The Soundtrack of our Lives

September 2, 2008

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.

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Liam Gallagher or Richard Ashcroft? Jarvis Cocker or Dave Gahan?

July 18, 2008

Richard Ashcroft of The VerveRichard Ashcroft of The Verve brimming with confidence

Growing up in suburbia in the 1980s, the lines of division were clear cut: you either liked Depeche Mode and Simple Minds (before “Don’t You” came out) or you were a fan of Motley Crue and Judas Priest. Thanks to the gift of CFNY 102.1 and some older cousins with taste I fell into the former category and eschewed the black leather/spandex/big hair of the latter. New Wave begat Madchester which begat Britpop and so on and so on. One thing remained constant though, the lead singer of any British pop band always had a swagger, a grasp on irony, intelligent banter, and was never more than a few seconds away from calling a boring American interviewer a “tosser”. I’m not exactly proud to link you readers to Muchmusic, but their blog has a listing of the 10 “most fierce” British leads in music. I guess the descriptor “fierce” is what excluded Thom Yorke…..

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