A few days ago I read an article on Slate – Neural Nostalgia: Why do we love the music we heard as teenagers? – by Mark Joseph Stern. Basically it’s a good article that asks the age-old question: “Why do the songs I heard when I was teenager sound sweeter than anything I listen to as an adult?” The premise of the article goes something like this:
“Between the ages of 12 and 22, our brains undergo rapid neurological development—and the music we love during that decade seems to get wired into our lobes for good.”
And that got me thinking… about the music I listened to during those 10 formative years from pre-teen to young adult the author’s talking about. Certainly this is very true (although the Ludacris vs. Katy Perry example is kind of lost on me – doesn’t strike a familiar chord since for me that correlates to roughly the time frame from The Doors, Velvet Underground, and the Stones to the Ramones, Talking Heads and Elvis Costello and everything in between), but it also felt like something was missing from the equation. That explanation doesn’t go far enough, because really, this kind of nostalgia can happen at any age, not only during those (mostly) awkward, dorky teenage years.
I can clearly remember hearing The Beatles – “Twist and Shout”/”There’s A Place” – for the first time in the summer of 1963 at the age of 6 when we were vacationing in Rumson, New Jersey and it still makes me nostalgic for that time just as much as Prince’s album “Planet Earth,” as recently as 2007 at the age of 50, makes me nostalgic now for that particular time. So something else seems to be in play and operating as far as musical nostalgia goes.
The author goes on to say (referencing the book This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession by Daniel J. Levitin – good book btw):
“When we make neural connections to a song, we also create a strong memory trace that becomes laden with heightened emotion…”
And there’s a clue right there – ‘heightened emotion’. This can happen anytime in a lifetime, whenever you’re fully alive and actively engaged in everything that’s going on within and around you, whenever your awareness of your life circumstances as well is heightened. When significant changes are happening in your life – for instance, when you move to a new city or country, when you’re beginning a new relationship (or ending one), or taking the vacation of a lifetime or a road trip with your best buds, or when you break out of habitual patterns and create a new attitude or new way of being. That’s what was missing from the article and that doesn’t happen during just those teenage years. It’s your lifelong journey, set to music.
A few years ago I read an interview with musician Stan Ridgway where he said that what we were doing as musicians/artists was really “creating memories for people” and that seemed to click in my mind as one of the truest things I’ve ever read about the creative process and putting our creations out into the world because that is exactly what we do. From his own catalog, I can listen to the album “Mosquitos” (particularly “Calling Out to Carol,” the hit, and “Mission in Life”) and I’m right back in 1989 in grad school in my early 30’s.
Think of your life… aside from just the teenage and early adult years, what songs and/or albums are you nostalgic about and what was happening then? It’s a good trip and always one worth taking, through the good times and the bad.
And that, along with the intrinsic qualities of a piece of music itself, is the beauty of music – it can take you back to the most important, meaningful moments of your life faster than anything… and it’s amazing.
Nights on Venus News:
After 10 months, recording is finished and 18 songs are, more or less, completed for the new album “Perspective.” I am currently in the process of sifting through the songs… and mixing; 10, possibly 11, will go on the album – 8 have been selected so far – plus “Summer Madness” as a bonus track. Release date – MP3 digital download and CDs – is now set for 12/21/2014. More updates and track list will be forthcoming.
Until next time…
The singles, “Summer Madness,” and “Impermanence” from Nights on Venus are both available as MP3 digital downloads on CD Baby, iTunes, Amazon MP3, eMusic, and the NoV website as are all full-length albums.