Musical Memories

As I sit on my couch trying to write my Writer’s Evolution Essay and listening to the film scores station on Pandora, I feel the hairs on my arms stand up at a particular section of the Lord of the Rings film score (from a scene in the Shire, not Mount Doom…these are happy chills). And again during the score of How to Train Your Dragon. These are the same chills I feel when I hear the theme song to Friday Night Lights or Parenthood (either of the two it had). What is it about these pieces of music that gives me chills? Is it that they are associated with happy scenes, and I imagine I am one of the characters in one of those moments instead of myself in this particular moment? Are these pieces a reminder that I will be triumphant in writing this essay the same way Frodo was in destroying the ring (spoiler alert) or the Panthers were at winning the Texas Football State Championship (again, sorry). I assume there must be a more technical reason for why particular music elicits particular emotional and physiological responses, like happy chills. But I don’t know what that is. Maybe some of my peers taking on musically-oriented capstone projects can shed some light on that…

I have always believed that music, like smells, is strongly associated with memories. The movies and shows whose scores I have mentioned elicit happy personal memories. Whether that be returning home one of the few times I get to (like Frodo and Sam), watching Taylor Kitsch do anything, playing with my dog, Max (the equivalent of Toothless in How to Train Your Dragon), or having a big family dinner like the Bravermans’ in Parenthood, which hasn’t happened since my parents’ divorce. All of these pieces of music make me long for the memories of which they remind me. And that, for whatever reason, gives me chills. Music is pretty powerful; I hope we can all agree on that. Now if only it could inspire me with what to write for this essay.

3 thoughts to “Musical Memories”

  1. Hey Christina!

    With the risk of sounding a little bit cliche, I feel like I could’ve written this blog post myself. I always experience listening to music and feeling a bit nostalgic as it makes me think of whatever past memories it is associated with. I strongly agree with the fact that music is just like smells in that matter. It is really strange, too, because sometimes this will happen with a song that was played over and over in a certain place or with certain people – so the association is not a surprise. But other times the song will have been played just once or twice and yet, my brain still makes the connection.
    Do you always listen to music when you write? Do you only listen when your brain needs a spark – for creative writing or personal writing? I, personally, have a very hard time listening to music while I write due to this very problem (and also because I tend to start singing along…in the library..it is not good). Do you feel that music aids in your writing? Have you ever written anything about music? Although my current project is pretty far from anything musical, one of my gateway assignments was music-based and was a pretty interesting experience. On another note, do you find that music typically reminds you of joyful occasions or the opposite?

    Hope your evolution essay is going well!

    Also..I love parenthood and was thoroughly upset when the series ended. We should talk about this in class.

  2. Hey Mollie,

    I just re-watched the series finale. I don’t know why I did that to myself, but I did.

    I definitely have to be listening to SOMETHING when I write. If not, I feel like it’s too quiet, and I can hear every single thought in my head, which is completely overwhelming and gets me absolutely nowhere. But I, like you, can’t listen to lyrics without singing along. That’s where the film scores station on Pandora comes in – no words.

    I think generally, music reminds me of joyful occasions. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that I feel completely happy while listening to it. I may get very nostalgic for those occasions and sad that they are now just memories. And sometimes I just get angry that I can’t watch one of the movies that has such great music because I’m overloaded with work. It really depends.

  3. Christina,

    I’m glad you’ve posted this. During my Freshman year I wrote a research paper on synesthesia, a condition of cross-modality in the brain. Individuals who have this condition experience tastes when hearing certain sounds, or hear colors when reading different numbers. While this sounds psychedelic, the truth is that the different areas of our brains innately “leak” into one another from birth, and separate themselves quickly as we mature. If you had the ability to recall your infant days, you would essentially be experiencing an alphabet soup of sounds, colors, letters, and textures.

    One of the predominant theories that attempts to explain the origins of synesthesia claims that the condition has evolutionary advantages. For instance, it is easier to remember certain events if what you sensed at the time was overlapping, so that, in a way, your cognitive processes are being “flooded” with sensory input. This is why, according to this theory, that people have such experiences with music and memories. Chances are if you went back in time you would discover you had been listening to the song that elicits memories of those events. Even if you weren’t, the brain is powerful and still mysterious to even the best scientists, so there maybe something else thats similar at work.

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