This essay was originally published by The New York Times.
At a country music concert, my 11-year-old son taught me a lesson about refraining from snap judgments.
In the car the other day, rock music blaring at inappropriately loud volumes as it always is, my nine-year-old son somehow made himself heard over the frenzied outro of “Baba O’Riley.” “Papa, what’s your favorite band?” he shouted. It was a Rorschach moment.
Some music just sounds better in certain settings. Like seeing an animal in its natural habitat instead of in a zoo. Over time, I have developed a musical geography of sorts, mapping the places where I hear certain songs more clearly and which, as a result, have become inextricably bound up with those songs in a way that is now impossible to untangle.
The Holiday Season is upon us and once again I find myself flailing around for gifts. Music used to be my go-to gift, but no more. The Streaming Age has robbed us of the ability to give music as a gift; my dream of one day presenting my son with every Rolling Stones album has been abandoned.