I was recently going through some old mixed CDs—you know the things we made back in the dark ages before Spotify? Anyway, several of the CDs were titled with particular emotional tones like sad or contemplative, so that I could listen to them when I was in the corresponding mood. One of the CDs I came across, however had no such label. I gave it a listen, and remembered that it was my creativity playlist! It’s a bunch of songs that for one reason or another made me feel encouraged to be artistic—to write, to sing, to make things. And I realized, giving it another listen, they still do.
There’s a lot of music from the soundtrack of The Lord of Rings: The Return of the King on it which is not surprising because much of my first manuscript was written with Howard Shore’s orchestral brilliance pumping into my ears.
There’s also two songs from Stephen Sondheim’s Sundays in the Park with George—one (Move On) taken from the original cast recording of Bernadette Peters and Mandy Patinkin and the other (Putting It Together) a cover and partial rewrite by Barbra Streisand. These tunes support me in my creative pursuits because “art isn’t easy” and even though “there’s nothing that’s not been said”, it hasn’t yet been said by me.
It’s interesting to me that there are two songs about vulnerability: BareNaked by Jennifer Love Hewitt and I’m Sensitive by Jewel, but it shouldn’t be surprising, after all, how else can you be when making and showing your stuff, if not open and vulnerable? I particularly like Jewel’s determination to embrace her delicate senses by saying “Please be careful with me. I’m sensitive and I’d like to stay that way.”
There’s one actual folk song (Fair and Tender Ladies sung by Rosanne Cash) and another (When Love is New by Dolly Parton and Emmy Rossum) very close to that style which, for me, always seems to get inside an emotion, but often with a sort of matter-of-fact kind of practicality that I like. I guess some might find lyrics like “Love is pretty when love is new, like a blushing rose in a dazzling dew” and “Come all ye fair and tender ladies, take a warning how you court young men” somewhat cynical, but I find the words and the voices that sing them wonderfully evocative.
The remainder of songs are basically singer-songwriter-y. There’s Dido’s reminder that I need to grab living with both hands in Life for Rent. And Eva Cassidy’s poignant cover of Sting’s Fields of Gold. The drums and vocalization at the beginning of Rubén Blades’ Patria are enough to get my creative juices flowing. And Joan Osborne’s One of Us makes me want to try look at things with God’s eyes and, to be honest, I really just love belting that chorus. That I Would Be Good by Alanis Morissette prompts me to remember my intrinsic value as a person, not for how I look or what I can do (even and especially artistically!) And the lyric, “That I would be good, if I got and stayed sick” never fails to give me chills.
And of course, no playlist can be complete without a rousing call to action song—in this case, Defying Gravity from the musical Wicked because “Everyone deserves a chance to fly.”
Recently, I added one more song to this list: Emily Maguire’s Start Over Again—because, in most situations in life and almost always in creative ones, I find myself needing this advice “Go Slow. Be kind. Be wise. Start over again.”
What about you? What music makes you feel creative? Do you have a playlist?