Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Musical Compatibility Test

"So what kind of music do you listen to?" said young Tim to an even younger Joey during a late night phone call way past both of their bedtimes.

That wasn't the first time a boy had asked me about my musical preferences. I'd been a member of the BMG music club for the better part of a year amassing a CD collection to help me answer this question. Music was personality, self-expression, and everything you needed to or could know about another person.

I took a deep breath. It was a pivotal moment in our young romance. The wrong answer would have changed the course of history. At least for these two kids.

"I really like Counting Crows," I said.

It was a good answer. He liked Counting Crows too. We're living happily ever after.

Singing and playing Chopin! Really, who needs radio?

Interest in my listening habits waned after college. Tim and I merged our CD collections before abandoning them for the futuristic digital libraries that live on "the cloud." Baby Einstein classical and Itsy Bitsy Spider edged out Linkin' Park. Eventually the Disney Princess Collection, Teen Beach Movie and Barbie soundtracks became the only albums that got any play. Music was always around, but no longer a personality trait.

So I was surprised by the question, "what kind of music do you like?" during a recent introductory conversation with another grown adult. We'd just covered the fact that I'm a regular church goer and I was deep into planning Vacation Bible School.

"Probably Christian stuff, right?" was the follow up.

"Well, um," I stuttered. In the car, I listen to K-LOVE almost exclusively. Julia likes it and it makes me happy. I don't think it's possible to have road rage while listening to Hillsong United. People that honk and give you the finger are not listening to "positive, encouraging" music. They just aren't.

"I listen to other stuff too." At which point I was wondering to myself: so what if I only ever do listen to Christian music? What of it?

Even with my already rather dated list of modern non-Christian music: Mumford & Sons, Florence + the Machine, Taylor Swift, I wasn't music compatible with my new friend. "I've never heard of that," was my response to most of the stuff on her list.

The truth is, I'm just not that into music anymore. I like music, but there isn't a specific artist that explains who I am. Back in 1996 when I worked so hard to memorize every word to every song on Counting Crows August & Everything After album, it felt much more important. Those songs were the soundtrack to a teenage life.

A mid-thirties life (I cannot believe I just wrote that) has a different sort of soundtrack. Laughter and crashing feet and MineCraft cows. I've turned off the radio in favor of meaningful conversation about the Eye of Sauron and which Hobbit dwarf I like best and how could the Muppets not know that wasn't Kermit. Occasionally, I treasure moments of silence.

It occurred to me after this conversation that perhaps it is still a relevant compatibility test. Music and whether it's important or not does say a lot about life and priorities. Right now, my kid is it. I can't keep up with which artist is wearing a steak sandwich instead of a bra or ponder who exactly has time to watch a 24-hour long video. By the time I tune back in, Counting Crows will be one of the oldies (don't even dare say they are now). As for my little girl, her songs and giggles are in limited supply. That's the stuff I most want to listen to.

People that live and breath Lady Gaga (is she still a thing?) probably aren't anymore interested in my mundane life than I am in their People magazine regurgitations. In this way the music talk is a time saver. When one person says Pharrell and the other says Creedence Clearwater Revival, it's probably not going to work out. And that's okay. Parting ways early gives me more time for the things I like to do, like listening to off-pitch, poorly timed karaoke. On repeat.