Musical memory


[itunes logo]The sound of grasshoppers and this certain scent of the earth, plants and flowers always reminds me of Greece. I haven't been to Greece for almost 15 years. I think the last time was when I was barely a teenager, or maybe it's even longer ago.

A few days ago I listened to the Soma Sonic cd and I was instantly back to the end of '99 when I found them on and I was in Japan working too much and playing sad mp3s on my giant Dell laptop.

Dubstar is even more of a time machine. It brings instant memories from traveling Europe the last spring of my time in school. More than memories, I am back in that train with my cd player, headphone implants and backpacks everywhere around us.

U2's Rattle and Hum brings fun memories from that same summer.

Bob Dylan's "Oh Mercy" reminds me of a not quite so happy time. Best Dylan ever. Yes, even better than At Budokan.

For my 15 years birthday some friends bought me Achtung Baby. We were only a bit more than a handful celebrating, but the party lasted all night. It was a blast.

When I was very little I'd cry when my dad played his loud beat music, so he played classical music instead. For years my favorite popular LP to fall asleep was Edvard Grieg's Peer Gynt Suite. It was a Deutsche Grammophon recording and the cover had this pretty photo of Norwegian mountains. I also had all Bach's symphonies, but I don't remember them as clearly.

Current candidates for what will remind me of the present and the past few years; in no particular order.

  • Daft Punk's Discovery album (the Homework album reminds me of that summer in Copenhagen where it was played all too much)
  • Alina by Arvo Pärt. Nothing takes tension away faster than this. Three of the five tracks are the same and even then I've played it over and over and over many times.
  • Leonard Cohen, Ten New Songs. I barely remember listening to anything else last winter, spring and summer.
  • Röyksopp is insanely addicting.
  • The last months Beth Orton has been on very frequent rotation.
  • I don't think I'll remember it for this particular time, but some of the lyrics on Leonard Cohen's Recent Songs are so wonderful, even if I don't know what it means. Or maybe it's the perfect use of violins through most of the album. "And where, where, where is my Gypsy wife tonight I've heard all the wild reports, they can't be right But whose head is this she's dancing with on the threshing floor whose darkness deepens in her arms a little more"


Combining musical memory with memory palaces results in something strangely familiar: the Umbra room. The two things about my room that never change when I go back: the window looking out on a blue sky, and quiet ambient peaceful music playing.

There's something in the idea of building memories with musical progression -- I can remember end-to-end the playlists of all my favorite CDs, and that's a 12+ item list sometimes. Combined with the memory palace idea, you can have a virtual room with walls of CD cases, and pick out memories by reading the labels. Or something.

Time Out of Mind ain't bad either.

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This page contains a single entry by Ask Bjørn Hansen published on June 8, 2003 11:26 PM.

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