Where Literature and Music Meet: Three Fresh Perspectives

Dyala Kasim Staff Writer

Crystal Brau tucks a lock of her long curly hair behind her ear as she speaks, as if doing so aids her thought process. 

“It’s really hard to express and explain emotions, so I go to music for someone who understands what I’m going through,” she says.

Brau’s favorite band is Daft Punk, which she owes to her dad. When Brau was younger, they would watch Daft Punk’s anime-style music videos together, and her dad would fool her into thinking the blue-skinned characters were real. This led Brau to examine her reflection in the bathroom mirror, watching for a hint of cerulean to appear on her own skin.

Brau laughs as she shares this last detail, adding “I love that band, because it connects me to both my dad and my childhood.”

Though she prefers music over literature, Brau still enjoys exploring different perspectives through reading. She cites Joyce Carol Oates’s “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?,” a text that she studied in her Literature and Music class, as one of her new favorites. 

“I felt so unsafe,” Brau says about the short story with a look of pure terror. 

“What we’ve experienced, someone else has ten times over. And this helps us figure out more about ourselves as well,” she adds. 

Still, music holds a special place in her heart, and she finds it incredibly meditative to go on a walk and sing. 

“By singing, I just let it out,” Brau says with a smile. 


Grant McGhee started playing piano when he was in first grade. Once he hit fifth grade, he began teaching himself other instruments by watching YouTube videos. Since then, he’s added guitar, drums, ukelele and banjo to his musical repertoire.

“Anyone can drum!” he says with his infectious energy and smile. Quoting his dad, he adds “It’s holding a beat with three or four limbs.”

Grant loves music, seeking out bands and artists that have a carefree vibe that reflect his current experiences as a freshman. He also uses music as a way to understand himself, adding “I’m trying to figure out what’s going on. Who am I? What am I all about?”

Some of these favorite bands and artists include Lewis Del Mar, Jack Johnson and his go-to, Hippo Campus, a group with a fun-loving sound that is wholeheartedly Grant McGhee.

Yet, Grant also loves experiencing funky, postmodernist books and poems in his Literature and Music class, such as Jennifer Egan’s “A Visit From The Goon Squad.” He explains that his high school focused on the classics and that this was anything but fun.

At his core, Grant will always be a musician. He had been playing piano in the Cyber Lounge for an hour before we sat down to chat.

“It was the only thing I could really get into,” he says. “You can really let the music talk for you.” 

He pauses for a moment, adding “I know nothing, though. There isn’t enough time in a lifetime to learn it all.”


Elizabeth Conway loves books and has for as she can remember. “I always had a book on me! I never lost my love of reading.” she explains. 

Her current favorite is Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild,” one of the 13 she read over the summer. She loves its sense of adventure, as well as its inspiring message of bravery from the main female character.

Literature and Music is therefore the perfect course for an avid reader like Elizabeth. So far, her favorite text has been Kate Chopin’s “The Awakening” because of its incredibly moving storyline. Still, nothing compares to Joyce Carol Oates’s “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” 

“I was reading my worst nightmare,” she exclaims with horror. Elizabeth read this story three times, and even encouraged her friends to check it out. 

Music still plays a huge role in her life, a fact that she attributes to her love of dancing. Elizabeth has been taking ballet classes since she was four years old, and added contemporary dance to her skill set at age 11. Her favorite artists and bands include Hosier, the Lumineers and indie rock group Tame Impala.

“I love asking people about their favorite music, and adding it to my Spotify playlists,” she says. “It’s one of my favorite things to do!”