Mood Music

“I am, by calling, a dealer in words,” said Rudyard Kipling, “and words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.” But I am, by vocation, also a mathematician, and there’s a strange yet beautiful intersection of words and math known as music.

I am not, however, skilled in music in any other manner than its consumption. I cannot carry a tune in a tote bag or keep the beat with any sense of rhythm (but I can rhyme, and alliterate, and parse the sounds of vocabulary into something musical, if still not music).

And yet, in all my years of listening–which is, perhaps, all my years in general–I’ve discovered that even at times when I cannot hear myself, I can find myself in music.

For some time I’ve been toying with the idea that the music I want to listen to is the way in which I understand my emotions–intangible things that like to float beneath the surface and scurry away from the string and bait of words I can capture and understand. A preliminary list might look something like this:

Fury, anger, rage — The Black Parade by My Chemical Romance
Sadness, insanity — When the Pawn… by Fiona Apple
Self-loathing, longing — My Head is an Animal by Of Monsters and Men
Confusion, disappointment — Ceremonials by Florence + the Machine
Low self-esteem, brokenness — Broken Dolls & Odds & Ends by Anna Nalick

Except I also listen to OMAM’s inaugural album when I’m feeling tired, to fall asleep, and I love Florence no matter my mood. It also ignores the fact I dabble in doses of music to set the mood when I write–sometimes I define stories more in their soundtracks than anything else. For example, looking back at my years of NaNoWriMo, I have the following:

Blood, Water, Wine — Matchbox Twenty, Goo Goo Dolls, Shawn Colvin
The World of 50,000 Sorrows — Skillet, HIM, Flyleaf, Evanescence, NightwishBeacon — Florence + the Machine, Sara Bareilles, KT Tunstall
ARTA — Evanescence, Maroon 5 (part 1), the Chemical Brothers, Daft Punk (part 2)
Starfall — almost exclusively Nightwish, also Within Temptation, some ERA
Sirium — Lady Gaga, in particular Artpop

The beautiful thing in writing a single story (as opposed to this last year, when I attempted to write a new story each day) is that I’ve always got a body of music I can turn on to slide back into the mood. It’s something consistent and familiar that helps connect my neurons to the plot, the characters, the setting, and the story as a whole.

I also like to play music while I walk across campus, singing along and often pretending that other people can’t hear me. This year has so far been a delight because many of my favorite bands have released new music–Nightwish (Endless Forms Most Beautiful), Marina and the Diamonds (FROOT), and Florence + the Machine (How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful); and I’ve also found slightly older music as well, such as Aqua’s latest Megalomaniac and Sia’s 1000 Forms of Fear–which I listened to in loneliness and stress.

Then there’s always those songs that just seem to define a particular moment in life, such as Florence + the Machine’s “Breathe of Life” which became my last breakup song, or the soundtrack to Frozen that takes me back to my ASB trip to Alaska (“Uptown Funk” brings me back to San Francisco, and Pitbull’s “Calle Ocho” always reminds me of Israel), to MCR’s “Destroya” which for a brief time was my personal workout anthem.

I don’t think I could live without music, but I’m also not always certain that music is as perfect a parallel of my inner workings as I’d like it to be. Whether or not it is, you can be certain I always have something blaring at the top of my speakers.


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