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When Getting Older Means Letting Go of Music

Most of us move away from the soundtracks to our earlier lives. Thank God for the invention of podcasts.

Meghan Daum
GEN
Published in
7 min readFeb 6, 2020

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Illustration: Katie Carey

I’I’m not sure when it started, but at some point over the last several years I replaced listening to music with listening to people talking. Looking back, it must have happened slowly, in increments. First, I began passing over the usual rotation of songs in my iTunes library in favor of some addictive podcast like Serial or S-Town. Instead of Tom Waits or Aimee Mann accompanying me on my daily errands, I’d find myself on the edge of my subway seat waiting for a murder (along with the social, economic, and psychiatric conditions surrounding it) to be endlessly parsed and potentially never solved.

Later, the political climate turned following the news into something like a round-the-clock assignment. So I dutifully stuffed my brain with news analysis — everything from The Daily to the Slate Political Gabfest to good, old-fashioned NPR (yes, on the actual radio) — in the hope of hearing something that would help me make sense of the world. That effort being the fool’s errand that it obviously is, I’d load up on even more podcasts, many of them analyzing the analysis itself. Whereas once I might have listened to a classical music station while eating dinner, I now listened to disembodied voices — not even talking heads but talking ghosts — having conversations about obscure issues I only knew about thanks to other conversations I’d listened to while eating breakfast. (I live alone, as you may have gathered.)

I should clarify that music isn’t gone entirely. I’ll have my iTunes on shuffle when I go out for a run, stopping frequently to type in my phone password in order to scroll to the next song, which tells you something about my seriousness as a runner. Whenever I rent a car out of town, I listen to music almost exclusively, partly because the novelty of Bluetooth technology and being able to access my phone from a car dashboard (my car is 20-years-old and has a cassette player) still has me in awe. A few times a year I’ll find myself at some kind of live music event: jazz in the park or one of the chamber music salons my neighbor hosts periodically. For the most part, however, music — at…

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Meghan Daum
GEN
Writer for

Weekly blogger for Medium. Host of @TheUnspeakPod. Author of six books, including The Problem With Everything. www.theunspeakablepodcast.com www.meghandaum.com