I read somewhere that scent is the strongest sense tied to memory. If that is the case then I believe music is the strongest media source tied to memory.
I’m sure there is some scientific reason that for most of us we can recall the words to a song more easily than we can recall a conversation we had last week or notes we studied last night. Even if it’s been years since we heard a song after a few words most of us can start singing along to it. When I moved north I quickly realized that their rock stations played the same songs over and over much like the pop stations in York did. This caused me to rediscover my love of country music because the two country stations up here are great in terms of playing a variety of songs. This includes songs that I grew up listening to and hadn’t heard in many years. The first time I heard a few of them I recalled the lyrics without any issue.
Many of these songs took me back to my childhood and triggered lots of memories. This caused me to start thinking about just how many songs I have heard in my life that will always be tied to some event in my life. I will never be able to listen to “My Maria” by Brooks and Dunn without thinking about my grandma. She had it on a single cassette and played it in her teal Neon more times than I cared to recall at the time. I remember silently begging her to play something else or at least flip the tape over. Now I listen to that song and smile. She taught me how to do the Macarena so needless to say I’ll never be able to hear that again without picturing us in the backyard practicing the moves. Speaking of learning dances, Nsync’s “Bye Bye Bye” will always conjure images of my mom doing the routine in the living room. She taped an episode of Rosie with the band doing the song and played it half a dozen (or more) times until she learned to do the dance. I think playing songs over and over is a Toomey woman thing because like grandma, my mom is notorious for playing songs to death. My sister performed Britney Spears’ “Lucky” in a talent show, and my mom played the song so many times that for a long time I couldn’t listen to it.
I remember dancing with my cousin Shila to “Quit Playing Games (with my heart)” by the Backstreet Boys at a New Year’s Eve party. Listening to any Backstreet Boy song now takes me back to my years in middle school. My friend Josh got me into rock music in high school by burning me a copy of a Nickelback CD. A lot of their older songs along with Staind and Linkin Park’s take me back to bus rides to track meets as they were my choice warm up music. “Headstrong” by Trapt became the song I had to listen to before any race I ran in track. Kelly Clarkson’s “A Moment Like This” brings back memories of my senior Homecoming. “Thanks for the Memories” by Fall Out Boy reminds me of another Homecoming I attended.
Just as songs can recall good memories for us, many can also trigger flashbacks of times that hurt us or just memories that are too emotionally hard to recall. If I hear Boys Like Girls’ “Hero/Heroine” play I have to turn it off. I played “Over and Over” by Three Days Grace and “It’s Not Over” by Daughtry too many times to count when I had my heart broken. I found myself blaring the hardest rock I had at the time as well.
Music seems to be able to take us to other places mentally because it reminds us of certain things. I think that’s one reason I’ve grown so fond of country music lately as well. While I’m not a full “country girl” (no cowgirl hat and boots for me), I do have a little redneck in me. Bonfires and tuff truck competitions are what summers are meant for to me. A lot of Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan’s music is just feel good, remind you of a rural area and redneck activity kind of music. It makes me feel closer to home even with being 3 hours away.
As I glance down over my list of music on Itunes I can say two things for certain. One – I have a rather varied taste in music. Two – I can probably recall a memory for a lot of the songs on the list. Time changes a lot and can cause us to forget a lot, but just like the lyrics to old songs, the memories we’ve tied to certain songs seem to never truly fade from our minds.