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All music is not music to our ears

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By William R. Jones

"Music is what feelings sound like" is attributed to present-day authoress Georgia Cates. When listening to some music, I think, "Who has feelings like that?" Some music is nothing more than cacophony to me. It is harsh or jarring and unpleasant, and amounting to nothing but noise and makes me want to cover my ears. Yet, what I hear and subjectively judge as bizarre and dislike may resonate with others to be very pleasing and gratifying.

Music arises and proceeds globally from cultures and/or subcultures. Music can stand alone as instrumentals or accompanied with vocals and rarer today as vocal only. Generally, it expresses emotions beyond the limitation of words alone, and changes and connects people. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, "Music is the universal language of mankind." Park Jae-sang (PSY) said, "The world's most famous and popular language is music."

Here is a compelling statement by Leila Sales that she put in her novel "This Song Will Save Your Life": I believe that a person's taste in music tells you a lot about them. In some cases, it tells you everything you need to know.

Now, here's the conundrum about that. There is no reason why someone would like the same music (genre) during adolescence and then continue to find it suitable and agreeable in their 40s or 60s, etc. In other words, some displacements and replacements would constantly redefine them according to Sales' words. For example, when very young, there was music and songs I thought I would never forsake. Little did I know that my mind would evolve, and thus, some sounds would become "tinny" to my ears or else the lyrics would seem absurd in my maturation.

Most of us have favorites or preferences that have produced or had an effect upon us. They have impressed and influenced us in such a way that we never lose the remembrance of them. Often, we recall them and possibly place them on a playlist to hear them over and over again. Many of us have songs that accent each phase of our lives. They are melodies that instantly bring us back to specific moments and replays past memories when we hear them even years later. They mark the chronological history of our lives.

Three to five percent of the world's population are insensible to music and derive no pleasure from it. They find music undesirable and are indifferent to it. Dr. Robert Zatorre of McGill University and Dr. Josep Marco-Pallares of the University of Barcelona identify them with "specific musical anhedonia." It is noted that the condition should not be pathologized or seen as some sort of mental disorder. Those individuals are normal in all respects. It is simply an individual genetic variable.

Legendary vocalist Jeon In-kwon's most successful and well-known song to date, "Don't Worry My Dear," was the title track of his fourth regular album. It was released in November 2004, my arrival year in Korea. Needless to say, the song touched me indelibly and remains a favorite even today 20 years later. I worry not, and shall sing without regrets and dream new dreams.

I am of the sentiment persuasion that Jeon In-kwon's rendition will always be music to my ears!

The author ( published the novella "Beyond Harvard" and teaches English as a second language.


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