They have cartoon characters for each member that play out their concerts on screens and have a super deep backstory on the history of the band and the weird happenings around them. They’re an amazing collaboration of a bunch of different artforms that are primarily a band, and I could probably talk about them all day. So of course I wanted to give someone I knew a copy of one of their albums for Christmas because I thought she would love it. The reaction, meh they’re fine. I was disappointed, and a little bit frustrated. “They wouldn’t know good music if it bit them in the face” I thought to myself. This reaction is natural, but in reality they probably enjoyed it a lost less than they would have because i kept pestering them about it to see if they’d listened to it.
The second example is Miles Davis, Kind of Blue. My grandmother wrote this album into one of her books and recommended that I listen to it after I had read it in her book and asked her what it was. Well of course I wasn’t going to leap out and immediately give it a listen, and it actually took me two years to sit down and listen to it. But one of the three actually rainy days that I had in Tel Aviv, I decided to open up the patio doors to let the sound of the rain through and put it on through the speakers I had borrowed in the apartment I was renting. I settled in on the couch with nothing planned for the next hour and started to listen to the piano, double bass, and horn have a conversation with a high hat background. I was enchanted, and it’s become my go-to for a mucky day like today to just relax and let the world spin by outside of my tiny sphere.
Had I been forced to listen to it, I probably would have hated it and never given it another listen. Instead, it’s become one of my favorite pieces of music in the world. In fact, I’m listening to it right now, on this mucky, yucky day. I’m not recommending that you rush out and listen to this album right now. But if it happens to be a rainy day outside, and you happen to have some soft cushions to lean on, try it out. You might find you like it.