It’s hard to imagine my world without music. I like to keep my brain buzzed and my mind alive with the constant flow of melodies and rhythms — it provides a soundtrack to my life. Whether I’m playing my “On the Town,” playlist while walking to class or cruising down the street with my favorite indie anthem blasting, music is an experience that encapsulates much of what I value and may effectively preserve time, as it revives forgotten memories from any given moment and prompts nostalgic reflection.
Thinking back on my day, week, month or even year, any minute detail or feeling I’m simply incapable of describing is captured through the lens of the musical realm. There is always something new waiting to grace my ears and whole inner being as I dive into the meaning behind a lyric or am moved by a melody so intriguing that I slip into a dream-like state. Time appears to stop as my mind roves to higher thoughts beyond everyday musings. For example, within my day-to-day life at college, everything becomes a bit repetitive with back-to-back classes and the constant flow of assignments. However, listening to music allows me to break this monotonous flow, and I develop personal ties with songs, artists and entire albums looking to form a greater understanding of the human experience.
Personally, every song holds an intrinsic meaning — whether the artist intended for the lyrics to carry a particular message or for a chord to produce an effect on listeners. The meaning of a song is ambiguous due to how interpretation may differ from listener to listener, leading me to view music in a poetic light.
As a result, I’ve begun making playlists based on feeling, gauging both how I interpret the meaning behind music and new feelings that went unnoticed before. At any given moment while listening, I envelop the vibe I was looking to create with a playlist. I tend to literally get on beat with the music if I’m walking, and I feel more at ease if the production flowing into my ears coincides with my mood. For me, music works as an emotional outlet to both produce authentic feelings and enhance pre-existing thoughts and perceptions.
I’m also inspired to explore new feelings sparked by music, pairing songs together that form the reality which is that emotion. This is not an abnormal thing to do — as I’m sure the vast majority of people have their own divisions of happy and sad playlists — but acknowledging the act of creating something based off of an emotion is highly intriguing to me and is something I am always trying to perfect.
In this way, music plays a very active role in building upon persona and character. Just reflecting back on my music taste from a year ago, I feel like I have progressed a lot in experimenting with what I listen to instead of constantly revisiting the same songs. For this reason, I see myself taking a liking to more experimental artists like Ariel Pink and MGMT, who produce different sounds, but similar feelings.
Both of these artists are featured on my “Melodically Methodic” playlist, which I made trying to capture certain oddities or eccentricities of music. The divine chords sync with my mind as it roams freely along with the bold productions of unique vocals and electronic alterations offered by the psychedelic rock and synth pop genres. The dream pop and shoe gaze genres then bring me to a different place of ambient reflection and transcendence from artists like Beach House and Cocteau Twins. I have several playlists devoted to these softer sounds, including my “Ambience,” “Vibey,” “Daydreamer” and “Ethereal” playlists. These playlists may be part of a broader category of sound, but they nonetheless create distinct feelings for me.
Creating playlists has become a particularly gratifying hobby of mine, as well as collecting vinyl records of my favorite albums from a range of artists. I view both as a form of curating the personal archive of music that I’m currently attuned to. Both are ever evolving to match my expansive musical identity, but collecting vinyl makes the experience feel a little more real — almost as if I’m committing myself to an album by seeking out a copy in this novelty form. I am anticipating the day when I’ve not only broadened my collection, but I have gained more life experience to then reflect back on such moments, which are sealed away tightly in the cellophane wrapping of any given album.
An example of this is how I identify “Currents” by Tame Impala as a defining album from my teen years, but the memories I hold of the album have the potential to evolve as my life progresses. This is evident in my memory of seeing Tame in concert for the first time. That experience has already enhanced my perception of the album, and going to see them perform live again soon, I am invited to relive this moment — the moment which I so often wish to rejoice in once more.
As a song plays, it brings me back to that setting in a metaphysical sense. Of course I cannot literally go back to any given moment in my past, but no matter where I find myself listening to music, whether it be in my bedroom or in the car, a song may act to transport the emotions from a certain instance and give a clue into who I was, who I am now and who I look to become.
For me, music helps answer the complex questions posed by life without providing a direct answer to the significance behind humanity. We’re not meant to figure everything out or feel a total sense of belonging to the world. Instead, additional perspective is added to thoughts and feelings I once believed to be unrelateable, allowing me to relish in a moment of feeling understood. “The Mundane” is my playlist that includes some of my timeless favorites as well as the songs I have on repeat in the present moment. I like to think that if a song remains on the playlist long enough to be deemed a timeless favorite, it serves as a remnant of the self I may look back on as characterizing my persona within a specific time or situation. Wherever I go, I know I will continue to evolve prosperously along with music, as there are always new leaps and dives to be made in the expansive fields of the mind and melody.