You’ve probably seen a meme prompting for a response to answer a question along the lines of “What song defines your life?” My standard answer is “It Don’t Come Easy” by Ringo Starr of Beatles fame.

Regardless of how silly it may be to refer to a popular tune to describe one’s life, it’s not so far-fetched to think that our lives are filled with the music we play according to specific times. An easy example is the annual holiday season running from Thanksgiving to Christmas–beginning before Halloween in many retail establishments–during which Christmas carols and similarly themed music is played constantly. Christmas music fills our holidiay season with cheer and good will, whether natural or forced.

Many people play their favorite soundtracks while working. My older son enjoyed listening to “eighties dance music” with his friends. My younger son enjoys country and hip hop. I use different genres of music when doing different activities. From the radio, housework gets classic rock ‘n’ roll, although I’ll happily listen to country while driving or washing the dishes. When reading, I tune into YouTube’s vast library. My tastes run to Big Band, classic rock, Big Band–gotta love Glenn Miller’s “In the  Mood!”–and baroque music. 

When I’m writing my own stories, the genre of what I’m writing often determines what I listen to. Writing fantasy and fantasy romance, I find my tastes in music leaning toward Celtic music, the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit soundtracks, and the like.

Especially while writing when I don’t want to be distracted by commercials every couple of minutes, I’ll put on certain channels or movie soundtracks. As I write this, I’m listening to the soundtrack from The Last of the Mohicans, one of my favorite movies, although it’s been years since I’ve watched it. The soundtrack from Pirates of the Caribbean also makes for good music by which to write.

It’s interesting to read books that mention specific music. I’ve noticed this usually happens with younger authors who reference contemporary songs rather than classics which endure throughout the decades or even the centuries. I usually don’t recognize those songs the authors reference, but that’s okay. Sometimes the mention inspires me to look up the song. I usually find that it’s not something I particularly enjoy, but it never hurts to try out a new tune.

Sometimes I’ll select a song I particularly want to hear on YouTube and let it run throught the selection it deems appropriate. That’s how I discovered the not-so-dulcet tones of Disturbed. Their rendition of Simon and Garfunkle’s “Sound of Silence” is haunting. I think Disturbed does it better than Simon and Garfunkle did. That’s also how I discovered Five Finger Death Punch. Their music has hidden depths, and I appreciate their patriotism.

I’ve noticed that seasons also affect my musical preferences. Summer is country and rock, hands down. With fall comes the intricate strains of classical music from Vivaldi and Haydn to Rossini and Chopin. Winter adds in Celtic music with periodic forays into sixties rock from the Zombies’ “Time of the Season” to Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walking.” We can also throw in funky outliers the The Dead South and Theory of a Deadman.

I seldom seek out music more recent than 2000. I detest hip hop and rap. I occasionally catch newer groups like Imagine Dragons on the radio, but most of that doesn’t seem to have the same resonance that older music does. I recognize that opinion puts me solidly in the “old fogeys” category along with those gray-haired grouches who shout at kids to get off their lawns. I’m like Waldorf and Statler when it comes to the music of the last twenty years.

We all prefer the music we grew up with, the music that defined our youth. I’m no exception to that rule of preference, even if my tastes are varied.

Several years ago, I learned my mother like country music, the music of her youth. It surprised me, because we didn’t have a single country album in the house while I was growing up. We had Perry Como and his ilk. My father enjoyed the Beach Boys, Carole King, Carly Simon, Crosby Stills & Nash, and the Eagles. Being a daddy’s girl, I loved their music, too. I still do.

Music forms a backdrop to our lives that no movie producer ever ignored. The music we hear becomes connected to particular times of our lives. We revisit the music that keys into those good feelings and the music that seems to express our sorrow or anger. Music conveys emotion and attitude, and the lyrics tell stories within our stories.