May 20 2012

Music and Memory

Every time I hear Elvis’s I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You it makes me think of Kaleb’s wife.

Hold on–I know I have some ‘splainin’ to do–just give me a second.

Music has a way of embedding memories. Trisha Yearwood and Clint Black, appropriately, used music to point this out, in The Song Remembers When and State of Mind, respectively. Sometimes for me it’s a whole set of memories, if the song was playing for several months during a certain part of my life. Frequently it’s just a single memory–not otherwise significant–it just happened to be when you first heard the song, or it was an event that gave new significance to a piece of music. Sometimes the music marks the event, sometimes the event marks the music.

I was just pulling onto T highway outside of Higginsville when I first heard Alabama’s Song of the South. Every time I hear it I’m suddenly 17 years old in a bright yellow ’79 Ford van. Listening to anything from Blackhawk’s first album or Paul Simon’s Love Songs & Negotiations reminds me of my wife’s and my brief courtship.

The connotations aren’t always so sunny. Every time I hear that really annoying Hall & Oates song (which one, amirite?) I’m reminded of having a giant argument with Heather in our old Mazda in the parking lot at Walmart. Likewise REM, Nirvana, and Pearl Jam bring back memories of working at Worlds of Fun, not having worlds of fun, but making little money, sleeping in my car/in the garage/at a relative’s house/on someone’s couch. Kind of like the aversion therapy inĀ A Clockwork Orange, it’s like pre-programmed misery.

Certainly I had heard the Elvis song a long time ago, but it was at at Kaleb’s wedding that the music embedded itself on me. Mrs. Kaleb walked down the aisle to it, instead of Wagner’s traditional bridal chorus from Lohengrin.

I guess a more accurate thesis statement would have been suffixed with ‘walking down the aisle at her wedding,’ but it doesn’t have the same hook.

Kaleb walked down the aisle to Seal’s Kiss From a Rose, but it didn’t make the same imprint–that song/memory was already reserved.

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