Today, as I plodded methodically through spreadsheet world, I listened to Pandora. I was in a rock mood, so the software presented me with a mix of Evanescence, Linkin Park, Three Doors Down, Puddle of Mud, Nickleback, Within Temptation, and others. I noticed how much I like songs such as “Pain” by Three Days Grace. “Pain, without love, Pain, I can’t get enough, Pain, I like it rough, ‘cause I’d rather feel pain than nothing at all.” I like these dark, angry songs which are so very full of suffering. Some people say music is a way for us to express emotions we can’t otherwise, but I think in some ways these songs allow me to experience emotions I wouldn’t otherwise. Let’s face it, I’ve led a charmed life. So is this fascination somehow voyeuristic? I am I getting a vicarious kick out of someone else’s suffering?
It’s true I enjoy almost all forms of music, in that pure way that only someone who completely lacks any form of musical talent can. My computer recently shuffled up a mix with the first ten songs by Metallica, John Williams, Yoko Kanno, Louis Armstrong, Aaron Copland, Creed, Martina McBride, Earth, Wind, and Fire, The Beatles, and The Transiberian Orchestra. Yet this dark rock seems to speak to me more viscerally than any other form of music. Maybe that’s the point, the purpose of this form of music.
Pema Chodron said that through suffering we learn kindness. Through this music I can learn to understand a tiny part of suffering I have never known. Perhaps I can use what I learn to offer compassion to others. But in consuming this form of music, am I somehow contributing to the suffering caused by the notorious “rock star lifestyle?” Does my failure to boycott music inspired by addictive and self-destructive habits amount to an endorsement? The DJs at the rock station I listen to here in Lincoln were even lamenting the other day about how much worse Metallica’s music became when they got sober.
Not all rock stars are masochistic drug addicts. But even the lyrics of those who aren’t seem to romanticize and glorify suffering in an unhealthy way. Thus you get punks and emo kids, one of the more truly frightening social movements I’ve seen in the last few years. Do these people seek the music out in an effort to express their otherwise inexplicable pain or do they model themselves after it in a misguided search for identity as a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy?
I’m reminded of “Through Glass” by Stone Sour:
“How much is real? So much to question
An epidemic of the mannequins
When thought came from the heart
It never did right from the start
Just listen to the noises
(Null and void instead of voices)
Before you tell yourself
It's just a different scene
Remember it's just different from what you've seen
I'm looking at you through the glass...
Don't know how much time has passed
And all I know is that it feels like forever
When no one ever tells you that forever
Feels like home, sitting all alone inside your head”
So much to question…