I remember a TV commercial by a car manufacturer where the car drove through a city and they showed the same scene twice with different music. The first was really aggressive and screeching. The second was soothing, classical music. The effect was mind-blowing – the same scene felt completely different. Music can influence our perception, our mood, our mindset – it can even change it. When I want to motivate myself for a run, I listen to upbeat house or techno. When I need to focus on something, I usually have Beethoven or Mozart in the background. And when I want to dance and sing, I just turn on my favourite 90s and early 2000s pop songs (naturally, this involves everything from Take That, to *NSYNC, to The Backstreet Boys and the Spice Girls).
Music has become – or maybe has always been – a philosophy, a way of life. If you listen to Pharrell, you dress, behave and probably live in a certain way. Similarly, a person religiously heading to the Tomorrowland-festival will have their interpretation of clothing and attitude to life. Needless to say, an avid opera fan will probably be the complete opposite of these two. But why do we have to compartmentalise? Why is an opera-fan different from a hip hopper? Do we really have to choose one style?
I love music. From an early age, I was exposed to different types of music. Both my parents love classical music; at the same time, my dad’s heart is still beating for The Doors and my mum has Adriano Celentano and the likes and French chansons blaring throughout the house. Already in Kindergarten, I loved when we sang songs or rehearsed for “mini-musicals”. Like so many other Austrian children, my “music career” started with the recorder. I still do not know why literally anyone I know started with this instrument. I think there must be some kind of lobby by the recorder manufacturers and/or timber companies, because it is kind of a weird instrument. Everyone had to start with it – I immediately wanted to start with flute but had to master the recorder first – even though the techniques are totally different. Nevertheless, it was a start. I also took piano classes for ten years, flute for eight and I was part of the music school’s orchestra, flute quartet and big band. Like so many teenagers, I stopped because other things in life became more interesting. Today, I regret it to a certain extent. I think playing an instrument is an amazing skill. It also allows you to completely forget anything around you. You have to be focused on the music, nothing else. And you create something really beautiful.
As I have written in Monday Postcard #207, my teenage years were shaped by the rivalry between the “Ravers” and “Skaters”. The latter wore baggy pants, sneakers and listened to Hip Hop and Rock. The Ravers had an equally distinct “uniform” – bootcut or trumpet trousers and platform sneakers like the “Buffalos” and they listened to Techno music. I noticed that both of these uniforms, or elements of them, have returned as part of the Y2K-trend. Regardless of the fashion style, I always struggled picking a side. Like the Skaters, I listened to Ludacris, the Wu Tang Clan, Eminem and also German hip hop. I also had some Greenday albums. At the same time, I loved to dance to techno at parties and I enjoyed listening to mainstream pop songs (another thing a true Skater would never do). I would have never dared to share this with my Skater friends. When that one particular friend (you know who you are 😉 ) found a Gigi D’Agostino album in my car, she was furious: “How dare you? Did you run over to the Ravers!?”
My heart still beats for Gigi by the way, and his songs are an important part of my playlist for running. 20 years later, I can finally admit it: I never wanted to pick a side when it came to music. I never “ran over” to any side, simply because I could not. I was neither the one nor the other. When I scroll through my playlist, it is a mix of virtually anything – from Queen to Mozart, Shostakovich to Avicii, Abba to Miley Cyrus. Of course, my Austrian heart also strongly beats for Peter Alexander. I think it is beautiful. My playlist reflects my mood, my thoughts, my days. Furthermore, if you study music, you will find out that different styles also influenced each other. How often have you listen to a house song based on a pop song from the past? And do you remember Coolio’s “C U When U Get There”? The intro is Bach’s “Air”. If rap and classical music work, why can I not have a colourful playlist? Needless to say, music has inspired the arts, fashion, literature. If we limit ourselves to one style only, I think we lose out a lot.
Furthermore, music is a language which everyone understands. I remember when I sat in a taxi in China without being able to speak the language. I could only say a few words, one was “Aodili” for Austria. The taxi driver tried to ask me where I was from and when I replied “Aodili”, he turned on the radio and Mozart was guiding us through the streets while he kept and humming and smiling.
I see it like this: Just like in life, variety is the spice of life. Exposing myself to different music styles is like travelling to a different country, meeting new people, or reading a new book – it enriches my experiences and broadens my horizon. What about you? Do you have one particular music style which you enjoy or do you enjoy listening across genres?