Image: Eva Via Music
My greatest regret of this whole pandemic is that I only had my travel guitar with me when the world shut down, rather than my Guild. Nevertheless, music has been a major source of comfort and entertainment during this unprecedented time.
I love listening to music. I love writing music. I love performing music – even if it's just karaoke. (Also, fun quarantine fact: they now sell bluetooth karaoke mics for at-home social distance karaoke time.)
Yet I realized during a conversation recently: for someone who constantly has at least one song coming out of her mouth or playing on repeat in her mind... I hardly ever actually listen to music.
And that is because I love music too much to listen to it.
It sounds counterintuitive, but hear me out:
The only time I willingly listen to music is when the activity is listening to music. If the activity is cooking, I turn off the music, because I can't love and adore the music the way I want to while also measuring ingredients or pan frying a fish.
Nor would I want to.
If the activity is mountain biking, then that is what gets my full attention. I don't want to treat something I love like a chore I can only accomplish with the aid of music.
And I can't focus on the biking while fully appreciating the music.
If the activity is a hike in the woods or a walk through the city, I don't want to listen to any music but that which is playing in my mind. How can I appreciate those intricate three-part harmonies and appreciate the everyday miracles in the clouds, wildlife, and people around me? How can I feel that cool guitar riff to my core while also experiencing the energy of the city?
And, again, why would I want to?
For me, it's better to be fully immersed in one activity — to give my full attention to one amazing thing — than it is to kind of be listening to music and kind of people watching and kind of paying attention to the story a loved one is telling me.
And, according to the research, it's probably better for you, too.
According to Cliff Nass – an amazing researcher who died too young — multitasking isn't a "desirable skill," but a vice, and a crippling handicap that makes you a terrible thinker.
In this talk, Nass explains that when magazines were invented, people started spending less time reading newspapers. When radios came out, people spent less time reading magazines and newspapers. When TVs came out, people spent less time listening to the radio and reading magazines and reading the paper.
But eventually, so many forms of media were available that we could no longer spend less time doing them — so we had to start multitasking. Which is how we got to now.
Now, at any given time, most teenagers' minds are divided between multiple media: they will be texting while watching TV while listening to music while "doing their homework." They think they're being "productive," but Jean Twenge, author of iGen: Why Today's Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy--and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood--and What That Means for the Rest of Us, reports the opposite: that today's teens spend significantly more time sitting in front of their homework, but significantly less time actually doing their homework.
Hilariously, the research shows that people who don't multitask are much better multitaskers than those who consider themselves to be "great multitaskers." Moreover, people who multitask have fewer and less reliable memories of events — which, itself, is a really good reason not to multitask. Don't you want to remember your own life?
Don't you want to fully appreciate each little miracle, instead of kind of appreciating (or not even noticing) them?
In positive psychology, they call this "presence" or "mindfulness." While I agree with the overall concept, I've definitely shat on popular interpretations of these ideas, because way too much emphasis is put on "clearing your mind" through yoga and meditation, when the emphasis should be investing in activities that put you in a state of "flow."
Known colloquially as "being in the zone," flow is a mental state in which someone is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of an activity.
Although I've been known to do the occasional lakeside yoga (it helps with my other sports):
Image: @TheHappyTalent on Instagram
I find my state of flow whilemountain biking, surfing, writing...
And listening to music.
When I'm listening to music, I don't want to be doing anything else.
If someone tries to talk to me while I'm listening to music, I tell them to hold their thought, pause the music, then ask them to continue, explaining, "I can only give you my undivided attention if we turn the music off."
"I can't listen to you and the Eagles."
This isn't a way I specifically worked to be (with the occasional exception of long uphill climbs, during which I've definitely had to resist temptation) — but I'm really grateful that it's the way I am.
The drawback, of course, is that I tend to lag behind others when it comes to music discovery. Because I love music too much to listen to it in the background while cooking, walking, exercising, or working — because I only listen to music when I have specifically set aside time to listen to music — I tend to select music I already know (or strongly suspect) I will love.
This means some of the newest music I've "gotten into" recently has been from Broadway musicals (I spend a weird amount of time playing and listening to The Last Five Years and Dear Evan Hansen) or going out to friends' shows. I'll also listen to new music when someone I make music with suggests a song for us to learn together (that's how I discovered Honeybucket and Jake Scott).
I'm never the one who is suggesting the coolest, newest music...
But considering the way I find myself transported to a completely immersive place, where I can literally feel rushes of dopamine flooding my brain and I'm reduced to saying, "Oh my God. It's so good. Why is it SO good?" on those occasions I do choose to listen to music...
I am totally fine with that.
8/22/2020 08:56:30 am
The world lost a great researcher and even better person when Cliff Nass died. RIP.
10/22/2020 08:43:02 pm
I really enjoyed reading this. And I think I agree with pretty much every idea and every word. Except, well, the Eagles?!? Seriously?
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Eva is a content specialist with a passion for play, travel... and a little bit of girl power. Read more >
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