Audial Memories

Imagine driving on the highway, zoning out from reality as you pass by the lamplights that line the side of the highway. As your mind begins to drift, you may start to tap to the beat that your subconscious hears. You notice your tapping foot when you realize you’re listening to a familiar song that you haven’t heard in years. Maybe you feel excited because it was your favorite song; maybe you reminisce on the times you were with your friends when listening to this song on repeat. This song brought up feelings; whether they are good, bad, sadness, excitement, or nostalgic. You felt something. Was it the song that made you feel this way? Maybe. Perhaps, it was your mind triggering a vague familiarity that gave you some flashback on a memory that is special to you. Throughout this blog, I will explore the ideas of music and how it reflects our feelings.

Music has a way of portraying the way we feel. When we want to get hyped for an exam, feeling like we can conquer the world, we might put on upbeat music. When we feel sad, or maybe calm, we might put on acoustical music. These genres have different effects for different people, but whichever genre you listen to, it sparks something intangible. I know that I listen to specific artists when I want to feel a certain way, and different albums represent different timeslots of my life. For example, when I listen to the artist, Emarosa, I instantly recall all the campfires that my friends and I had in high school, specifically my junior year. One could argue that the medium of music itself is a portal into a different reality; a different thought process; a previous time; a way to think on the good times, and perhaps the bad.

Today, it’s hard to imagine a life without music, and it truly has impacted our lives in a dramatic way. Music has adopted its way into our culture and maybe it’s to help us think on those past memories, so that we don’t forget them. Music is the stimuli for the brain to throw back those thoughts to an exact moment in which we lived. Ann Cvetkovich says, “Cultural artifacts become the archive of something more ephemeral: culture as a ‘way of life’” (9).[1] This “artifact” she speaks of could mean music; and, music is not just a way to think, it’s a way to live.

Cvetkovich illustrates this idea of “trauma,” and the choices and the memories throughout our lives can result from one trauma or another. In this case, music can represent trauma, or be used as an escape from trauma. For example, some people grow up in a rough household and their only escape from the tough times is to zone out through the access of music. Another example is the music itself is an outlet for trauma, meaning sometimes people listen to angry-sounding music to illustrate how they feel; thus, trauma is shown through music. If you think of artists, some artists write about the trauma of their past, which can relate to listeners in the same type of situation. Thus, a community is built around trauma with people who experience the music the same way that you do.

Music is a way to escape from reality by enjoying the melody, but also to create an archive of our feelings that we can access through this outlet of sound. For example, whatever favorite artist you enjoy listening to now, will most likely not be your favorite artist two or three years from now, and if you were to hear the melody of your favorite song from this artist in four years, you will most likely think back to this current year. Scholar Jérôme Daltrozzo said, “The feeling of familiarity evoked by a melody may reactivate emotional or associative concepts carried either by the melody itself or by the memory representations of this melody.”[2] Here, he means that a melody is more than just a sequence of different notes; it has a way of carrying itself into a state of the familiar, a state of memory, a state of meaning. I believe that music is more than just music notes and lyrical sounds: It’s a way to access a library of thoughts, a way to live in the moment and in the past, a way to capture who we are through sounds of enlightenment.

[1] Cvetkovich, Ann. An Archive of Feelings: Trauma, Sexuality, and Lesbian Public Cultures. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2003. Print.

[2] Daltrozzo, Jérôme, et al. “Temporal Aspects Of The Feeling Of Familiarity For Music And The Emergence Of Conceptual Processing.” Journal Of Cognitive Neuroscience 22.8 (2010): 1754-1769. Academic Search Complete. Web. 4 Feb. 2015.

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3 thoughts on “Audial Memories”

  1. I found your post to be very interesting, and you make a good point about the memory-related aspect of music. In Anne Cvetkovich’s work, she talks about how many “lived” experiences are hard to archive. I would agree that music can be the perfect way to preserve these experiences and provide an external method of keeping the feelings attached with a certain event or time.

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  2. I enjoyed reading your post, it was very intriguing and easy to follow. But you brought up an interesting point that music can be an archive. Music can be such a cool way to escape from life sometimes when we are just going through something tough. And like you mentioned hearing certain songs can bring up old memories and you can think back to a time when you were sad and how that song helped you through that hard time.

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  3. I really enjoyed reading this blog. It really hits home for me in my life. I listen to music in the car all the time and when i listen to some of my favorite songs from years ago, it brings back memories of the roads and scenery from the time when I listened to that song constantly and also reminds my of the things that were happening in my life at that time. I think you illustrate this very well. Very well done!!

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