Loud Minded: Careful astonishment, controlled release

Music columnist Will Schmitt on mixed musical emotions

By William Schmitt | Jan. 31, 2013

Tags: Music


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I live on East Campus, and I’m damn proud of it. The East has an incredible amount of energy that is normally contained by a thick sludge of assignments and obligations. When instructors have retreated to their homes, the East begins to shine.

The avenues slowly come to life as roof-rattling dubstep competes with the flamboyance of hip-hop. Perhaps, in the eye of the hurricane, a young couple dances to a crackling waltz while their neighbor cocks an ear toward speakers where a saxophone awakens the band. But for the most part, the weekend playlists are designed to bring energy to the forefront to create an atmosphere free of worry and inhibition.

Everyone seems to have a certain song that brings them to their peak of joyous excitement. Mine, for instance, is “Grillz” by Nelly. This shiny-mouthed anthem features an imposing beat that is both ominous and welcoming. If you hear it, your limbs will begin to feel like silk and as the intersections of your lips begin to rise, you will find yourself swaying — slowly at first, but eventually bouncing around the room like ice in a glass.

Then again, that’s just me. We are all different frequencies of the same vibration; that is, we all love music. But each of us has a unique idea of the perfect tune. Otherwise we might repeatedly listen to the same sequence of chords.

This week, I will be examining how you can subtly alter a general mood of positivity by playing a certain song. It’s evidence the person you put in charge of music selection has an impact on the outcome of the night, the degree of which varies on the crowd.

If you don’t believe me, there are simple experiments you can conduct to see for yourself. One purely subjective rule of thumb I have devised is that, with the exception of concerts, the size of the audience is directly proportional to the accessibility of the music and indirectly proportional to the amount of meaning derived from a particular song.

I am assuming that when groups of close-knit friends gather, the musical selection is generally more eclectic than a rager, where dozens are getting down. This is known as the “Nobody Listens to Dubstep Alone” principle.

Alcohol also plays a role in music selection. When I am sober, for instance, I tend to listen to music that makes me reflect and ponder. When I knock a few back, something stirs inside me, and I feel the need to play The Pack’s “In My Car” or any Major Lazer song at high volumes. As my social inhibitions and motor skills decrease, my appreciation for all types of music increases.

Most of the people I have encountered at Mizzou are much more easygoing than me when it comes to music. I would be thrilled if nightclubs devoted at least one Friday a month to The Notorious B.I.G., but most of my peers only listen to Biggie in small doses. This is understandable; he often comes across as incredibly intense.

I also can’t recall meeting many people who are interested in debating the rise and fall of Eminem or those who are interested in debating whether or not something is wrong with me simply because I am not moved by “Wagon Wheel.”

I need to dedicate a few words as a disclaimer: I do not hate any music. I allow myself to have honest opinions on music, and I have preferences for listening to music. In others words, I am human. I hold the unfortunate belief that if I were granted the ability to construct playlists for parties other than my own, I would be tarred, feathered and run out of CoMo on a rail. I hope that I am not falsely perceived as an elitist, but I do realize that I will come across as such on occasion.

I rambled a touch here, so allow me to reiterate my main point: party atmospheres can be significantly modified by musical choice. This is no new theory, but I feel it bears repeating because I have so often experienced a profound shift in my train of thought when nothing changes but the music.

Here are five modifiers to elevate or subdue the mood of your social gatherings. Use them wisely and with a smile.  

  1. “Grillz” – Nelly
 (to be played when you need people to rap in unison)  

  2. “James Franco” - Hoodie Allen
 (to be played when you need people to nod their heads and relax for a minute)  

  3. “Too Deep” - Girl Talk
 (to be played for an audience of diverse music tastes and a shared interest in dancing like fools)

4. “Diamond Pistols” - Fresh Espresso 
 (to be played when you want people to stop and look around and mutter, “The hell is this?”)

5. “I’ve Seen Footage” - Death Grips 
 (to be played when you want to scare everyone and identify the hipsters)  

Disclaimer: I am part hipster and I have nothing against them.

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