How can I get back into music again?
April 6, 2015 4:48 AM   Subscribe

The short of it is that I've always been fairly obsessed with music. I burned out at music school and now I seem to have lost my interest in listening to music like I used to. Is it possible to go to school for something you love and ruin it for yourself?

Here's where I'm coming from:

My dream job has always been to work for Smithsonian Folkways. I taught myself a bunch of folk instruments by ear by ass a teenager, and I used to listen to music from around the world for hours on end.

I had an on-again/off-again relationship with school, so I didn't enter music school until I was nearly 30. It was a really great experience at first, and I did really well - auditioning into special programs, winning scholarships, that sort of thing. After a couple years, though, I completely burned out on the whole "if you're sleeping, someone else is practicing" attitude (you know, the flowchart everyone has where every option leads to "practice more!").

I started studying musicology and I found that it was more like what I was looking for, but it's been a year and I just don't really care about music anymore. I mean, I do, but not like I used to. Where I used to spend hours listening to music, now I just prefer silence. I haven't found any music that I really feel like listening to, or when I do I lose interest pretty quickly. I used to love music theory, and now it just feels like a chore. I have tons of books on music, and I just don't feel like reading them anymore.

I've spent my whole life obsessed with music, basically waiting for the opportunity to do what I'm doing now, and I just feel burned out on it. I'm sure there is some part of me that actually can't get enough of music, but that's what makes it frustrating; I keep feeling like I'm onto something, but I just can't bring myself to get excited like I used to.

Being uninterested in music is not really my cup of tea. What can I do to make music exciting again?
posted by teponaztli to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Accept what you are feeling, give it a break and let yourself be interested in whatever other things you are naturally interested in. Explore different subjects and see what excites you. Or don't be interested in anything at all. Focus on taking care of yourself and living in a balanced way.

In time, it will come back on its own. Don't try to force it and don't worry about it. It's my amateur opinion that exploring other areas will give you something new to bring to the table when you come back to music.

Good luck.
posted by bunderful at 5:21 AM on April 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think this happens often when art is institutionalized. You ask what you can do to make music exciting again, but I think the best attitude to have at the moment is to not try so hard. After all, when you were obsessed with music before, you didn't try to be right? I'm certain your love for music is still within you, but you've been focusing your time and energy too much on the periphery that has nothing to do with music essentially. If you can, maybe take a break from school and your career, do other things you like, meet new people outside of your specialty, maybe study something very different, etc.

When you do recommence your studies, I suggest taking things at your own pace, and try to focus on your love for music and not let outside pressure and dogma detract you from it.
posted by snufkin5 at 5:23 AM on April 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

I felt a similar, less intense of version of this after graduating from a Literature degree. I just could not find a flying fig to give about books anymore, and it grieved me, and I wanted to be able to read again. So what I did was essentially forget all about my education, the ways I'd learned to read and be critical, and just try my damnedest to have fun with books again- reading things my critical brain would sniff at like chick lit, sci-fi, and revisiting books I'd loved as a kid. It took a bit of practice to take my lit student hat off, but it has worked. You could try the same thing with music- try to stop thinking about it and just go for the fun stuff. There's a lot of great pop music out there at the moment. People like Taylor Swift, Hozier, Charlie XCX, all making really fun listenable music, even if it's not "great" by some intellectual criteria. Or how about returning to stuff you liked when you were first getting passionate about music and try and reconnect to that youthful enthusiasm? For me that would be pop punk. Make it fun for yourself.
posted by mymbleth at 6:18 AM on April 6, 2015 [4 favorites]

It might be that you haven't found the music program that is the right fit for you yet. What you've described (being interested in Smithsonian Folkways and world music) points to ethnomusicology, which can be pretty different in approach and repertoire from musicology and performance degrees, despite the fact that musicology and ethnomusicology have more overlap than they have had in previous generations. And even within ethnomusicology, there are programs that are squarely focus on scholarship, not performance (like Columbia, NYU and University of Chicago) and others that privilege performance alongside scholarship (like Wesleyan and UCLA) .
posted by umbú at 6:29 AM on April 6, 2015

Make music accessible - like one button access. I like listening to WFMU, WXPN, and WPRB on the TuneIn radio app cause I push a button on my phone and hear some things I've heard before, many things I haven't, some i like, some i don't. It's a nice breadth of exposure adn I have to put 0 effort into selecting something to listen to (which for me can cause analysis paralysis).

IF you want to blow time - go on a music video youtube safari, both officical videos (or live perfirmances) and fan made. Look at the related videos on teh side bar

You could try learning a new language and watching movies and news in the target language to get mood-music from the scoring. The background music on the Russian news channel 1 is so intense it give me agita without even looking at the screen.

Or you could just let yourself rest for a bit. That's ok too. Or look into things that don't so much academicize (word?) the music as catalog it, such as archiving.
posted by WeekendJen at 10:21 AM on April 6, 2015

Being an English major ruined novels for me for a decade. In class we would just talk books to death and it ruined my enjoyment of it. Find a way to make music fun again. Play and listen to music that isn't some kind of accomplishment. Just pure enjoyment. It might take a while.

Another good music online listening option is KRCL here in Salt Lake City. A really great independent radio station.
posted by trbrts at 7:58 AM on April 7, 2015

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