All around me there seems to be this game going on, a game of "How can I choose the music that will define me in the eyes of other people?" You've probably seen something similar. If you like country, you can't possibly like death metal. If you dig Lady Gaga you'll never be able to appreciate Janis Joplin. The goal seems to be to box yourself in so that you have little room for movement and no space for variety.
To me, this is antithetical to the essential nature of music. What boundaries are there really for the mind of a creative composer? What new frontiers are reached by listening to what is new and what may push the envelope? Music inspires us to be more than what we were, to expand our thinking and broaden our perspectives.
The music of Jean-Michel Jarre has been helping me build bridges for years. In many cases, it's the first time people have heard something other than gangsta or country or top 40 radio. Whatever the background, the effect is the same--a curiosity followed by incredulity at "liking" something so different.
For the last twenty years I've been close friends with a fairly well-known heavy metal singer. He's the embodiment of what can happen when someone starts to bring many different kinds of music into their listening sphere. The metal gig lasted for a while, and then he found himself on Broadway. After that he competed in a country music reality show, followed by a rap program. My friend loved it and happily adjusted to the different situations. After all, he'd been a long-haired metal head by profession, but he loved and appreciated all music. Unfortunately, the fans that had liked the metal god didn't care for the Broadway star or the rapper or the country boy. If he was defined as a metal singer, then he could only be a poseur in any other genre. He and I have gotten a good laugh about that one.
Music is like humanity, like the earth, like the universe. It's bigger than ourselves. Every time we go back to it we can find something new.