Sticking to the boundaries of our musical comfort zones can be completely overrated. | Joseph Pack/Mustang News

Francesca Ricapito
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A mere 10 feet from KCPR’s studio, the origin of all the sound our station sends through its airwaves, we have placed a radio for our own listening pleasure. Surprising, right? Well, the real kicker is how poorly it catches our signal for its prime location.

There are days when I’ll be lounging in the station, slouched in a chair, feet up and idly half-listening to the sounds ambling out of the speakers. Then it hits me: All the thick static, dull pops and omnipresent roaring in the background are playing at that moment because that is the song. All those sounds were placed together and recorded in a certain way because that’s how the artist intended it to be.

Isn’t it funny how some sounds are just inherently better than other sounds? If you don’t like some music you hear, think about why. Is it because it makes you uncomfortable? Never heard anything like it before? Maybe it’s just too gosh-darn weird for your sensitive ears? Chances are, if you’re tuning into KCPR, you’re prepared for the potentially unfamiliar, confusing and frightening music we might spin.

But it’s no secret that people tend to gravitate toward what’s comfortable. When you hear something you already know you like, your brain sends out a rush of pleasurable dopamine to reward you, reinforcing and cementing that certain taste in your mind. It makes you want more of that sound instead of something new. Because of this, it’s easy to miss out on a ton of music discovery because of an unwillingness to explore and delve into new genres.

This naturally impedes the acceptance and sharing of new and experimental music genres. Just as ignorance leads to misunderstanding, it seems like a lot of reticence to listen to certain music comes from no knowledge regarding the genre. But good music should have the ability to influence how you feel. If a song makes you feel uncomfortable, it’s doing its job! This sensation should be embraced instead of shunned, using feeble excuses like “it’s just weird” or “what’s that screeching?” I’m not asking you to put away your Taylor Swift, but simply open your mind to new things.

A lot of music is “underground” because it caters to a niche, esoteric audience. Due to the way mainstream media tries to reach the most people, these genres don’t get widespread coverage and people just never encounter them. When you hear this kind of music on KCPR, challenge yourself to listen to it. Really listen to it, though. Do you know what it is? What genre it fits in? And if you then find yourself in a situation where you don’t immediately adore what you hear, at least try to respect it as a piece of art rather than discard it because it’s different.

One of the best albums put out last year, Pharmakon’s “Bestial Burden,” is a conglomeration of all the things your body can do to destroy itself. Margaret Chardiet wrote the album after she underwent surgery for a cyst that was leading to organ failure, and she had a month of recovery. The album that resulted from it features her primal struggle through industrial noise. Through a mix of heavy breathing, burdened moans and excruciating shrieks, even a light listener can understand the pain the artist felt when her body decided to turn on her. Even if the rumbling call of industrial noise is not your thing — and a late-night listen to this album is particularly terrifying and dark — meandering through each track should give you a respect and understanding of the human condition in its most basic impulses of survival.

Boil it all down, though, and music exists both as an art form and as entertainment. Everyone has and is allowed to discern their own tastes, but don’t cast off genres because you might not understand them or just haven’t given them an honest chance yet. Try to explore new genres and open yourself up to new things, some of which you can find on your very own Cal Poly campus.

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