How Headphones Can Enrich Your Life

As a huge and ever so slightly obsessive music fan, I’ve worn headphones when I’m out and about since the days of Sony Walkman cassette players, carrying a bagful of cassettes wherever I went.

In addition to the primary reason being to listen to music whenever I could, my headphones were also my protection from negative elements such as commuter aggression and excessive noise in London, however I have also often used them to maximise my experience, usually while walking to classes or travelling in general.

As well as the common and justified criticism of inconsiderate noise pollution, another general criticism of people wearing headphones listening to music as they go about their daily business is that they are not benefiting from ‘real life’ and are in fact missing out. I accept that there are elements of truth to this, but I would argue that ‘real life’ is the very reason why many people, me included from time to time, have ‘withdrawn’ from real life into their own audio world. It’s perhaps some people’s equivalent of escaping life through drinking or getting lost in a book. Each to their own.

But most importantly, I find that listening to music on headphones while walking around and travelling doesn’t take away, but in fact always adds to my personal experience.

For example, I was listening to Bjork’s album ‘Vespertine’ while wandering around the British Museum in London not so long ago. Doing this removed the abrasive volume of visiting students on school trips and tourist groups with accompanying guides, while simultaneously providing me with a uniquely personal audio-visual experience of the incredible objects and atmosphere of the museum.

Whenever I visit a gallery or museum now, instead of listening to the audioguides telling you about the pieces you will be looking at, I almost always listen to carefully selected music to make the most of the aesthetic experience. Admittedly my knowledge of the backgrounds of paintings and sculptures suffers as a result, but I’m prepared to make that sacrifice for other benefits which I value more.

Without getting too ‘High Fidelity‘ about it, what you listen to while doing different things such as visiting museums and travelling can always enrich the experience, making it far more enjoyable and in addition provide a happy musical memory attached to your experience.

I recently wrote a post about a specific moment where my headphones improved my walk to work (read How To Celebrate The Sunshine)  and now find that the song in this post always makes me smile and reminds me of that sunshine ‘moment’. Again, listening to music on my headphones while walking to work has given me a lovely musical memory, a kind of audio photograph.

While writing this, I’ve been listening to Goldfrapp’s recent beautiful album ‘Tales Of Us’, which has immensely enhanced my experience of waiting for a bus in what is a stereotypically grey and functional bus station in the wonderful city of Granada.

Maybe for my next trip I’ll put together a compilation tape / mixtape / playlist – choose your own word based on your age…
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