Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Emotional Inspiration Part 2 - Why are you listening lately?

So why Metal? I mean really. Why do I listen to metal? Well here’s something I noticed. Rap music makes me depressed.

I have, and always have had extremely eclectic musical tastes.  But rap makes me depressed and metal makes me happy. Is this because of the content of the music?

Rap is, for the most part, very aspirational and tends to be focused on acquisition, potential riches and triumph over problems. Metal tends to be pretty self-hating and destructive. So erm… I doubt it’s the content. So what is it?

When I was a kid I listened to metal because i really looked up to my oldest brother and he listened to stuff like Metallica, Megadeth, Napalm Death, Slayer. The list goes on. I remember feeling a certain amount of acceptance from my brother when I expressed an enjoyment of the music he liked.

When I was 16 I was pretty consistently happy for about the first time in my life and that period of my life was very much focused around music. Around that time was the nu metal revolution and the rise of bands like slipknot and my circle of friends were very much into that.

So the associated memories in those particularly emotionally turbulent formative years stuck to the music I was listening to pretty hard.

Conversely, when I was about 13 I was about the most unhappy I had ever been.

Ostracised from my peers, a collapsing family life and what seemed like endless problem after problem. During that time as I had started listening to Eminem and other rappers. I had taken to listening to them all the time. And while I enjoyed them at the time and still do enjoy them now, if I listen to them for any prolonged period of time I do get functionally depressed.

So the link between the music and the mood isn’t really the content of the music. But the context through which its viewed, the perceptual lens through which all things are viewed, the culmination of experience remembered and forgotten. 


  1. Great post.

    It really is just association, Ive went through many phases, serious phases, from 13 to 19 it was from grunge but truly culminated to metal, pantera, slipknot, korn, and then death metal etc, from 20 to mid 20s it was electronic music, house or techno (still kind of is). During my earlier 20s Id think about metal and would feel down, and would think negatively about everything involved, image, everything.

    BUT , one thing Ive to say though, and im not sure you will agree, I think this connection can be cracked quite easily, I think the conditioning can be changed without too much effort, I dont think liberation is even needed for this. I began to go back to my "roots" in the past 2 or 3 years and while initially I was getting similar feelings as you describe when listening to Eminem, I still continued to listen (dont knowwhy). But it really didnt take long for this to fade. And thus new connections are now formed. My associations are completely positive!

  2. Thats actually my point. Anything as arbitrary as a conditioned response is quite easily reconditioned.

    I recon this is why CBT has actually proven to be a quite fast and effective treatment for a lot of people. What I don't understand is why this success is such a mystery to proper psychologists. I really think there are some extremely fundamental elements of conventional psychology that are totally FUBAR'd. Probably the fact that their fundamental assertion is the ontological existence of a self. I mean thats the foundation of what they do...