by Grungi

What are your memories made of ?

Once all the photographs have been lost in a fire (or a hard drive crash), when there’s no video on the Internet capturing the moment, what is capabable of evoking vivid images of days long past in your head ?

Figuring out the most common trigger for me isn’t really rocket science : it’s music. That’s pretty common, but it’s the truth nonetheless. Reading a post on the subject on Nicole (formerly pengie)’s “23ji no ongaku” (formerly “unchained”) made me realize that, yeah, not only do I associate music with periods of time or event, but down the road even the best photographs aren’t as powerful as said music in terms of evocative power.

At times, these links are so strong that unconsciously go back to a particular album when conditions match to some extent the “original” memories. A prime example of that is the soundtrack to the Escaflowne movie. I listened to it extensively during our trip to Tunisia at the end of my last year of high school. Now, it’s really one of my “summer-only” album, and one that almost switch me instantly to “recollection mode”.

Setting my portable media player on random is like taking a stroll through time, spending pensive summer nights with MONO, proudly leaving an exam room in the company of Kamelot, finishing reading a book crying to Chihiro Onitsuka, or learning to play the guitar with Metallica.

If Xenogears is my favourite game, it’s for good reasons. One of these is this quote, taken from the beginning of the game :

” Music is a mysterious thing. Sometimes it makes people remember things they do not expect. Many thoughts, feelings, memories… things almost forgotten… Regardless of whether the listener desires to remember or not.”

That is so very true. I cannot tell how many times I’ve been taken back by a song I hadn’t listened to in months, or, on several occasions, years. The feeling is akin to vertigo, so sweeping that usually I have to pause for a moment and let the memories come back. In a way, music is not completetely unlike magic.

On the other side of things, another feeling I cherish is the one I get when I realize that a song/album is beginning to associate itself irrevocably to what I’m living. Because I know then that I’ll be able to recover a big part of what made that moment special simply by listening to that song or album. For example, Eastmountainsouth is now permanently linked to my first trip to Japan last august, and more specifically their song “Still Running” is now synonymous with Kyoto in my mind.

People sometimes tell me that I spend too much time with my headphones on, especially when I’m visiting new places. I’m supposedly “missing out” on many things. And I can agree to some extent, as hearing the background noise of a place is part of the experience. Yet I don’t simply listen to music to “kill the noise” or “isolate myself”, but rather to engrave things into my brain.

To me, music is more than simply the “soundtrack” of my life. My identity is completely entwined with what I listen to, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.