Grant Muller

Sound Memory

It’s pretty common to create mnemonic devices to help remember things. Indeed, I can think of at least a dozen acronyms, sing-a-longs and rhymes that I’ve used in the past (thanks to Fields, I’ll never forget my Latin Declensions). Apparently the sense of smell creates the strongest memory bonds in most folks, but for me, its gotta be sound.

At an early age I noticed that if I listened to a song while I was reading something, if I heard the song again, or even thought of it, I could remember parts of whatever it was I was reading. I used to read perpetually in the car whenever I would go places with my mom, of course with my mother in charge of the tunes. Now tragically whenever I hear ANY UB40 song I picture scenes from the Death of Superman. The wiggly, piercing tenor of Aaron Neville triggers memories of X-men and Green Lantern.

Of course this applied to more than just books. There was a Sega Genesis game called Flashback that I played as a kid. The game had almost no music. For a 10 year old this was unbearable. Naturally I had to listen to something while I played, so I put on Metallica’s …And Justice For All. Nothing like rocking hard to the what might have been the slowest game on the Genesis platform. A few months back at Battle ‘n’ Brew, someone played Blackened on Rock Band, and all I could think of was how to find the holocube in the forest, and why I can’t freakin’ jump far enough to reach that tree branch. You’d have to have played that game to understand…it was addictively frustrating. I have a whole list of games I played with alternative tunes. Future Sound of London became the soundtrack for Illusion of Gaia, God Lives Underwater substituted for Earthbound. I can’t forget most of these games now because of it.

I used to be a pro at tuning out the sounds around me, at least to the point of tuning them into whatever I was focused on. I’ve grown out of that, and I can no longer tune out the television, conversations, or the lyrics of the music I’m hearing with the words I’m reading. I still listen when I read, but I try to select music with little to no sweeping key changes, quick cuts, and most definitely words. Right now Godspeed You Black Emperor is the soundtrack for Joseph Campbell’s Mask’s of God.

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