How Does the Music Move You?

One of the iconic ads for the first generation of Apple iPods.

One of the iconic ads for the first generation of Apple iPods.

I am of the opinion that music makes the world go ‘round.

Whether you like to belt out radio hits in the shower, hum to yourself while concentrating, assemble the coolest party playlists, or sing along at church, I believe that everyone is a music lover in one way or another.

And music truly does seem to motivate the world, right up there with coffee.  Every day – particularly on public transit, when I take it – I see people sporting the ubiquitous white (or red or black or what have you) headphones, piping sweet songs and strains into their grey matter.

My own days are no less musical, although, in tending to disfavour headphones, my method of delivery tends to differ.

Music is part of our universal human experience.  As a pastime, it transcends all barriers of age, ethnicity and custom.

Musical and songwriting conventions vary across cultures, but the act of creating and taking in music effects our collective psyche in broadly similar ways, stimulating and enriching our emotions, conveying experiences in an easily digestible format, speaking to us on a primal and kinesthetic level.

My best attempt to copy the above ad.

My best attempt to copy the above ad.

It speaks to us in other ways as well, often as uniquely as we all speak to each other.  I do personally get swept up in the kinesthetics, even though I’m really not much of a dancer,  finding it nearly impossible not to tap or bop or sway or sing (or all of the above) when I hear a song.

But what of my statuesque travel companions on transit, where every pair of feet remain glued to the ground, every head stares straight ahead at nothing, and no body ever moves save to exit or accommodate the entry of others to the vehicle?

What is their music saying to them?  Since they’re not moving on the outside, how does music move them on the inside?

Music moves me on the inside too in two main ways:

Music: my memory-keeper

Because I have music playing almost all the time, many of my memories are encoded within the lines and bars of whatever I was listening to at the time of the original experience.  For me, a song can evoke a long-lost remembrance and its associated emotions with the suddenness of a flashback.

As well, snippets of lyrics – handfuls of words set to tune that itself is the distillation of a full-blown occurrence – can help me explain my own experiences to myself.

Not only is music the filing cabin of my past, it’s the encyclopedia of it as well, from which I constantly quote (or sing, or ponder) lyrics as situations appropriate to the lyrics’ content arise.

Music: my muse

As a writer, almost everything I write is inspired by music.  And yet, for a writer, I’m surprisingly indifferent to most song lyrics in this regard.

While it’s not unheard of for lyrical content to directly inspire what I write, more often, it’s the sound of a song – the instruments, the rhythm, the texture of the singer’s voice (if there even is a singer), and the overall mood these sonic components create – that rouses my imagination.

Indeed, when it comes to selecting music to write to, whether it contains lyrics or not, I choose that for which I’m most easily able to disregard the songwriter’s vision and meaning.

This allows me to create my own story around the music, both when writing or just daydreaming to entertain myself, and, if necessary, attribute different emotions to songs than what they originally contained.

Currently playing

Music should always be about how it makes you feel, inside and out, rather than what it causes people to think of you.

Every song has it’s listener, and every music collection has at least one embarrassing track (if not one embarrassing album, or more; hipsters, this includes you too – you know you’ve got some songs from formerly indie bands after they made it big!)

My favourite genres include trance/electronic, alternative metal, movie scores, singer-songwriter, and a guilty pleasure portion of pop.

A sample of some songs currently receiving heavy play on my computer are as follows:

Losing My Religion – Lacuna Coil – Alternative Metal

  • There’s something so much more bleak and visceral about this remake of the R.E.M. original.


A Case for Shame – Moby feat. Cold Specks – Electronic

  • Moby’s chilled-out beats are the perfect way to unwind from a busy day, particularly with the soulful vocals from Cold Specks.


Canceling the Apocalypse – Ramin Djawadi – Soundtrack (Movie: Pacific Rim)

  • The title is such a clunky phrase from the movie: “We’re canceling the Apocalypse!”  Yet it’s such a stirring track, equal parts wistful and hopeful.


Happy New Year – Dido – Singing-Songwriter

  • Dido’s distinctive, sweet-sounding drone is the perfect counterpoint to this typically depressing Dido song.


Rock and Roll – Avril Lavigne – Guilty-pleasure Pop

  • I told you everyone has one!  This song is catchy, has a recognizable beat, and a high concept “us-against-the-world” message.


Now it’s your turn: What role does music play in your life?  Post a video or link of a song in the comments and tell me why you love it.

(Image source #1)

13 thoughts on “How Does the Music Move You?

