I’ve never really cared for country music.
Not until the last couple years, at least. I’ve hung out with enough country-lovin’ folk to understand who they are, what they value, and why there’s a twang to their favorite tunes. Meeting them and experiencing their lifestyles for a short time filled in the blanks I wasn’t able to fill in myself. Country is still not my favorite genre, but now I get it. I can appreciate good country music. I’ll dance to it, if the right situation arises.
I’m thankful to be able to say this about many genres of music I once disdained. It wasn’t that the music was actually horrible, it was more that it didn’t apply to me. The context was wrong for my understanding of the world. Living in Argentina helped me grasp why the tango is the tango. Spending time in London exposed my ear-palate to the world of electronic music. Chatting with elderly Romanians gave me the opportunity to imbibe their local folk tunes; something I probably would have completely written off as too strange for me had they not been there to tell me why this sound, why that lyric.
If you look around, you’ll find that we all dance to different types of music. Our footsteps sync with the rhythms with which we grew up, or came to associate with later in our adult lives. The songs, whether we were raised with them or adopted them later on, are part of us, as much as our haircuts or clothing or the colors of our cars. Music is a way for us to express ourselves while also reinforcing that expression internally.
Despite the value of personally-meaningful music, a beautiful thing happens when you decide to open yourself up to a new genre while in the right mindset. If you take in unfamiliar music like a newborn would, like someone who’s never heard music before rather than using the foreign rhythms and unfathomable lyrics to justify dismissing the work as crude, unrefined, or unacceptable to your taste, you experience not just a new kind of music, but a new facet of life. You learn something about the people who enjoy that sound.
You may initially find a song from an unfamiliar genre repulsive, but you can bet there’s someone out there who has it as the number one track on their iPod. Who is that person? By listening, you’re one step closer to knowing them. To tasting what they taste, seeing what they see, and learning how they dance.
We dance our way through life: in the way we live, the things we value, and the notes we find appealing. The more dances you know, the more colors, tastes, and textures the world has to offer.
Update: April 4, 2017
First, remember iPods?
Second, I still use music as a means of explaining this concept, because it’s so subjective, and it’s something that’s possible to appreciate without liking it. You don’t have to like country music to appreciate good country music.
Third, you know that feeling you get when you find a new favorite song? When you hear it for the first time? I love that feeling.