Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Music and memories

Elephants supposedly never forget. Humans, on the other hand, seem to forget more than they remember -- that is, except when we really wish to forget something! Thank goodness then for all manner of mnemonic devices and those joggers of memories that, for me, include ones which are musical in nature.

Looking through my music CD and -- yes, I still have some of these! -- cassette tape collections, I find that certain songs, entire albums or names of singers can get me pretty quickly strolling down Memory Lane.

For instance, as I compose this entry, I'm listening to Mary-Chapin Carpenter's Come On Come On album and, even as part of my mind remains in front of the computer over here in Penang, another part has gone rushing back to the time that a university colleague and I went on a road trip to temporarily get away from it all.

(A good indicator of our pre-excursion mood can be discerned from the song from Ms. Carpenter's repertoire that I've come to associate with that road trip being The Bug and its chorus including lines like "Sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug...sometimes you're the Louisville Slugger, sometimes you're the ball; sometimes it all comes together, sometimes you're gonna lose it all"!)

As it so happens, the road trip -- which started in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and went all the way down south to bucolic Beaufort, South Carolina, before reversing directions and heading back from whence we originally came -- turned out to be just what our temporarily hurting psyches needed.

Consequently, I came to have good plus fond memories of it and many of the places we visited along the way; which included interesting towns like Annapolis, Maryland -- the state capital that's also home to the United States Naval Academy, New Bern, North Carolina -- the birthplace of Pepsi Cola, Wilmington, North Carolina -- birthplace of basketball legend, Michael Jordan, Georgetown, South Carolina -- home to a Rice Museum (which I, of course, visited!) and historic Charleston, South Carolina -- where we went to watch a military parade at The Citadel (i.e., the Military College of South Carolina), as well as those areas of North Carolina's enchanting Outer Banks where the Wright Brothers made their first flights and an entire 16th century colony seemingly disappeared into thin air (and legend).

Then there's the music I associate with particular people as well as the times spent with them...A confession: This is particularly true with regards to songs and singers which certain ex-significant others introduced me to. (For some reason, I seemed to attract men who have a greater love for music than I do...and whose reaction, upon finding out how limited my listening range is, is to make me tapes of songs they feel I should be acquainted with!)

So, while I do think it's best to not "out" my benefactors, here's going ahead and thanking them as a group for having introduced me to -- and taught me to appreciate -- such as the music of George Winston, Elvis Costello and various Malian Divas. :b

Certain other music, meanwhile, take me back to particular times and places as well as bring to mind particular people (and I don't just mean the music makers). More often than not, it's because they are when, where and from whom I was first acquainted with those sounds and songs.

For example, I can clearly recall close to twenty years on that the first time I heard the music of Cat Stevens, it was the summer of 1988, I was in the American Southwest (attending archaeological field school) and the fellow who I primarily associate with it was a then archaeological graduate student called Rock (though, in fact, his personal names were -- and very much reflecting his being a Texan -- Bradley Joe! :b).

Recounting one of those occasions that if you hadn't been there, you'd think "only happens in the movies": One hot afternoon, after a long work day, tempers flared among some of the more hot-headed plus -blooded archaeological crew members. For a moment (or more), it looked like a fight might actually break out. Then Rock went into his van (which served as his mobile home), opened all of its doors and proceeded to blast the soothing mellow music of Mr. Stevens out of it. Quick as a flash, the mood changed and soon, the same fellows who had looked like they had been intent on a bout of fisticuffs, if not wrestling, started swaying to the music, then dancing and laughing with one another!

So guess what (and who) I'm often reminded of whenever I hear the tune and lyrics of If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out...! And yes, it did thrill me to no end when I discovered that that inspirational song also features in the cult classic that's Harold and Maude (and, in fact, was -- together with the similarly superb Don't Be Shy -- written expressly for that movie). :)

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