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!


A couple hours of exercise music (a half-marathon playlist)

Need a half-marathon playlist? Here’s a couple hours of music to get you there. Organized by beats per minute (bpm) from slowest to fastest so you can gradually speed up.

Exercise relieves stress, clears the head, and can make opportunities for creative breakthroughs.

70 bpm “Earth Cry Mercy” Michael Gettel | Amazon | iTunes
70 bpm “Cycle” Beck | Amazon | iTunes
84 bpm “Georgia On My Mind” Ray Charles | Amazon | iTunes
90 bpm “Kyrie” Mr. Mister | Amazon | iTunes
95 bpm “Water Under the Bridge” Adele | Amazon | iTunes
98 bpm “I Want You Back” Michael Jackson | Amazon | iTunes
100 bpm “Chocolate” The 1975 | Amazon | iTunes
103 bpm “Something Just Like This” The Chainsmokers | Amazon | iTunes
117 bpm “Billie Jean” Michael Jackson | Amazon | iTunes
120 bpm “Oh Sherrie” Journey | Amazon | iTunes
125 bpm “High On You” Survivor | Amazon | iTunes
127 bpm “The Sound” Noah Gundersen | Amazon | iTunes
128 bpm “Born to Hand Jive” Sha Na Na | Amazon | iTunes
128 bpm “Shut Up And Dance” WALK THE MOON | Amazon | iTunes
130 bpm “Jump” Van Halen | Amazon | iTunes
131 bpm “Invisible Touch” Genesis | Amazon | iTunes
133 bpm “If I Had My Way” Peter Paul and Mary | Amazon | iTunes
133 bpm “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” The Charlie Daniels Band | Amazon | iTunes
133 bpm “Boom Boom” Rye Rye | Amazon | iTunes
136 bpm “I Am Free” New Life Worship | Amazon | iTunes
136 bpm “No Air” Jordin Sparks | Amazon | iTunes
141 bpm “The East Wind” Gord Downie & The Country Of Miracles | Amazon | iTunes
141 bpm “Generals and Majors” XTC | Amazon | iTunes
144 bpm “Written In Blood” She Wants Revenge | Amazon | iTunes
147 bpm “Born to Run” Bruce Springsteen | Amazon | iTunes
148 bpm “Bottle of Smoke” The Pogues | Amazon | iTunes
149 bpm “Heartbeat Song” Kelly Clarkson | Amazon | iTunes
150 bpm “Only If You Run” Julian Plenti | Amazon | iTunes
150 bpm “Bang Bang” Jessie J, Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj| Amazon | iTunes
153 bpm “The Promise” Within Temptation | Amazon
153 bpm “Sex On Fire” Kings of Leon | Amazon | iTunes
153 bpm “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” Queen | Amazon | iTunes
160 bpm “Greased Lightnin’” John Travolta | Amazon | iTunes
160 bpm “Zephyrus” Bloc Party | Amazon | iTunes
160 bpm “What I Like About You” The Romantics | Amazon | iTunes
163 bpm “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” Wham! | Amazon | iTunes
167 bpm “To Mistiko Mou Na Vris (I Can’t Help It)” Ivi Adamou| Amazon | iTunes
169 bpm “Take On Me” A-Ha | Amazon | iTunes
170 bpm “Frei Zu Sein” In Extremo | Amazon
170 bpm “The Middle” Great Northern | Amazon | iTunes
170 bpm “I Like You So Much Better When You’re Naked” Ida Maria | Amazon | iTunes
174 bpm “Man or Animal” Audioslave | Amazon | iTunes
174 bpm “Unstoppable” Sia | Amazon | iTunes
174 bpm “Change My Life” Ashes Remain | Amazon | iTunes
175 bpm “Attack Of The Ghost Riders” The Asteroids Galaxy Tour | Amazon | iTunes
176 bpm “Another Girl Another Planet” Blink-182 | Amazon | iTunes
176 bpm “Masai” Elli Kokkinou | Amazon | iTunes
176 bpm “Good Fight” Unspoken | Amazon | iTunes
176 bpm “I Am Yours” The Afters | Amazon | iTunes