Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Our Mental Jukebox and Memories...

Memory: the mental capacity or faculty of retaining and reviving facts, events, impressions, etc., or of recalling or recognizing previous experiences

Or a simpler definition: the state or fact of being remembered

Whenever I hear Whole Lotta Love by Led Zeppelin I’m immediately zapped back sometime between 1968-1970 to the cafeteria at Waltrip High School in Houston, Texas.

Yes, that was a long time ago, and yes, we had a jukebox. I laugh today thinking back on the fact the jukebox directly faced the faculty table. Whole Lotta Love ought to give you an idea of the kind of music the teachers had to endure while eating their cafeteria lunch.

So, what kind of memories does Whole Lotta Love bring up for me? Depends…remember I was in high school and the daily angst that comes with being a teenager can turn a smile into tears on a dime. But basically, I rate that song as good. The smell of the cafeteria; the aroma of the yeast rolls and apple jelly the girls at our table coveted. Yes, Whole Lotta Love still makes me smile.

From the reading I’ve done, this is called an autobiographical memory. For whatever reason, that song has lodged itself in the cold storage of my brain (my mental jukebox).

The way I interpret the autobiographic memory procedure is that particular songs caught in the mind’s web have significance to our life time line. They’re like landmarks along our journey. And music has the power to transport the thought process to another time and place, setting off a boat-load of emotions. The feeling could be “ahhh" (smiley face) or “ohhh” (sad face). Actually, music can be considered a mind-altering device.

When I hear Soul and Inspiration by the Righteous Brothers, I am in the driver's seat of my parent's monstrous tank of a 1968 Pontiac Ventura sedan (olive green with a black landau top), sitting at an intersection near the high school, waiting for the left turn light to change. 

California Girls by the Beach Boys makes me smile every time I hear it. Just the first couple of stanzas put me in a freeing state of mind and still knowing every word, I sing the entire song...always.

On the other hand, Tapestry by Carole King, one of the best-selling albums of all time, selling over 25 million copies in the United States, brings up a time in my life which conjurs anything but a smiley face.

Studies show people are most affected by songs they hear that were popular when they were between the ages of 8-18. So, someone born in the 70’s or 80’s would have a completely different mental jukebox than someone born in the 50’s or 60’s.

There seem to be two basic categories associated with autobiographical memories: good/happy or bad/sad. And if the experience associated with the song doesn’t have some sort of hold on your emotions, then the relevance of the music probably flew right past your mental jukebox.

Are autobiographical memories and nostalgia synonymous? Read the definition below and then decide.

Nostalgia: a wistful desire to return in thought or in fact to a former time in one's life, a former place or time.

I think I would vote no on the question as to whether the two are synonymous. Two reasons:

      - If the memories evoked are positive ones, then yes, possibly...however, 
      - A desire to return? Maybe in thought for a brief moment if the song brought a smile to my face, but return to a former time? No thank you. I’m okay with my good songs and memories staying right where I am, thank you very much.

      If you were to take a music/memory quiz, say 30 songs from your growing up years, what would your autobiographical memory (mental jukebox) look like? What category would the majority of the songs fall in? Good/happy or bad/sad?

 "In the corner of my mind stands a jukebox..."