How do I come to love the music I love?

Think of one song you love.

I am thinking of one.

That song once floated on the air, then through repeated listenings, through associations, it drifted down and came to live deep in me. It's part of me now. A second heartbeat. It echoes around inside me and when it hears its old familiar self out on the air again, recognition soars and swoons and the song deep in me reaches toward itself on the air and it warms me.

That is how I come to love the music I love.

Is it all good music? I mean. Sometimes. Familiarity governs. Is this my taste? Sometimes. Some of the deepest songs echoing in me are not what my taste would choose for me. The more I think about it, it's both inevitable and haphazard that some songs become so meaningful to me. I love them because they are part of me. What next song will I next absorb? What song will I not?

Leonard Bernstein held Young People's Concerts at the New York Philharmonic fifty years ago, and fortunately a bunch of those concerts are on youtube. I particularly enjoy one from 1962 called "What is Melody?" (His answer: A series of notes.) Pretending I am one of the yawning kids in the audience, I listen for strains of music I know and love, affirmed by Bernstein that my ears like best what they are taught to expect and are used to hearing: "Our tastes change with growing up, some people's tastes change from one period of history to another. The melodies that people loved in Beethoven's time would have shocked and startled the people of Bach's time, a hundred years earlier, and I'm equally sure that some of today's modern music, which people complain of as ugly and unmelodic will be perfectly charming, everyday stuff to the people of tomorrow." (The Beatles were probably being signed by Brian Epstein the moment Bernstein spoke these words.) Most of all I like his quippy answer to what makes an unmelody: "we tend like the weaving notes less, at least at first." At least at first.

Like a charming tune, I want to enfold Bernstein's words into my heart to be ready for the next melody that floats my way. And now I don't just mean melodies in music, I mean the unfamiliar things of life that don't instantly strike me as melodic. (That is, morally-neutral things. Please.) I wish to be able to hear the unfamiliar, to reach toward it without recognizing it—before it's echoing in me and I have no choice. What a daring thing that would be, to love and reach for what isn't already part of me.