Posted by: Richard Chennault | May 10, 2007

Don’t listen to Music

I am writer, reader and philosopher.  What I am not is a music listener, lover and connoisseur.   I don’t understand the delight in going to concerts; I can’t fathom the reason to don a t-shirt proclaiming my undying adoration to the Thriller tour.   It is not that I don’t like music, I do.  It just doesn’t move me constantly.   It serves for me as nothing more than static white noise while I contemplate the mundane (work), inane (stupid ideas) or profane (counter-culture).    

Without a doubt there are songs that speak to me.  I enjoy them not for the beat, rhythm or melodic cacophony of screeches crescendo into heart ache.  They speak to me because of the words that are contained within its harmonic reverberations.   I’ve written post about such songs.    

Thus I was whiling away another commute home and taking a break from NPR when my ears tuned into the music blaring from my eight-way speaker system.   Sting was singing about how he wanted someone not to stand so close to him.  I thought now why would he sing that?  Did the person stink?  Perhaps as a rock star he wanted his ‘space’.  I don’t know and didn’t really care until I picked up the fragment of one phrase in the song about a school girl.  What the hell?

I began to listen to the words and couldn’t believe that a song I had heard to for decades was about statutory rape.  While not explicit in the lyrics it is implied through innuendo.   I know that the song written by Sting is hardly the pinnacle of egregious criminal behavior but it serves as an interesting foundational question of music ability to transform culture (didn’t see that coming did you?).    It is an ancient debate and not one to which I wish to rehash here.  It is however curious that after so many years of listening to a single piece of music I’m suddenly struck with the absurdity of lyrics.  

So ultimately the title of this blog is true.  I don’t listen to music.  I certainly hear it.  But mostly I filter it out unless on the rare occasion I cut out the notes, dampen the melody and listen to the prose.  It is there I find joy, sadness and anger.  

Oh and on another note can someone tell me why I’m trying to figure out the words to Gwen Stefani’s latest clap trap song Sweet Escape? 


  1. Know when to hold them, know when to fold them. There my son, those words you know and understand.

  2. You are trying to figure out the words cuz it’s a catchy little song that stays in your head when you hear it. Or maybe you secretly pine for Gwen Stefani..who knows.

  3. I found this site through a Google search. I’ve been trying to “quit” music for a while. I keep thinking there may be some side effects, like a decrease in my creativity. What I don’t like about good songs is you can’t listen to them forever. Essentially, it’s possible to over-listen a song and it turns bland like all the others. Well, I’m going to stop listening to music for a month and see how it goes. Maybe I’ll get more reading done.

  4. Can you please go on about counter-culture being profane?

  5. Hi, I’m trying to understand this (to me) bizarre phenomenon of people not liking music, especially creative people or those who enjoy the other ‘arts’. Have you listened to many different kinds of music? What music have you been exposed to? If it’s words that appeal to you, are you a fan of Bob Dylan?

  6. Bridgitte, for me it is the words that are more important than the notes. At the end of the day my world is colored not by sound but by the less empirical transformation of words to mental imagery.

  7. Thanks for your reply Richard. I am able to understand it better now.

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