Larry Kart

Can't listen to music anymore...

40 posts in this topic

After listening to music of many kinds with great pleasure for at least 53 years (I just turned 66), about six weeks ago I suddenly found that I could hardly listen to anything anymore. This was recorded music BTW; I still find myself able to go out and hear things in clubs, etc., but listening to a CD of any kind of music ... well, it's hard to describe, but it's almost a physical aversion, probably with some sort of emotional component to it. I'm guessing it might be a symptom of depression, and my mood certainly has been low (my wife died six months ago, and it's been hard), but I wonder whether any other longtime listener has suddenly found himself totally on the outs with recorded music? I should add that this feeling of aversion seems to be linked to the feeling that I already know just what the music is going to sound like and that to actually listen to it then would be like having someone else's stale experiences stuffed down your throat. Further, I have this feeling even if the music on the CD is something I've never heard before and even if I go on to actually listen to the thing; almost immediately it sounds stale and predictable, and I have to stop.

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Man oh man, don't know what to say except hope that you get out of this funk, just freaked out at the idea of it happening to me.

The only thing that i could relate is that it can happen that when you reach a point in your life where a thing that you used to care a lot and take a lot of time doing and for whatever reason, that thing doen't mean much anymore and you wonder why the heck did you care at the first place.

Hope that besides music you have other fields of interest that could replace this one or will take its place. If that's the case that is not that bad. But if you feel the same about a lot of other fields of interest then it could mean something more serious.

PS Sorry about your wife.

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Larry: Just let me say how terribly sorry I am to hear about your wife--I had no idea, and if missed other mentions here, I apologize.

After a life of listening to music nearly nonstop whenever and wherever possible, after a bad breakup about two years ago, I too could not listen to anything. Similar symptoms: after a few minutes into a record or CD, I'd just shut the damn thing off. Couldn't figure it out. Now my life is in a MUCH better place, and I'm "back"--music all the time, nonstop. Blah blah blah--I guess my point is that there was definitely a depression component to how I was feeling when I experienced what you did, and it probably wouldn't hurt to talk to someone about it. Or I guess I'm saying, inartfully, that I've experienced the same thing, as a symptom for stuff therapy helped to work out (oh, and I had no problem with live music either).

Your mileage may vary, but seriously--there's great value in some third party/objective points of view.

Good luck, and again, I'm so sorry about your wife.

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I'm very sorry to learn of the loss of your wife, Larry.

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Wow - at the opposite extreme from the Is Music Essential thread. Classical, too?

My moods definitely color my perceptions of and responses to recorded music. I'd guess that's a big part of your being on the outs with the whole thing.

Wouldn't hurt to take a break, go outside, walk in the sun and listen to the birds. They're full of surprises. Wind through trees is another sound that rarely fails to move me this time of year. Also wind chimes, distant traffic, water over stones, night sounds, etc., etc., etc.

I guess what I'm trying to suggest is that, although you are having negative emotional responses to recorded music at this point in your life, don't forget that there is still great pleasure to be had by the sheer act of deep, relaxed, and attentive listening to whatever is happening around you at any given moment. It's also a good way to forget yourself for a while. Get lost in found sound. You might have to drive somewhere to find a good listening spot but it's worth the effort.

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Let me also offer my condolences on the death of your wife.

I've been half-way to where you are now, listening-wise. Not quite as bad, and it usually ended after a day or two. For me it had more to do with just burning out on listening than anything else. It sounds like yours might have a significant depression component. One thing that seemed to cure my occasional spells of music-aversion is that now (and for the past few years) I seem to mainly listen to music as background, as I'm doing something else, even with albums I've just bought, admittedly. So I listen to music, on average, much less intensely (and intently) than I used to.

So while I don't have those bouts of music-avoidance anymore, it would also be fair to say that compared to the way I USED to listen to music, I barely listen at all anymore, in some sense. But perhaps listening in a more relaxed way has been more mentally healthy for me. Who knows? I just hope you're doing better soon.

