When I find a song that I particularly like, I play it over and over. There’s a reason I’ve referred to endless repeat elsewhere on this blog — because my new favorites go into heavy rotation. While heavy rotation in radio station terms seems to mean playing the same song once or twice an hour for six weeks, the same phrase in MW terms means playing the same song over and over, several hours a day, for two to six weeks.
I listen to song until I know every note, every silence, every enunciation and slur of the vocals, all the reverbs on the percussion, every nuance of the lyrics, every single minute detail. The song becomes so familiar that it becomes as customary to me as my own thoughts. It’s like breaking in a pair of shoes and starting off with the pinch and pain, but then making them comfortable, so that one can then revel in the pure flow of walking movement without interruption. I play the song so often that it softens and disintegrates, becoming part of me. The song melts down into background noise, an ambient sea of sounds and connotations.
Then, somehow, the song hangs around for so long, unexamined, that I inevitably bring it back for a closer look. It loops back around into novelty, whereupon I begin to inspect it more closely. Now I can compare the baseline to others songs from the same period; now I can detect the subtle, self-mocking humor at work in the words; now I can identify why I find that pitch change right there so irritating… I look at something that I haven’t thought about in a while and realize why I sent it temporarily down to another level of my consciousness, only to later retrieve it. By dint of pure unstinting sensory feed, I absorb a close understanding of the musical text.
Apparently this is not the way that the vast majority of people listen to music. Apparently this joyously repetitive immersion and breakdown overlaps a lot with the stimming practiced by neurodiverse people. Huh. So how do the vast majority of people listen to music?