text: NPR, the protojournalist
In January, NPR issued a challenge: "If you could tell your life story — chronologically, up to now — in six songs, what would they be?"
Here are some of the collections that NPR gathered from listeners. Below are mine. What would yours be?
1. Best of All Possible Worlds; Candide, Leonard Bernstein (libretto by Richard Wilbur)
Candide is one of the first performances of adult theater I remember attending - my father loved the soundtrack, and we wore the cassette tape to shreds from listening to it so much in the car. This song in particular made an impression as I, in my childishness, began to understand that there were many different ways to see and interact with the world.
2. Laudamus Te (Gloria RV 589); Vivaldi
The majority of my time and energy was devoted to the National Cathedral when I was at school, and my spiritual explorations and musical education were moulded by my experiences there. Beyond that, though, the camaraderie of having been a chorister alongside 20 other girls taught me invaluable lessons about friendship, loyalty, leadership, and discipline, all of which come flooding back when I hear this joyous soprano duet that I sang more than a decade ago.
3. Hey Girl; OAR
In my last three years or so of high school, I jumped headfirst into a social life I hadn't known before; I had friends outside of the choir, I dated boys who went to other schools, I tested my parents' boundaries, and I got a taste of what life in college might be like. I can't remember the summer after graduation, the glorious crescendo of all of my carefree teenage dreams, without hearing this song in my mind and being transported back to late-night parties in someone's red solo cup-littered backyard.
4. Put Your Records On; Corinne Bailey Rae
Corinne Bailey Rae's eponymous first album was released halfway through my college tenure, but every single track was in my top 25 most played on iTunes by the time I left Columbia. Listening to Put Your Records On made me feel world-weary - a line in the refrain notes "the more things seem to change, the more they stay the same" - but optimistic at the same time, like I could make those years in New York into whatever I wanted.
5. Beyond the Sea; Bobby Darin
Jon and I have spent nearly 30 months all told since we started dating in October 2008 separated by the Atlantic (and by a lot of bureaucracy, but that's a different post). We picked this song as our first dance at our wedding this past August and it's made me smile throughout our relationship no matter what waters we've been navigating: "I know beyond a doubt / my heart will lead me there soon..."
6. Moondance; Van Morrison
I've been listening to a lot of country/folk/classic rock-type stuff since I moved back to DC. I think it makes me feel rooted in some sort of imagined Americana that I'd been missing in England and, though Van Morrison was born in Northern Ireland so shouldn't at all be included in this, Moondance (and Caravan, which I almost picked as my sixth song) always makes me feel like I'm home and I belong and I'm content.