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I guess what I'm trying to suggest is that, although you are having negative emotional responses to recorded music at this point in your life, don't forget that there is still great pleasure to be had by the sheer act of deep, relaxed, and attentive listening to whatever is happening around you at any given moment. It's also a good way to forget yourself for a while. Get lost in found sound. You might have to drive somewhere to find a good listening spot but it's worth the effort.

Amen to that.

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Larry: Just let me say how terribly sorry I am to hear about your wife--I had no idea, and if missed other mentions here, I apologize.

After a life of listening to music nearly nonstop whenever and wherever possible, after a bad breakup about two years ago, I too could not listen to anything. Similar symptoms: after a few minutes into a record or CD, I'd just shut the damn thing off. Couldn't figure it out. Now my life is in a MUCH better place, and I'm "back"--music all the time, nonstop. Blah blah blah--I guess my point is that there was definitely a depression component to how I was feeling when I experienced what you did, and it probably wouldn't hurt to talk to someone about it. Or I guess I'm saying, inartfully, that I've experienced the same thing, as a symptom for stuff therapy helped to work out (oh, and I had no problem with live music either).

Your mileage may vary, but seriously--there's great value in some third party/objective points of view.

Good luck, and again, I'm so sorry about your wife.

Thanks, Peter. That's just what wanted (and I think needed) to know -- that someone else has had much the same experience (actually it seems identical). The fact that both of us still could listen to live music while gagging at recorded music, that's really interesting. Maybe it's that anything that is recorded is in one sense "over," and you were (and I am) trying to deal with something else that is at an end and found that that perfectly normal aspect of recorded music was standing in for what you couldn't (and I can't yet) accept.

Joe -- Yes, classical too.

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I should add that this feeling of aversion seems to be linked to the feeling that I already know just what the music is going to sound like and that to actually listen to it then would be like having someone else's stale experiences stuffed down your throat. Further, I have this feeling even if the music on the CD is something I've never heard before and even if I go on to actually listen to the thing; almost immediately it sounds stale and predictable, and I have to stop.

Went through the same thing (and still often am) with so much recorded music of "styles" with which I have become intimately familiar over a lifetime, especially after the all-round awakening that discovering Monday Michiru put me through. And I haven't had any personal loss.

Not to discount the personal element of your experience, far from it, but...you're a sharp guy, always have been, and would you consider the possibility that at least part of what you're feeling is a symptom of an overall cultural condition? That is, that society right now is irrevocably approaching one of those great "turning points" that comes along every so often, and that your reactions to music as, if I may paraphrase, "being over before it begins" is a (perhaps subconscious) reaction to that?

Myself, I've found some new musics that, although in no way as "evolved" as what I've grown up on/with, still engage me in their sense of "nowness" (and this has nothing to do with"trendiness", I can assure you, I'm about as "trend"-conscious as a sleeping dog), which is to say that, flaws and all, I still get the feeling that I don't know what's going to happen before it does, and often enough to keep me going, I am right about that (not knowing).

I know full well that "it's over" has been used many times in may places to cheap and or manipulative use, but the reality is that sometimes, it really is over. It has to be, otherwise, how'd we get here instead of still being there? And this, in my perception, is shaping up as a time when it really is over.

And I'm ok with that, since I realize that it's necessary. I have my memories if/when I need them, and although what is shaping up as what is coming (or, at least, the part of it that I have been engaging) will never be my "native tongue", I can still "get" enough of it to feel a sense of "ancestorship", and therefore interest/concern/whatever. "Grandparent-ly" feelings, perhaps.

Perhaps this is relevant to you, perhaps not. But your feelings of "foregone conclusion", and being deeply turned off by same, definitely struck home with me.

Are you still spry enough to take dance lessons? I'm serious.

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Very sorry for your loss.

I went through a period like this for a couple years, where I either didn't listen to music at all...or if I did it just sounded two-dimensional and I had lost all emotional attachment to it. I also had the same reaction to films, and since these are two of my greatest joys in life it was a very hard time to get through. It seemed like I just didn't have the attention span for anything, so I ended up watching lots of series TV (which I usually abhore) because it didn't require any "effort" on my part. It was just background noise to help shut out the emotional maelstrom brewing in my head. Completely related to depression (which I have a long history of).

