Music is, bit by bit, vanishing from my life. This is a very great surprise to me, but I don’t imagine I’m alone. I remember my father, at about the age I am now, becoming tetchier and tetchier when we played music in the car: it was endured, just about, on the motorway but the moment that parallel parking, or similar, was involved it would be smartly turned off. My late uncle was even infuriated by music on television documentaries.
Now I’m going the same way. “Bird Dream of the Olympus Mons,” “Sugar Kane,” “Higher State of Consciousness”—even, God help me, “Creep,” “Sit Down” and “Vienna”— have at one time or another meant the world to me. I used to lie in the dark listening to the “Sanctus” from Fauré’s Requiem at ear-melting volume, over and over again.
And now? Meh. I go to gigs, now and again, and enjoy them. I hurl myself violently around in the last hour or two of any given wedding disco, as is obligatory in the presence of “Mr Brightside,” “More Than A Feeling” or, ahem, “The Birdie Song.” But when reading or writing—which is most of what I do when I’m awake—music is a distraction. Even driving the car, I’m now happiest either with Radio 4 or complete silence. Cooking, eating, walking: silence. Why would you have headphones in your ears as you walk down the street or travel on the tube?
We all know that we never feel as strongly about new pop music as we do about the stuff we grew up with. It’s the same with poetry. We never listen so intensely. Of course the mate-finding, soul-searching and tribal-bonding that is entwined with adolescent music consumption is part of that. But that’s not the whole story.
I had assumed that there’s a point at which, having first lost interest in pop music made after one was 22, one goes on to lose interest in pop music altogether and develops an ear for classical stuff. It’s what happened to a friend of mine, and it coincided with his giving up weed. He thought he’d lost interest in music altogether but then he heard some Sibelius on the radio and thought: “Hang on. This is the shit.” I gave up weed years ago and nothing like it happened to me. I lost interest in pop and—while I now find classical music easier…