14 December 2007

Music and Memory

Scientists say that the sense of smell is tied to our memory the most. And I do agree - a whiff of burnt sugar always reminds me of the Christmas markets in Germany on many trips we made there. Baby powder - don't get me started on that one or I'll cry. Even the smell of crude oil - reminds me of when Mike and I started dating and he was a roustabout. But one thing that triggers memory for me more than smell is hearing music - certain songs or symphonies bring back floods of memories. I would wager that most people's taste in music is rooted in memory.

My father-in-law, upon hearing my Rudolf dancing toy sing, said, "Sounds like Burl Ives. I've been trying to find some Cd's of his but can't find any. I just like to hear him." I was thinking "Burl Ives?" But I'm sure there is a story to that and I should ask him about it (by the way, hope he doesn't read this 'cause I found several albums on the almighty amazon.com site for him for Christmas). But it got me thinking (and anything that gets my brain to engage these days is a boon) about why I react to certain music like I do.

To this day, I don't like the theme song from "Chariot's of Fire" mainly because I LOVED it when we first moved to England in 1982 and listened to it over and over and over as I drove around, missing the States, missing my parents, missing things familiar. At the time, I drew strength from that song but over a few months, it became associated with my initial depression with being overseas the first time (my love affair with England had OBVIOUSLY not started yet). So when I hear that song, I automatically feel sad!

On the other hand, anytime I hear Elton John, I feel a bit euphoric! Mike and I dated to a lot of Elton John - he was a favorite artist of Mike's - and I have super-good memory connotations listening to him. Also, symphonies usually make me feel peaceful and help me get focused on whatever I'm doing or conversely help me relax. Turns out my folks played a lot of the Readers Digest music compilations that came on 33rpm records when I was young. And, seeing as I had a stellar childhood, anything that evokes feelings of well being, security and love is always good!

Then there are hymns - can't hear "Father, Here the Prayer We Offer" or "Be With Us Lord" without thinking of our wedding. I chose those songs and changed all the singular to "we" or "us" and to this day think of our commitment made in love to each other 32+ years ago. And the familiar "God Will Take Care of You" and other comforting songs continue to impact me in positive ways. Rousing marches like "Soldiers of Christ Arise!" and "We're Marching to Zion" get my blood pumping. And I also think of rocking my babies to sleep singing every calm hymn in the book to them in the process.

One year, back in the days when we drove to Florida to Walt Disney World instead of flying, the kids were hooked on Beach Boys (and Mike and I had just finished seeing the movie "Cocktail") so that song, whatever it's called, that goes "Aruba, Jamaica, boy I wanna take you to..." - remember it? It became our summer theme song and I associate it with our fun trip to Disney as the kids got older and more independent.

And now it's the holiday season. Everything from Bing Crosby singing "White Christmas" to "We are the Children" to traditional English carols sung by boy's choirs - memory lane is flooded and almost impassable. Also I am tempted to sing those wrongly worded made up versions ("I'm Dreaming of a Pink, Purple, Polka-Dot Christmas" and "Jingle Bells, Batman Smells, Robing Laid an Egg" come to mind) to Ben and Kennedy, but I figure Jen and Megan would kill me so I desist. But they too are part of a huge memory bank of Christmas fun times past for me.

One thing that Tim and I like to do is to take songs and change up the words to suit the occasion. It's a gift or a curse, depending on the person who has to hear it. Mike always says we have a "knack" for it. From the expressions on our other children's faces, I think perhaps it might be a curse. But it's fun to do - mental gymnastics of a sort. I guess that's why he and I enjoy programs like "Whose Line is it Anyway?" and "Mystery Science Theater". But again, it's a memory for me of bonding with Tim on another level as he grew older.

I've been in choirs of one sort or the other in almost every overseas location we've lived in - it was something that helped me get used to my new environment/culture - especially in Trinidad. Singing for me is an expression far more powerful than spoken word. Choir was very competitive in my high school - top choir required multiple auditions and sight reading skills. I was shocked to find out that in other high schools, choir was an "easy A" - not at Coronado High in Lubbock back in the '70s! You had to be on your game, work hard and attend rehearsals weekly outside of school hours to be in the Chorale. And Chorale exposed me to many forms of music and expressions of music - my association with euphoria and music really cemented there. I was relatively shy at that stage in my life and being on stage, singing, put me in a totally different sphere, one where I was confident, competent and happiest of all.

So think about your music and what it means to you. And use music as a tool, actively, to get you out of a funk if you're in one, to rekindle magic, to share a memory with your spouse or children, to share God's love with your little ones, to reconnect to Him yourself. Music is powerful stuff! I think perhaps that's why God commanded us to sing with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs in worship. It's the language of the soul, a language of love. Use it wisely. And enjoy it's immense power.

Happy remembering!


Tim said...

"Chipmunks roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost ripping off your nose;
Yuletide carols being sung by a tire, and folks dressed up like sloppy joes-
Everybody knows, a girdle and no diets;
help to make the season tight...."
Ahh, memories... to this day I hear the silly version we made up whenever the regular version comes on.

Speaking of wonderful associations with songs from your past, have you had any luck finding Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton's christmas album? Every time I think of it I see Cabbage Patch dolls under the tree and remember the childhood warmth of christmas.

Can't wait to see everyone!

Cheri (aka "The Mom Lady" said...

Yup - found it on iTunes! Yippee! I'd forgotten about the chipmunk song - great one! I'm resisting the urge to teach Ben, "Jingle Bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg..."

Don't think Jenny would be happy with me. Perhaps next year. :)

Khristy said...

The world is a freakishly small place. I was looking at a friend's blog (Joyce Brehmer) and clicked on a random link, seeing if I knew any of her friends. Well, I saw the name Drennon and thought, "I used to know some Drennons." So, I clicked, saw Tim and his family and thought, "No, they're too young. The Drennons I knew were older." On the off chance that he was related to the Drennons I knew, I clicked Gramma. And lo and behold, I saw your picture.

You may not remember us at all, but my husband Shawn & I met you in London when we all attended Wembley Church of Christ. I had my first child, Caitlin, while we were there. She's now a kindergartener, and I have had 2 boys since (JD who turns 3 April 1st and Quinn who turns one on Jan. 30th). I just started a blog this week if you'd like to see some pics. It's http://khristyhullett.blogspot.com.Glad to hear you're doing well. Blessings on you and yours in the holiday season.

Khristy Hullett