Music Speaks to the Soul (Noses Only Speak to the Brain)

It's 7:30 pm. I am seriously considering going to bed right now. I have had a pretty stressful and craptastic week. I think things will radically improve in my life in a few weeks, but for now, I'm living on the edge of two not so great realities with the Sword of Damocles hanging above my head. Does this make any sense to you? Probably not. But that's okay. These last few sentences have been more therapy for me than information for you.

What you need to know is this: I'm having a hard time lately, I'm pretty stressed, I'm not sleeping well, and I want to hide in a hole from everything obnoxious in my life. This leads to the urge to tuck into bed at 7:30 on a Friday night. And if it weren't for Satan's Cat and her unpredictable ways, I might attempt it. Instead, I'm going to blog for a little, both to relieve stress and to make the evening go faster. And I'm going to eat some Starbucks Java Chip Frappuccino Ice Cream. Have you eaten this stuff yet? Because seriously, amazing! Go try it now. Seriously. I'll wait. Actually, while you're off running to the grocery store, I'm going to pry the sleeping cat off my legs, run to the kitchen, and pull my pint-o-awesome out of the freezer. Be right back.

Okay. I'm back. And I've got the ice cream. Delicious! Next, to turn on the music and come up with a blog topic. Yep, I'm doing it again: 250 words in and I have yet to talk about anything remotely resembling an cohesive theme. My high school English teachers are clutching their heads in pain right now, I'm sure. I guess I should get on with it and starting saying something useful or entertaining before you all stop reading. But before I do, can I just tell you how difficult it is to type with a spoon in your hand? Riddi9culusly digficul;t...

Anyway, today's topic: noses and music. Wait, what? Just go with me for a second, okay? They say that nothing can bring back memories more quickly and more vividly than our sense of smell (I don't know who they are exactly, but I've heard this many places). You've probably all experienced it at one time or another. Catch a whiff of a scent and you're suddenly back in your grandmother's house as a small child, at a county fair, or in the embrace of your high school love. Sometimes, scents don't even evoke any images, just a sudden rush of emotions you can't quite identify. Anyway, they (whoever they are) say that our olfactory nerves are the greatest link to our memories.

If scents are the best link, then music is the second best. I have absolutely no scientific data to back up this idea, but I have a lot of anecdotal evidence. And since this is my blog and I needed something to write about today, you get to hear my anecdotal evidence.

The first piece of evidence I have is this: Sister knows all of the names of all of the countries of the world. Is she a genius? Maybe. I've never checked. But her IQ level has little to do with it. It's actually due to a cartoon show called Animaniacs (Do you guys remember them? They were awesome and hilarious.) She learned the countries of the world from this song here. Plus, Sister-In-Law remembers everything from her 4th Grade year, because her teacher taught everything with a guitar (she even remembers non-school stuff and she claims that it's all linked to the songs).

So, that's kind of evidence. But maybe more evidence of learning with music that music bringing back memories. But it goes to the point. Here's my second piece of proof: I cannot listen to *NSYNC's first album without immediately feeling insecure, inadequate, and faintly depressed. And it's not just because of their over-highlighted hair, their incredibly baggy pants, or their femininely high voices. It's because it was the very first CD I ever bought myself and I listened to it practically every day of 6th Grade. And 6th Grade was a bad time for me. In so many ways, I cannot count them (I'm probably not unique in my middle school experiences and don't claim to be, so can we all agree it was bad? Thanks.). Because I don't like to go back there or feel like that, I don't listen to that CD. Or Ricky Martin's Livin' La Vida Loca. Because no.

You need more? Okay. Today, I was listening to my Josh Kelley station on Pandora (I love him and if it weren't for Katherine Heigle, I would be having his babies right now). When Roommate was in town, Sister and I introduced her to Josh Kelley (His music, not him personally. Because I don't need any more competition, thankyouverymuch) and she loved him almost as much as I do. So when his song came on my iPhone, I was immediately in the car on the way to the glacier, the sun shining and Roommate in the seat next to me. Then Michael Bublé came on after him and I was again with Roommate, this time studying (okay, dancing really) in our tiny dorm at college at midnight. These two experiences right after one another almost killed me, by the way. Because Roommate is not here and will not be within at least 500 miles of me for about a year. Musical memories can do that to you.

