It practically goes without saying that music provides the soundtrack to our lives, be it in happy moments or in times of struggle and pain. Such is the case this week following Hurricane Sandy which has seen much of the Eastern Seaboard still without power, with major flooding, and experiencing tragedy of all kinds. In the wake of the storm, we asked our listeners and a variety of musicians what music helps them get through such events and what they would play for people still facing hardships. Here's what we received from artists such as Regina Spektor, filmmakers Jim Jarmusch and Jonathan Demme, Laurie Anderson, Passion Pit, and many more.
OK Go's Damian Kulash:
I live in the East Village, but had gone to D.C. to see my mom's community orchestra play when the storm hit -- so music had a pretty direct effect on my storm experience. I just made it back to the city [Wednesday], and spent some of the afternoon walking around my deserted, dark neighborhood. I'm thankful that none of my close friends or family suffered seriously, but the scene sure is dramatic. The music I listened too, walking around, was slow, anthemic and sad, as you might expect:
-- "A Thousand Hours," by The Cure, felt like a perfect soundtrack to the whole thing. Gorgeous, pleading, desperate.
-- "Famous Blue Raincoat," by Leonard Cohen, made me shudder. "New York is cold, but I like where I'm living, there's music on Clinton St. all through the evening." It felt like Mr. Cohen was the narrator of the apocalypse.
-- "The Only Living Boy In New York," by Simon & Garfunkel, seems a hundred times sadder now. It's one of my favorite songs of all time, and I guess I always listened to it and imagined a guy so lonely he couldn't see the bustling world around him. But walking through the totally empty East Village streets as it went from a dark wintery day to a darker wintery night, it felt like that song was literal.
What was really crazy was then taking a cab out to Brooklyn, where the streets were filled with little jubilant Halloween monsters and their smiling parents. It felt like stepping from one movie into another.
Having spent the storm stuck in London, away from home, and worrying about all my friends and loved ones -- as well as all the people in the path of the storm -- I had a soundtrack of TV rather than music. Listening to every BBC and CNN and Sky News report I could find, flipping around and seeing the scary images of the preparation and of course of the destruction. I've since had news ranging from a bit of wind and loss of power and flooding, to real tragedy and death in the family for others. Everyone at home is in shock and I wish I could help in some way.
I went online to look for a song that feels right to play. I looked through Chopin because he's so amazing at combining the human experience and the nature experience into one and whenever something giant is happening I'm much more drawn to music without words. It seems like my own thoughts fill all the possible space. I am partial to piano (shocked? :-) ) So, if possible, I'd love it if you played the Alfred Cortot version of Frédéric Chopin's Fantaisie-Impromptu in C-sharp minor, Op. posth. 66.
He plays it with piano mistakes but in a much more wild and stormy way than anyone else I've heard. The end is my favorite part: After the storm there's a quiet peace. I send a big hug to my beloved NYC!!! I hope you and yours are all ok, safe and sound! Cheers from U.K.
Willie Williams' "Armagideon Time" (the original 1978 Studio one version) because it's both sad and uplifting, has that beautiful groove, and the Clash covered it.
Robert Wyatt's "At Last I Am Free" because it fills me with peace and hope.
I'd like to play the song "New Grass" by the band Talk Talk from their final album Laughing Stock. It's one of my favorite pieces of music of all time. The whole record speaks to me in a way that other music doesn't [and] the song "New Grass" is particularly brilliant. It has an overall uplifting quality to it while being so haunting and soulful at the same time. There is also this feeling of longing for a deeper, more intense spiritual side to life that resonates with me while listening to it.
Phil Brown, who happens to be a hero of mine for his work engineering Talk Talk and Mark Hollis, creates such beautiful textures on this track; at the same time all of the instruments manage to sound so natural and unprocessed.
This song is there for me throughout different phases of my life, and I always seem to come back to it (and the record) with the same feeling of astonishment. I actually fell asleep to the song Sunday night, which was the last night I had power since the storm hit. Hopefully other listeners can connect and find meaning within the song.
Lavender Diamond's Becky Stark:
Right now I want to hear uplifting music! How about "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher And Higher" by Jackie Wilson or "You're All I Need To Get By" by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell or The Beatles' "With A Little Help From My Friends"? Songs to remind us to keep our hearts open and to allow ourselves to love and be loved in times of difficulty and need.
