I have strong memory associations when listening to music. That is, the music evokes the first significant time I’ve listened to it, or memories of things I’ve been doing while it’s been playing.

When I hear “Broken Bones”, one of the most gorgeous love songs ever, I can remember lying in bed with the lights off and my headphones on, just listening. Luna’s The Days of Our Nights always brings to mind a particular scene: walking from class back to the Quad in the half-light of dusk, snow drifting down to settle on the Commons.

Sometimes songs are associated with emotion-laden periods. For instance, in eleventh grade there was a month during which I was pretty depressed (the most depressed I’ve ever been, I think), and started writing these outpourings in a journal. A couple of albums are inextricably linked to those hours over days spent writing and writing. And one piece, the Romance from Prokofiev’s Lt. Kije Suite, is tied to the happiness that followed (and the demise of the journal!).

The interesting thing is that thinking about an album doesn’t produce the same feeling; sure, I can recall when I’ve listened to it, but only on an intellectual level. When I actually play it, though, the feeling is sudden and immersive, and startling in its clarity.

I was compelled to write this entry by Mozart, really, as his last two symphonies just evoked one of those scenes for me. The CD just finished, and now I’m listening to the terrific new album by the Shins. I wonder what it’ll recall for me, years from now. Maybe writing this entry :).

A similar moment happened this weekend. Sunday morning I was jogging down to North Field to play some soccer. It was drizzling, cloudy, and cold, and I had my running shoes on… and it took me right back to lovely New England :) and my cross country running days. The strange thing is that I never really liked running, but I liked XC. The main reason is that the guys on the team were awesome, and we spent most of our time not running when we should have been, but looking back I’m realizing that there was a bit more.

Most sports I play involve either meeting expectations or screwing up. Every time I make a pass in soccer or ultimate, or even attempt to nail a spare in bowling or reject someone in foosball, I’m expecting to succeed. That’s just how it is, and either it works or I screw up. XC was about exceeding expectations. See, for me, stringing together two good miles in the 3200m on a flat track, even being paced on each lap, was tough work. But when I was out in some state park in late October, wearing next to nothing in 50 degree weather, faced with running three-plus miles up and down some bigass hills with nothing to pace me, I found myself running nearly as fast against all (personal) expectations. It just doesn’t make sense, but it felt damn good every time.

I think I need to play more esteem-building sports like that :). The only other one that comes to mind is table tennis, when sometimes you’re playing so fast that you can’t even actively comprehend what’s going on; you just react, doing stuff you didn’t think you could.

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6 Responses to

  1. gilson says:

    i feel the same way. music always seems to bring back something from my past(just now, beatles’ hard days night, i remember listening to nothing but beatles songs on family trips to vegas, and my sis telling me not to sing anymore). jupiter is awesome. i remember practicing my part along w/ a cd and sounding nothing like it(and my sis telling me not to practice anymore).

  2. jwscoleman says:

    I have very strong music-book associations

    Two of the strongest are with Orson Scott Card books:
    Come Undone-Ender’s Game
    Oh, the warm feeling (Van Morrison)-Worthing Saga
    Kinda weird because I end up with strong emotional responses that aren’t really related to the songs.

  3. ccho says:

    I’m reminded of your wonderful track picture that was on my dhtml website back in college. :) I think if you don’t expect to succeed at any moment you will tend to fail much more!

    • aj says:

      You know, I’d tend to agree with you in general. But I did much better at cross country than I do at soccer or ultimate these days, which is strange. Hmm.

  4. simplyjeska says:

    dude, did you post that because you knew i was studying memory association in class this week? turns out that smells usually are the most strongly associated with memory because they have a more direct connection to the part of your brain that stores things into memory.

    i think of you everytime i hear ugly kid joe’s “sandwich”!