Music is so powerful, it can make use recall memories that aren't even really ours. Yes, I just reread that and it doesn't make much sense to me either. I work better in examples: I'm listening to a Lifescapes album while I type this and I feel like I'm starring in a Jane Austen adaptation. I should be writing a letter to an unrequited love with quill and parchment instead of blogging to a readership that is likely composed entirely of robots. Music can change our moods instantaneously, even if we have no memories associated with the particular song. Because music speaks to our souls, not just our brains (take that, olfactory senses!). I know in my life, a good angry rock song at the end of a bad day can lift me out of my funk, but put on something mournful or balladish and I may finish the day in tears. Even actors listen to specific kinds of music to get emotionally ready for difficult scenes, because they know that music offers a window into the human experience.

So, I have a question for you, because I have to ask you a question at the end of posts like this to make you think I have put some kind of thought and planning into it and also to make me look really philosophical and crap. Here goes: How does music affect you? Do you find memories linked to music? Can a song change your mood? Is it the lyrics or the instruments that impact you? Tell me about your musical experiences, will you?

P.S. Hey look! It's 9:30 pm. I might be able to go to bed without feeling like a complete loser. And also, the cat may not eat the flesh off my bones at this hour. But she probably also won't let me sleep in tomorrow morning. Luckily, Sister gets home Monday morning, so only three more sleeps until I don't have to fear a feline death.

P.P.S Did your mother ever count days in "sleeps" when you were little? As you can see, mine did.


  1. I still count days in sleeps. Honest.

  2. I love when I find out that my quirks are not as quirky as I thought! I mean, it's probably not a universally acknowledged quirk, but it's good to know that at least one other person (who is not related to me) does the same thing. :)

  3. Hi...first time reader and commenter, here. I wholeheartedly agree that music indelibly imprints on our minds. The only reason I know my 3 times tables is because of Schoolhouse Rock. (And, I only know my 3s, because that was my favorite song.) Getting an iPod made my house cleaner, because it made cleaning it not so hideous. I don't think I really have many emotional links, but I can remember being high school age, sitting outside my house in the car, after getting off work at Burger King and being so depressed, and then my favorite song coming on the radio and it just lifting me out of my funk. And two answer your question, it is the music itself, not the lyrics that get me. The lyrics are secondary.

    I also have a cat that will not let me sleep. 3:40, every morning, howling for no good reason.

  4. I feel the same way-- the lyrics get me some of the time, but the movement of the instruments is what really stirs my soul. And it's amazing what an old favorite song can do for your mood.

  5. I am, as my friends will sometimes say, a music-based life form. I have a brain for lyrics and so certain phrases from songs get stuck in my head and they also attach themselves to memories. One of my more ironic favorite lyrics is from Alkaline Trio (more on that in a minute) and says "All of my favorite singers have stolen all of my best lines" which, the first time I heard it was like 100 kinds of revelation, because... YES! Exactly! Only... now the best way to describe it is with a line from one of my favorite singers... grrr...
    Anyway, Alkaline Trio. So, they're a band I never would have heard if it weren't for my friend Nick (the one on the punk band, not the one from broadcasting classes, and not the one in dental school... in case you were keeping score. I was going to say "the cute one I had a crush on and wanted to date me" but... well, that doesn't clarify anything as it turns out). He made me a mix tape (which happened to be on a cd) and we sat outside somewhere listening to traffic talking about some of the lyrics of their songs like "crack my head open on your kitchen floor to prove to you that I had brains" which is very... graphic and gory, but also sort of poignant of the kind of frustration that seems very common when dealing with boys. Anyway as a band I have 0% to do with their lifestyle and sometimes completely disagree with the stuff they say, but then they turn some phrase like "I can hardly wait until I get the sun and my lips both pressing on your skin" and that seems so... perfect and passionate without being coarse or offensive. Same song as the "favorite singers" quote. Song is called Blue Carolina and I love it. It... it's just perfect in a lot ways. "I feel you missing from my heart, a part was kidnapped from my soul." YES! Exactly!
    This is the longest comment in the history of ever, and it's like the rambley voicemail that I leave on people's... I was going to say answering machines, but no one really has those anymore do they?
    Anyway, yes, music takes me RIGHT BACK to places in the past, and I think my friend Andrew even wrote an article for our college newspaper about it before he was my friend Andrew... so... there's that.
    Man, I have to end this before it gets (even more) awkward!


  6. Linnea, this is the best comment I've ever gotten! I laughed out loud when I started to read it on my iPhone and it just kept going and going! I had a friend who used to leave voicemails like this, back when you couldn't skip them and had to listen to the whole thing, just to be obnoxious. And I love the whole circular thing about the favorite lyrics/best lines! ;)