I came through it and now find myself enjoying music, films, etc with greater passion than ever before.

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Sorry for your loss. Perfectly normal, I'd guess, to not be able to find pleasure in all sorts of things during such a period.

I would follow the advice already given of forgetting about music for now and focusing on yourself. If a reawakening is to happen eventually, here's hoping it is a joyous one.

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I'm very sorry to hear about your loss, Larry.

I went through a similar period when I suddenly lost a job about five years back. Not only did I not want to listen to music anymore, but I actually entertained thoughts of selling the whole shebang. This sort of thing seems to accompany personal loss and trauma (I don't remember listening to a lot of music in the weeks that followed 9/11/01, either).

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Yes, this sounds familiar. I do not generally enjoy listening to recorded music when I am feeling depressed. They say that music lifts some people out of depression. It doesn't work for me like that.

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I'm so sorry for your loss, Larry.

have been through the not being able to listen thing myself, and it does seem (for me, at least) to be directly related to depression and other kinds of mood "lows."

I know of other people who've been through similar experiences during/after breakups and deaths of family members.

It's not weird at all... except when it happens to you.

There's nothing I can add in the way of suggestions, as the bases have been covered pretty well. But I'm willing to bet that this is part of the whole grief cycle. (Sorry if that sounds trite; can't think of a better way to word it right now.)

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Yes, I too am very sorry to hear the sad news about your wife, Larry. Under those circumstances an aversion to music for some time is very understandable - suspect that given a bit more time it will all sort itself out. Time is a great healer with these things.

The only time something similar has happened to me is actually quite a regular occurence - with illness such as bad cold or flu when the head is bunged up. Just can't hear the stuff when I'm full of the bugs, find it damned annoying.

Edited by sidewinder

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I am sorry to hear about your sad loss.

I've had some health worries recently and it's certainly put me off listening. There were still some good days when the joy of music was there. My guess is that listening pleasure will return.

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My condolences, Larry.

I find that I have a similar reaction to recorded music when I'm depressed for whatever reason. As a matter of fact that's often how I realize I'm depressed--it's the signal that I've reached a certain low point. Luckily it doesn't happen too often. I'm not sure I have the same intepretation of it that you do, i.e. that it's the recorded-ness of it that is a problem. For me, in any case, I think it has more to do with a kind of refusal of pleasure, the kind of pleasure that is sensual, imaginative, creative. When I'm in that kind of a period I don't want to go out much, either. They say depression is rage turned inward. Denying oneself, not consciously but effectively, a happy pleasure that normally takes one out of oneself might be part of that dynamic. BWTFDIK?

In general, though, I listen to much less music than I once used to. When I had to give up my iPod to save my hearing, that took away my commute-time listening, which was most of my listening time. I've never really been able to find a substitute for it. Surprisingly, it doesn't bother me that much, either. But when music sounds empty and unattractive to me because I'm depressed, I hate the feeling.

Edited by Tom Storer

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I know the problem - goes in different ways; when certain musicians I knew well died I couldn't listen to their stuff for some time (but that's a different thing than what you're going through) - I have also gone through a bit of musical burnout, related to Devilin Tune (just too much music to experience with the resulting musical version of PTSD) - one cure (or treatment) is to find oddball and SHORT recordings that are extremely expressive - for me it was 1920s African American gospel of the mad, anarchic kind - short and sweet, people screaming and yelling - cathartic for them AND me. Also certain 1960s rock and roll (try the Animals, or anything by Mike Bloomfield) - but old strange things work best - maybe 1930s Turkish recordings - or singing/yelling preachers -

Edited by AllenLowe

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Larry, I'm very sorry to hear of your wife's passing. I lost my wife six months ago as well, and I may know somewhat of your feelings and condition.

