Music and Identity

Taylor Muñoz

Shaping perceptions through listening


I am in search of my own supreme truth. A cynic by design, I am trying earnestly to discover my own absolutes as I get older.

As I live, love and travel, the music I listen to has taught me a considerable amount about not only myself, but the world at large.

I believe that we should be paying more attention to the music we’re listening to if we want to get any closer to knowing truths about ourselves and the world.

A lifetime of listening has reaffirmed over and over again that my personhood has been hand-molded by music; my identity as a person, friend and traveler is a result of music’s painstaking work on me.

I believe the same can be said about almost anyone, whether they’re an avid fan or casual listener.

This isn’t to say that other things won’t make a lasting impact on one’s life. I have dealt with my fair share of loss, love and everything that comes with pursuing a degree in journalism.

However, I believe a common thread between all of these things is the music.

Music walks with me as I navigate my way through both good and bad times. When I think about both the hardest and happiest times of my life, I can almost always remember the music I was listening to.

There’s a lyric by the band Pavement that says “Song is sacred,” and it’s something I live by. The music we listen to fundamentally alters our life experience. It shapes our perspective; it offers us new memories and leaves us reminiscing for ones we’ve never even been apart of.

Last December, I visited London for the very first time after years of longing to see it. A large number of the bands that played a fundamental role in shaping my love and infatuation with music are from the United Kingdom.

Bands like Bombay Bicycle Club, Foals and Coldplay sent me in search of a new world. Infatuation with the stories being told through music led to an infatuation with the storytellers and their upbringings.

Learning what it meant to be English from these people led to my increasing interest in the geography. Interest in the geography and culture sparked something within me that could never be put out.

While music has always been a constant in my life, this newfound appreciation of British music absolutely formed a basis for my career and life aspirations to this day.

This journey to the homeland of my infatuations was one of the most eye-opening things I’ve ever done for myself. I believe I got a little closer to the truth with every ride on the Tube, meal at Nandos, and solo walks listening to Jack Steadman.

I encourage those reading this to look closer at what they listen to, whether it’s the song you listen to 20 times a day, or the album you put on in the background as you do homework. Ask yourself why you find that music so compelling.

Do you resonate with the lyrics? Do you hear the chorus even when you sit in silence? Do you think about a certain place or time that’s significant to you?

What about it helps you concentrate? What about it makes you want to drop everything you’re doing and give it attention? Why do you hold this piece of music so near to your heart?

Once we begin to inwardly reflect on these kinds of things, we learn more about who we are.

While Spotify constantly misses the mark on my Discover Weekly playlist, I still listen anyways. I am always receptive to the next song that will give me space to uncover new things about myself.

Kelcey Ayer, singer of Local Natives, somehow came up with a Twitter bio so insightful that it still resonates with me today: “Confucius say, He who plays an album on shuffle may still hear it in the order of its original track listing.”

The music we need the most comes to us when we are receptive to it.

So, reader, continue to keep yourself open to the music you need. Study it; do your background research on it. Think about the way it makes you feel. Allow yourself to become part of it.

I will always focus on the music because it’s one of the biggest constants in my life. We’re in it for life together. As such, I treat it with the care it deserves. After all, it is one of my makers.