Commentary: I Hate Music

SFFaudio Commentary

This post is off topic to our general subject. It was originally written in 2008, but was never posted because it was so off-topic. Sadly, it keeps having to be re-written as private emails. I have decided to save myself writing it over and over again.

Meta SFFaudioHow shall I put this? I might as well say I hate puppies and rainbows as say it. But it is the truth so I’ll just come right out and say it.

I hate music.

Can we still be friends? I’m being honest here.

For as long as I can remember I’ve hated music. I certainly didn’t always classify my feelings as hate. I had a mixture of emotions: Indifference, perplexity, boredom. Now I classify that entire block of feelings all as hate. Now hate is a pretty strong word. But I think it’s justifiable. See, it’s hate because music is a block in my path towards whatever isn’t music.

It isn’t that there isn’t any music I appreciate. There is, but I feel like I’m the world’s only homosexual living in a 100% heterosexual world. If it isn’t funny, isn’t literary, if it isn’t connected to some emotional or visual memory already in me, I just refuse to music. Music without those things honestly bores the shit out of me and always has. And I feel utterly alone in this. Apparently there is a psychological condition called, melophobia. It’s sufferers reportedly have symptoms of:

“breathlessness, excessive sweating, nausea, dry mouth, feeling sick, shaking, heart palpitations, inability to speak or think clearly, a fear of dying, becoming mad or losing control, a sensation of detachment from reality or a full blown anxiety attack.”

But I have none of those symptoms. I simply become annoyed and seek to turn off the offending noise. There isn’t a Wikipedia entry on melophobia, so it can’t be very common. Apparently Sigmund Freud had the same reaction to music. That’s one thing we have in common.

Everyone else seems to love or at least like music to some degree or other, and I really just don’t. It isn’t that I haven’t tried to like music. I have, I’ve tried over and over and over again. I even attempted to learn to play an instrument (a dismal failure). I tried listening to music – like all my friends did – but I never really connected with it the way almost everyone else seems to have. As a kid, when my peers were ooh-ing and aww-ing about the latest Michael Jackson song or carving “Def Leppard” into their desks, I’d be rebelling by reading books. I also discovered a few audio dramas as a kid.

I did listen to music. But it was never something I did with any zest. I’d listen to Weird Al Yankovic, Cream or The Beatles. I enjoyed the humor in Yankovic’s songs, his making fun of regular music, I loved the literary references in Cream songs and I loved everything about The Beatles. I connected with a few bands here and there, a few songs here or there, but my general disdain for music never felt at all normal. A couple friends of mine grew up to be professional musicians. One of them didn’t write lyrics (or when he did it wasn’t with enthusiasm). I hate his music. My other friend did write lyrics, and I can connect with his song lyrics. They have his sense of humor and his personality. Listening to his music is like spending time with him. It’s the personal connection in the lyrics – the shared experiences. But everyone I know, even people who don’t listen to music often – still claim to love music – as a kind of general thing. I never did.

In my youthful attempts to become “normal” I went to concerts.

Barenaked Ladies (middling funny music – but why watch them play it?)

Lenny Kravitz (utterly sucked – I’ll pay not to go again!)

Concerts all seemed more like a punishment than pleasure to me.

I have friends who are musicians, I have musicians in my family. I just don’t get the appeal of music.

One strange thing though, I’ve found I can connect with music that appears on screen. No problem there. I like Clannad from watching Robin Of Sherwood, and Vangelis from Blade Runner, and even the lyric-less Tangerine Dream from some of Michael Mann’s movies. Even classical music can work for me, Wagner from Apocalypse Now. But sitting down and listening to music? Guh.

I think the way I can best explain my relationship to music is by analogy. I see music as color in comic books. Its nice, it can enhance an image, but without the bold inks, without the story, and the word balloons it is an utter nothing. To get what I’m saying, think of yourself sitting around with your friends staring at colour chips – everyone else loves the colours, thinks they’re worth starting at for hours on end. Does that sound fun to you? That’s how it feels to me when I try to just listen to music – it’s an intellectual desert.

This is probably one of the reasons I’m so passionate about audiobooks.