Bright Moments' Kelly Pratt (Who's been performing as part of the David Byrne + St. Vincent tour):
I dedicate "Rise Above" by Dirty Projectors to everyone affected by the hurricane. I'm hopeful that everyone will be able to recover from the unprecedented loss and destruction Sandy brought to our region.
"The Golden Age" by Beck -- and really all of Sea Change. There's a quality of hope in the despair of that album that feels akin to the rebuilding and rejuvenation that goes along with the tail end of a massive storm - something traumatic has just occurred, but there's a cleansing new beginning that comes with that. Of our songs, "Don't You Give Up On Me" also seems to fit the bill for a Sandy playlist. Who would ever give up on NYC?
Passion Pit's Ian Hultquist:
All of us are extremely upset by the tragedy that has hit New York and New Jersey. A lot of us now call NYC our home, and it tears us apart to see it in ruins like this, and to be cut off from our loved ones. We know people are suffering, and our hearts go out to them. I think that during this time, people are in need of motivation and inspiration. Now is the time for us to be reaching out and helping each other. Some music that has touched me over the past few days has been the many compositions by Ólafur Arnalds. Each piece is layered with nostalgia and introspection. The Stare EP he did with Nils Frahm has definitely been helping me get to sleep at night.
Clare And The Reasons' Clare Manchon:
While the storm was raging outside, we were lucky enough, in our Ditmas Park neighborhood, to have power all along. With a few neighbors -- most of whom are musicians as well -- we gathered all our food and cooked up big feasts for three days straight. And, for three days straight, I turned into a crazy old man, the kind that is walking around with a little radio to his ear following a baseball game, except that I was just holding my iPhone, with WNYC streaming to my ears. In between that craziness, we listened to a lot of Bessie Smith, and a song I put on especially was "'Til I Die" by the Beach Boys, a very fitting sentiment. We are all so small.
On the day Sandy hit, The Postelles were leaving Washington, D.C. for Charlotte, N.C. They avoided most of the storm, but were worried about friends and family back home in NYC.
We would love to hear The Velvet Underground's "Candy Says." They are one of the original New York bands and it is a beautiful song. Music can always help in getting through tough times and The Velvet Underground should definitely be involved in any playlist involving New York. It's amazing how New Yorkers can come together and get through these unexpected events so quickly.
We were on tour and missed the hurricane by literally one day. We've made a point to put a cover by The Ramones that we had stopped doing back into our set, as a little nod to our hometown city. Hopefully, New York will be back at full strength and we're all confident if any city can come together and get back to full strength. It's New York.
Rush Midnight (a.k.a. Russ Manning of Twin Shadow):
During the storm: Sade's Promise. She kept us warm, patient and collected.
After the storm: The Beach Boys' Endless Summer. They help me see the sun.
I'd pick "Trouble" by Cat Stevens because even terrible things can have beautiful consequences.
Fitz and The Tantrums' Noelle Scaggs:
Stevie Wonder's "Love's In Need Of Love Today" from Songs In The Key Of Life is a feel good song I think would set the tone for people taking care of one another. In fact the entire album I think would do that for people.
I'd play Gene Kelly's "Singin' In The Rain" to lift everyone's spirits. Music actually did play a role in my hurricane experience. My neighbor made a Hurricane Sandy playlist that she sent to her friends which included Bob Dylan's "Hurricane." That song has now been in my head for the last four days.
Jukebox the Ghost's Jesse Kristin:
"I Guess The Lord Must Be In New York City" by Harry Nilsson. This one seems self-explanatory. Whether we believe in a Lord above or not, we do have support systems and the mutual hope and love of the community in times of trouble. these things can certainly be found in the wake of the storm and provide a certain faith in the human race that exists, believe it or not, in NYC.
Thrupence's "Synchronous Bloom"'s sparse but beautiful melodies create a contemplative and sometimes dark mood, but always seem to blossom in a hopeful and optimistic manner, and I think it's the perfect fit for listeners. It allows a listener to reminisce about the travesty that occurred but still feel completely positive about the future and that's what New Yorkers need right now.
Arvo Part: Fratres. I lost a huge basement full of things: projectors, instruments, props, old art, paintings, papers. I'm trying to stay cool. After all, it's just stuff. I'll never forget watching the river come into the streets.