You know when you’re just sitting there, listening to some tunes, when all of a sudden you get this incredibly vivid flashback? Happens to me all the time.
It’s totally crazy because it brings everything with it – visuals, emotions, smells – and I always feel like an idiot for ever forgetting that moment in the first place. Like, I mean, if I managed to remember such key details from the event, it must have been important enough to keep in mind…
Really though, it’s just the music driving that memory to the front of my mind and in a couple of minutes the next track will come along and that “really important” memory is all but gone again.
Lately though, I’ve been wondering if it might be possible to harness this somewhat magical ability to recall memories through music; to try and use it to my advantage. Here’s what I’m thinking…
You know those days when you know you should train, but really don’t want too? Days where you’ve no real reason to not, but the heart’s just not in it. You’ve got your food for the day, slept well last night, have a program, feeling fine, no injures. Really, you should be amped to train, but you’re not.
Now, you’re going into a session having to warm up, maybe even squat (heaven forbid), when you really just aren’t arsed. Of course, these sessions make or break a program, and often they end up going well, but man those first few minutes don’t half suck.
But what if, just what if, you could use music to drive memories of epic training days gone by, fueling an explosion of motivation to spur you on and to give you the energy to just go and give’r.
I was intrigued.
Music is actually quite the stimulant for our nervous systems. Triggering more the just the auditory centers, things like dancing, humming, singing, recall and pattern recognition are just some elements that get our domes fired up and working when those ‘oh so sweet’ melodies drop. This gives music the power to ‘turn on’ many areas and zones of our brain, letting it drive many incredible things.
For his book “Memory in Oral Traditions”, David Rubin conducted a music based test with some college students trying to figure out how rhyming aided learning. Turns out that its use drastically improved detail recall and he concluded that music, or more specifically, rhyming, had a drastic effect on our ability to learn and remember details.
Similarly, in her book “Learning: The Beat Goes On”, Maryann Davis showed that study methods which stimulate both hemispheres of the brain are best for learning, something that music has been out and out proven to do.
Take the ABC song as an example: even at 27 years of age I still recite it following the same pattern that was thought to me when I was 4 years old… “ABCDEFG”, “HIJKLMNOP”, “QRS”, “TUV”, “WX”, “Y and Z”.
This begs the question though: Is it that some memories are called to light by music, or is it actually that music was the driving force behind those memories being recorded in the first place?
The short answer? I don’t know. My limited research showed that there really isn’t a huge understanding of what drives the connection between memories and music, but this low level theory of mine could be further backed up by the fact that often it is pop songs that elicit this response from our bodies.
Pop songs are always on the go, even when we don’t necesselary hear them. They play in shopping centers, bars and on the radio. The are constantly there, in the background, silently triggering (maybe) the storing of memories which the same songs will later bring to light.
So, although I am none the wiser as to what drives this freakish aspect of the human psyche, which is annoying, that’s not a reason to forget about trying to use it my advantage.
I picked “Get Up” by Binger Players. For a long time this song has reminded me of deadlifting heaving a$$ weights and just general good times in the gym. And it has ducks, and ducks are awesome. Over the last few weeks I’ve used it almost like a pre workout for days where my heart just wasn’t in it. I’d put it on as I started my warm up, hoping that it would help get that intensity level rising.
So, did it work?
Well, most of the time. It did invoke pretty strong memories of those killer training days and it is in itself quite the upbeat song. There were a couple of days where it didn’t make a huge amount of difference, but I was happy knowing that more often than not it really helped drive up the “give’r” factor.
All this does raise a few good questions, though – If music has such a profound effect on nostalgia, then surely nostalgia has an evolutionary purpose? I don’t know if it’s to help us remember things we learned oh so long ago, things which may still have a benefit when it comes to survival, or maybe it’s to promote the building of long term relationships to help create a “clan” kind of situation.
I don’t know. But what I do know is that this stuff is super interesting. It was tough going trying to find information about what the ins and outs of it all are, and I’d love to hear what you think. Is this something you know anything about? Do you think nostalgia has an evolutionary purpose?
Be a sound auld fecker and leave a comment.