This is something I wrote a couple of years ago. Part of my internal explorations into why the hell I like what I like. Just when I think I have it figured out, I change my mind.
I'm doing a turnover of the music library on my phone and I came across a playlist on iTunes with a woman's name; an artifact leftover from a long dead relationship. A futile attempt to increase intimacy through sonic common ground. It's moot at this point -- I send it to the trash, relieved I no longer have to sort through my menagerie of musical miscreants to find something that wasn't the equivalent of running a cheese-grater over her delicate ears.
I have a hard enough time figuring out what I like and why I like it, much less someone else. Besides, aesthetic preferences should never require an adjustment to suit another's. And since being a fan of underground metal is essentially taking on a vow of celibacy, it would be much easier, and more pragmatic to hide that fact and say, "You love Mumford And Sons too? Yay! Let's have sex".
Every time I put on some music there's a specific purpose, the hard part is defining what that purpose is.
I'm looking for something -- a feeling perhaps -- but not just any feeling or emotion. When a certain piece of music really resonates with me, it's because it touches an emotion or feeling that only faintly resembles the standards: love, sadness, anger, hate, and happiness. With the exception of happiness, I find the rest to be mundane emotions for inane people. Being inane myself, I fall into the trap of allowing myself to be affected by those emotions, but I try to fight it. Inane is just one 'S' away from insane, so I have to be careful.
In music there's a term called overtones. Basically it's a frequency attached to one of the standard notes, that's often unnoticeable -- unless it's not there. When I listen to music, I'm looking for emotional overtones. Something that only shares a slight familiarity to the standard human emotions, but ultimately transcends them. I don't want to feel like the artist is trying to connect with me. I want the music to exist despite me, or even in spite of me. As soon as I feel like the music is trying to connect with me, I begin to reject it. I bristle when an artist talks about reaching out and "really trying to relate" to their audience. I think it's a cop-out. When I find myself being affected by a love song -- love being something that has slipped from me so many times that I give fuck all about it at this point -- I get pissed at the artist for using such an obviously cheap songwriting tactic. But, ultimately that's my fault for having an psychological profile similar to humans.
I'm chasing the surreal with music. I'm wanting to NOT understand where the artist is coming from. Much as I'm soothed by the grand, uncaring indifference of nature, I want the same from music. I might not ever find it, but there is enough strange shit out there that, once in a while, I'm rewarded with some sounds that make the real world go away -- even if just for a moment.