The soundtrack of my life

One of the things working for a painter has allowed me to do is listen to more music than I have made time for in quite a few years. I’ve always developed strong associations between music and other experiences or time periods. Some of the older tunes that have randomly played on the iPod over the past four months got me thinking, “I should create the soundtrack of my life.” So hear it is.

Disc 1: My Youth

      1: Manic Monday — What I remember playing on my first radio, that my grandparents gave me for Christmas round about 2nd grade.
      2: Guns ‘n Roses — What my best friend made popular in my own life in fifth grade. I really had no reason for liking or disliking heavy metal at first; it was just what the other angst-ridden, pre-pubescent guys around me were listening too.
      3: Move This — Technotronic became my best friend’s next new musical love, and I followed suit. We’d practice breakdancing in the basement and show off at the junior high dances. He was better than I was. I think it was because he was shorter.
      4: Enya — Yes, Enya. I don’t know how I learned of her but I liked her sound. I played her music while flying around the virtual world of Microsoft’s Flight Simulator, for hours at a time.
      5: No More Tears — Was this an attempt to counter the femininity of the previous track? My musical taste has always seemed to be somewhat eclectic, at least since I started paying it any attention. Ozzy Osbourne’s lengthy piece, including whales harmonizing with each other, lead into my first trip to Disney World.
      6: Hearts of Space — Somehow, after the family’s first trip to Disney, I found the Hearts of Space. This was probably a response to the instrumental music I heard waiting in line for the Space Mountain roller coaster. I listened to the NPR program regularly into my college years until the schedule changed. And the music all started to sound the same.

Disc 2: College

    1: Opuszine — At some point fairly early in the course of the 5.5+ years earning my BFA in studio art I found Opuszine — a website with articles written by an acquaintance I went to church with — which featured all kinds of obscure and wonderful new music I didn’t know existed, such as the Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus.
    2: Starflyer 59 — My first year at the university (my second year as a college student), I was dumped by my first girlfriend (of two months). Neither of us understood the importance of basic communication in a relationship. At the time I was listening to Americana by Starflyer 59. I still listen to their albums anytime I can.
    3: World Wide Message Tribe — Midway through college life I picked up my love for electronic music again with WWMT’s danceable tunage.
    4: Havalina Rail Company — Still one of my favorite bands, I loved how they themed their albums. It was more than just a random bunching of three minute songs all vying for number one on the charts. Each album is one work. In particular I remember listening to Space, Love and Bullfighting after purchasing it on a trip to Tulsa — probably the same trip we spent a night in the Price Tower — to celebrate one of our anniversaries (which would technically fit onto a later life album).
    5: Saviour Machine — I would listen to their 90 minute Legend albums straight through with headphones, sometimes in order, during the summers. It was exhausting, but worth it. Operatic death metal, gotta love it. Still waiting for Legend III:II.
    6: Pipe organ — After I was dumped during the Starflyer 59 era I dated another girl from Concordia University in Seward, Nebraska. She helped me learn to love the pipe organ. Previously the organ left a bad taste in my mouth; growing up hearing electric organs play hymns like a dirge so many Sunday mornings.

3: The rest of my 20s

    1: Ambient Theology — A project by the obscure electronica group Virus (whose tune “Forest” remains one of my all-time favorites) that I always associate with driving in the middle of the night with Hannah to Oklahoma to visit my future in-laws in Enid.
    2: Rachmaninov’s vespers — I became very interested in ancient music for a while, and still love most any sacred choral arrangement. I remember subjecting my cousin and siblings to the vespers while driving — wait for it — to Disney World (from Daytona Beach) on yet another Florida trip to see the family. Or was it Arvo Part . . .
    3: Prelude and Fugue in C Major, BWV 547 — This lesser known Bach organ work was our wedding march. It still gives me chills; it’s a stunning work of musical genius in my untrained opinion.
    4: Eisley — Before they really came to fame I somehow happened upon an Eisley EP online. It played in my car for almost a year as I drove to and from work. Their sound is unique and somewhat enigmatic. I’m not sure I ever really liked it entirely, but I did keep listening.
    5: Sufjan Stevens — The crowd turned me on to Sufjan Stevens, and I’ll forevermore be glad they did.
    6: Soundtracks — Does everyone have a musical period they can label “Soundtracks?” My favorites were, and probably still are, Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean and Hero.

4: Early 30s

    1: Folk — A few years ago the wife and I developed a playlist for the iPod called “Folk.” It’s been a favorite ever since. It includes local favorites Traci Rae Letellier and Fool for Now as well as more widely known artists such as Jolie Holland, Norah Jones and Over the Rhine.

This is a fairly abbreviated list, just trying to hit the broader themes.

My wife and I have both lamented how little new music we’ve made time for in the past four or five years, but we continue to appreciate the Folk playlist and I continue to be drawn more and more to small local music scenes. Hopefully we can make a little more time for new music in the future.


About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at

4 Responses to The soundtrack of my life

  1. Sean LaFianza says:

    I used to love SF59 and all the other “shoe gazer” of that time. We used to go to Cornerstone Festival every year back then and find all our new music for the year. I remember seeing Savior Machine, it was umm.. interesting. My Dad was all into them, probably still is 🙂

    Morella’s Forest, Mortal, Fold Zandura… man, I can hardly remember some of the bands I used to listen to back then.

    • pcNielsen says:

      Yeah, I really wanted to go the year Saviour Machine was there, although their musical experience might better suited to a disc. As it is still haven’t been to Cstone.

      I have one Morella’s Forest album, knew about Mortal and Fold but don’t think I owned any of their music. Gave a lot of my heavy stuff away to my brother in law when he was still in high school (Bride, Pet the Fish?, etc) Before anyone ever thought of burning it to your compy. At least before I did. Still have loud stuff around like Saviour Machine, Sanctum, King’s X though.

  2. Sean LaFianza says:

    Oh man.. I LOVED Bride… Snakes in the Playground was my favorite album

    “You say He’s weak, He’s a super freak, you don’t believe that he came!”

    …anyway 🙂

    Cornerstone was always a lot of fun. I think I started going when I was seven and went until I was married and too broke to go anymore. In the early years of married life we talked alot about joining JPUSA.

    My Dad still goes to Cstone every year, his wife and him run the press tent.

    Maybe I would have liked Saviour Machine better on disc, I probably never gave them a fair chance after seeing them live.

  3. Pingback: On Musical Form: is one way better than another? « The Aesthetic Elevator

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