Are You Listening?

sheet_music.jpegDISCLAIMER: This article is more for fun than anything else. Please read it in that tone. I am not making any sweeping generalizations and am only talking about a marginal section of the students!

If I ask you for a moment to think of a context relating the phrases “peer pressure” and “youth”, then without a doubt you’d have thought of the sinister concepts of alcoholism, drug addiction, cigarette smoking and the like.

But ever since I got to college, I have noticed there’s one aspect that is noticeably less dark: what happens when peer pressure affects peoples’ choice in music. False as it might seem, we spend more time in college discussing music than how to make our motors or microprocessors more efficient. And frankly, music is practically a default pastime imposed on just about everyone with a PC and speakers in their room (which is about 99% of the population here). Things are fine till this point, but the real fun starts when a certain kind of music (and by connection, the people advocating it) start being conceived as cooler and hipper (I use these for lack of clearer words) than the rest. Obviously, in this age everyone is worried about their PR and who doesn’t want to be the one with the ‘best taste in music’? Hence starts the frantic and forceful molding of one’s tastes to suit those of the ones at the top of this hierarchy.

I’ve said all this is fun so let me clarify why. All of a sudden, you see people who usually can’t frame one sentence (in English) without messing up their grammars will start listing Slipknot, Children of Bodom, Iron Maiden, Megadeth etc. etc. etc. as their ‘favorite’ bands. Maybe this works in a universe where people say that what matters is the music and not the lyrics, but in my opinion (which shouldn’t be taken seriously at all), that universe has been invented by precisely the people I mentioned before. I really don’t see the sense in listening to some practically senseless thrashing of drums and wild guitaring when you completely miss the essence of the deep meanings that these songs’ lyrics usually contain. But to be fair, everyone has the right to listen to what they want whether or not they understand it. The main point of this article is to illustrate that this is usually done at the expense of subduing one’s real favorites and just going with the crowd.

I’ve made some rather obvious allegations above but let me assure you they are not baseless. People here like exercising their eardrums with the loudest possible volume their speakers will allow so gauging the musical ‘scene’ in the hostel is hardly a tedious exercise. How do you explain the near-absence of any Hindi music? Was everyone really listening to all this English music while they supposedly locked themselves in their rooms for two years to get to these IITs? I don’t think so. It’s just obvious proof of that much thrown around phrase- peer pressure. You can’t possibly listen to something one has on his or her players. And if someone’s taste in music were to measure by an exam, anything except English rock would probably count for zero, if not negative, marks!

And the genuinely funny situations arise (take my word, I’ve experienced this) when sometimes you’re about to knock on somebody’s door and you accidentally hear strains of Britney Spears’ ecstatic voice asking someone to hit her one more time and smile to yourself. The poor guy left his volume a tad bit too high. So anyway, you go ahead and give the door those three raps… almost as if by magic, the speakers start blaring James Hetfield’s passionate demands for fuel and fire. And when our protagonist finally opens the door, he’s wondering why there’s a million-volt smile plastered to your face.

And here I would like to confess I’m myself a helpless victim of this syndrome. I openly proclaim that I like rock (and I genuinely do) but I’m more reserved in admitting that I have a play list called “The Top 100 Masterpieces of Classical Music” in my collection, which I like as much as any of Pink Floyd’s or Aerosmith’s songs. And frankly, the names of some of the more popular genres are too much for me to digest sometimes. Here’s a little sampling- thrash metal, heavy metal…umm, A.R. Rahman anyone?

In conclusion, nothing of all this is wrong. After all, if you don’t follow the crowd you get left alone and come on, there’s all our life left to reassert our individuality. What’s more fun than showing off to your friends’ your vast repertoire of musical knowledge and counting off the full names of the former and present members of your ‘favorite’ bands? As for me, I’ll play Beethoven’s symphonies at almost-mute and hope I don’t end up opening the door to someone with a million-volt smile while Metallica plays in the background!