Choosing Music for Storms and Whatever Comes After

It’s November, and it’s raining in Brooklyn. Unlike almost every other day, music didn’t feel quite right on the way to the subway. At least none of what I scrolled through on my iPod.

Of its many extrasensory qualities, something profound about music is its ability to alter moods. Right now it’s storming outside, and not in that comforting way, not for me, not when I look down at the broken umbrella by my foot. If ever there were one, this is a mood I would like to alter—but which way should I go? Should I temper it? Or enhance it?

That answer is entirely a matter of personal choice, one that should be rendered moot, however, in the company of others. When choosing music as a group, a consensus is often quickly reached; everyone goes with whatever, since—hopefully, anyway—the mood of the group will overwhelm the mood of the music. The people who choose to let the music be more important than the group, are choosing the role of the buzzkill.

On the other hand, listening to music alone brings with it an entirely different setting and options, but it also means something else. Especially where iPods, or rather unshared iPods are concerned, this is an anti-social choice: I’m choosing to listen to my music alone, I’m choosing to not share, and I’m choosing to choose my mood.

If choosing to listen to music as a group is a social act, and choosing to listen to music alone is anti-social, the only thing left—short of silence—is to not choose at all. One way to do this is by listening to the radio, which is thus pro-social listening—or listening for people who wish there were other people around, or, if they are, then wish there were different other people around. Which makes for an uneasy thought when the only other person in the car starts scanning the dial.

We love to alter our moods, we love to do it with music, but the only way to do so and still get along at parties and on road trips is to do it alone. Today, of course, with a sturdy internet connection and the proper tools, we can swing our moods as often, and as precisely, as we like.

And though showers are predicted throughout the afternoon and evening, and my shoes are still drying—just in time to get wet again—I can truly say I wish it were snowing instead. But until it gets cold enough for that, I’m hoping for a lovely day tomorrow.


Andrew Womack is a founding editor of The Morning News. He is always working on the next installment of the Albums of the Year series at TMN. More by Andrew Womack

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