Zia Hassan

Music That Was Once An Antidote Revisiting Emo

I put on some old records that I enjoyed in my high school and college days the other day. I wanted to introduce some of these bands to my son.

Now admittedly, it had been a while since I had listened to these albums. They could be described as: punk, emo, punk pop, ska, etc. I still know every word, and even the track order of most of the albums.

It was total shit. It made me wonder how I ever liked that music.

It hadn’t been that long since I had listened to these albums. But my tastes have definitely changed.

Emo music has chords that, when they lock in just right with the rest of the band, and they’re played at high speeds and high distortion and high volumes… provide just the right antidote for an angsty teen. For a minute, you feel like someone understands. Like some mohawk sporting scientists found a way to take all that rage you have trapped inside of your bones and turn it into sounds.

And that, just by confronting those sounds, you are confronting your anger, and thereby soothing it.

I’m no longer angry at the world. I haven’t been since probably my mid to late 20’s. So now all that anger and rage sounds unpleasant. I’m not looking at myself anymore.

By contrast, there was a time where I was heavy into ambient music, like Brian Eno’s Music For Airports (still a favorite) but other artists in the genre, like Christopher Willits and Ryuichi Sakamoto. I’d listen to full ambient white noise albums on the way to work in the morning (a 60-90 min commute).

At that time in my life, I felt a lot of my work was meaningless. There was no message really. There wasn’t much time to think about how meaningless the work was either. Days, months and years just kind of drifted by like clouds until I one day decided to leave my career altogether.

It’s no wonder the ambient music spoke to me.

Again, it was like I was being confronted with my inner self, and I could reflect and see my innermost desires. It took a while. But ambient music was part of the antidote.

And these days, I’m more interested in creating music than listening to it. Even the stuff I do listen to feels more like a study of how I could re-create it than it is a pure reflection experience.

I wonder what I’m going through. Future me will parse it out in a later post, I’m sure.