When I do anything other than have a verbal conversation, sleep, write music, play music, or watch television, I listen to music. I’m sure that everyone that reads this will relate, the activity that I am performing or preparing to initiate usually dictates the music I find myself listening to during the activity. Recently, since having to facilitate several music therapy relaxation groups a week, I have been organizing playlists on my iPod according to the energy level the music presents and the energy level of the patients as we check-in prior to the session. I have playlists titled “Monotonous” and “Tranquil”. Some of the playlist titles could be promptly titled energy levels, other titles are words that elicit a feeling which I associate with the energy level I want to reach. For example, when I want to write, I immediately surf iTunes for the band A Silver Mt. Zion. Instrumental, string quartet, ambient guitars and samples, drum set, and percussion. All of the words used are usually in the electronic samples, very rarely live. I begin with their album Born Into Trouble As The Sparks Fly Upwards not because I enjoy the album entirely, but because the very first sample that is played immediately sends my body into a place where I am hyper-aware. But not a deeper awareness of the music…a deeper awareness of what I am writing. After the intro of that album, I am sucked into writing and hardly notice the music. I am aware that it is playing. I can recognize the songs. Do I know how many songs I have listened to? Have I listened to an entire album? How much time has passed? All from what seems to be a few seconds of music.
Why does the music only have to introduce itself for me to verge a deeper state of consciousness, even before I begin that journey further down the rabbit hole? Is it Pavlovian? Is it that every time I want to reach a deeper state of consciousness I listen to music with this energy qualities? Is it the music itself? Is this music written so that it induces this deeper state? Partly. All of the band’s music is extremely well written with what seems to be like the intent to move people towards a deeper state. But isn’t this subjective? What moves me to an ultra-aware state isn’t going to move you into that state, is it? Possibly. It all depends on our taste in music, which is a whole other hemisphere of neuromusicology. Should it be the case that I did not have A Silver Mt. Zion and I wanted some assistance from music to reach a deeper state of consciousness in order to provoke mood congruent writing, I could listen to another group that elicited this same energy from their music. Hence, organizing my iTunes playlists by energy level rather than genre.
Genre is a word that is thrown around a lot. In my opinion, and even being a fan of the very music that changed the importance of the word “genre”, punk rock and indie rock changed the word. I picked this subcultural music because of the many variations of genre they produce. There seems to be a different genre per band. This flows with the idea of the music itself: To find something that is unique and individual and show everyone else just how unique it is. The word “genre” could, in these specific cases of unique music, be subjective. These I will call the “hybrid-genres.” I can immediately think of a group of musicians that could be placed in many of these “hybrid-genres.” Primus. Progressive-funk-rock. Funk-metal-jamband. Ripping-tasty-grooves is what I usually think of Primus as, but that is off topic. How many bands can you think of that could be classified as having more than one genre and are “Top 40” bands? My guess is that your list would not be very long. So this idea of “hybrid-genre” could possibly be exclusive to the more underground bands.
So should the idea of genre be replaced with the idea of energy levels? I think so, but not for the public use. No matter how much more we would all benefit from finding ways to agree on such subjective matters, it would be completely impossible to even suggest the idea of mass transition from genre to energy levels for music classification. For the purpose of keeping the initial search for new music broad, the genre system should remain intact. It should not be until a person has created a library of music to match many energy levels that they begin creating these energy playlists.
Tell me what you think…