Thursday, January 31, 2013

The First Time

I've wanted to do a blog post on this for a long time now. In light of some recent events, I figured it was about time I tried to put my thoughts into words. We're going to do a little thinking together, okay?

Alright. Think with me about the first time you heard a song. Pick one of your favorites and think about everything that went through your head as you listened to the lyrics and felt the music rush into your ears. Reflect on what was going on in your life as you heard it. What kind of emotions come back to you? What memories appear in your mind? How about the song itself? What about the song did you find so appealing the first time you heard it? Was it the music? If so, what about the music? Was it the beat? The way all the pieces came together? Was it the lyrics? If so, what about them? Did they speak to a situation in your life? Did they resonate with you on a deeper level? Did they teach you something? Take a minute to answer before continuing...

Done? Cool.

So, whatever the case, we can all agree there was some reason that the song hooked you. Something about it made you listen again and again. Perhaps loved it immediately and played it on repeat for hours once you found it. Perhaps you didn't think you liked it, but when you heard it again later you realized how much you did. It doesn't matter how it happened, what matters is that you listened to it again.

You see, the first time you hear a song you’re more critical of it than the music you already know. The mind hears music differently than everyday sounds. It's powerful, and releases the same ‘happy chemicals’ in your brain that some drugs do. So it's no wonder your mind is hesitant to let in music it doesn't recognize.

But there's a certain magic that happens the first time you hear a song. Your mind strains harder to interpret all of its elements. Because music has all of the crazy effects on your head that it does, your brain craves it. It will literally pick out parts of the song you do like, whether you like the overall music or not, just for that feeling. Whether that means relating lyrics to real life dilemmas, causing your foot to tap to the beat, making you smile because something reminds you of a funny inside joke, or whatever! That's the power of the first time (that includes other things, too—not just music). Your mind works over-time to find everything good it can about the experience and turns it all into something. Remember, that's no matter if you think you like it at the time or not.

There’s also a problem with the first time. It only happens once. The word “familiarity” comes to mind. When your brain works that hard to find something good about a song, it will inevitably grow to be familiar with it. Even if it's just a little bit, you've officially been exposed. Even if you don't hear the song again for months or years, when you hear it again you'll still have that sense that makes you say, "I feel like I've heard this before." You still have that memory of the first time. The rush of a new experience. It's the reason we like certain music. The mind interprets the music a certain way, and if it finds a sufficient amount of good qualities in a song, you'll probably catch yourself saying something like, "Hey, this is pretty good."

Sometimes it takes a little time. I can sometimes hear a new song and not like it much at all. A week later, when I hear it again, I'll like it more. Then a week after that, the third time around, I'll find myself wishing Youtube had an auto-replay button. Because, you see, the mind isn't always very receptive to new things, but given some time and exposure you'll find it can come to appreciate them even more than what you're already familiar with.

Now that we've gotten all of this thinking out of the way, I have a challenge for you. Go find a song or an album, a band—something—you've only experienced once and give it another try. I think you might be surprised by the results.