The Soundtrack of our Lives

The songs we heard growing up shape our memories

Sights and smells will trigger memories in an individual but the sense of sound seems to trigger them best and especially when they are in musical form. Often enough, hearing an old song will automatically take us back to a place that no longer exist anywhere but in our memories, whether good or bad.

Dave Munger presents us with some research on why this is the case in Music and Memory: How the Songs We Heard Growing Up Shape the Story of Our Lives. Here’s an excerpt:

Matching our intuitions about music, researchers have found that music is an important influence on our memories. We associate songs with emotions, people, and places we’ve experienced in the past. This isn’t to say that music is the only influence on memory: the photos I took, the sights I saw, and the words I wrote about my hike will also help to preserve it in my mind for many years to come.

But it’s not easy to parse out exactly how music evokes memories. If I listened to “Rock Lobster” on the drive down from Hart’s Pass where we finished our hike, will “Rock Lobster” be associated with that memory, or with my birthday party in college where I danced wildly to the same song? Does music have a more powerful effect on memory than other influences, like images, words, or smells? We don’t know, but a group led by Petr Janata has taken an important first step in understanding how music can affect memory.

On that note, I’d like to present to you the soundtrack of my youth. Feel free to share yours with us.

Elvis Presley – My Way

David Bowie – Modern Love

Joy Division – Transmission/She’s Lost Control

Depeche Mode – Everything Counts

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five – The Message

Simple Minds – Waterfront

China Crisis – Black Man Ray

Van Halen – Jump

The Smiths – This Charming Man

M.A.R.R.S. – Pump up the Volume

Eric B. and Rakim – I Ain’t No Joke

Happy Mondays – Wrote For Luck

Dead Milkmen – Punk Rock Girl

World Party – Way Down Now

Ned’s Atomic Dustbin – Kill Your Television

Nitzer Ebb – Join in the Chant

The Stone Roses – Waterfall

The Charlatans – The Only One I Know

Public Enemy – Don’t Believe the Hype

EPMD – Sowhatchusayin’

Marley Marl and the Juice Crew – The Symphony

BDP – Criminal Minded

Ministry – N.W.O

Happy Mondays – Step On

Blur – There’s No Other Way

Wu-Tang Clan – Da Mystery of Chessboxin’

Brand Nubian – Slow Down

The Chemical Brothers – Three Little Birdies Down Beats

The GZA – Liquid Swords

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2 Responses to The Soundtrack of our Lives

  1. David says:

    My girlfriend wrote this article that suggests that music is more than a way of expression that it affects us.

  2. Bobby R says:

    solid article most of those songs are on my soundtrack. alot of songs trigger old memories for me , mostly summertime songs like the light by common or back in the day by ahmed. Black moon i got u open just reminded me of the times when me and my buddies would run around the city just goofin off and having a good time.

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