Someone posted the question on a social media platform last week: If you had to give up two of the following for the rest of your life, which one would you keep?
The choices: TV/movies, reading, or music.
I'd keep music.
It's a bit of a vague question, truth be told, which in an actual real-life scenario would necessitate some follow-up inquiries before one would be forced to actually give up two of the three options provided...forever.
The assumption would be that you could never again watch any television and you could never go see a movie at the theater. You couldn't watch any TV shows or movies on any other devices, either. (Ouch! You thought you might be able to sneak that devious little loophole through, didn't you?) The assumption would also be that you couldn't read any books, magazines or newspapers, whether in actual paper, bound form or via digital formats. But you would still possess the ability to read; you'd still be literate, so if you were driving down the highway you would be able to, for example, read the content on billboards you see along the way. If you were to give up music, you couldn't listen to your stereo, any type of radio, your playlist on your phone, and you couldn't go to concerts (although that seems to be a bit of a gray area, because you're watching music in that scenario, not just listening to it).
Come to think of it, this question is monumentally diabolical.
If I kept only music, would I gradually become ignorant of the goings-on in the world around me over time? What a frightening prospect.
But for the purposes of this column, I'll stick with my original claim, that I'd keep music while sacrificing the other two. But let's also put a giant * at the end of the column, because the more I think about it, the more torn I become. I'd drop TV and movies in a heartbeat - if I can read about my favorite sports teams and listen to them on the radio, I think I'd be OK - but between reading and music? Couldn't I just have my thumbs forcefully amputated without the benefit of anesthesia and then be able to keep both?
Everyone's talking about what they are doing more of or less of during the COVID-19 pandemic. As for me, I’m listening to music way more over the last couple of months than before. And that's saying something. Music has always been playing out the little Bose speaker in the newsroom at the Times, whether the songs are airing via SiriusXM or Pandora; but now, with me spending a couple days a week in the office and the rest working from home, I have the music on in the living room before I even pour my first cup of coffee.
Music has always been the soundtrack of my life, my greatest hits. Although I have my obvious favorites, I'll give every genre a chance, or at least a courtesy listen.
I have a photographic memory when it comes to things like lines from TV shows and movies, and song lyrics. I remember the AM 1970s radio heyday and all of those sappy ballads and sweeping epic songs. I connect many of those songs to the time my family moved from Seattle to here...those songs playing on the radio in the moving truck. But I don't just remember the songs, I remember the lyrics, every syllable of every word. That ability has stayed with me through early to mid-80s pop, late 1980s hair-metal, 1990s grunge, and everything that has come since, all the way to my current sonic favorites, which include bands like The War on Drugs, Wilco and the like. (But when my wife plays her Post Malone station on Pandora when we're sitting on the patio, believe me, my toes are mostly tapping.)
To further illustrate: I wrote a column last week about what I've been watching on TV during the pandemic. A friend, Heather Wang - she signed the waiver acknowledging that any form of communication with me could potentialy end up in a column - texted me a few days later, poking fun at herself for staying up late and watching an episode of MTV Classics which featured 1980s death-metal band Megadeath. I replied, citing the couple of weeks way back in the day when their anthem Symphony of Destruction was among my top plays. Then I started singing it in my head..."Just like the Pied Piper, led rats through the streets...”
I play music quiet and I play it loud. I play it until the cops pull up.
I can't imagine the void not having it would leave. The silence would be soul-shattering.
Music keeps my soul intact.