In a near-constant state of stress.
I found out about No Music Day before Doug had challenged me to go without music for a day. I’d debated participating even before the dare; although I knew that it would be difficult, at some level, I thought it’d be an interesting experiment. I typically listen to over 3 hours of music a day; I have my mp3 player, Motherboxxx (no, I didn't come up with it; yes, I’m a huge dork) playing whenever I’m out going to and from the University, and with NaNoWriMo going strong right now, I listen to music to try and pump the words out of me. I thought it would be interesting to experience what it would be like to be out on the bus or go walking when I wasn’t protected a bubble of music. Besides, we didn’t really have easily portable music until the Walkman was introduced in 1979, and before that, most people couldn’t afford popular music on records to play on demand until about the 1930s (that last point is an estimate, not necessarily researched). Before then, if you wanted to hear a piece of music “on demand”, you had to know the music and be able to play it yourself. Most people can’t even imagine what that would be like, but it was less than 100 years ago. So I decided to spend the day without recorded music. And aside from 10 seconds of a radio in the hospital and 30 seconds of Christmas music in the Safeway (side note: it’s NOVEMBER 21st! Christmas is still over a month away! Back the hell off!), I did pretty well.
However, for No Music Day, you have to go beyond “no listening to music”. It has to be “no music at all.” No humming, no singing, no drumming your fingers in any repeatable pattern. That was the hardest part. I’m not just the guy who likes to listen to music: I do music constantly. I’ll hum along to whatever song is in my head. I’ll whistle random tunes that I won’t remember five minutes later. I’ll even make up a song about what I’m doing and sing it in real time (“Oh I’m going to the fridge to get me a Coke, uh-huh; there’s no Coke left so I guess I’ll have milk uh-huh”). I almost succeeded in not making any music; I had a moment where I caught myself singing along to a song in my head, but I think it was only the first couple of lines.
But speaking of music in my head. That’s something I can’t turn off. I had so many songs flitting through my head today that I wanted to sing, but I gritted my teeth and applied some discipline. Actually, at one point when I was walking home, I was actually yelling at myself to stop cycling through my mental jukebox. For 20 minutes I tried to squeeze the music from my brain, but I just couldn’t: the minute one song left another one entered. What follows is a list of the songs that went through my head today (by no means exhaustive, but close to chronological order):
1. France – Keb' Mo'
2. Village in the Morning – The Magnetic Fields
3. Without Me – Eminem
4. Luno – Bloc Party
5. Let The Train Blow The Whistle – Johnny Cash
6. Blood On Our Hands – Death From Above 1979
7. With Whom To Dance – The Magnetic Fields
8. The Weight – The Band
9. The theme from Futurama
10. Debra – Beck
11. Sex Laws – Beck
12. Got To Get You Into My Life – The Beatles
13. Tomorrow Never Knows – The Beatles
14. Try – Jacksoul
15. In The Shade of the Old Apple Tree – Louis Armstrong & The Mills Brothers
16. The Gypsy – Louis Armstrong
17. So Fast, So Numb – R.E.M.
18. Leave – R.E.M.
20. Begin The Begin – R.E.M.
21. Helicopter – Bloc Party
I don’t know where they all came from, but it was like a psychological attack for the 20 minutes on my walk home (the last 9 songs).
So what, if anything, did I learn from this? I got a little better appreciation for being able to live in a world where I can hear almost any song I want almost any time I want. I don’t know what I would have done if I was born in 1879 instead of 1979. Probably learned how to play the mouth organ or something. Anyhow, Doug, you’ll be happy to know that this mission was accomplished. And since it’s after 12:00 on November 22, I’m listening to Try right now, and singing along happily.