Today at work I put on Jar of Flies by Alice in Chains and didn’t think much of it; it was automatic. A co-worker asked me what I was listening to and while she liked the sound she joked that it probably wasn’t listening to it to determine whether it would make a good fit for that evening’s presentation. I explained, surprising myself, that this record tends to be the one I listen to at work the most. Then I got to thinking why exactly that is and how really, I’ve had the habit of listening to certain music in certain spaces for several years now. Thoughts below and some music videos after that at the bottom of the post.
I don’t have much music on my office PC but Jar of Flies is there and I play it a lot. Maybe it’s because I didn’t put much other music on the PC so there was less competition. Or perhaps it’s because Alice in Chains starts with “A” so it’s at or near the top of my PC’s media player list of musical artists. Or it’s possible I enjoy the record, like the idea of a little old school Seattle grunge echoing down at least one hall of a church. The first two may have been true at one point but today I was on my laptop from home which has plenty of music and a few artists listed above Alice in Chains and yet that’s where I went. I’m wondering if that third potential reason, that I like that Layne is crooning and the band is blasting in a church, is why I played it. There could be a fourth reason, too: I’ve done it so much that whatever the initial reasons, it simply feels “right” to have it on in that time and place. Listening to Jar of Flies by Alice in Chains at work is my habit.
Upon reflection, I have a small handful of records I tend to play in specific settings. When I worked on play manuscripts in coffee shops while living in Cheyenne, WY, I listened to three Radiohead records back-to-back on my Sony minidisc player most every time: The Bends, OK Computer, and Kid A, in that order. When The Bends started playing, I started writing. When Kid A ended, I ended. When I started, I’d only gotten those records the year before and their fresh sound thrilled me. These days, I still find that I often play one or more of these records when I’m writing (here at home, “My Iron Lung” from The Bends is playing right now, in fact). Listening to early Radiohead while working is my habit.
At the end of the night at camp, when campers and counselors venture back to their cabins for much-needed sleep, I’m often in the lodge or other large group gathering area cleaning up that day’s mess or setting up for the next day’s events. A few years ago I put on Greatest Hits by Al Green and sung along with “Tired of Being Alone” while I picked up trash and re-stacked songbooks during this still-of-the-evening time. Some counselors sometimes trickled in for informal gatherings and to help clean-up and a year or so later, more than one of them pointed out I listen to this record in this setting quite a bit. It’s still a cool-down record for me at camp and other places now including night driving. When I choose it I know it’s going to have a nice beat and heartfelt lyrics yet light, almost floating in its delivery. Listening to Greatest Hits by Al Green while cooling down is my habit.
I’m sure there are more, but these are the three that strike me right now. Do you have certain music in certain spaces of your life?
Alice in Chains – Jar of Flies
Radiohead – The Bends
Al Green – Greatest Hits