Thursday, January 20, 2011

Music for the Soul

(Photo - A well-known Spiral staircase in Paris, France.  By D.G. Hudson)

On author Nathan Bransford’s blog, (Wed. Jan. 19/11), the question of the day was “What is your favourite song of all time?” Most of the readers had difficulty naming just one, perhaps because we attach significance to different songs at different times in our lives. A song is generally accepted as music with lyrics, intended to be vocalized.

Is it the lyrics, the music itself or the mental association which imprints certain songs upon our memories? Each of us has an appreciation for certain types of music, something which is very subjective and unique. Music can bring comfort, it can set the mood of a visual experience, or it can remind us of times past. Live performances reveal some of the power of music, as we are hit by a wall of sound at the rock venues or we watch the intricate playing of the saxophonist at the intimate club.

The theme music that accompanies a great movie, or a live play can imprint our memory much more strongly. Certain musicals used this method to introduce new songs, and set up a ready audience for the subsequent distribution of the same music in a packaged form (published music sheets, early recordings). Laura’s Theme in Dr. Zhivago, or the whistling tune (aka the Colonel Bogey March) from  Bridge Over the River Kwai illustrate how the song can live outside its original purpose.

Driving songs, based on my research, must be played uber-loud so as to get the adrenaline rolling in the listener’s veins. It goes along with the roaring engines, and the smell of exhaust. The male gender seem especially attracted to these types of songs, in many cases linking them to memories of a previously owned vehicle. Think Radar Love by Golden Earring, or Midnight Rider by the Allman Brothers Band, or Autobahn by Kwaftwerk. Remember: using the music as an excuse to speed, or to keep up with the beat is not generally accepted by law, and won’t get you an exemption from receiving a fine or traffic ticket.

Give it some thought. Those favourite songs are usually connected to some favourite time in your past or a major life event. You may have met the band members backstage, or the lyrics meshed with your view of life. Just as photographs remind us of the event in a visual sense, songs bring back memories in an auditory sense.

The next music event where I’ll have a chance to forge some more memories will be at a local club listening to live jazz. Just music. Not songs this time.