|In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida (album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Prior to the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge of 2014 I did a series of posts about music and some of the memories inspired by music. This concept came about as a cross promotion for my Battle of the Bands posts I do on my main blog Tossing It Out.
Thinking about how certain music and particular songs prompt memories for me, I came up with a few identifiable music prompts. Here is my prompt list:
1) Music of an Era: There are songs that immediately evoke memories for those knowledgeable about historical musical eras such as the Jazz Age, the Swing Band Era, the British Invasion, and other historic music eras.
In my own life I also can identify certain time spans that I might refer to as personal eras. These were time periods--months and maybe years--when I was hearing the same songs repeatedly and there was a heavy listening preference regarding certain types of music. Some of the personal eras overlap. There is my parents' music that I listened to in my childhood, the AM top forty era of 1963 to about 1969, a disco/new wave era in the late 70's to early 80's, my 80's music era, and so on.
Now if I hear a song by the Zombies, the Allman Brothers, The Police, Depeche Mode, or Daniel Amos (a Christian rock band), I will often be reminded of certain times of my life when I was listening to that type of music. If I listen now to songs by such artists I can be taken back to that time and use the memory as a writing prompt.
2) Songs of a season: Most typically these are Christmas songs, but they can also include songs that remind me of Fourth of July (Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever"), Easter ("Easter Parade"), and even songs that were signature hits that I relate to times of the year ("Sugar Shack" for the beginning of the school year or "Summer In The City" for the summertime). Some of these songs I rarely hear now, but a time of year might make me recall certain songs or vice versa.
3) Music that relates to a specific time: There are certain songs that I recall exactly where I was, what the time of year was, and what I was doing at the time I heard the song. For example, Alan Parsons Project "Eye in the Sky" I first heard on the radio while sitting in the parking lot of a supermarket in Billings, Montana in mid-June of 1982. Or Steve Miller's "Abracadabra" on the radio as I drove late one night in 1982 toward Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan with lightning flashing on the horizon. Then there was a Sunday night in October of 1968 when I picked up a St. Louis FM station long enough to hear them successively play CCR's "Suzy Q" and Iron Butterfly's "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida", changing my view of music in a drastic way.
The concept of time also applies to certain precise times when I can recall hearing a song to the point where it caught my attention and stayed with my memory. Many times these were songs I had heard frequently and not paid much attention to until that magic point in time where the song registered in some special way. This might have happened due to hearing it on the radio, on the piped in music system at a store, at someone's house, or some other place where the listening choice was out of my control.
4) Songs related to an event: These would include Elgar's "Pomp and Circumstance March #1" at graduations. Wagner's "Wedding March (Here Comes the Bride)", or any number of songs traditionally used for ceremonial purposes. This also includes songs that might be specific to a personal event such as a party, a wedding, a funeral, or some other occasion.
An example of the personal event experience was a funeral that I attended--I don't even recall who the funeral was for--where a young lady sang a song called "On Eagle's Wings" by one Michael Joncas. That song stuck in my mind so strongly that for over a year I searched for a recording of it. Thereafter, whenever I listened to that song, I recalled it being sung at that funeral.
Concerts I have attended will also be vividly replayed in my memory when I hear a song that was performed in a concert that I had seen by that artist. Jethro Tull's earlier music is a good example of this. If I hear cuts from Thick As A Brick or Passion Play, parts of the concerts I saw with this band will replay in my mind.
5) Songs that evoke a memory of a person: This very personal category is frequently thought of in relationship to a romantic interest, but for me it also relates to friends and family members. There are certain songs that will make me think of my father or mother or my sisters or brothers. Some songs I identify strongly with certain friends, especially musician friends who may have performed the songs. If I hear one of these songs my mind will immediately begin thinking about the person to whom I relate the song and in some cases more than one person.
6) Songs that evoke a place: This category can go together with any number of the above or it can stand alone. For many songs and albums I hear, I am taken back to the basement of my parents' house in Tennessee or my old bedroom in our family's house in Indiana. Some songs might take me back to a unique venue where I heard them performed in concert. When I hear "Walking in the Sand" by the Shangri-Las I remember the old gym at lunchtime in the junior high school I attended. When I hear Dan Fogelberg's "The River" I remember sitting late at night with my first wife in our VW Rabbit parked in front of her parents' house in Richmond, Virginia. Some songs can transport me to an exact place where I remember hearing them.
I'm sure there are other prompts or variations on the ones I've mentioned here. Sometimes I enjoy just putting on an album or listening to a song and letting the memories flow. I find that music can do that. For me the music does that very well.
Do you make similar connections with the music of your life? Are there other types of memories that music can prompt for you? Do you ever write stories, sketches, essays, or other work using music as your inspiration?
Please visit Tossing It Out this Thursday May 15th for the next Battle of the Bands post.