Happy music

Starting point: Steve Backshall, Explorer, Desert Island Discs, BBC Radio 4 (2020-08-02).

(Side note: This is the first podcast episode I've listened to in over two months. It used to be a commuting activity, then a while-using-the-rowing-machine activity, and now that I'm still not commuting and running outside instead using the infernal indoor exercise equipment, I just don't listen to podcasts anymore.)

There was a moment about halfway through this episode that I thought was good advice—the sort of advice I've been looking for recently, really:

[15:12] I spend a lot of time on my own. I spend a lot of time in my own head. And I've become quite good at finding ways of manipulating my own mood. So I know that if I'm feeling a little bit down, then I can take myself out for a bike ride in the driving rain, or get up early to see a sunrise, or use music. I find music incredibly powerful as a way of turning my mood the way that I would like it to go, particularly if I'm feeling lonely or sad or down, I can listen to certain tracks and I can make that just go away.

I've been thinking about this quite a lot recently. Every time I make a post about some music—e.g., "Higgs Boson Blues" or "Hurt"—I can't help but wonder why I don't ever think about writing about some happy music. Surely I must listen to some... right? I went on a quick dive into my music files—which are a total shambles now, after years and years of switching from computer to phone to computer, years and years after college where we all had so much music in that short strange window when it was easily available with dubious legality—and, frankly, I don't have much happy music. My most-listened-to R.E.M. album is Automatic for the People ("Everybody Hurts", "Monty Got a Raw Deal", etc.). And there's Tom Waits ("Misery Is the River of the World", "Small Change (Got Rained on with His Own .38)", etc.). And the Beck album I have anymore is Sea Change (where did the other albums go—this is definitely a job for Midnite Vultures).

I don't have a lot of overtly sad music—but I don't have much happy music either. It's not that I don't like it, it's just that I don't like it. The closest I get to happy music is, I suppose, Ween or Camper Van Beethoven, but those songs that I'm lumping into the Happy Music box are really more like Silly Music. (Fantastic find: Here is David Lowary with an extended riff that discusses "Take the Skinheads Bowling".)

Too many words. Too many words. Especially when I know what the Point is.

If you don't like riding it out through the low spots, and you knew you could hack your own mood with the Right Song—why the hell wouldn't you do that? I'm going to rummage around in my head and see if I can find one—it must be in there somewhere.

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