Have you ever been listening to the radio and heard a song that took you back in time? All of a sudden, you remember what you were doing, how you were feeling, and who you were with.
It’s a common experience for many people. Often just listening to a song can take many of us back to old sensations, excitements, fears and hopes.
With the passing of Dick Clark this week, many people are experiencing a flood of emotions. Some of those emotions are feelings of grief and loss, but others may be emotions and memories from their lives based on the music that Dick Clark was associated with. In fact, it was Dick Clark that is quoted as saying, “Music is the soundtrack of your life.”
For me, I have always found music a great way to entertain myself as well as a way to destress and relax. If you looked at the music on my iPod you would find everything from classical, country, rock, pop, and even old school rap. There are many songs that bring back memories for me, but there are a few that I could just name and remember all the details of a memory tied to it. Examples would be Restless Heart’s song Bluest Eyes in Texas reminds me not only of my first exposure to country music, but sitting in my dorm room at tech school with my roommate playing this song over and over. Def Leppard’s song Photograph puts me on the black diamond ski slopes in Winter Park, Colorado, skiing the moguls in the winter of 1985 with my Sony Walkman and a cassette of mixed music I made just for downhill skiing. The song right after it was She’s a Beauty by The Tubes and it not only puts me on the slopes, but also reminds me of when I met an old girlfriend, Kristin.
Kristin passed away in 1986, so that song, as well as Andrew Gold’s Thank You For Being Friend and Dionne Warwick & Friend’s That’s What Friends Are For, which were both played at her memorial service, bring up strong emotions for me.
There have been many links showing memories are tied to our senses. In fact, musical chronologies have been shown to be an effective therapy tool. A musical chronology is like a musical scrapbook. The chronology uses meaningful music to help clients connect with feelings, thoughts and memories, identify relevant life experiences and bring perspective to these experiences.
A goal of the chronology is to help clients appreciate the good they have experienced, while also coming to terms with experiences or situations they have left unreconciled. The hope is that by remembering the good, clients can give context to their experiences, and by coming face-to-face with difficult hurts while accessing a more realistic and compassionate lens, they will be better able to put those hurts to rest.
Catherine Somody conducted a study with participants ranging in age from 74 to 88 addressing Meaning and Connections in Older Populations using a musical chronology.
“The power of music and the chronology to evoke emotion was expressed by all participants,” Somody noted when discussing her research. “All reported increased self-awareness and reconnection with many important memories and values.” She went on to add, “The recall of happy memories added to the enjoyment of the process. Recall of hardships contributed to feelings of pride and accomplishment. Some participants connected with feelings of regret.” And consistent with the chronology mission, “Many connected with the experience of forgiveness and ’opened the door to hope.’”
Music can talk about our individual world and communicates our unique mix of cultural and personal experiences. While we may identify with important music from a particular genre, many of us also connect deeply with music from different generations and cultures.
So what is your music chronology or the soundtrack of your life? What are some of the songs that will illustrate your personal story or “life themes.” As we grow older, new genres, artists, and musical trends will be added to each of our chronologies. You might be surprised several years from now what songs will transport you back to the events in your life.
In the meantime, explore where you have been and become more self-aware of those events that have shaped who you are today. Learn from the hard memories while enjoying the happy ones.