Music for the Journey

I spend a lot of time on the road.  Especially travelling around Indiana.  And no matter how you route it, it’s a long way from Indianapolis to Evansville.  Especially if you go via Seymour.  That’s two hundred twenty five miles, give or take a couple of tenths.  So on a recent trip, as usual, I loaded up with music.

I pulled out of Indianapolis to Carrie Newcomer.  Then from Seymour to Evansville “God Help the Girl” streamed out of the speaker.   Next up was Jan Krist, an indie artist who composes singable melodies and thoughtful lyrics.

That was just on the way down.  The highway back featured a whole ‘nother musical set.

As I drove and listened, I thought about how much music makes up the soundtrack of my life.  I like classical, jazz, bluegrass, roots, and other styles.  But I especially enjoy pop music.  It’s the music of my life on the road, heard from the tinny, tiny speakers in my first Volkswagen up through the full surround sound of today’s twelve speaker stereo array in my Toyota.

While cruising around southern Indiana musing on the music I listened to, I realized (not for the first time) that the tunes that truly speak to me come often from artists who possess a strong faith perspective.  Besides Carrie and Jan (I have no idea about “God Help the Girl” – despite their name), that includes artists such as Over the Rhine, Innocence Mission, Noel Paul Stookey, Pierce Pettis, Kate Campbell, Ed Kilbourne, Sufjan Stevens, Iron and Wine, and many more.

I am grateful for the care with which these musicians couch their cosmological consciousness and their spiritual sensibilities.  They use nuance and whimsy and care.  They don’t preach.  For the most part, regarding music, I do not need preaching.  I need encouragement.  I desire help for my pilgrim way.  In many ways, these singers resemble the Old Testament psalmists, singing songs of the mysteriousness and majesty and wonder and frustration of this way of faith I try to tread.

That’s why I picked the music I did for my trip.  What kind of music do you need or want while on your pilgrim journey?  What would you choose?  Take a few minutes and write up a playlist

  • for your next few hours, or
  • as representative of your spiritual life, or
  • for a particular difficult or joyful time of your life.

Join the Conversation

What do your musical choices reveal to, or about, you?  What do they say about how you practice your faith?  Where does God show up in them?


Brent Bill:
 J. Brent Bill is a Quaker minister, retreat leader, author and photographer.  His books include "Awaken Your Senses: Exercises for Exploring the Wonder of God" (with Beth Booram), "Sacred Compass: The Way of Spiritual Dicernment," and many more.  He lives on Ploughshares Farm, 50 acres in exurban Indiana being reclaimed as native hardwood forest and tall grass prairie.  He is amazingly witty and good looking for a geezer.

    • John G. Pierce

      The classics are always good for starters. (I’m listening to Baroque music by Kathleen Battle and Wynton Marsalis at the moment, but that’s because I just borrowed it from the library.) There are too many of them to list, although “the William Tell Overture” (and I do like the entire composition, not just the Lone Ranger portion) and “the 1812 Overture” would be at the top. Otherwise, I would turn to Celtic music, especially the sub-genre known as Celtic Christian. Music associated with the Cursillo/Walk to Emmaus movements would always be welcome. But I can’t neglect Hispanic/Latin, Italian, march/military/patriotic, Broadway tunes, and the list goes on and on. I’m not sure what they say about how I practice my faith. Am I as eclectic there as I am in my musical tastes? How does God show up? Well, He shows up in the creativity he has given to the writers, if nothing else. These are good points to ponder. Thanks for raising the questions, Brent! I’ll have to think more on these things.