Deep Listening: Music Podcasts

A few weeks ago I was walking through the woods, as I do every day. I often use that time to listen to music or podcasts. I was giving the Black Pumas double album a deep listen, and Oct 33 came on. I burst into tears after a few moments. Apart from being a blubbery old man, moved by an amazing song, why?

Turntable by Mitchel Lensink - unsplash
Deep Listening: Music Podcasts

My son, Connor has really gotten into vinyl lately, and I try to spend time to listen deeply to music with each of our kids. He turned me on to Black Pumas — they’re a fantastic band, and the album is first-rate. Later that day, I played back the tape of what was going on in my psyche.

He had left for college the week before. Music is one of those areas that I feel a silver cord connecting our hearts together, and I think it broke the dam that I had been holding back as we have moved into this phase in our lives.

Lately, music has been slipping through the cracks in my mind and reaching into places nothing else does. My interest in learning music is renewed through these podcasts. Here’s a few that have nourished me lately.

MF Doom - Retrospective

With MF Doom’s recent passing, this excellent retrospective dives into his past, early start in music, and influence. Perhaps it’s odd for an old white guy, but I have always been drawn to rap and hip-hop. I just love phat beats!

Hans Zimmer: "Paul's Dream" breakdown from Dune

I really grew to enjoy and appreciate Hans Zimmer during this conversation on the always-excellent Song Exploder podcast. Apart from being one of the most prolific and recognizable composers of our time, his deep love of the subject matter and how he talks about collaborating with old friends just makes you want to be in the room. My friends & family know what a huge Dune nerd I am, and how much I wanted, how much I needed this latest attempt on film to be great. The soundtrack does not disappoint.

Sparking new creativity

This last year I’ve discovered a lot of podcasts that are, to be honest, taking the place of reading books. I’m okay with that for the time being; listening to authors talk about their work is a great way to discover books that I might want to read in depth.

But lately, fighting through sadness and illness, I’ve pivoted more to music. It’s helping me feel things in ways I haven’t in a while. It’s also sparking new interest in music-making, beyond guitar and perhaps into percussion and mixing. And most importantly for me right now, a reason to be present and engaged with music my kids are passionate about.

Additional insights from an elderly Darwin

Maria Popova’s wonderful essays at The Marginalian have become a staple of my personal reading, and I happened across this post of hers on how Darwin, in his later years, regretted not making dedicated time for music and poetry:

My mind seems to have become a kind of machine for grinding general laws out of large collections of facts, but why this should have caused the atrophy of that part of the brain alone, on which the higher tastes depend, I cannot conceive.

This resonates with me deeply, particularly on my need to step away from design & visual arts professionally. It was a sort of numbness to visual media, especially digital (I think viewing art in person still has a different effect on me).

A man with a mind more highly organised or better constituted than mine, would not, I suppose, have thus suffered; and if I had to live my life again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once every week; for perhaps the parts of my brain now atrophied would thus have been kept active through use. The loss of these tastes is a loss of happiness, and may possibly be injurious to the intellect, and more probably to the moral character, by enfeebling the emotional part of our nature.

This feels close what I’ve felt recently, the near shock of the effect of music and sometimes, prose on my self and spirit. Perhaps I can learn from one old man to another, and make sure that I invite music further in to my life.

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