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Music for the Soul

OPB | Jan. 16, 2009 midnight | Updated: Sept. 10, 2013 8:47 p.m.

What do you listen to, when?

There’s music that evokes memories of childhood, or helps you wallow in a breakup. There’s music for celebrations — perhaps you’ve heard an example in the last week? — and there’s even music you might stipulate to be played at your memorial service. If music is the soundtrack to many of our lives, there’s likely something that you can play at any given time. But what to play when, and why?

We’re thinking of this not as a show about soul music, but about music for the soul — a slippery phrase that obviously means something different for each person. Put another way, we’re talking about the music we turn to heighten to our joy or lessen our sorrow. Most simply, we’re talking about the music we turn to over and over, and what we get from it.

My own list to get this party started, a sort of desert island compilation that runs the emotional gamut:

Freedom 90, George Michael: Maybe it’s the tambourines, maybe it’s the anthemic grandiosity, or else it’s just George’s pop genius, but I can’t resist this song. And I don’t want to. (The video, I admit, is a bit silly.)

((UPDATE, 1/09/09: Bilal Qureshi, a star NPR Kroc Fellow who interned at OPB and is now back at the mothership working on All Things Considered, disagreed, writing: “The video is as good as the song — if not better.” You decide.))

Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright, Bob Dylan: This isn’t just the best breakup song ever written, full of false bravado, barely concealed hurt, and simmering passive aggression. It’s also, miraculously, the prettiest.

Bach’s “Chaconne” from his Second Partita for Unaccompanied Violin (played here and here by Henryk Szeryng): This is it, if I could have only one. It’s a simple, yearning melody followed by genetic pyrotechnics of replication and mutation. Even if, technically, this is the final movement of a secular dance suite, for me it’s spiritual music of the highest order: nearly enough, in and of itself, to make me believe in a god.

So that’s just a few tracks from my story. We’ll have three guests to help us navigate their own personal soundtracks. Eric Issacson founded Mississippi Records, a record store and record label. David Hattner was a professional clarinetist and conductor for years before his recent arrival in Portland as the newest conductor of the Portland Youth Philharmonic. And Kathleen Morris calls herself a “therapeutic harpist”; she plays harp in hospitals and hospices for patients in various stages of illness.

What about you? What do you listen to, and when? How do you program your own soundtrack?

UPDATE, DECEMBER 24 AT 7:32AM: Due to yet another dumping of snow, we’re delaying this show until some point in January. But hey, at least this will give you more time to write about your own songs — and it will give us more time to track them down to play on the air.

Photo credit: Pfly / Flickr / Creative Commons

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