Memory and Music

Music invokes memories. I know this from experience. Stairway to Heaven will forever transport me to my teenage years, lying in bed with the cassette player on the floor playing Led Zeppelin over and over again. Three Times a Lady takes me onto a dimly lit dance floor and into the arms of a long-forgotten love. Anthems such as Throw Your Arms Around Me and Working Class Man remind me of nights spent with friends at one pub or another, listening to cover bands and singing along very badly, with drunken abandonment.

At last Friday Night at the NGV, as part of the Van Gogh Four Seasons exhibition, the Blackeyed Susans played while the audience of mostly over 40s, swayed and bobbed and head banged their way through the songs. The music didn’t summon any memories for me as, at the peak of their success in the 90s, I was grooving to the sounds of the Wiggles and Don Spencer, along with my three sons. But it was obvious that most of the people at the National Gallery of Victoria that night were reliving their youth through the tunes being played. There were even groupies, if you can call them that; women dressed in clothes more reminiscent of their teens but in larger sizes, pushing through the crowd to reach the front of the stage and dancing in a way which they thought provocative.

All around me the grey haired, both men and women, forgot their daily worries, their slightly too much weight around the middle, their relationship problems, the work they hated, their mortgages and credit card debts and personal loans. The music soared over them, around them and through them, carrying them back in time to moments which were perhaps less fraught with difficulties, less responsible and a tad more fun.

Of course, music can also remind you of sad times. Marianne Faithfull’s The Ballad of Lucy Jordan, is my number one go to song whenever I’m feeling low. I can always listen to Tupac’s Until the End of Time, which triggers memories of randomly writing poetry full of angst, but lacking finesse. When I’m angry or frustrated the song in my head, reminding me that I can achieve my goals, never wavers from Helen Reddy’s I Am Woman. I want Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, along with Youth Group’s Forever Young played at my funeral, or my wake, or perhaps the party I have on my death bed so I can listen to them too.

And that’s the beauty of music. There is always a song to suit the occasion; to bring back the good old days, comfort you when you are miserable and lift your spirits in times of need. We all have a sound track to our lives, one which invokes memories and makes memories.

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