This is not how I vacuum my house...
However, I have been known to insert earbuds, crank the volume, and rock out while vacuuming. My go-to vacuuming soundtrack is the album The Fragile by Nine Inch Nails, mostly because it begins with Somewhat Damaged . The song starts off kind of low key, then tension gradually builds into a screaming rage. If I'm alone in the house...Look Out. I will scream right along at the top of my lungs while the dog hides in a corner. Perfect music for dreaded household cleaning chores.
Note Reznor's move explosion at around the 3:41 mark. I am compelled to mimic his actions, even while vacuuming, if you can imagine.
I've often thought that if I ever meet Trent Reznor (which will likely never happen), I will ask him if he thinks about what everyday activities people do while listening to his music. If he does think about it, does he find it humbling or amazing?
The unique thing about recorded music is that you can listen to it while doing something else and still enjoy it. I don't remember the last time I sat down and just listened to an entire album, free from distraction. I keep telling myself I'll do it, but I never do. Perhaps a New Year's resolution?
Live concerts are a totally different beast. From orchestras to death metal, they offer the ultimate in escapism if you really focus.
Consuming Visual Art
The visual arts are consumed in a different way altogether. Museums and galleries offer spaces in which to observe art. There may be some music in the background, but the art is the focus.
Patrons pay money to walk among the pieces, view, contemplate, and perhaps discuss what they see.
But take the same (or similar) piece of art, and hang it over a sofa in some random living room, and it becomes a background piece, a decoration, or something that matches the curtains.
I wonder if artists like Gerhard Richter ever think about where their artworks (or prints of their art) are hung? Do they care? Do they think about their pieces possibly gathering dust in an attic or garage somewhere? Decorating a wall in some suburban soccer mom's house?
The Written Word
Now we come to my area of knowledge, the written word. I often wonder where, when, and how readers consume my writing. The idyllic image I have in my head is of a reader settled quietly in an overstuffed chair by a crackling fire, sipping tea.
Rarely do I picture a reader sitting in the bathroom, performing the most basic of human functions while reading words I have labored over, and yet, it has probably happened.
Reading requires a person's full attention if they want to experience any real pleasure from the story. Whenever I try to read while other things are happening around me, especially loud things, I get frustrated. Unable to block out the distractions, I give up and wait until I can find a quiet place to read.
While audiobooks may allow a person to vacuum while "reading", the brain doesn't use the same neural pathways to listen as it does to read words on a page. So I suppose a person can consume a book while doing other things, but it's not an immersive experience like reading.
I wonder if other writers ever think about where and when their books are consumed? Bedrooms? Subways? Beaches? Waiting rooms?
In the end, any way a reader consumes my writing is a good way for me, as long as they enjoy it. Bonus points if my writing stays in their minds well after finishing the book. That is the best.
Whether musical, visual, or written, these are all little pieces of the creative mind scattered about the world like so many grains of sand.
Artists cannot possibly comprehend all the ways their work affects people. The major impacts--social, political, and financial--get all the press. But I wonder if they ever think about all the little ways their creations affect people every day.
Maybe someday, I'll get to shake Trent Reznor's hand and thank him for providing my vacuuming soundtrack.
I write novels and poetry and this blog.