- Is there some specific scientific reason why music brings back so many memories automatically?
- How does listening to music affect the growth and development of babies and young children?
- What are the benefits of music education?
- Is there a music equivalent of a photographic memory?
- Was it more the physical CD, the ritual of listening to music, or the lyrics that impacted me the most in my childhood?
- To me, listening to music, especially at dinner time growing up, was a ritual. Where did the ritual aspect of listening to music originate?
- Can loving a certain kind of music be passed down? Is there a genetic or cultural component to everyone’s music taste?
- Why did music make a bigger impact on me than TV shows, books, or movies did?
- What is it about music that triggers a memory?
- Why has music been a constant form of expression and entertainment? Why has music endured?
Research question: Where did the ritual aspect of music originate?
My dad was the person that instilled in me a love of music. I remember him always telling my siblings and I that he wanted to learn how to play the piano and the organ. After church every Sunday, he would stand in the back of the big cathedral we attended and watch the organ player finish the last song, eyes wide with admiration and envy at the musician’s skill. The music we listened to at home was quite different than the music we listened to at church. Frank Sinatra, Paul Simon, and a disk of Irish drinking songs rotated through the CD player and my young mind quickly memorized every lyric to every song in order on these CDs.
Not only do I remember every hit of the drum and background guitar pluck from the songs on my dad’s CDs, but I also remember quite vividly the way each album cover looked and where it went on our shelf of albums. The Frank Sinatra album was blue. Really bright blue with two flaps because it had two disks in it. The front cover looked like that scene from White Christmas when Bob Wallace and Phil Davis are performing in Florida and the sky is cloudless and they’re dressed to the nines. The origins of this CD are unclear. It’s definitely not vintage, more like one of those “Best Of” CDs. Frank Sinatra is one of my all time favorite artists, I’m pretty sure my dad would come down from heaven and slap the shit out of me if I said he wasn’t my favorite.
My dad’s favorite, on the other hand, was Paul Simon. I think his music reminded my dad of his college years. Paul Simon is the only artist that can instantly flood my mind with memories and lyrics and thoughts from my childhood. I’m still very much a child, but listening to The Rhythm of the Saints brings me back to some of my earliest years. Paul Simon reminds me of San Francisco, my grandpa’s house, eating General Tso’s chicken at the old kitchen table, my dad’s blue boxer shorts with the paint stains on them from when he painted the big bedroom, and my brother running back and forth attempting to somehow dance to the tribal beats of The Rhythm of the Saints.
The case of the Irish drinking songs CD is cracked, which is one of the only things I remember about it. I don’t have a drop of Irish in me, but I have felt very tied to Irish culture at various points in my life. My name is spelled the Irish way, I used to competitively Irish step dance, and the disk of Irish drinking songs is an important artifact from my youth. As much as my family prized our growing CD collection, the excitement of picking a CD to play during dinner got to us. After putting the Irish CD in the CD player, the case got carelessly thrown to the ground and my dad, after a glass of Cabernet, sat down in the wicker chair at the dinner table and shattered the plastic case with the leg of his chair. I think he was mad and I think he probably swore but he let “Whiskey, You’re the Devil” play on in the background as he forlornly drained his glass of wine.
Saying that I couldn’t live without music is like saying that I couldn’t live without food or sleep. Music shapes all of us in different ways, but for me it’s the greatest tie I have to my dad. It connects me to him, to our old house, to our family dinners, and to my early childhood. Not only do I have the CDs themselves as physical memories from this time in my life, but the lyrics will stay with my forever.