Posted by Jesse Willis

22 thoughts to “Commentary: I Hate Music”

  1. Hi Jesse,
    When I read your article I felt like I connected very deeply to your dilemma. I too hate most music. When ever I am in a car with someone for a prolonged period of time there always comes the moment when the radio goes on. All intellectual conversation goes out the window and the trip drags on and on for me. If that person is a talk radio fan then we’re okay, or if that person lets me put in an audio book or audio drama then again, we’re okay. But if it’s country, rock, r&b, hip-hop, or anything else lacking captivating lyrics and humor I am simply bored out of my mind. I do a radio show on the internet where I play music, but it’s all comedy and novelty music. This type of music gets very negative reactions from my friends and family. When ever I try to expose them to artists like Paul and Storm, The Bobs, Lemon Demon, Power Salad, Luke Ski, or “Weird Al” Yankovic they say “oh god, we gotta listen to your stupid $#!+.” This saddens me because if I told my friend that Gretchen Wilson and Rascal Flatts are boring as hell to me then I’d get shoved out of her car at 60 miles per hour and told never to speak to her again. People get very offended if you diss their favorite music artists but they feel like they can crap all over the few bits and pieces of music I can connect too. Why is it that if it’s funny, it’s not worth anyone’s time? Anyway, I am going back to listening to Invasion of the Body Snatchers by Jack Finney, keep writing these intriguing blogs!

  2. Thanks Byron.

    I’m not sure what good my post will do other than save me having to personally apologize to the many people who contact me by email about posting their music related project.

  3. You’re a freak. To be more exact:

    “He’s a super freak, super freak
    He’s super-freaky, yow
    Super freak, super freak”

    Actually my musical taste have moved away from re-listening to classic rock over an over (more specifically progressive rock). I’d rather hear something new than something I’ve listened to ad naseum. I believe so many people listen to music as a background drone. I listen to a lot less music now, but when I do, I’m totally listen to it and I don’t like my mind to wander away from it.

    This all correlates to my listening to more audiobooks as well. The brain is a thirsty thing and I want to pump new things into it. I very seldom re-read a book. Why when there’s almost a limitless number of other books that can be experienced. I’m not advocating not re-reading books, it’s just not for me.

    And don’t get me started on commercial radio with their limited, repetitive playlists of popular shit and horrible commercials forced at you. Literally brain numbing.

  4. As the person who inspired this (I’m writing songs based on my novel) I’ll say bummer! I mean, I can deal with not being on the site, and some of my songs are intentionally strange, but not liking music is sort of like being one of those people who doesn’t like chocolate or ice cream. And as a defense saying: because it has no nutritional value. For me, music is no intellectual desert and helps elevate intellectual thought. Especially listening to someone like Bach, a genius. Doesn’t make me a genius to listen to him, but one thing it does is restore some of my faith in humans in a world of a lot of human stupidity. Also, it’s relaxing. So you’re missing out.

    Do you get the same from abstract painting? After all, that can be a pretty formless use of color. It’s in a way a visual version of music. I just think “the story” of music (or art) is the words it inspires in your own mind when you’re listening to it. What do you do when it’s silent – is this also annoying? A lot of music isn’t just to listen to every note being played, but to set a mood. Just how it is in movies. The music in Friday the 13th sets a different mood than the music in Toy Story. Playing certain music in my apartment either helps set the mood or reflect my current mood. So, in a way, it’s like turning life into a movie and whatever I’m thinking creates the narrative.

    All right, I’ve said a lot. But I find this sort of fascinating because I’m the exact opposite, as music’s a driving force in my life.

  5. Good question Tam. I am not tone deaf, at least according to this website’s test:

    Here was my score:

    Tone Deaf Test

    And yes Henry, I do find myself generally uninterested in abstract painting. Luckily nobody generally wants to talk to me about abstract painting on a daily basis.

  6. I have to say I’m overwhelmingly more interested in vocal music (even in another language I don’t understand) than instrumental music. I like instrumental music fine if it has some visuals to it, like background music in a movie, or if it’s dance music, but otherwise I have trouble concentrating. (Great for sleeping, though.)

