art, listening

Telling your story through music

Music is important in most people’s lives, and so references to music can be an important part of telling a story.

Rick Moody describes this excellently in his essay “The End.” He remembers when, at age eight, he learned that his parents would divorce:

“My feeling was that there was nothing I could do about it. My feeling was that I was about to be an item on an itemized list of marital property. My brother wept.

Here’s what I have often found in my moments of keenest disconsolation: that music has an unexpected power to console and to transmute what is most grievous. The layers of imperviousness that smother a song when you listen to it a lot, these layers are sundered away, and music is apparent in its most elemental guise, full of mystery and passion and awe. Things that you haven’t heard in a fresh way in a thousand listens are suddenly bright and new, when you really need them most.”

This can happen even when the music is “adjacent” to the action and not playing as a simultaneous soundtrack.

“It’s not that Abbey Road was playing that night. It’s that through some metonymic action, in which a work of art becomes a symbol of all that is adjacent, Abbey Road, with its bright, glorious production, its elegant string arrangements, its strange and elevated moments, its harpsichord and Moog synthesizer, has become the sound, for me, of my parents separating.”

“The End.” Rick Moody, Brown Alumni Magazine, September/October 2017.

I’ve written a fictional story built around a pop song.

If you’ve written something—fiction, nonfiction, poetry—involving a significant experience with music, or if you’ve made visual art about music, tell me about it in the comments!


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