For me, music has remained a solace, but I believe this is in part because for two years fighting Helen's cancer I was denied the comfort of my collection and the relaxed listening that had been a cornerstone of my wellbeing. During that time we spent more than a full year living away from home near a cancer center, and I was working from out of town as much as I could to keep my job afloat, and taking care of my wife as best as I could through the treatments and recoveries. Music just slid aside and listening on an iPod or a laptop was just perfunctory and mechanical.

Losing her I was at least returned to my home and it was a slow start but music began to fulfill for me again it's role of stimulant and soulfood. On top of that I've bought instruments and pursued them with more joie de vivre than before. It has been a gradual process that I hope starts for you soon.

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Very sorry to hear about your wife's passing ...

I've had that state for several days or weeks, but never that long. I try to prevent it by never taking any music on vacation or road trips, so everything is fresh again when I return. I'd say just let go and get back to listening when you feel like it. Or try some kind of music you never heard.

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I am sorry for your loss.

I have been there too in some periods, and to me it seems like a sign of an ongoing depression. This is an ordinary symptom: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anhedonia

Talking from my own experience, it can help to distract the mind and give it some different input. Like going to a concert where you are taken to another setting, or maybe going on a travel to a place that you have not been before. Reading literature on travels(Ian Marchant, H V Morton and Pete McCarthy a.o.) also gave me some relief.

The numbness can be the mind's way to relieve the pressure of the pain. Then to experience music that are evoking happy feelings normally, can instead evoke pain. This will get better when one starts to care about new things as time moves on, and music will be possible to connect to again.

Edited by jostber

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Larry, please accept my condolences. This sounds like a classic symptom of depression - I've been there many times over the past 12 or 15 years, the worst period being after the unexpected death of my brother. I urge you to avail yourself of grief counseling, which I found to be of immense value. I've also found that the proper medication has been of great help in dealing with my long-term clinical depression.

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Larry, this is a very superficial/cosmetic suggestion that doesn't address deeper, underlying issues that have been brought up in this thread (and that I'd feel more comfortable PMing you about), but do you have an iPod? If so, you might want to try dumping a variety of music into it--jazz (classic/modern Chicago, etc.), classical, Monday Michiru, new music that you haven't heard before, what have you--into it and setting the thing on shuffle.

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It looks like you've been analyzed pretty thoroughly so far, but it's hard not to do some of that when giving advice on the problem you've posted.

I have the sense that you're an intellectual person. I don't mean that you don't feel things, but that you enjoy "understanding" things. I don't know you personally - I'm saying this strictly from reading your writings on music. Perhaps your responses to listening to recorded music would change if you listened to music you don't normally listen to and might not listen to on any sort of intellectual level - Latin music, African music, blues music you're not familiar with, country music (western swing, or perhaps Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, or Lefty Frizzell - people who sing words that mean something important), or some old r&b you're not familiar with.

Perhaps the fact that you can enjoy live music is due to the fact that you might listen to that in a different way than you listen to recorded music. Perhaps there's less need to understand or analyze it because live music is strictly in the moment.

I hope that I'm not out of line here, but your wife's passing isn't something that can be understood. It can only be felt, and I'm sure that the feelings are overwhelming at times. But I'm sure you know this and feel this.

There's a current film that I plan to see this weekend - The Visitor. The plot is that of a professor who is widowed and depressed, makes a connection with with two immigrants who are squatting in his vacant apartment, begins to play an African drum, and finds his spirit renewed. Sounds corny, but it got pretty good reviews, and I'm looking forward to seeing it. Perhaps you might feel a connection with it.

I hope I haven't overstepped bounds. Everything I've written could be off base. You seem like a good guy, and I just hope you find a way out of the place you're in.

Tommy Duncan - the vocalist with Bob Wills' Texas Playboys - wrote a song entitled "Time Changes Everything". Not the whole truth, but a good part of it.

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I'm sorry to hear about your loss Larry (and you too, Jazzbo). I can't imagine what you guys are going through.

I hope though that someday you will be able to find a will and a way to let music come back into your life and hopefully the pleasure of listening to music will help alleviate the pain and grief that you must be experiencing.

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