some of my favorite months; make it personal
And why you should consider starting one yourself.
Monthly top charts provide a similar collective musical diary where pop hits tend to bring you back to a particular time and place when they were played on the radio and in clubs ad nauseam, but whereas top charts listings provide a global music diary, keeping monthly music playlists provides a much more personalized diary with a lot of additional benefits.
1. It motivates me to keep my music rotation and tastes fresh.
Occasionally, I’ll make it a week or two into a month with an empty playlist. Upon noticing, I can’t help but feel obligated to somehow find time to sample some new artists & tracks and inevitably my playlist never ends up empty. Even if I only add a few songs in a month, the fact that it’s not empty means something.
I believe this psychological motivation is be closely related to the Zeigarnik Effect, whereby researchers have found a natural human tendency to finish what we start and experience dissonance otherwise.
On a related note, the rare times when I find my playlist bare tend to coincide with rough life experiences. In an unexpected twist, I’ve found that the times I’m really productive and on top of my game, even though I’m generally super busy, I always find time to keep my playlist for the month going strong.
It’s the times when I’m down & out while going through a breakup or transitioning jobs, when I’ve found myself with more free time than usual, that I empirically seem to let my current playlist wither. I suppose this follows the natural rhythm that’s expected in one’s life, and it is when I started looking at my monthly playlists in this light that I started to take them as a more serious reflection of my own mental health over time, and ultimately, as a diary in a sense.
2. The emotional and nostalgic power of my old playlists never ceases to amaze me.
Every once in awhile for no particular reason, I’ll throw on a random old playlist, say November 2013, and play the songs in order (avoiding my default shuffle mode). I reflect on the time when this was the soundtrack to the daily routine of my life.
I listened to these same songs as I worked at an old startup. I listened to them as I went to the gym. As I was pregaming for a date with a girl who I would end up dating for the next year and a half. As I rode the subway back home
And as I listen, the music inevitably brings me back.
I believe we are nothing but our own perception of the world, and this ability to evoke such strong memories at different points throughout my life is priceless to me.
When I first started organizing my new music into monthly playlists, I never expected this type of vivid, emotional feedback loop. It was simply an experiment brought on because I was finding too much new music to organize effectively. TK needs better transitions
If you’re interested in learning more about why listening to music can make us so emotional, I’d highly recommend checking out Bustle writer JR Thorpe’s excellent article on the subject.
3. My core playlists where individual songs get promoted after their month-long trial periods are pretty damn solid at this point.
If nothing else, they reflect a lot about me and how my music tastes have shifted and (hopefully) grown over the years. I keep “core” playlists aggregating my favorite tracks for different genres / moods, and these are sourced from the top songs in my monthly playlists. An example of a core playlist is ambient, which contains songs with good beats and little to no vocals that I generally use to concentrate at work.
On a completely unrelated note, I really, really need to try this with my cat…
I don’t have any pretenses about being DJ or making my own remixes — I’ll leave that to people with more talent, passion, and time, but this particular form of self-expression has worked really well to motivate me and record a projection of my life over the past five years, and I don’t intend on stopping anytime soon.
I decided to write about my approach to organizing new music for two main reasons. Firstly, I have gotten a lot out of following this approach, and I hope someone out there reading this will be inspired to either start their own music diary or take my musings and evolve them into something of their own creation. Secondly, I recently started blogging mostly about software engineering, and in a similar vein to keeping a music diary, I find writing these types of articles to be a very healthy form of self-expression in and of itself.
Aaaaaaaaand for those of you who aren’t into the whole music diary thing, maybe another form of regularized self-expression may interest you. A great example of a personal diary that turns out to be much greater than the sum of its parts is the early viral internet video in which Noah Kalina takes a photo of himself every day for six years.
This piece remains an internet classic that the author, Noah Kalina, clearly put a lot of himself into. What form of self expression caters to you?
I hope you’ve enjoyed this article! If you found it interesting, please clap / like / share! 😜