The Curse Of Being A Musician
Musicians are cursed.
It took me some time to realize this and longer to articulate it, but I have felt the sting of the affliction for years now. The curse isn't something that materializes immediately; the effects are a graduated process that takes hold over time until there's hardly any way to get around it. By the time, you realize what's happening, it's too late though.
I am referring to the way that being a musician fundamentally changes the way you listen to not just music, but any sound or collection of sounds you encounter - granted, this can happen even if you're not a musician. It's a curse of knowledge that is akin to the same effect in other disciplines where you know too much to experience things in the same way as you did before you gained that knowledge.
Getting more into recording music only made matters worse as I would start visualizing songs broken down into tracks in a project file.
This change was exciting because I was hearing things in a whole new way, but I couldn't help feeling like I was missing some of the intention of the music if I wasn't hearing the whole thing.
In college, I took a course on the history of Rock music - which was awesome, I got to write papers about my favorite bands and acts that I saw at music festivals - and it gave me some terminology to help me articulate my musical curse: active and passive listening. One of the assignments was to describe a song after a passive listen and then listen to it actively and make note of things like the tracking and whatnot, so finally, I had a way to describe the dichotomy.
After I started really getting into drumming and recording, it took me a long time to be able to listen to a song as a whole piece and not try to parse out drum tracks, which guitar track is doing what, how many vocal tracks are layered in, or what that one weird little synth is doing in the chorus. Over time, I have gotten to where I can switch back and forth from, though it does still take some effort.
I wouldn't trade this curse for anything, though. Training my ears is an ongoing journey, for sure, but the amount of thinking it has brought me to do has been very important. I understand what I'm hearing better than I used to, just like I understood certain mathematical properties better when I learned how to work through it by hand rather than by calculator. Building the way I understand the nuts and bolts of things gives me a better toolkit for understanding the product as a whole.
All of this really comes back to my passion for making things. Creating something from scratch and understanding what each component brings to the whole allows you to better manipulate each part so that it brings its maximum effectiveness.