It's early in the morning, the sun is just now rising over the Wasatch range and gradually spreading its light over Salt Lake City. I have picked the perfect day to make my journey across the top of these famous mountains, and the view of the Great Salt Lake stretching off to the west, and Ogden in the far north, is as beautiful and extraordinary as I was expecting.
What just happened? No, I have never actually been in the situation stated above, I have never done more than merely drive through Salt Lake and see the Wasatch mountains from a distance. No, I have just listened to Broken Wings by Naturally 7, lying in my room in Bozeman.
I am what some would call a music visualist. Music, for me, is not solely limited to simply enjoying a song or tune. When I hear something good, something that intrigues my brain, I visualize what it could become if paired with an image or story-like mental movie. Songs have always been this way for me, and growing up in a very musical household certainly didn't hold it back. In my mind, every song tells a story, and the story can change with every genre. This is probably why my playlist has everything from orchestra to pop to classic rock to rap to vocal play and whatever else is in-between. I believe that every style of music deserves a chance to entice my ears, and let my imagination run wild.
As an aspiring geographer, place influences my musical images more than anything else. For example, the first 18 years of my life were spent splitting time between Minneapolis and northern Minnesota. As a result, different songs represent each of these areas. Considering Minneapolis is very much an urban 'hipster' mecca, with a touch of street smarts, Fresh Air by Brother Ali and Sunshine by Atmosphere bring me back to endless summer days spent biking and running the chain of lakes, in south Minneapolis. Madness by Muse stirs images of uptown and riding through the midtown Greenway, particularly on a cold, cloudy day.
When I go downtown, the first album by Chicago (C.T.A.) comes to mind. I challenge you to find a more old-school, urban CD than Chicago Transit Authority. Coming from Duluth on 35W, crossing the Mississippi with the MPLS skyline fully lit up at night, there is no better tune than Bright Lights Bigger City by Cee Lo Green to compliment the flashing lights from the Guthrie Theater and the old Gold Metal Flour sign. Coming from my house, heading north to downtown in broad daylight, No Church In The Wild by Jay-Z and Kanye West makes the buildings approaching seem much more daunting. The long walks I took through my neighborhood at night were aided by the calm melody of Take 6 on their first album. This was probably because Take 6 was the first 'real' music group I was introduced to, way back in 3rd grade when my world was limited to the Diamond Lake area.
Northern Minnesota has an entirely different culture, and as a result my choice of song changes quite drastically. Rainy Day Music by The Jayhawks instantly takes me back to warm evenings on the screen porch of our cabin, waiting for dinner to be served (lately this album has also represented driving through eastern Montana during the summer). The first album by Fleet Foxes is the perfect collection for silently exploring the forested stretches of Itasca County. White Winter Hymnal is ideal for this same situation, but during the winter.
When I came west for college, a whole new array of songs came about. Don't You Worry Child by Swedish House Mafia took sort of an emotional toll on me as I prepared to 'move' from Minneapolis to somewhere entirely different for the first time. In one of the lines "Upon a hill across a blue lake, that's where I had my first heartbreak. I still remember how it all changed." I could picture looking across an actual lake in the mountains near Bozeman, trying to find my identity in this new place and somehow let go of my old connections in the midwest.
Ever since coming to Montana, the songs which represent certain moments has varied, at least as I continue to add different genres to my expansive mental playlist. Move Along by The All-American Rejects always makes me picture driving on the rolling hills towards Gallatin Gateway, and Three Days Grace is for driving up Bridger Canyon Road, preferably on a gloomy day. This song also represents riding my road bike down Hyalite Canyon Road, in the aero position. An image I used after driving by a friend riding his bike down Hyalite Canyon, doing everything I now envision. Skiing at Bohart Ranch on a sunny Saturday, for whatever reason is Mirrors by Justin Timberlake. Don't ask for the logic behind this one, since I'm still trying to figure it out too.
When I listen to anything by Sonny Rollins, especially The Way You Look Tonight, I am instantly transported back to walking the streets of Vienna, Austria, where my family spent a 2 week vacation in 2008. The actual story I would want is something like in the film Midnight In Paris, however that is a very unrealistic fantasy.
While I can't list every song, any liquid dubstep mix or progressive house mix on youtube sends a flux of potential stories and images into my head, often unorganized and yet still orderly. These mixes however are all dependent on my mood, and what event I am often preparing myself to go to.
Music plays a big role in how I perceive the world around me, and provides me with the inspiration I desire to see something extra in nearly everything I do. It almost literally gives me a fresh perspective of life when I find things are getting too dull.