Similar to the types of people we surround ourselves with, the genres of music we listen to change as we move through life. I see it as a type of natural homeostatic fluctuation. This paradox explains that human beings try to remain safe and comfortable while simultaneously exploring ways in which we can grow and mature so that we may find purpose. What we strive to achieve in our lifetime is a personalized ordeal that each individual must discern for themselves, however, we are all connected because that sense of fulfillment is something that we strive toward.
Personally, the convergence of music and identity is one in the same. When I look objectively at myself, now and in the past, there is a clear theme that seems to arise. Above all else, music has been a prime indicator about what stage—by “stage” I mean a time period that encapsulates my emotional health as well as my physical health—I am in my life. When I was entering college, I was an avid listener to radio stations, iTunes accounts, and Spotify playlists that reflected the top hits (or just popular music).
It was a way for me to stay up-to-date with pop culture and social attitudes so that I could relate to classmates, friends, and siblings more easily. Homogeneity was perfect at that point in my life, because I knew there would be many other characteristics that would immediately differentiate me from the Boston College population. I wanted to know the lyrics during the crazy college parties and did not want to be the kid mistakenly humming along to a song which everybody else was singing—my ideal at that time was conformity.
At this point in the column, I would ideally have some sort of really neat graphic that shows the breakdown of the most popular music listened to on BC’s campus over the past year. Unfortunately, I am not that tech-savvy, nor do I want to spend my next week compiling surveys that ask students to self-report the music they listen to. Instead, I will pose a series of questions to the reader:
- Do a self-assessment. What music did you listen to most last year?
- What do you think this music says about you? (Ask your friends if you really do not know.)
- Why do you think this is the case? What point of life are you in?
Things have changed drastically since the beginning of my college career, in ways that I had never thought they would, but I believe that if there was a graph that tracked my listening preference since Aug. 25, 2015, it would be practically flawless at mirroring my life’s path. Streaming apps like Spotify allow such freedom because with the click of a finger, you can search millions of songs and find one that represents who you want to be at that moment or a song that encapsulates an exact emotion.
For the past two years, I’ve been listening to music that is almost completely devoid of language. A series of beats, drops, rhythms, and Siren-like voices constitute my music preference. Electronic Dance Music (EDM)—trance, house, dubstep, techno, trap, and hardstyle—is the genre of choice. I occasionally listen to the hits, jazz, classical, and even the oldies, but EDM is the symbolic reflection of my present orientation as well as an indicator of the type of environment that invigorates me.
I did not want to listen to any songs that required effort to interpret or learn. Music became a type of alone time that I could have with other people. I was able to continue to spend time with people in dorm rooms, raves, concerts, lounges because that is what a college student is supposed to do, but at the same time, EDM transported me away from the people around me.
The abrupt beat drops and extreme volume swings mirrored my life. The pulsating rhythms that underwrote the song were what I was trying to grasp in my own. The complete brain overload that I got from hard EDM like Excision, Borgore, Apashe, Seven Lions, Zomboy, Rickyxsan, Skrillex, and Figure forced me to stop thinking and to simply react. It is much easier to react than to think.
My affinity for EDM music remains today. Yet my identity has changed so I now see the same set of circumstances in a different light and use the music for different purposes.
For me, EDM helps me define my future. The very basis of music is invigorating, intense, unpredictable (to a certain extent), high-energy, but also simple, also it lacks a need to analyze what the artist or artists are singing. Again, I think this reflects where I am in my life but also where I want to go. Over the past four years, certain priorities have disappeared, some have been added, some have changed, yet there are a few that have stayed the same—in a nutshell, that’s the complexity of identity.