  1. Music means the world to me, Janna. I listen to it every day and when I hear an old song it immediately takes me back to that time. My idea of hell is a world without music 😀

    I don’t know how to link a video in here, but the latest song I listen to when I’m painting is Awolnation “all I need” 😀


  2. That Lacuna Coil song is great. And I agree–much better than the REM version. They’re one of the bands I’ve been meaning to check out for years. I’ve never met anyone who’s a fan of movie soundtracks as a genre, so that’s pretty interesting. 🙂

    As for me, where do I begin? I think I’m currently stuck on Parkway Drive, both Atlas and Deep Blue. Two brilliant albums. It’s like a drug I can’t quit. Every song is great and each one like a perfectly crafted novel. Deliver Me begins in media res, each change like a plot twist that takes your breath away.


    • I often enjoy a movie’s soundtrack more than the movie itself, and the music in a movie is definitely something I pay close attention to.

      I agree, Deliver Me is like four different songs in one. I can’t really think of any other songs that are written like that – very creative. I too find there are albums I get stuck on and listen to over and over again for months.


      • A lot of people can’t get past harsh vocals and it’s a shame, because Parkway Drive are some extremely talented guys. The rawness of his voice is such added emotional impact and I just can’t get enough.

        I need to start paying attention to music in movies. Unless the music is in your face I rarely take note. I watched half of Pacific Rim and pretty much gave up. It’s a cool looking movie but the story isn’t doing it for me. And I feel like it’s taking place on some other planet that’s 99% male. One token female character whoop dee do. Then they put her and the hero in an emotionally trying situation and he’s just gonna man up and shake it off, yet she has some ridiculous panic attack. ‘Cause, you know, women and their emotions. PASS. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is the song you posted from that movie is beautiful and I wish I could have enjoyed it. LOL


      • Admittedly, I don’t really go for the type of alt. metal with harsh vocals. I generally prefer the type that has more orchestral-like vocals, especially by female singers. But I am able to hear more than just harsh singing.

        I really liked Pacific Rim. I definitely agree: it needed more women in major-speaking roles. One of the doctors could have been female. And the Aussie son could have been an Aussie daughter, which would have drawn an interesting parallel with the relationship with Mako and her adopted father.

        But I really liked how, rather than some manly-man single-handedly saving the day, messages of teamwork, collaboration, and trust pervaded the entire film – very atypical to the usual Hollywood blockbuster fare.

        I also liked the concept of the Drift. I don’t know if its actually a trope of the Gundam genre, but it was new to me and felt very original. It exemplified the values of teamwork and trust. When looked at from the perspective of the Drift, Mako’s flashback (it was more a flashback than a panic attack) makes more sense. I also really liked her relationship with her adopted father. And the fact that her and the hero don’t kiss at the end – that the nature of their relationship is left quite ambiguous.

        But if nothing else, the soundtrack is awesome. 🙂


  3. Look at you with the well-lit pic of yourself… This is definitely the new and improved! I love it.

    Where to start with my thoughts on music? I think you said everything better than I could have anyway. You know I’m obsessed with music. I listen to everything from medieval to metal, and it’s always been a central part of my life. Music is truly a universal language. Any intelligent life form with the apparatus to detect sound waves can understand tone. A G# on Earth is a G# on any world with an atmosphere to conduct sound. Music inspires my writing. I’ve even written songs based on my own short stories. Nothing else stirs the soul quite like a song.


    • Look at you with the well-lit pic of yourself… Well, it’s a new day here at my little blog, so I figured that if I’m now going to be a true digital person, I may as well show my pretty pixels. 😉

      I do know of your great love of music. I actually thought of you while I was writing this post. Music has always been a central part of my life as well, from my involvement in choir and band throughout my school years to my present-day penchant for always having music on at home.

      I think that if we ever meet in person, music is definitely something we could geek out on together. I also hope that if/when aliens make contact with humanity, it is through music that they discover us, and through music that they communication with us. What a beautiful conversation that would be.

      That’s cool that you’ve written songs about your short stories, BTW.


      • It’s a good thing you don’t live nearby, as you’d have several (likely unwanted) mix CDs form me. A friend of mine sent me an Onion news article about people who only make friends so they have someone to give mix CDs to.


  4. The new title fooled me there for a second 🙂 Whilst I appreciate a bit of music I listen to it less ans less as the years go by. Certainly I’m not plugged in to an iPod nor do I have music playing in the apartment so I can’t say that I’ve been influenced by it in any way.
    What a decision, what clip to use? I’ve decided to go with my guitar hero Rory Gallagher and a bit of acoustic


    • I guess it was rather cruel of me to ask readers for one song when I posted five! 😉

      This was great. There’s nothing more inspiring than a guitar virtuoso. I do like folk music as well. I wish I could play like this, but I’m not prepared to put in the level of practice to make that a reality. Maybe sometime in the future.

      …nor do I have music playing in the apartment… If I ever come visit you, you’ll have to put on some background music for me to prevent my going insane. (I’m convinced the reason I always have music playing at home is to distract me from racket of my own thoughts!) 🙂


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