I Love Music but Rarely Listen to It Now

Yesterday there was a concert, much-anticipated, part of the current season of the Pittsburgh Renaissance & Baroque, that I didn’t attend. I felt slightly sad because I’m sure it was interesting, and also because fellow members of the local chapter of the American Recorder Society had been talking about going and urging me to come along.

Juilliard Baroque Ensemble

This was not the only concert in the past couple of years that I have chosen not to attend. So why have I chosen to skip these opportunities?

Once upon a time I listened to a lot of music. I listened to the radio, I bought a lot of LPs, cassette tapes, and finally, CDs. I went to concerts. It’s not as though I have completely lost interest in listening to music.

What happened was simply that I ran out of time.

Time is limited to 168 hours a week. Therefore, the phrase “I don’t have time for X” is usually a euphemism for, “I do have time for Y and Z, but not for X”. Example translations of “don’t have time” language that people use:

I don't have time to exercise.
I chose to spend an hour watching sports on TV rather than playing a sport myself.
I don't have time to talk with my children.
I do have time to work crazy hours at the office and play golf with my boss in order to make a lot of money.
I don't have time to cook.
I don't like to cook or clean up, and therefore instead of whipping up a 15-minute stir-fry, I would rather commute to a restaurant, wait, order, wait, eat, wait, pay, wait, and return home hours later.
I don't have time to get good at salsa dancing.
I have time to spend hours going to clubs to dance, and prefer to spend vast amounts of time being social and having fun than perfecting my basic technique.

Scarcity and decision making

In other words, time management is all a matter of priorities. Time is a scarce resource. We choose how to work within constraints of scarcity. (Note that some people like to make a lot of judgments about how we should be spending our time, but that is not the topic at hand; time management is.) In the end, I make my choices, and you make your choices. And we can and do change our choices over our lifetime, based on either our preferences or information about what is required to achieve various goals.

Earlier in life, I was more of a spectator of life than I am now. I watched a lot of TV and movies, listened to a lot of music, went to concerts and lectures. It just happens that now, I prefer to be more active. Not that listening to music is necessarily passive: you can’t call it passive that I collected probably two dozen recordings of my favorite symphony, Beethoven’s Eroica, listened to them repeatedly, compared them, hummed along to them (I was not quite as obsessive as Eric Grunin, however). But eventually I made a decision to more or less stop listening when I could be playing, and also to seek out what is new to me rather than continue with the old.

Last night, instead of sitting in a concert hall listening to music, I stayed home, practiced recorder, started reading some library books, and spent time with Abby. This is what I preferred to do with my evening hours yesterday instead of attending a concert. Life is good when you know your priorities, make your choices, act accordingly, and don’t go around in fear of missing out.


Of course, now and then I still watch a movie or pull out a CD or attend a concert, and enjoy it. Just not so often.

And since the Eroica symphony is a permanent and profound part of my psyche, sometimes I find myself humming it to myself from memory. This tends to happen when it’s a nice sunny day and I’m on a run in the woods and feeling in a “heroic” mood. The music then fits perfectly because I will then run at a decent stride rate of 180 steps per minute, corresponding exactly to breathing in a 3-3 rhythm and following Beethoven’s infamous (but I believe appropriate) metronome marking of 60 for the first movement! Great running music, 15 minutes of genius.

Beethoven's Eroica, first page

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