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Music for Moods and Memories

It seems we may have been indoctrinated over time to the extent that music has become a drug we need to enhance our lives. Sometimes we actually play the sort that will induce feelings, even create a persona we wish to adopt at a particular moment. When we desire to be someone we are not, an appropriate tune can help us get into that role better than any other means. Having at long last decided to tell the boss where to stick his job, we put on Darth Vader's theme from Star Wars. The stirring rendition stimulates a sensation of power, invincibility, and is just what we need to shrug off the fetters of a subservient wimp to become a fearsome Jedi from the dark side. Even as we are entering the manager's office and can no longer hear the music ringing in our ears, it is still in our head, just as loud and supportive; maybe more so, because memories are like that. Later that day, back home and out of a job, it is probably the last thing we want to hear; but years down the track, whenever we see Star Wars we will relive every aspect of what Vader's theme meant to us so long ago - the nervous butterflies, the determination, the euphoria of winning. Music helped us do what we had to then; that same tune will remind us that we actually did it; and we will experience again a repeat of the exhilaration and personal pride.

Not all associations are as dramatic. Memories of ordinary events can be brought to mind by a tune from the past. If we heard something playing on our first date, a replay at a later time might stir good memories; maybe not-so-good if the liaison was an embarrassing disaster. When we eventually met that special person in our life, there was probably a song going round at the time that we would make our own. All kinds of occasions, from holidays to parties to changes in circumstances are likely to have been accompanied by a particular song or a musical style that later epitomised what happened back then. Even melodies which did not feature prominently in our own lives can have special meaning. Those numbers from WWII performed by Glenn Miller, Vera Lynn and the like tend to generate a certain empathy with the era. Someone who had not been born then might listen to an album in that particular style, close their eyes and be able to imagine what it was like to be saying a fond farewell to their sweetheart, hoping they would meet again when it was all over, perhaps in that same memory lane - a fantasy conjured by the magic of music.

Nostalgia of this kind is obviously borrowed - from parents and grandparents who sang songs of their times, or from old movies of the period; yet it's more than simply seeing those events on film, or learning of them through anecdotes; even reading about them doesn't quite do the trick. A book about the 1940's is unlikely to supply a reader with sufficient atmosphere to really appreciate what life was like back then; however, if they played some appropriate music in the background, it might be a different story - perhaps a better one?

What about our own lives, though, as opposed to those of people long gone? Of course we reminisce, all of us from nine to ninety. I can almost guarantee that music will feature prominently in this reflective process, and the library is constantly being upgraded. The younger generation can't seem to function without music. Fortunately for their elders, many listen to it via ear-pieces, happy to keep it strictly personal. Their play list will, in most cases, consist of the very latest tracks, new songs that reflect their age, current attitude and the mood of the time. Without even realising, they are imprinting an association in their memory, exactly the way we did when we were that age. Should something significant occur at the same time a particular tune is playing, the link is established. Hearing the melody later will refresh the experience of the moment; and if there is a need to feel that way again, an audio replay will trip the switch. I personally might dislike their kind of music, particularly when it just seems like a fearful noise; but I wouldn't be surprised to hear it again in the future and be reminded of an incident or person I happened across when it first jangled in my ears. Then it might be less annoying, perhaps even enjoyable.

Music is all around and accompanies us throughout our lives, enhancing enjoyment, concern, sadness and light-hearted frivolity. It can also create these same moods and attitudes simply by being heard. Because it is so important to us, we listen to it when we can and buy collections of our favourites to play for relaxation or when we need comfort and support. The mere existence of music has enriched our lives, but what about after - will we be able to take it with us when we go? Maybe we won't need to. After all, Hank Joplin, Elvis and Michael Hutchence must have gone somewhere. Wouldn't it be nice to think they'll be waiting to entertain us again, but in person the next time? That would be some kind of Heaven.

PS Here's an appropriate page from our eBook   A Season of Happiness:


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