CDs to MP3s; Turkish Pop to Tinnitus

I miss music terribly.

I love music. Or at least I did. And one of the things that I discovered early in my life as I moved around the world was that my music taste was eclectic. My music collection (and it is vast) runs the gamut from classifications such as classical, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll to blues and includes music from Turkey, China, France, Spain, Romania, and numerous other countries.

When I worked in Turkey in the early 90s, one of my favorite rituals on the weekend was to go to a small music store in Bebek, browse for an hour picking out two or three CDs, and then go home to my apartment to play them at full volume for most of the day. I used to really love that. It was in Turkey that I discovered New Age music. Uplifting and relaxing at the same time. While there I also developed an enduring love of Turkish pop music. I find the Turkish language so beautiful to listen to and when it is sung it becomes even more so for me. It didn’t hurt that I had crushes on most of the female Turkish pop singers that were popular back in the 1980s either.

To my ear, there are languages that lend themselves to being sung. Of course, I’m sure this is much like beauty being in the eye of the beholder. For me, French, Italian, Spanish and Turkish are like liquid gold for the ears. In Asia? Well, I must admit, I really don’t like Cantonese or what they call Canto-pop. It sounds very harsh to me. However, Mandarin pop? Artists like Faye Wong? Love her to death. She has an incredible voice. And sung Mandarin sounds much softer on the ear than Cantonese. But I found it difficult to actually discover music in Asia. Especially in these days of MP3 files when it isn’t as “normal” to browse in a music store. In Thailand, if I do hear a song I like, it is a struggle to find out the name of the artist, exacerbated by having to write a script I’m still not comfortable reading.

I do believe that when you listen to music, it reflects the culture of the country that created it, and the way the people think and feel. I find that Thai music is very evocative of the idealistic Thai country lifestyle; slow and poignant. Spanish music is sensuous and like liquid. Some opera brings me to tears (Madame Butterfly does by its name alone). I find didgeridoo music haunting. (I discovered it long before the Crocodile Dundee movies.)

I haven’t got an artistic bone in my body. I’m utterly unsophisticated about music and art. I don’t “interpret” music. I just know what I like. When it comes to music, I’m very shallow. If I like the sound of the lyrics and the beat or the rhythm or whatever you call it, that is enough for me. I can listen to it all day long at that point. If I really am into it then yes, I may actually try to find the lyrics so that I can learn them. But I don’t put a lot of importance in the lyrics. I think I’m too pragmatic for that. I love French music and Spanish music simply because they sound good. Oh, I speak French (more or less) but being able to listen to the lyrics and understand French songs as they’re being sung? Not so much. However, lack of understanding in no way diminishes my enjoyment of the music itself. I can’t make out most English lyrics anyway.

Back to my initial point about not loving music so much anymore. Music for me used to be a way to reduce my stress. And I find, as I write this article, that I have stopped listening to music for the last few years simply because I’ve been very stressed. I feel like if I’m listening to music, and enjoying myself, I must be doing something wrong. I shouldn’t be relaxing, I should be doing something “productive”. Just writing that down makes me realize how wrong it sounds to say that.

But I also have significant hearing problems. Mainly from my time in the military, but a brief but loud love affair with house music probably did not help much either. I have had constant tinnitus for the last ten years or so. So now I have to be very careful with listening to music at any kind of volume anymore. Tinnitus, at least in my case, basically means that I have a constant ringing in my ears 24/7. Listening to music can make that worse.

What I have appreciated about music though, as a TCK, is that I have had the opportunity to be able to enjoy and appreciate it from all over the world. And even today when I go to a new country, I do like trying to track down whoever the local artists are and listen to them.

I must admit, I don’t buy much music anymore. I realized several years ago when I ripped my entire thousand-plus CD collection to MP3 files that I had something like 40,000 songs. I found that I rarely listen to more than 20 or 30 of the songs at any one time. I also find that when they’re in MP3 format, I don’t play them as much because I’m not browsing my shelves to look at the titles anymore. Somehow not seeing the actual CD cases takes something away for me. I’m not sure how to explain it, but browsing through filenames on a laptop just doesn’t get me excited about hearing the artist. Not to mention that I am now stuck with hundreds of CDs and have no idea what to do with them.

I think that today’s music world is an incredibly rich and varied environment. Never has it been so easy for new artists to be available to the world. So, I am making a commitment to myself to try to get back to listening to music. And I am starting by listening to some of the new artists my fellow TCK TOWN writers have been talking about on Slack. Writing this article made me dive back into my collection and appreciate what I have. And that was really cool for me.

First published in May 2017