    Re: comedy music or literary music, that’s an example of “prima la parola” (‘the word first’, meaning it’s all about the lyrics) plus a lot of performance skill; but usually not “prima la voce” or “prima la musica”. And there’s nothing wrong with that. We don’t live in a time when people are oriented to appreciate lyrics much, or you wouldn’t feel like you were such an oddball. A good deal of Tin Pan Alley’s output was word-oriented, catchy as the tunes tended to be.

    So obviously you’re out at one end of a bell curve, but it’s not like it’s a neurological problem. You don’t appreciate the aesthetic qualities of a certain audial form of math, because you don’t have a strong emotional response to certain tones. You’re perfectly competent in the perception of them, though, so it’s just a quirk.

  7. I can’t say I totally relate. I don’t hate music.
    But I am pretty specific to my tastes,..both old and new,..and am pretty specific as to when I care to listen. Occasionally the mood strikes me so I don’t overload or tire of it.. No ad-nauseam issue.
    I don’t get people who listen to music 24/4. I get you there.
    Hmm..and people that can’t be bothered with anything else..or people that turn it up so loudly that even they can’t enjoy it themselves. Not really enjoy it..
    I’d always prefer to listen to a good audio drama or a good audio book… Much more stimulating..interesting..
    And in AD or movies;..I do think music can sometimes be a clever mood manipulator when used properly.
    Anything to an extreme can get old..
    ……well, except audio drama. Diversity rules there..

  8. This is as very serious problem you should get addressed by a well trained counselor. Not one who would make you wrong for it, or try to tell you why you have this terrible condition, but one who can guide you to the truth. Living like this must be horrible. Intellectual conversation is much like masturbation, when it is over with , it was just a temporary release and nothing has been gained. It is the intellectual conversationalist that is a large bore. ?The attempt to out wit others is such an empty pursuit.
    Anyway get help. And avoid those who want to just put you on drugs or do suyrgery on your brain. They never help/.
    Best of luck with this malady.

  9. I feel your pain Jesse.
    I have a love/hate relationship with music.
    I play the guitar. I love folk musicians most because their songs had meaning. They had story.. Harry Chapin comes to mind. Simon and Garfunkel because they were so literate.
    Beatles of course. Only Shannon and her brother Findlay hate the Beatles (freaks!)
    And of course I enjoy other music. But I don’t understand the compulsion to play it constantly.
    It is a rare rare time that I will put on one of my twelve CD’s to listen to in my apartment.
    My ipod has music, but honestly mostly themes from movies I use to write.
    My sons are obsessed with music. When I reach for Audio Drama in the car they beg to play songs that they’ve listened to so much they can tell you when every beat, when every note, when every syllable is placed.
    I feel like I’m surrounded by Pod People.
    What is the obsession? Yes. A teacher said to me today. Music is pervasive to all societies… but only our society seems to use it as a personal emphasis for something.
    “MY music. MY band. MY song”
    None of which are true. You haven’t created any of those things.
    I have FAR more respect for live music and performances because at least that’s an artistic expression. But in the end, make mine audio books.
    I think for me, Music provides setting and mood. But who needs that all the time?
    I’d rather be given something for my brain to feed on, rather than to just dwell in the cellars of musical redundancy.
    I just don’t get it. And of course, I agree with you whole heartedly, looking around, it feels like a kind of brainwashing cult thing is going on.
    “Have you listened to this song?”
    “Who doesn’t like music?”
    “What’s a podcast?”
    “Who would use an mp3 for anything but songs?”

