Column | Dec. 10

Listen to more live music

Duke Ellington once said, “There’s two kinds of music: good music … and the other kind. I like both.” When I first came to campus four years ago, Duke and I disagreed. I thought good music had died around here and only the bad was left. It took some time before I was proven otherwise.

But I was. The amount of live music alone on this campus is amazing. It’s something that not every other place has. Not enough of us take advantage of that. I certainly didn’t during my first two years here.

Then, for a while, a show or two was a given in my weekly schedule. It wasn’t until the past summer that I realized how lucky I was to have that. You see, Houston only has three types of radio stations: country, Spanish and popular rap/R&B. There was one other good station, curated by “The Original Sinbad,” who swore jazz was the only true art form, but I could only catch that from time to time.

For three months, in a car with no AUX port, this was all I could listen to during my commute. In the beginning, I didn’t care for it. But if there was one piece of information I remember from social psychology, it’s that if you listen to a song seven times you start to like it, even if you started out hating it. Or maybe it was 22 times. Who cares? The point is that by the end of the summer I loved that Kanye West kind of music (including “Bound 2″). I knew all the lyrics to all of these songs when they came on the radio. I made a playlist.

Then I came back here. Within two weeks, I deleted that playlist. It’s not that I don’t still like “Bound 2.” But with all the good musical taste and all the live music around here, I just didn’t ever feel like listening to it. It wasn’t my first choice of something to pick up and listen to. It wasn’t my second, third, fourth or fifth either.

Watching your own musical taste change right in front of you is a surreal experience. What changed? What’s different about here? One good part of this campus is all the live music we get. Apart from people pushing good music into my face, my weekly dose of live music is what I missed the most during those three months in Houston.

We are surrounded by live music. We are surrounded by live music and by friends. Take advantage of that. Go to see the orchestra. Go to an arch sing. Go see your friend’s band play. Go actually listen to the band playing on a Thursday night when you’re out.

One night last week, I was out until 3 a.m. listening to a band. I was standing three feet away, watching the keyboardist lift his Yamaha into the air, still playing, and slam it back down. I wasn’t standing. I was dancing. Not bumping or grinding or swaying but dancing, surrounded by friends moved to pure, ecstatic motion by the music. Real instruments were abound, live, crooning all around.

By the end of the night, the band left, and we only yelled after them for more. This is the way I wish I spent more of my time here: listening to good live music, surrounded by good people I know. It is unlike anything else. I didn’t realize how spoiled I was by good, talented, interesting music, coming from both inside and outside of campus, until I didn’t have it for three months. I didn’t realize how spoiled I was by people so willing to go listen to live music any night of the week until I didn’t have it.

Drag your friends out. Go listen to more good live music. I promise you won’t regret it.

Kinnari Shah is a chemical and biological engineering major from Washington, N.J. She can be reached at kmshah@princeton.edu.

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