Saturday, January 30, 2016

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Probably not. Music is inextricably tied to our individual experience. And, because of that, we interpret and connect with songs for different reasons, and hearing them again months or years later has the power to transport us back in time. Is it any wonder music has been shown to unlock memories in Alzheimer’s patients? Just a bit of melody jolts us back to where we were when we heard them for the first time or obsessively listened to them on repeat. Here is where I end up when I listen to some of my favorite music:

Around the Campfire, Peter, Paul & Mary – A very specific memory. During some last minute – and unnecessary - cramming in the lecture hall ahead of my Zoology 100 final, I very distinctly realized, “I am easily the only person in this room whose pump it up music is PP&M. And I might be the only college student in the country, world, or universe whose pump it up music is PP&M.” That thought assumed the existence of intelligent life in another galaxy, which seemed right after all I head learned about zoology.

Closer, Josh Groban – Just the opening strains of “Remember When it Rained” and I am back on Iowa State's campus under the magnificent but fleeting magnolia trees headed to Geology 100 (Rocks for Jocks – killed it). Spend an
hour learning about plate tectonics and then fire up the iPod – remember the click wheel! -  for the walk back across campus.

Tapestry, Carole King – I’m studying at my campus issued desk, reading page after page of history and political science, highlighting so much of the text to make it a useless exercise, rewarding myself with a piece of candy after successfully conquering a page or two. Study breaks are conveniently built in because singing along to “Where You Lead” and “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?” is required.

The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter, Josh Ritter – A different desk, this one at my first grown up
job, completing applications faster and more accurately than my cohorts (I am not boasting here, I was insanely overqualified for the job). And please note that I use the term ‘grown up’ loosely since the adults I worked with were more akin to insufferable teenagers than grown ups. NPR had posted Ritter’s live show and, on a whim, I decided to give it a listen. Who knew that decision would change the course of my musical edification and make me a lifelong fan?

Wicked, Original Broadway Cast Recording – This one takes me back to…well, anywhere and everywhere after 2009. It’s easily my most listened album. I’ve often told people that in my car we only listen to Wicked. People may think I say it in jest, but when ‘One Short Day’ bursts from the speakers they realize the truth in my statement.

The power of music. It heals, it changes, it uplifts and acts as our personal Delorean. Of course, our sense of smell is similarly powerful. Unfortunately for me my most prominent scent memory, courtesy of Meyer’s hand soap, transports me to the oh so pleasant period immediately following a painful boil lancing when I was prescribed antibiotics to kill the rest of the infection that Sir Lancelot did not slice off of my person with sword and dagger. Okay, it was likely a small scalpel, but the pain was unlike anything I had felt up to that point in my life. Every dose of the antibiotic brought my freshly washed hands to my nose and inextricably tied soap to boil. On that note, play me a tune any day.

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