NPR logo What Music Fuels Your Winter Blahs?

What Music Fuels Your Winter Blahs?

A sunless day in winter. Time for a Sibelius symphony? iStock hide caption

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A sunless day in winter. Time for a Sibelius symphony?


It's another cloudy, cold day, I'm feeling a little sluggish, and that, along with the official solstice on Dec. 21, reminds me that winter is truly here.

Once again, as the season turns, so do my musical yearnings. I don't exactly get the "winter blues," maybe winter "blahs" is a better way to put it.

Instead of battling the shrinking, sunless days with my favorite salsa (Celia Cruz) and mambo (Tito Rodriguez) albums, I tend to revel in the blah-ness of it all by listening to things like the icy cold Fourth Symphony by Jean Sibelius (or any Sibelius, really), the claustrophobic late string quartets by Dmitri Shostakovich and introspective singers like Elliott Smith.

My favorite just may be Joni Mitchell's little known early song called "Urge for Going."

Joni Mitchell sings an early, wintry song, "Urge for Going." YouTube

My fellow Deceptive Cadence blogger Ashalen Sims seems to follow a similar path.

"Winter is a meditative period for me," she says. "A time when I do a lot of thinking, reading and crocheting. My all-time favorite recording for this time of year is Yolanda Kondonassis playing harp music by Alan Hovhaness. The languid rhythms of his Sonata for Harp match my mood perfectly: They're contemplative with just the right amount of melancholy.

Author Tim Page is a professor of journalism and music at the University of Southern California who also maintains a residence in Baltimore. He has some bicoastal issues when it comes to wintry music.

"I like cold climate music in cold climates," Page says. "Sibelius is ideal for that on the East Coast or in Canada. In Los Angeles, it is different for me, as I truly miss the seasons and I find that 'wintery' music sharpens my dissociation. There, I'll often put on some of the most austere Bach performances I know — Ralph Kirkpatrick, for example, in The Well-Tempered Clavier, is a favorite."

Ralph Kirkpatrick plays a fugue from J.S. Bach's "Well-Tempered Clavier" book 2 YouTube

What about you? Do you retaliate with upbeat, sultry music when winter comes around? Or do you cave, and crave music that matches the mood of the chilly, cloudy days?

Let us know what your winter playlist would include in the comments section.