Love Thy Neighbour (and his music)

Here’s a story:

We’d been at odds with the neighbours for a while, but mostly it was a good natured annoyance. With their loud music and stomping footfalls, they’d become as much a facet of our time in the flat as the dodgy boiler and damp beetles. In other words, we weren’t exactly thrilled about them but we’d come to accept them.

Inevitably their taste in music wasn’t exactly in accordance with our own. If this were an unbalanced account then I’d go as far as to call it terrible, although, all things considered, it could have been worse. On rare occasions they’d even play songs that we’d like. It was one of these occasions that I’d like to talk about.

How much can you tell about a person from their taste in music? I’m unsure what the answer to this is, but I know you can tell some things for sure. Maybe not everything - perhaps not even a lot -but definitely some things. So we knew that we didn’t think much of their taste in music, and, having never spoken to them or even seen them much, we had to take this (and the loud footfalls) as the acid test. And the results? Well, they weren’t like us. They were different.

I was sitting reading one afternoon when suddenly some music began to drift through the ceiling, loud enough to be a definite disturbance to any peaceful activity. I experienced a few seconds of annoyance before realizing that I recognized the track. It was a track I liked. In fact, it was the first track from one of my all time favourite albums.

“Well, this is a turn up for the books” I thought. I sat there smiling, and I could hear whoever it was upstairs singing along to the song. I hummed along to it a little, and decided to take this distraction as an opportunity to make a cup of tea. Fortunately, the music was loud enough so that I could still hear it in the kitchen. By the time I settled back into the living room the next song was in full swing, and, to my delight, it was the second track from the aforementioned album. The second track is a really good one, so I found myself singing along as well. The music was loud enough for me to get away with this without becoming too self-aware.

The third song was another really good one, and thankfully the person upstairs had decided to turn the music up even louder, so that it almost appeared as if it were being played in my own flat. I could really let rip with the singing now, and by the fourth track a certain amount of joyous living room dancing had become involved - air-guitar atop sofa, jagger-esque posturing; that kind of thing.

And so it continued for the next hour. It seemed my cohort had as much spare time as I did, as, much to my delight, the album got played in its glorious entirety. It made me realize that it had been a long time since I’d actually listened to this album all the way through, let alone danced around in joyous abandon to it.

Maybe you’ve experienced something similar. It was a strange experience, one of those moments when you feel like the universe is playing with you slightly.

Here’s another story, it’s like the last one, but slightly different. What you need to know is; it’s the same person, with the same neighbours. But this is an alternate experience:

I was idly watching TV when the now inevitable sound of muffled music began to drift through the ceiling. This was such a regular occurrence that it was second nature for me to filter it out along with all the other various ambient noises of the flat. It was perhaps because I was only half-interested in what was on TV that I suddenly found myself tuning in to the ceiling music; some combination of notes, a distinct sound, a melody – something – had snagged my attention. This wasn’t like the stuff they normally played, and, intrigued, I switched the TV off and attempted to make out the sounds coming from above. I was just about able to sketch out some of the features of the track, enough to know that I recognized it. I listened intently, and the more I heard the more I knew that I’d definitely heard this song before.

I realized that I knew the song, but also that I didn’t know anything about it; not only that, but I felt like it had been in my life for a long time – something about it felt timeless, as if it had always been around, or around me at least. It was one of 'those' songs; maybe you snatch a glimpse of one when you’re on holiday; it’s playing in a random bar, but you’re too nervous or too drunk to ask who its by. Or you hear it drifting from a car window on a summer’s day. Certain people know this song, and love it, but it’s always managed to elude you, to slip from your fingers at the last minute.

It ended and another one came on, one I didn’t recognize at all. I sat there thinking. I didn’t want to let this song escape me again, especially as it was so close. All I would have to do would be to knock on the door and ask who it was by. Considering I had no previous relationship with the neighbours beyond vague feelings of resentment based on their inconsiderate habits and, up to this point, terrible taste in music, it may seem a little odd establishing one based on the aforementioned inconsiderate habits and taste in music. Still, at least I’d find out about the song.

I thought about it a little longer.

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