Ben Tufts, drummer extraordinaire for The Cowards Choir and other rad acts, was kind enough to lend us one of his personal writings to share with the Unappreciated Scholars readership. This post originally appeared on Ben’s Tumblr page. Please be sure to check out his various projects, and look here for our review of the new Cowards Choir EP “Cool Currency” soon. (spoiler alert: it’s an A+)
I have been listening to the new Dr. Robinson’s Fiasco album about seven or eight times a day. It’s short—only about seven songs—and I’ve had a fair amount of driving to do, so it’s not as impossible as it sounds. But nothing else has been in the CD player in my truck for the past week. I haven’t listened to the radio. I haven’t listened to the news. Just the same seven songs, on repeat, occasionally interrupted by the need to get out of my truck and continue with my day.
Some of you reading this know exactly what I’m talking about. The rest have concluded that I’m insane. This is nothing new. Obsessive listening has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. What causes a person to want—to feel like they NEED to hear the same songs over, and over, and over? Why do I have more patience for it than the average person? Is it even an issue of patience? Listen for the answer.
I think when someone is saying something important and relevant and new, we listen. I think when someone has a compelling story to tell, we listen. The story told is not just in the words the singer sings, but in the way the guitar string bends, in the way the cymbals wash. The band is the choir behind the minister, the soundtrack to the saga. Listen.
I listen to albums I love until I wake up with the songs in my head—until I can hear every bass line, every detail of the track with such clarity, it’s as if the CD is spinning inside my skull. This is my obsession, because I want to carry great music with me, so I can hope to make great music. So I can listen better.
I’m thankful that it’s a compulsion, because were it a choice, it might be tough to pull off. Like a little kid who’s had one too many cookies, I can almost make myself sick, gorging on one song or one record. I’m driven to obtain the nearest understanding of what those people were feeling when they made those sounds. Listen again.
By pushing that collection of noises as far into the tissues of my brain as possible, I’ve internalized something that’s important to me. I can sing it back to you, or anyone. I can recall that one drum fill that makes me giddy.
More importantly, if I listen again, maybe just once more, I can capture some of that spirit for myself—that thing that made my eyebrows go up the first time I listened. And just maybe I can convey that spirit to someone else the next time I’m on stage, and they’ll smile, and have a better day for it. And I’ll have done my job.