Emo, drum and bass, techno, pop, neo soul, ska, bhangra, reggeaton, and so on and so forth. For some time now, I’ve felt pretty up-to-date with music culture. Boy was I wrong.
There is a whole new crop of musical styles, terms, and genres that I’ve never heard of popping up all over. I was talking to a coworker one day and he told me about a concert he went to where shoe-gazing was being played and I was floored. I’d never, ever heard of this and I was kind of upset that I was so late to the party. He went on to tell me about all the other new categories of music that my feeble, content mind couldn’t even have imagined existed. I have to say, there was a pang of regret and sadness that struck my body at this news. I felt as though there was a whole world of musical expression that I had been missing and would probably never really get to be a part of or even encounter. And…I was right.

Even if I started studying today and worked on a PhD in music history or whatever it is that the conservatories are offering these days, there would always be some corner of the world where a new type of music was being born without my knowledge. It’s presumptuous and foolish to think that one person can know all the world’s music. Usually, people categorize music by placing works in groups that share the same “basic musical language.” But event that simple rule can be hard to follow because of subject matter, style preferences and marketing tactics. Genres give way to sub-genres, styles and forms of sound collide and splinter off into sub-subgenres. It can be very confusing.

I’m not even going to get into the huge international list of music genres that I dug up on Wikipedia. So how do we / I go on knowing that there is a whole language and descriptive narrative that I’m not privy to when listening to different and new forms of music. The simple answer is…nothing. You don’t have to know the name or history of a piece of art to enjoy it. Pinpointing origins, names, dates and people can even get in the way of just listening to something and either liking it or not liking it. So many lines get drawn in the sand around ethnicity, ownership, sub-culture and commercialism when it comes to music taste. Who needs that? My opinion: Dig as deep or as shallow as you like when it comes to your pastimes. That’s what helps to make music such a universal element of the human experience. It speaks to people whether they know what they’re hearing or not.

Image courtesy carolyn.will