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  • Clarissa Fara

Song Associations

My favorite place to listen to music is on the subway with my eyes closed, letting the song and the slight rock of the car dissolve my surroundings and carry me somewhere else. Not a live-performance-of-the-song somewhere else; just a small imaginary scene that my mind and the melody build for me. For some people reading is a mode of escape, transportation to another world with different characters and different problems—music is the same for me. Or, not quite as sophisticated in plot structure, but there is parallel in the flashes of setting and emotion constructed by each song.

For example, “Georgia” by Phoebe Bridgers feels, to me, like walking through a forest while it’s raining, watching the ground slowly get muddier beneath your feet. Or “cellophane” by FKA twigs: lying on my back in the grass, looking up at the sky and arguing with the clouds.

This phenomenon of seemingly random, imaginative association with music is fascinatingly beautiful, and I love hearing the connections others make—so, to that end, I polled people for their conjured scenes. The following is a list of some of my favorites:

“Happiness in Liquid Form” by Alfie Templeman

The semi-synesthetic scene in Ratatouille where Remy eats a piece of cheese and a grape and whirls of colors appear behind his eyes

“My Girls” by Animal Collective

Finishing the ACT English Section early

“Pool House” by The Backseat Lovers

At your friend’s house, waiting for them to get ready, but they’re taking too long, so you go to sit on the porch and watch the cars go by and imagine you’re the only person in the world

“Kris Kringle Delivers the Keys to the Lodge; the Edge of the Waters, the Star, the Great Firmament, Open Wide; the Heaves, Revealed Once Again!!!” by Beige Monk

Standing in a train station, the area where it feels like there ought to be shops but there aren’t. In front of you is a black window—almost speaker-like—from which the song is playing. The station is lit in pale yellow, but there is a row of red LED lights shining down on you. As the song climaxes, everything grows larger and the speaker-like window consumes you.

“Sh-Boom” by The Chords

Making a google slides presentation

“(Online Love)” by Conan Gray

The sun daydreaming about Earth

“She” by dodie

Performing a song that you wrote for someone, but they have no idea that it’s about them

“Goodnight and Go” by Imogen Heap

A flower meadow in August, fleeting

“Apple Pie” by Lizzy McAlpine

Miss Honey’s cottage from Matilda

“Human Nature” by Michael Jackson

The balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet, except Romeo is dressed like a member of Jodeci

“Tompkins Square Park” by Mumford & Sons

Finding an old photo album of your ex and you on a summer road trip and wishing you were still with them

“Something In The Way” by Nirvana

Digging. You’re not sure what you’re digging for exactly, all you know is that you are digging. With a shovel!

“Casimir Pulaski Day” by Sufjan Stevens

Snow, with the very hard, bright light of the sun reflecting off it

“Haunted” by Taylor Swift

The downtown platform at the Lexington Av/63 St station

“911 / Mr. Lonely” by Tyler, The Creator feat. Frank Ocean and Steve Lacy

Doodling absent-mindedly on your arm while waiting anxiously for someone to text you back

“I Have Nothing” by Whitney Houston

The last big step off an MTA bus into the cold air

These descriptions vary so wildly from one another—ranging from entirely fantastical stories to niche movie moments to specific encounters that I imagine the person writing about it has experienced themselves. Our connections with music are so personal and emotive, and hearing them feels like a look into the way someone else views the world.

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