So, in the past seven years, I have moved cross-country four times. The upshot of this is that I sensibly ripped much of my music to my computer and put my CDs into storage.
I like music. Both of my parents have musical leanings. (I? Do not. But I am a listener of a developed aesthetic and catholic tastes.) So. I have a lot of music on this computer. As some of you may have noticed. Something over forty gigs of it. (iTunes informs me that it's a little over 28 days' worth of sound files.)
The problem with this is that sometimes things get lost in the shuffle. Or I get stuck in ruts. And I have a bunch of stuff on cassette tape, slowly moldering away, which I am in some cases trying to replace as time and money permit. (Or downloading, for that matter. I paid for the license once, after all. It's mine. Which reminds me, I need to do something about the Alice Cooper situation around here, because I really need to hear "Zorro's Ascent.")
So, for example, you get the situations where I suddenly remember, after not actually having listened to anything except the single of *"I'm Afraid Of Americans" for something like four years, that I really like David Bowie.
Music is also important to my creativity. I often get an entire story out of an image from a song, and ofttimes the story has nothing to do with the song. (Witness, "The Chains That You Refuse.") I also use the music shuffle to jar my brain loose when it's stuck, such as some writers will use Tarot cards to suggest plot.
Anyway, I *do* get in ruts. Exacerbated by my tendency to make playlists of certain types of music--"Whiny Boys with Guitars," being a notable example. (It also contains Whiny Girls with Keyboards.)--or soundtracks for books.
And in an attempt to shake the rut, I sometimes put the entire music library on shuffle--which can be entertaining, because you get really odd juxtapositions, and there are a bunch of .wav file clips from movies moldering in the back of my hard drive, so every so often your blues is punctuated by Viggo Mortensen saying "God is love. And I don't love you."
...Hey, whatever works, right?
Anyway, another technique that sometimes produces even better results is to pick a word or a letter, and start the old music engine churning along an alphabetical playlist. (I have 64 songs, iTunes informs me, that have the string "danc" in them somewhere.)
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What's interesting about that, of course, is what's *not* on it. Because I have a ton of stuff that somehow just doesn't fall into that part of the alphabet. Like, only one Fleetwood Mac song, though I have their entire discography between Bare Trees and The Dance. Including the crappy ones.
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And here I have at least as much Peter Mulvey and Joni Mitchell as I do Jimmy Buffett, but it's Buffett getting all the billing. (Joni also lists her version of the song of hers that *is* covered on this list as "The Ballad of the Sun and Moon." La.)
Anyway, doing this kind of thing helps me free-associate, create, come up with unexpected things. I allow the music to influence my thought process, and so I can control the ways in which is does influence it--either by feeding it something appropriate to the direction in which I want it to free-associate (Enigma is good for creepy sex scenes and black magic, for example), or by letting it spark any kind of idea at all.
I am not kidding.
Also, for those of you who are always trying to pimp me on music? Now you know that I mean it when I tell you I can't afford to fall in love with any more bands. And why, when you send me stuff, I never get around to listening to it. It's not you; it's that I can't manage the music collection I have.
...we move like badgers on vaseline.
...oh, shit, he's back.
*cranks up "Whole Lotta Rosie" in self-defense*
*It's on my workout mix