midnight, not a sound from the pavement

May 27, 2009

so one of the things that i find eternally fascinating and ponderable is the nature of memory: how we create memories, what we remember, and the kind of connections our brains make between outside stimuli and internal memories.

i bring this up because this morning i was listening to Purple, the STP album from 1994. now, i didn’t own this album when it first came out; hell, i didn’t even really like STP until i was in college. but somehow the songs on this album (many of which i haven’t heard in at least ten years) simply sound like 1994. “interstate love song” reminded me mostly of the video for that song, which isn’t all that weird, but “pretty penny” gave me a weird image of my cousin and i house sitting in march of 1995. it made me think of making dinner in the kitchen of that house, and driving to school when it was cold and overcast and kind of dark (our school started at 7:45). 

so this got me thinking: why do certain songs – even random songs that don’t necessarily like or didn’t necessarily listen to extensively back in the day – bring up such strong, specific, but totally random memories? this is something i’ve thought about a lot. sometimes there’s a sort of reason to the associations:

  • the oasis song “champagne supernova” makes me think of both my sophomore german class and making out with the guy i dated in the spring of 1995, because that song was constantly on mtv when we watched it during class (don’t ask, that’s a story for another day) and while mtv was background noise while we made out.
  • jim croce’s “bad, bad leroy brown” causes me to envision my mom doing some hardcore Mom Dancing in our living room. she loves this song, and she would always do this really dorky white woman dance that involved clapping. several other random songs (some by CCR, who she also loves) sound enough like this song to also give me this image.

and then sometimes there’s not, as with the above STP song and stuff like keith whitley’s “i’m no stranger to the rain,” which makes me think of driving around mt. shasta in my grandparents’ mini van during a summer storm. various other songs from the same period (including at least two randy travis songs) make me think of similar scenes of summer in mt. shasta.

side note: part of the problem with surreptitiously blogging at work is that i frequently forget where i was going with this shit. did i have a point? probably not. but let’s see what i can dredge up.

i guess what i’m trying to get at – what i can’t answer, but what i like to wonder about – is why these specific memories? why can i remember things like my 6th grade school schedule? why does a random song i’m not even that partial to bring up a very random memory of an unexceptional moment in time? why do i need to remember the night i made macaroni & cheese for my cousin while we were house sitting? is there something specific there, something my brain thinks is important, something it’s squirreling away for a future use? or is this all just truly random?

maybe i should just buy a book on memory and the brain.


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