Whenever I listen to music, I run the risk of engaging in a very painful, very frustrating, and very emotionally hellish battle. I am unable to simply listen to music. I am often drawn into a song’s orbit, and if I’m lucky, I can escape the tractor-beam hold it has on me.
Sometimes, though, I don’t want to do that.
Sometimes, I let the song win. But I let it win with great hesitance, as I know that its hold on my soul might engulf me for longer than is necessary.
Let me clarify a point: when I say “longer than is necessary,” we’re not talking about one repeated listen, or two, or five, or ten. We’re talking hours. We’re talking immense, intense listening, with me hitting PLAY automatically for an indefinite, undetermined period of time, until something inside me has had enough.
To fully comprehend the seriousness of that last paragraph, let’s take a look at several examples from the past few months:
“Voices Carry,” by ‘Til Tuesday. 23 listens.
That’s nearly three hours with Aimee Mann, and that’s nearly three hours within the confines of an emotionally abusive relationship. Yikes!
“Cinnamon Eyes,” Riverside. 31 listens.
Chances are pretty good that you’ve never heard of Riverside. Chances are pretty good that you’re going to love this song. But are you going to love it enough to listen to it thirty-one times in a row? PS. Good luck avoiding the charm of the bongos.
“Sloop John B.” The Beach Boys. 38 listens.
They’re one of my favorite bands. In this case, it’s not just the song, it’s this video that was the subject of a viewing session nearly two hours long. I do have to admit, it looks like they’re having a really great day, and perhaps that’s what I’m drawn to. Or maybe not. Whatever.
“Ripples,” Genesis. 15 times.
Okay, maybe that number doesn’t seem too obsessive, until, of course, you realize that this is an epic eight minute song. You can do the math. And I adore this song. It’s like the best Polyphonic Spree song you’ve never heard. It’s also — in my humble opinion — Genesis’ best song, bar none.
“Dear Mr. Christian,” Derek Minor. 55 times.
Unlike the majority of songs that capture my attention, I can tell you exactly why this song garnered so many plays. It’s the first Christian song that I’ve heard that condemns Christianity for very valid reasons — if I didn’t know Minor was a Christian artist, this could be construed as very anti-Christian. Furthermore, it’s very graphic in its imagery.It’s a very, very powerful number, and when I heard it, I had to hear it again…and again…and again…to totally absorb the message. Next thing I knew…fifty-five listens. That particular time, it flew by very quickly.
(PS. That last verse. Damn.)
* * * * * *
This condition of mine is known as stimming. It is a common condition of people who are diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum, of which I am. I’ve always been this way, but it wasn’t until recently that I began to understand why it is that I do these things.
As a writer about music, this problem can become painfully inconvenient, especially when I’m trying to write about something else, if I’m trying to meet a deadline, or just trying to do anything but listen to the same song over and over and over and over.
My therapist suggested I write about the songs that do this to me, as doing so will demystify them, and in so doing, will break the song’s powerful spell. I’ve done so since being given that advice, and I’ll be honest — it’s worked, and in reading some of the descriptions, I felt compelled to start sharing them. I do so not only for my own understanding, but to share them with the world, with the hopes that others who have this debilitating condition can come to understand and deal with this problem as well.
I invite you along on my journey.
PS: You have no idea how hard it was to share those videos above without listening to them!