That’s music to someone

Every now and then, I cycle back to thinking about music.

And of course right now the applicable music is Christmas music, which leads to my dual confession:

1. I hate Christmas pop music BUT
2. I love Christmas hymns.

My distaste for 90% of Christmas songs written after the 1800s is intense. I hate “White Christmas,” and “Rocking Around The Christmas Tree,” “Santa Baby,” and any of their kin. I don’t (which is probably blasphemous to a number of my friends) like Sufjan Stevens’s Christmas album, which I know was written because he doesn’t like Christmas music and decided to write some he did. The only exception that sort of proves the rule for me is Straight No Chaser’s Christmas Can-Can, which is just a parody song, which for me elevates it to at least fun and amusing. Other than that, though, I cannot stand Christmas pop. If I have control of the radio, I’ll change it. If I’m out, I complain to whomever I’m with (my girlfriend or our roommate) and do my best to ignore.

But then — despite not being religious in the slightest — I love Christmas hymns. The songs that get sung in churches in big choirs (I love choral pieces a lot too), the ones celebrating the birth of someone so many thousands of years ago, those are the songs I love. I will, on rare shameful occasion, listen to them before November is over. Only ever with headphones in, and usually only a couple of times, but I still do it.

More than anything, I love the sense of storytelling that is within these songs. It’s something more concrete than snow on Christmas, or decorating a Christmas tree (also something I have no experience with), or dozens of romantic pining songs that come out at all times of the year. I even like some of those pointless pining songs, just not when they have a Christmas flavor to them.

Personally, my experience with music is kind of spotty. For a good chunk of my primary school years, I played violin in the orchestra. I wasn’t great at it, and I was lazy about practicing — I took advantage of being home several hours before my parents during the week to only do half an hour, or fifteen minutes, versus the full hour they really wanted me to do. And then by my junior year of high school, I could no longer afford the time for it, not with my class schedule.

I don’t miss it, not exactly. I do occasionally think about how it would have been nice to keep up, because I love storytelling with music; I love when people write character themes, or songs are composed to evoke a certain mood. When I work, whether at my dayjob, my writing, or my beading, I like to have something going on in the background, and with writing it ends up being music. (With the dayjob and beading, I don’t have to focus on my words as much, so it’s a good time to listen to podcasts or documentaries or their ilk.) As a kid I was pretty impatient with songs without words, but these days, I’ve really come to appreciate instrumentals.

Even in fandom community endeavors, I enjoy musical efforts a lot. Obviously one mainly finds fanfic and fanart, but every now and then, you’ll find someone who composes music inspired by the shows, movies, books, etc. that they love, and I find that pretty amazing. The sort of talent that it requires feels akin to magic, so out of my experience and wheelhouse that I don’t know where one even starts. But I love it. I think it’s fascinating, the way people can express their fondness for something — anything, big or small — by using music instead of words.

I should note that I do think it’s a thing I could pick up, if I felt like figuring out my time and wanted to devote the energy to it. I have visual artist friends who can and will go on impassioned rants about how drawing is a skill one hones through practice and effort, not simply falling into being good at it. To me, writing is the same; I certainly wasn’t great at it when I started out, though I received a lot of very kind and gentle encouragement that helped me gain the interest and enthusiasm to continue trying. Surely music is the same, if one is willing to put in that time and effort… I just don’t want to. Maybe that’s a yet, maybe that’s never, but right now I’m pretty happy letting it still be magic to me.

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