Retired Songs

There was an article on NPR the other day about songs we should retire. The article basically was a discussion about preferences - those of the show's hosts - and the point where we saturate on a particular song. I'm not sure that I agree with the premise - that these folks should be in charge of what the rest of us listen to (or not listen to, as the case may be) - but I can see their point from a personal point of view.

I have only retired one song from my repertoire during my time as a music therapist. That song was the favorite song of one of my clients. He died in a train accident several years ago (this month), and I still haven't been able to sing "his" song with other clients.

Now, having said that, I do have songs that go into temporary hiatus when they have been used or sung or listened to WAY too much. The familiar adage "Absence makes the heart grow fonder" really seems to apply in the case of music. After hearing any of the songs mentioned in the article over and over again, it's nice to give them a break. After the break, I always find more to hear in the music. I appreciate the music better when I haven't heard it for some time. The break also makes the music full of nostalgia.

I guess, if I was directly talking to the folks who put together that article, that I would say something along the lines of "you know, you may not appreciate this song, but there is someone out there, right now, who needs to hear it. That's why we don't retire songs."

If the conversation continued, I would probably get a bit defensive, but would strive for awareness that personal preference for those songs that we love and the ones that we don't is different for everyone. Therefore, songs shouldn't be retired from everyone, but for ourselves.

"Remove those songs from your personal playlist, but please realize that they are important songs to other people."

I think one of the reasons that the author of the article had such a strong reaction to the music that was played was because he was unable to control what he heard. The music was being played in a common area. The solution? Well, abolish all music played free-field in common areas. Make everyone wear their earbuds and listen to their own music rather than sharing the experience of music listening with others. That's what society needs - more isolation and interaction with electronics and less interaction with actual people. (I hope that you realize that all of this is written with sarcastic fingers. I would NEVER want to abolish the practice of environmental music.)

On the other hand, there was a positive thing that happened in this situation. That positive was that the author actually heard the environmental music and responded. That seems a rare response these days - actually paying attention to something going on around you enough to respond to it. So kudos to you, author of that NPR piece, you paid attention.

By the way, the author is Bob Boilen.


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