The Music That Soundtracked My University Experience

Alex Tyndall

Like many people, I have a checklist of essential items that I need on my person when I go out. Over the years, this list has gradually expanded as my list of responsibilities grew, but one item that has remained a constant companion since before I was a pre-teen are my headphones. Whilst they may have changed shape throughout the years, steadily evolving as technologies changed, as long as they could deliver music to my ears, I was happy.

My music choice throughout the years has remained consistent in its diversity, flitting between genres and styles depending on my mood; a relatively universal experience, I’d wager. Upon coming to university in 2019, nothing much changed stylistically (maybe a tad softer drum and bass than before, courtesy of Fox Stevenson, as a substitute for my woeful lack of a night-life). I carried on adding to my meticulously catalogued YouTube playlists, which now allow me to see at which points in time my music tastes have been influenced and altered.

The beginning of my university journey was signposted by none other than 70s legend Billy Joel with My Life. I have vivid memories from first year, cooking in my flat’s kitchen with the lyrics “I don’t care what you say anymore this is my life” swimming about in my ears as I tried not to burn my risotto.

My daily commute across the road from Broadgate Park and up the hill to the Trent Building led my music choices down the path of songs I could walk in time to. Tunes with a good, heavy beat such as Everything Black by Unlike Pluto ft. Mike Taylor, or A Light That Never Comes by Linkin Park became a staple of my daily tunes.  

Unwilling to trek the couple of miles from University Park Campus to Nottingham’s Town Centre, trips on the tram became a frequent and golden opportunity to broaden my musical appetite. It was here that I was first introduced to Lemon Boy by Cavetown, and Silence by Before You Exit – immediate favourites.

When listening to music, people often have an unconscious bias towards either the melody of the song or its lyrics. Whilst certain studies have showed that melodies are “more dominant than the lyrics in eliciting emotions”, I’ve always had a soft spot for a sappy turn of phrase, or a particularly well integrated pun.

Autumn shivered into Winter, which melted into Spring

First year raced on. Autumn shivered into Winter, which melted into Spring. I was momentarily hooked on various songs that made up the soundtrack from the game ‘League of Legends’ (Popstars, Legends Never Die, and one of the best covers of Warriors by Imagine Dragons that I’ve ever heard).

On the rare occasions that I found myself studious enough to venture to Hallward Library, I turned to classical pieces, or the gorgeous, swelling instrumentals of ‘Studio Ghibli’ films. Café trips were articulated by the delicate, soft-spoken songs of Dodie. Gym trips contained high-energy, albeit corny, hits like Take On Me by Aha.

And then everything stopped. With very little warning, I was moved back home in the March of 2020, and didn’t see Nottingham again until July. For many others, it wasn’t until September – if they even came back at all. In an attempt to ignore everything that was going on in the world, I looked to the past in an era I have come to call my ‘2010 Musical Renaissance’. Songs that I hadn’t heard for years were suddenly a part of my normal listening choices: Domino by Jessie J, Sax by Fleur East – even …Baby One More Time by Britney Spears.

The beginning of second year was much of the same. Classic favourites such as Coldplay, Imagine Dragons, and Taylor Swift, along with a resurgence of 70s tracks like Rasputin, September, or Mr Blue Sky, led me through my days. Then ‘Lockdown Two: Electric Boogaloo’ struck, and I came home once more in December, and stayed there until April.

It’s undeniable that music has played an integral, intrinsic part in my life

Now it’s July again – July 2021. I’ve been introduced to new songs, new compilations, such as ‘Scaled and Icy’, Twenty One Pilot’s sixth studio album that came out earlier this year. It’s undeniable that music has played an integral, intrinsic part in my life. It’s a familiar, comforting presence, endless in its applicability to one’s moods and emotions. Even if you have no prior musical knowledge, if you’ve never so much as looked at an instrument, music has the power to engage with us at our core. It lifts the mundane into the beautiful. The simple into the symphony. The music I have mentioned hasn’t just soundtracked my university experience: it’s been the soundtrack to my life, full stop.

Alex Tyndall

Featured image courtesy of Stephen Rees via Flickr. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.

In-article image 1 courtesy of @uniofnottingham via instagram.com. No changes were made to this image.

In-article image 2 courtesy of @uonlibraries via instagram.com. No changes were made to this image.

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