May 25, 2000

This is my contribution to Connected Recollections, the journal collaboration project for the MEMOIR webring. The topic this month is:

Musical Memories

What song brings back vivid memories for you? Something you learned in school, on the bus, a made-up song from a family member, one of the top ten on the radio of that decade, your first slow dance?

Where to begin..

Many songs bring back vivid memories, as music was always an integral part of my life. My mother loved classical music and always had the radio on, tuned to the CBC. She tried to instill in me an appreciation of classical and opera but never quite succeeded. I remember some children's tunes of the 50's.. the Teddy Bear's Picnic, How Much is that Doggie in the Window.. but the song that strikes the loudest chord (pun? who, me?) is "Jamaica Farewell" by Harry Belafonte. I have no idea why, but it causes quite an emotional reaction, combining happy early childhood memories of my home and my room (and my radio) with inexpressable sadness and longing. Vestige of another life? Why not, it's as good an explanation as any..

I went through a brief show-tunes phase at the age of 10 or 11, and then.. the Beatles arrived. Memories of Beatle songs aren't limited to the 60's for me, as I played my records for years and finally replaced them with CD's. Older Son loved them when he was two, and used to gleefully dance to them in his playpen. In fact, both of the kids were interminably exposed to the Beatles while "in utero". I don't know if this was a good thing for them but it was for me.

Many of the Simon and Garfunkel songs continue to move and soothe me even after countless playings. I don't know why particular songs have a more pronounced effect.. I don't think it's because certain memories are attached to them. I think it's something more primordial than that, with me. It bypasses consciousness and touches some basic brain pattern or emotional wavelength.

I have a theory.. a relationship with music is similar to a love story, at its best. When I get a new album that I really love immediately (a rare occasion, I can only think of four in the past decade*) it becomes an obsession. I play it constantly even though I'm afraid I'll over-hear it and grow tired of it. It's exciting and thrilling and exhausting to listen to. Eventually, after a number of weeks (usually) the passion starts to abate and I'll begin to revisit other favourites and stuff at the bottom of the pile, too. When I listen to the album in question again, it's a little less exciting but still enjoyable. Eventually it becomes a comfort album, something familiar, predictable, soothing, uplifting, fulfilling. The newness and excitement is replaced with layers of meaning and feeling and satisfaction.

I suppose this theory could apply to anything that provokes an emotional response, from books to theater to a cat.. but for me it's all about the music.

* Unplugged (Eric Clapton) -- discovered blues;
From the Cradle (Eric Clapton) -- more blues;
Pulse -- live performance by Pink Floyd;
The Dance -- live performance by Fleetwood Mac

There are other records I love as much as these, but these were the love at first sight experiences.

Linque Du Jour:   The Word Police Academy

The Word Police really exist, and we can join them! Pass the entrance exam (a new one every two weeks) at the Word Police Academy site at Atlantic Unbound (the online version of the Atlantic Monthly magazine) and you get a certificate suitable for printing, bragging rights, and printable "Grammar Citations" to hand out to your colleagues and loved ones. Citable infractions include misplaced or missing apostrophes (my personal grammar pet peeve), using "impact" as a verb, "feel badly", intemperance while wrong (!) and excessive political correctness.

(I passed.. on the second try. I got through on the reference section, but flunked redundancy. Bah.)

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