The ecstasy of music in motion

Thursday, December 1, 2016 - 4:45pm

There’s something about traveling while listening to music that always affects me. It’s hard to say what it is, whether it’s the scenery around me, the people I’m with or the activity I’m doing, but I am always in a certain state when I’m listening to music and moving. And it changes all the time.

As someone who takes 10-hour car rides home from college, doesn’t leave her apartment without headphones, drives multiple hours to swim meets, etc., I seem to find this emotional state happening often. As most people do, I put on my favorite playlists and albums to pass the time.

But what I’ve noticed about “music in motion” is that there seems to be some sort of exterior impact. Example: the movies where there is a girl riding the bus while she stares out the window and some sappy The Fray song comes on. Even though in real life, nothing would be heard, there’s music playing in the moment, and thus the entire scene makes the viewer feel a little teary-eyed. Setting and melody combines into a state of thinking, of listening and of feeling, and I often get into that state of mind when I travel.

I’m the type of person to listen to music when walking around campus and when working at my job. Yes, there is a sense of seclusion when I do this, but it also affects the way I see the community around me. I observe the actions of people hustling through the Diag; I pay closer attention to the trees and how they change. I notice the architecture, and I’m more aware of the thoughts that are being applied when I view this kind of environment. Music gives me a lens that I couldn’t assume if I wasn't listening to it.

There’s walking, though, and then there’s driving. I distinctly remember my first road trip with my current college roommate. We were going to Cedar Point for fall break, and we decided to play some of our favorite songs. Whether that be alternative, rap or even country, my friendship with Perie was built upon music.

In the car, she would play a song, explain how it reminded her of a past boyfriend and then we would stare off into the Ohio sunset. Then it would be my turn, and I’d put on a song, explaining how it reminded me of a friend that passed away, all while we were going 75 mph. There was a feeling of content and closeness that I had with Perie on that five-hour adventure. However, the confines of the car made no impact on our vocal and auditory freedom.

And it’s not just our sad-girl songs that make us feel emotional — it’s belting “Shot at the Night” by the Killers and feeling like rock stars, or harmonizing to “Roses” by the Chainsmokers and feeling like we’re at tailgates again. It’s the moments when we introduce songs to one another as if they have been a longtime friend of ours; we have such a connection to the song, and with that, we have a connection to each other.

To this day, I listen to the songs that Perie introduced to me on that road trip. No matter where I am or what I’m doing, I always know that those specific songs were first listened to in my Jeep with someone who is now my best friend at college — that construct itself holds such a strong sentiment.

Nowadays, this emotional state varies. With two more roommates from the East Coast, we all drive home together, make a collaborative playlist and listen to everybody’s unique music tastes. It ranges from Perie’s Kanye to Lauren’s Frank Ocean to Emily’s Stevie Wonder and to my Fleetwood Mac. One minute, Bon Iver puts us to sleep, and the next minute Lauren and I are freestyle rapping.

Then I’ll look ahead at each white dash of the highway as it disappears under the car. We remind ourselves that we have been driving this entire time during our makeshift concert. It’s these kinds of communal experiences that enrich the bonds I have with my roommates, and it goes beyond the moments in the Jeep. We go to a cappella concerts together, share our party playlists before going out or even look up holiday trap music to get hype for winter break.

Traveling with music creates a state of ecstasy for me, one where I can be overjoyed or nostalgic or pumped up. It’s a secure feeling even though I am not grounded. Memories can be made when I’m in that car with my roommates or when I’m flying by myself or simply when walking to class. The way one’s surroundings can change, but the tune in her ears does not, is a moment I find to be truly ineffable.