Music and Memories: Unwritten Law

3.30.11 iPod Docked

I was reading an interesting (and long) article on Slate about how iPods have changed the way we listen to music, and this bit really struck a chord with me:

So, too, […] has music become a common way for people to get through the workday. Your local cafe’s barista may literally depend on Bon Iver’s reedy lugubriousness to palliate a dreary job as you depend on coffee.

This is so true for me! I count on music to get me through a lot – the insane boredom of running on a treadmill, quality checking 125+ year end reviews at work, those last few breathes of a yoga pose when I’m pretty sure I’m about to collapse.

Not discussed in the article, but something that I’ve noticed and thought about a lot lately…I attach music to memories – memories that are vividly triggered upon hearing certain songs or albums, to the point where my mood will change in an instant while I’m listening to them. Sometimes it’s a memory of how I felt when I first heard a song live, sometimes a memory of multiple events that happened while listening to a certain album…but I can always picture it perfectly in my head, and remember exactly how I was feeling and what I was doing at the time.

I can’t remember now what made me pull up Unwritten Law on my iPod last night when I left the gym, but I can’t listen to their self titled album without being brought right back to the desk in my dorm room senior year, writing my thesis and motivating myself with M&Ms. I could draw you a diagram of how the furniture in the room was arranged. I can picture the freshman girls down the hall that were blasting Britney Spears, forcing me to turn up the volume on my own stereo. I remember being scared out of my skin when the volume was so high that I didn’t hear my roommate come in from her class and I suddenly caught movement out of the corner of my eye.

Sometimes I wonder if these memories will fade over time, or if I’ll ever listen to these songs or albums without the memories rushing back. Ask anyone who knows me well and they’ll tell you that I inherited my Dad’s memory. Or lack thereof. I walked out of work today knowing I had to stop and pick up a print at the photo shop next door on my way home. It took me the elevator ride down ten floors and the walk out the door of the building to forget. What’s that? Maybe five minutes? (Luckily the photo shop has a sandwich board on the sidewalk and it reminded me.) But these music memories…they have stuck with me so far. Maybe they are here to stay – after all, I can still feel my old bedroom rug under me and Dad’s old transistor radio (Hee! It looked just like this one!) in my hands every time I hear The Beach Boys’ Do You Wanna Dance?.

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