Musical memory triggers.

I have been thinking a lot lately about the link between music and memory. I find, as do many people, that particular songs or pieces of music have the power to trigger my memory and transport me back to a particular moment in my life. When I hear certain songs, they seem to capture the mood and feel of a place or time, and I am instantly there again, recalling conversations, events and people that I haven’t thought about in years.



Last week, at my grandfather’s funeral, one of the songs that they played at the cemetery was John Williamson’s Australian classic “True Blue”. Although this song was truly appropriate, I found that when it started playing, my mind wasn’t on my grandfather at all, but rather on my cousin’s fiancé. A couple of years ago, he did a lovely drunken rendition of this song, complete with wooden-spoon microphone. Now, this song is inextricably linked with him in my memory. On the other hand, my brother and a friend played Slim Dusty’s “The Lights On The Hill” at the church, and this song is one that I have always associated with my grandfather, because he used to listen to it so often.



I also have some songs that are associated with particular events. I remember listening to The Proclaimer’s “I’m On My Way” in the car with my father as we headed home from a holiday. Janis Joplin’s “Little Girl Blue” reminds me of the day one of my close friends moved away. “All the Small Things” by Blink 182 transports me back to my early high school years. When I hear “Run to Paradise” by the Choirboys, I am four years old, back in the car, singing at the top of my lungs with Dad as we drive to the hospital to meet my new baby brother.



In my last couple of years of high school, I used to keep a musical diary. Each month, I used to make a cassette of all the songs that I had been listening to throughout that month. It started out as a bit of fun, but now I regret that I ever stopped doing it. When I listen to those tapes, I remember exactly why I chose each song, whether it was because I had just bought a new CD that I was obsessed with, or whether a certain song typified something that was happening in my life at that time. When I listen to the tapes that I made around the time I met Ross, I find that they are filled with songs by Machine Gun Fellatio. This is because he was a huge fan, and I went out and bought a few of their albums to listen to, so that I would be able to tell him that I liked them too. It’s a good thing I did, because they are now one of my favorite bands. Their song “My Ex-Girlfriend’s Boyfriend” always makes me think of Ross’s 21st birthday, because it was the song that was playing as he cut his cake.



It’s funny how evocative music is, how we each seem to build up an unofficial soundtrack to our lives. Music is just so present and constant in our lives, that it makes sense that we would each associate certain people or events with different songs.



Are there any songs that transport you back to another time, or that you associate with an important person from your life? If so, I would love to hear about it.

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