Listening without knowing

Listening without knowing

Assorted tales of an information hoarder.

I didn’t grow up in the Internet era. I grew up in a time when, if you didn’t understand the lyrics of your favorite song, you just made them up. And then you told yourself they were correct. You even tried to convince others that you had it right. At least, I tried to.

I remember singing along to Jeff Buckley, Grace (1994), thinking he sang: “waiting is fine”. I was so sure he just waited for his beloved to come to him. It was sweet, actually. Thanks to the collected knowledge of the internet I now know the song was quite a bit darker:

I’m not afraid to go, but it goes so slow
Wait in the fire

And even though it’s never been confirmed, Jeff Buckley’s untimely death in 1997 might just have been foreshadowed by this song. Who knew? I didn’t anyway, so it didn’t occur me. I just enjoyed his music, carefree. I didn’t let too much knowledge come between me and the music.

Jeff Buckley
Jeff Buckley

This has really changed, I’m afraid. Not only do we now know exactly what every artist is singing, right up to the final unpronounceable syllable, we also know everything about his personal life. It’s there for the taking. No more guesswork, no more invention, no more lies. You might think it’s better this way. You just type his name in the search bar and there you go: everything is transparent, or at least it seems to be.

Am I crazy to admit that I really miss the good old times when I didn’t believe I understood everything completely? When I saw everything through my own, sometimes even rose-colored glasses? That I really miss the discussions about the meaning of a song? I know I really sound like an old man, but today it’s really less acceptable to simply admit you don’t understand, that you don’t know. That’s my impression at least. You haven’t done your homework if you don’t know, if you haven’t even googled it. Shame on you.

So even though I google everything just like everybody else and even though I don’t just listen to music, read a book or watch a show, but also look it up wherever and whenever I have a spare moment or the smallest doubt about my own interpretation, I still miss it. Just listening and trying to figure it out. Feeling instead of knowing. Or, in the words of the same Jeff Buckley, this time totally correct in my mind and according to the internet:

Lover, you should’ve come over
‘Cause it’s not too late

Stefan van Dierendonck

Stefan van Dierendonck

For many years Stefan has been active as a blogger, building and maintaining his own and other websites. He is also the author of two well-received novels. Wherever possible, he tries to combine modern technology with literary or at least pleasantly legible content.

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