Sunday, June 27, 2010

Musical Memories

Our senses are very powerful forces. Taste, smell, sight, hearing all can serve to alert us to danger or reward us with pleasure. Our sense of touch helps us to perform tasks and seek and give pleasure as well as provide comfort. Our senses combined with our memories can remind us of experiences, good or bad.

My senses remind me of my younger days.

I was born during the best of times; in the height of the “baby boom” following World War II. The war in Korea was over and North America was in a time of great optimism and financial affluence. Cars, televisions, and refrigerators were no longer for the middle and upper classes but for everyone except the very poor.

However, the great depression was not such a far away memory. Many of my cousins had been born during the depression and WWII, and my aunts and uncles had all lived through the worst of times in the same way as I had arrived during the best.

My families, relatives of both my Father and Mother, were very different from each other, yet held many similarities such as the music they listened to. Due to the close proximity of the Great Depression, many old 78 RPM records of the music from that time existed in the various households I would visit with my parents. Even as a pre-schooler I was attracted to music and can still remember those old records and the way they sounded.

In recent times, some of those songs have begun to appear in movie soundtracks rekindling those old memories in me. I can remember so clearly that I can actually feel the sensations again of being in those homes. I can smell the food cooking, the pipe my Mom’s older brother smoked, the grass freshly cut on another relative’s lawn, the gas and oil on yet another uncle’s clothing. I can remember the darkness of the highways and back roads as we made our way home; my Father carrying me, half asleep into my bedroom and tucking me in. All these memories reawakened by the sound of a song.

As a teenager, I was introduced to a different kind of music, and the people who enjoyed it were as different from my family as they could get. My new friends taught me to rebel against the age-old norms held so dear by my parents and their siblings. The war in Viet-Nam sparked protests and we rebelled against pretty much everything our parents’ generation stood for as well as the war.

Something about our music still rings true, despite the forty plus years since its heyday. We had such great optimism; we believed not only that we could change the world, but that we would! During my worst period of darkness, I would turn to the music of my adolescence in the vain hope that I could re-capture the joy and hope it gave me back then. What I inevitably accomplished however was to cause myself more despair.

Today, I can listen to the music of my generation; The Who, The Beatles, Deep Purple, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Janis Joplin etcetera, and enjoy the art and the memories without being trapped in the nostalgic quicksand of emotional instability that once resulted from trying to bring back the past.

Ultimately we cannot preserve nor retrieve the past, not even five minutes ago. Once it leaves our present experience, it is gone forever.

But occasionally it’s fun to hear the old songs and remember our departed friends and family members who were such a big part of who we have become.

“...Oh I'm bound to go
Where there ain't no snow
Where the rain don't fall
The winds don't blow
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains.”
-Harry McClintock

~Still Wandering...

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