CONNECT to RESPECT - Music & Real Life


Music is as diverse as people.And yet it has a universal language – notation, rhythm, etc.What makes music so vibrant is BOTH the commonalities AND the differences.Yet that dichotomy is also what makes it hard for us to relate to music outside of our realm of experience or desire.

We are drawn to what’s familiar, what we can identify with, what we can connect to, and what we desire.When we listen to a song we like, we focus on what we already know and/or what we’re looking for.We tend to dismiss the differences in favor of what feels right.When those differences do grab our attention, they can be jarring, intriguing, scary, exciting, off-putting, magnetic.But we know how to integrate them because they exist within the framework of the familiar – i.e. a song we like.

When we hear a song we don’t know, but from a related musical realm, it’s not hard to “get it”, even if we don’t like it.We get why it sounds that way, what it’s about, and where it’s going.It comes from a similar place and is made of similar elements.It’s a slightly uncomfortable but really pretty easy transition to integrate this kind of song.

When we hear a song completely out of our realm of experience, we feel all the same things we do when hearing a foreign element in a familiar song, except not within a familiar, comfortable, or safe context.So the negative feelings often outweigh the positive, and we tend to judge the song or style negatively as well.Like a cousin of mine who loves classical, jazz & rock, and can’t understand hip-hop from those contexts, so he judges it harshly.But a rap within a standard pop song he’s okay with because he understands the context.

There’s a BETTER WAY to look at all of this.And that is to FIRST listen for what these foreign songs have in common with the songs we know and love.To find the CONNECTIONS between them.And there are many, no matter how different the songs may sound, because the language is universal.

Once you have some grounding in the foreignness of what you’re hearing, THEN listen to the DIFFERENCES, the things that are weird or harsh sounding to you, and listen to how they fit into the WHOLE of the song, within the context of the commonalities.Do that, and you begin to understand that song – it’s reason for being what it is and sounding how it does – the world it comes from.You will start to see it as less foreign, to see even how it fits into YOUR EXPERIENCE, and to feel connected to it.And with CONNECT comes RESPECT.

We’re faced every day with news of how differently people are treated based on them not fitting into the comfortable & familiar context of the majority.We all live in the same world, but not really.We share the universal language of breathing on this earth as humans, but some people’s experiences are so foreign, so outside of our realm of commonality, that they and their stories can at first be off-putting, jarring, scary, hard to believe.

We can do better.We can get past that initial reaction.Start HERE: Go back and repeat everything I just said, but every time I say “song”, substitute “person”.Take the same approach.Listen for what’s familiar, no matter how hard it seems.Then what’s different, no matter how uncomfortable, will start to make sense.You’ll start to connect.To respect.

Now go listen to TWO SONGS that are WILDLY DIFFERENT, and tell me at least THREE THINGS they have in common.THEN go do that with TWO WILDLY DIFFERENT PEOPLE.

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© 2018 by Nick DeMatteo

New York, NY