As I approach my sixth decade, I’ve come to realize the music I enjoyed growing up means more to me than ever. Songs that I listened to as a teenager seemed to hold a profound significance to my past.
I think this is true for all of us. The power of an old song can trigger vivid memories and can transport us back in time. Those songs we quickly turned up the volume to hear are woven into a neural tapestry and can entwine us to people, seasons, and locations we’ve encountered throughout our lifespan.
Researchers have uncovered evidence that suggests our brains are bound to the music we listened to as teenagers. We are tightly bonded to those songs as opposed to what we hear as adults, and the connection to our youth doesn’t weaken as we age.
A series of recent studies have found that listening to music engages broad neural networks in the brain, including brain regions responsible for motor actions, emotions, and creativity. Interestingly, it appears that if you haven’t heard a song in years, the neural tapestry representing that song stays purer and the song will evoke stronger specific memories, while memories linked to overplayed songs can become diluted because the neural network is constantly being updated.
In other words, musical nostalgia isn’t just a cultural phenomenon, but a neutronic command. And no matter how sophisticated our tastes may grow; our memories remain attached to songs we obsessed over during adolescence.
1973 my family, best friend, Linda, and I took a trip to California. Back then, taking a two week vacation from work wasn’t unheard of, and Dad liked to do an extended road trip along the western coast.
My parents had just purchased a new car, a gold Ford Maverick. We were ready to cruise. The drive and the beginnings of the journey are pretty fuzzy, and the visit doesn’t become clear until that brand new vehicle started to “cut out” during mid-trip.
Instead of an afternoon, oohing and awing over movie stars homes, we spent the day at a Sears Automotive Center in downtown Hollywood. Linda and I remained in the backseat while my parents went inside. They were kind enough to leave the radio on. Linda, I believe was either reading or taking a nap. I watched people.
The opening cords of the Sounds of Silence, by Simon and Garfunkel began to play—I realize this song was released in the 60’s…but to this day if I hear the tinkling intro, I’m transported to 1973, and I’m sitting in the backseat of a Ford, marveling at the city.
The day was sunny, but the air possessed a dark sheen, smog maybe? We were surrounded by a mass of buildings that seemed messy and unbalanced, but I was fascinated just the same. Movement was all around me, but everything appeared to slow down as the first strains began.
Hello darkness, my old friend,
I’ve come to talk with you again,
Probably my writer’s imagination, but that’s how my memory works.
I tried to think of songs past 1979 and connect them to a memory, but I couldn’t. Even though I married and had my first child in the 80’s, I can’t recall the music I listened to in my 20’s, unless I hear it played. And although the emotional relationship isn’t as strong, it doesn’t stop me from bouncing to all my favorites.
What songs bring back emotional memories from your past?
Debra Jupe reads and writes romance suspense-thrillers that are sizzling, dark, and fun. Her favorite authors are Sandra Brown, Linda Howard, and Lisa Jackson, and she aspires to join them on the best selling ranks some day. You can find her books at http://wwwthewildrosepress.com and http://www.amazon.com