Nietzsche once wrote that “without music, life would be a mistake.” Some people likely think that was an example of hyperbole (which Nietzsche was prone to). I am not one of those people.

Since I was a baby, there has been music. My father loved jazz, gospel, calypso, country and western, and bagpipe music. An eclectic mix, to say the least. On long drives to visit family on Vancouver Island, I recall hearing Louis Armstrong, Harry Belafonte, and Johnny Cash coming from the 8-track deck mounted under the dash. Every Christmas, he played Mahalia Jackson’s renditions of “O, Holy Night” and “Go Tell It On the Mountain.”

One of the things I’ve inherited from my father is a varied taste in music, and a near obsessive need to have my hours filled with it. Jazz, Classical, Folk, Rock, Blues, Ska, Funk. The genre almost doesn’t matter. (Although, I mostly don’t like radio songs or club music, or anything that seems to lack originality.)

Even within a genre like “Rock”, there is a wide variety styles I like. Classic Rock, old Heavy Metal, Progressive Rock, New Wave, Punk, et cetera. I expect most of my playlists would leave others confused.

There are favourites, of course. Music I listen to more frequently, more repeatedly, and this tends to change over time. I used to listen to Beethoven obsessively, but now, when I listen to classical music, it is more likely be Bach or Arvo Part. In jazz, I have become more attuned to Coletrane and Sonny Rollins of late, though I still listen to a lot of Miles. In rock, there’s no one I listen to more than Rush these days, especially the remixed Vapour Trails. Although, Peter Gabriel is a close second, and my appreciation of the Rolling Stones has been increasing.

I can’t imagine not being able to listen to music for any length of time. When I was a child, I would sing to myself if I didn’t have a radio or record player handy. I still do this when I’m riding my motorcycle. (It’s a good thing others don’t have to hear what goes on inside my helmet!)

For this reason, I think hearing is the sense I’d have the hardest time living without. Although, I can hear whole symphonies in my head, in the way others can picture a beach. So maybe it wouldn’t be the end of the world to be without hearing, since I’d still have music. If that were to go, though, I think Nietzsche is right: life would be a mistake.

2 thoughts on “Lend me your ears…

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