Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Habits : Repeat

The 'most played' list in iTunes (and probably most other music management software) sometimes return obvious results, sometimes interesting results, and sometimes embarrassing results. Personally, sometimes the most fascinating thing is how quickly a song can make its way to the top within a very small space of time. If I only had a few tracks on the computer then this would be relatively normal; songs would regularly rise to the top of the chart as there wouldn't be much competition. However, in my music library there's plenty of competition, and every so often a song might be sitting way down at the bottom of the list with very few plays (if any) and then, a day or two later, up in the high echelons amongst the more obvious favourites.

It's not a glitch or a software quirk. It's my habit of suddenly forming a very strong bond with a track and then listening to it over, and over, and over (and over), and over again.

So I guess I binge on it. I over-indulge on the song that I've discovered, and I make it fill my life for as a long as I can. Of course, I eventually move on to something else - whether it is another single song to obsess over, or a switch to the radio - but I wouldn't say it is because I have grown sick of the track, nor even just a little tired of it. It just becomes... unnecessary? For a little while, at least. Chances are that I won't play it again for a good while: I go cold turkey and suddenly completely stop listening it. But there's no withdrawal symptoms, no longing and despair. I just move on.

I think part of the appeal for me - part of the reason I let myself become saturated by a single song - is my effort learn each part of it. The songs I obsess over tend to be ones that I am able to sing along to, and learning all the lyrics is just a single part of my relationships with them. By the time my song-fling comes to an end, I am probably able to 'sing' the drums, or the guitar riffs, or the saxophone solo. I will probably 'play' the piano part along the top of my steering wheel as I drive along listening to it. I'll try and join in on the harmonies, the "ooh"s and "aah"s, all the backing vocals. I will live that song until I feel as though, if I could clone myself, a group of me would be able to recreate it. Not with instruments, necessarily, just with the voice. Nor do I mean that we would do it particularly well. It's just that I get to a point where I consider I know all elements of the song.

Perhaps that's why I stop and move on. Maybe, when I have learned everything I can from a track, I decide it is time to move on. There's nothing more it can give me.

That certainly makes some sense. And some theories I've read about repetitive listening also suggest this. But I do find that, given enough time, I will go back to that song again at some point. I will embrace it once again. Perhaps not so obsessively or frequently, but I'll let it back into my life once more.

I'm clearly not the only person to do this. But I find it interesting that there's a lot of people that definitely do not do it. They cannot stand to hear a song played over, and over. To them it is either incredibly boring, or even irritating. I can understand their viewpoint (and maybe if I hated the song that was being played in such a manner, I'd be on their side) but it just isn't me. An ex-girlfriend of mine was very much anti-repeat. Once a day was enough when it came to hearing a piece of music. If I played it twice, there'd almost certainly be a comment along the lines of, "Didn't you listen to this earlier?". Three times would generate some sarcastic comment like, "Is the CD stuck?". Any further plays and I'd probably be her bad books for the rest of the day.

Really, from that evidence alone, I should have known it was never going to work :)

I am now with a girlfriend who understands my need to use the repeat function. She does the same, and it doesn't bother me at all. Sure... I might roll my eyes when, twenty minutes into a car journey, I've heard just one song but several times. But secretly I am enjoying it, and the eye-rolling is more for show than anything.

Chances are, after writing about it a couple of days ago and therefore repeatedly listening to it again, Annie Lennox's No More "I Love You's" is going to be in my Top 10 most-played list fairly soon.

"Love is a friendship set to music" - Joseph Campbell

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