I keep forgetting how great The Morning News can be. Every couple of years I read something on there that blows me away and I pledge to keep an eye on it from now on. But then I get overwhelmed by their prolificacy and I give up trying to keep up. But I stumbled up another great piece: Attending the NME Awards With Pete Doherty and a Whole Bunch of Actual Musicians, Feeling Nostalgic by Jonathan Bell. In an entirely great article, this passage hit me like a brick in the face:
At what point does new music suddenly cease to stimulate the brain? When will I step back and refuse to engage with what is happening now in favour of the golden past locked within my mind? We think about music in different ways as we grow older. Inevitably, to look back, to re-listen is to try and recapture a point forever lost in time, a fleeting moment, that unique and magic instant when life and love and hormones and brain chemistry collided to nail a piece of music to a specific and unrepeatable point in space and time. To revisit the music of one’s youth is like waking from a vivid dream and feeling it literally slip from the memory, leaving one clinging for a shred of the experience while all that surrounds it tumbles away. The act of listening to a track again and again and again is a doomed attempt to bring that moment back.
When served up with something new, I realize I’m looking to feed the inner nostalgic (and quash my inner cynic in the process), rather than be seduced. This is why the cyclical nature of sound and fashion dominates cultural discourse, why we are condemned to seek out the strange conjunction of the new—if not necessarily the thrilling—and the elusively familiar. This is the perpetual dilemma of the ageing music fan: We’re constantly seeking novelty that will give us the same warm glow of the familiar. And yet nothing new sounds influence-free, and we tend to give our influences too much credit.
The whole thing is well worth reading. I see a lot of people my age who’ve stopped seeking out any new music. These aren’t mainstream lemmings, but people who used to care passionately about music. And still do…just not new music.
Sometimes I wonder if grown-ups like me still seeking out good new music is yet another symptom of our childish, adolescent culture that encourages 40 year old dudes to buy an PS3, an Xbox, and a Wii… And then I wonder if it’s time to read High Fidelity again…