November 18, 2010

It sounds like a Captain Obvious statement: we use music to construct our sense of self.

This is an obvious statement because everyone has a favorite song and on a very superficial level, that song has the capacity to define that person (you can infer things about a person if they listen to, say, LeAnn Rimes). Music not only defines us, it also defines moments in our lives. Ask anyone who remembers what song was playing when they lost their virginity and they'll agree that music is "a container for the temporal structure of past circumstances."

For me, music is both. When I was a teenager, my music not only defined me in the socio-polictal sense, but it also defined the era of my life when I thought that Chris Conley (among other emo/pop-punk superstars) could save music. I floated through the early 2000's on a wave of bands that are now laughable to me (think New Found Glory, As I Lay Dying and Evening Out With Your Girlfriend-era Fall Out Boy), but I took their music and lyrics seriously then, allowing it to become an "accomplice in attaining and enhancing and maintaining desired states of feeling and bodily energy."

I related to the music so much and it became such a part of who I was that I decided I wanted a job in the music industry. I now realize that for me, being a band manager or running my own record label would have been the consummate form of what DeNora calls "identity work," or work that reinforces the thread of self-identity associated with the music. I would have been creating a permanent environment (through my career) in which to enact mini docu-dramas that would allow me to project and introject the image of what I thought I was–someone involved in that particular segment of the music community.

Though high school was only seven years ago, I feel light years away from that insecure girl that needed music to tell her who she is. I am more aware that music is "an active ingredient in the organization of self" and because of that I am even more particular about what I listen to and when. I try to appreciate music in its natural form and let it act upon me instead of me acting upon it. My tastes have become more eclectic and I do not feel constricted to a particular scene. My identity now is wholly detached from what it was in high school. But I guess that's all part of "the reflexive and ongoing process of structuring social and psychological existence."


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