We all know that the power of hearing is a strong sense memory. I think it is just as powerful as smell. The smell of vanilla reminds me of my first love. The sound of wind rustling the leaves of a tree remind me of the private school I spent in my formidable years. Certain sounds can transport you back to the exact moment you heard that particular sound and you can re-create the environment in your mind. The most powerful component is music.
When you get out of high school, you can listen to a radio station and suddenly that song filters through your sound system. You remember that song on the radio when you were about to have your first kiss. That particular song that reminds you of that special someone that made your heart skip a beat oh so many years ago.
While those feelings have gone the way of the HD-DVD discs, it can still conger up those memories and in some way makes you remember a simpler time. That first time you were asked to dance at that high school function, the song you lost your virginity to and even the first time you heard the words “I love you”. It can even remind you of those bad times like your first break-up, great personal loss or even that moment you said your final goodbye.
I find that we cling to the music that was popular when we were in junior high or high school, mostly because those are where the major turning points in our life occured. There are many songs that I remember hearing when I experienced many firsts, but there are many that remind me of a certain someone.
That isn’t to say that some music today doesn’t remind you of someone, but many times it has to be the right song (or album) at the right moment in time. One major moment for me was when Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory hit shelves and their music swamped the radio. I remembered listening to that entire album and it spoke to me. I know it sounds cheesy but it did.
I listened to the album and all I could think about was the lyrics that reminded me of the dead end relationship that I was in. It seemed that many of those songs were written about me and my feelings for that particular ex-girlfriend, who wasn’t my ex at the time. The hopelessness that I felt when I was with her and that I would never amount to much in her eyes. It spoke to me conveying that the best thing that I could do, at that moment, was leave her behind and move on.
Whitney Houston’s How Will I Know was the song I heard when I saw Naomi in seventh grade. It was in 1986 and I remember seeing her just off of campus, while I was waiting for my dad to pick me up from school. Someone was driving by and that song was playing loudly on their radio and that is when I caught her gaze.
We shared a math class together and she was one of those rock girls. Her boyish haircut and the hint of too much make-up made me notice her, but for some reason I couldn’t stop thinking about her. Nothing ever became of it, but whenever I heard that song I am immediately transported back to that sidewalk in front of Columbus Junior High.
As sappy as it seems, Sherriff’s When I’m With You is the song that reminds me of my first love. That was a song she told me reminded her of me. I remember a few things about our friendship in high school, but mostly that song sparks memories of the first time I listened to that song after being told what it meant to her.
For the first time, I began to listen to that song with a new sense of urgency. As if I could somehow get a glimpse into her soul, where I was concerned, by listening to every uttered lyric of that song, which would somehow bring us closer together. It didn’t, but you know how teenagers are, you cling to hope. Once you reach adulthood, hope is one of the first things that goes out the window.
I remember the song that I lost my virginity to, but fortunately it is an obscure enough of a song that I seldom ever hear it. Although, when you hear that song while walking through the aisles of a Best Buy and I don’t have to tell you how awkward that whole setting is.
Music is very powerful, regarding sense memory, and it is a time travel device. It can transport you to that moment when you first heard that song in a particular context. It could make you smile or feel good when having a bad day. On the flip side, it can make you sad or remember better days. In both cases, music has a way of making you feel and each of those songs is part of a mixtape that will never age no matter how much we do.