  10. i have come to the point of hating every music in most of the days. Once in a while its ok, but everybody seems to make such a big thing out of it and everybody wants to have bands or projects, specially people around 20 to 30s… i played guitar and drumas for a while years ago, but i got so very tired, specially from the bands. so many hours rehersals, how boring…
    But now everybody has a band..Technology provided it easily so everybody nowadays can have a band or a project. and in the rock/metal7alternative scenes is something like a plague, a big fuss all around. To listen music i have to be in a very specific mood, and that is not always that happens. It bores me and annoys me to have everybody around making a big thing about music and everytime i go on someones house their last project or last tones of downloads are loudly playing in the computer speakers. in someones car. loud and provider of headaches. And worst: the music in the office radio, the neighbours music at weekends…. awful and annoying, after a while it cannot be beared anymore. 24 hours /7 days a week, almost…Uuufff… Once in a while, no problem, but this is way too much. Turn it off…

  11. I used to have normal musical tastes for the first, say, 35 years of my life. From about ages 30-35, I was VERY into going to concerts. But around age 36, I became sick of most music. I listened solely to talk radio from ages 37-39, but I started to get sick of that. It’s a limited variety. I also alternated with self-help tapes, but I’m also pretty burned out on those. Now I’m listening to audio books, but I find myself feeling very picky. I’m not big on fiction in general, so I tend to want to download non-fiction, but I fear committing to books with a reader whose voice I find grating. I think all of this is symptomatic of getting older. I’m 40 now and I just can’t relate to today’s pop music and I’ve listened to “the classics” (classic rock, jazz, old country, 80’s pop), more times than I can count and am sick of those to a large degree. I hope I snap out of it, but I’m pretty sure I’m just old now and not with it anymore.

  12. I’m with you Jesse, almost exactly the same for me. I tried to listen to and like music when I was young, because it was expected. I’d have been thought weird if not.
    Now I know almost everyone thinks I’m weird but I can’t care any more.
    Music is just so awful, hideous in fact. I would be very easy for them to torture me. Just non-stop music, that would have me screaming in no time.
    Keep the horrible noise away from my ears, yuk.

  13. I am completely disinterested in music. I don’t care if it’s Bach or gangster rap, it does 0% for me. If I am trying to do anything that requires concentration or verbal communication the music must instantly be turned off. I can not concentrate with that bad poetry running in the background, trying to draw the attention of my brain with stupid sappy words that mean nothing. Not to mention that 99% of the songs are about self-inflicted problems, socialist lies and pornographic intentions. But even Amazing Grace is nothing but a box of forks to me.

    I absolutely loathe loud music. If you have loud music on in your car you will turn it off or I will leave. I don’t care if we’re on the highway and it’s 15 degrees out. As far as I’m concerned your ‘favorite music’ may as well be dentist drills going through sheet metal filled with dying cats. It makes my physically angry to hear loud music, it’s like an attack on my personal space that’s supposed to be ‘okay’ because ‘everybody’ likes music. How about I preach at you with a megaphone? If you don’t want me to, turn off the devil-spawned boom box and take it inside.

    And no, there is nothing wrong with my hearing! I can listen to audiobooks all day. They have intellectual content, and no constant, annoying background sounds.

  14. Why do so many business feel that they have to “entertain” us with music wherever we go. And it is frequently at a volume much too high to be able to block it out.

  15. I don’t hate music. I don’t like it either. I listened to almost nothing but The Beatles from 7th grade through high school. I still would say I love The Beatles but I honestly haven’t played any of their CDs (or any other CDs in my collection) for maybe 15 years or so. I have never enjoyed music as much as most people do. I do not feel emotionally connected to music. The songs I do like are for the lyrics more so than the music. I cannot stand when people constantly have the radio on. I even get turned off by people who always have earphones on. I cannot fathom how they can concentrate or get anything done with constant noise. That’s what most music is to me: noise; distracting and annoying noise.
    When I was younger I would go to concerts with friends and find them boring. Now I probably go to one concert every 5+ years and even when I see bands I like, I get bored quick. I’m also not a fan of crowds so that’s probably part of it.

    It’s amazing to me the negative reactions I receive when I tell people I don’t like music– bewilderment, anger, disbelief. I’m a movie fanatic and my brother-in-law tried calling my bluff when I admitted to not liking music. He said there’s no way I don’t get an emotional reaction to music in movies like Back to the Future. Okay, he’s right. A few movies (Back to the Future, Star Wars, Breakfast Club) elicit emotional responses from me when the music kicks in. But still not the same as most people. And the soundtrack goes in one ear and out the other in at least 90% of movies I see. I don’t even remember the music from a movie once the credits roll. Does not stick in my brain.

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