Mood music

By: Kristin Helf, Columnist

There is something to be said for music that makes you feel like you’re listening to a soundtrack, when it’s actually not the soundtrack to a movie or a television show. It’s the soundtrack to your life.

When you’re walking to class with your headphones on and you can practically feel the cameras on you, it’s the opening sequence to the movie that is your life. The credits are rolling and the camera’s panning back now, to get a wide shot of the picturesque autumnal campus setting.

You’re not exactly strutting down the sidewalk or singing aloud as you make your daily detour through Freedom Square, but you feel just enough added drama to brighten up a monotonous school day.

Mood music isn’t just the sensual jams you put on when feeling particularly seductive. It’s the slow jams, fast jams or go-to playlists you always turn to when you want to create a particular atmosphere.

Now that it’s fall, I play the Rocky Horror soundtrack and the Neutral Milk Hotel album “In the Aeroplane over the Sea” on repeat. The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a Halloween classic, so that one’s obvious.

As for Neutral Milk Hotel, I discovered them one October a few years ago, and ever since it’s invoked certain images of crispy leaves, pumpkin patches and chrysanthemums regardless of the season.

Because of the way our brain stores information and makes connections, our senses trigger memories. That’s why you can listen to a special song and travel through time, or practically feel a summer breeze on your skin even in the dead of winter.

Initially this week I wanted to write about the soundtrack from “Twin Peaks.” It’s extremely beautiful with soothing, jazzy instrumentals, saxophone solos and melodic piano parts that immediately bring me to Twin Peaks, Washington, no matter where I really am.

When I close my eyes, I see plaid skirts and sycamore trees. It’s the 1990s, but as Shelly Johnson serves me coffee at the Double R diner, I’m a 1990s-Twin-Peaks-character-feeling-like-it’s-the-1950s. It gets that complex.

I realized that I love the “Twin Peaks” soundtrack so much because it takes me to another place in time, one that is aesthetically pleasing and makes me both deliriously happy and sedated-calm at the same time. And that’s something that all good music can do for us.

If you love “Twin Peaks” as much as I do I’m sure you’ve listened to the soundtrack, produced by the immensely talented Angelo Badalamenti, plenty of times. You don’t need to set aside 40 minutes to watch an episode: just one song can take you to the Double R or the Black Lodge!

You don’t need to have seen that particular show to know what I’m talking about. I’m assuming, and hoping, that everyone has at least one song that they can time travel to. Music has a funny way of making the physically impossible, plausible.

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