If I had nothing else to do in my life right now — no full-time job, no school, no household chores, no parenting, no community commitments — I might decide to drop everything and pursue a journalistic investigation of music and memory.
Truth is, I am doing this already on a very personal level. For those of you who follow the blog, you might have already sensed my budding fascination in some of my recent posts (Check out “Both Sides,” Don’t You Remember You Told Me You Loved Me,” and “Seeking the Language of Music“). These snippets appear in large part due to a long form piece I am in the early stages of writing that explores how music shapes a person, and how a person, often unknowingly, shapes her Self under the spell of music. It’s about how embedded music is in our memory, how memory sticks because of its attachment to music, and how, we can or do use music to maintain memories we deem integral to our sense of Self.
But what about the memories that don’t stick? The ones we let sink down into the darkened depths of forgetfulness? Either on purpose, because they are too painful? Or accidentally, because we think we no longer have use for them?
I am finding that all it takes is a journey … an intentional journey of remembering … for those memories to ascend on their own from the deep. We have a drawer, I’m realizing, we didn’t know we had access to. It’s our subconscious — And we can open it and take out what we need if and when we need it. Of course, there are times a memory surfaces before we realize its usefulness. And then it’s up to us to make the connection.
One such memory levitated to the surface of my consciousness yesterday, seemingly from nowhere (though I am starting to understand that nothing surfaces from nowhere.) It happened like this:
<A few haunting notes tap tap tap on my brain>
<Paying closer attention now>
Are those train horns?
<Even closer attention>
It’s certainly familiar…
Wait, is it this?
No… no, not quite that. Something similar, though.
Wait a minute.
Oh my God.
<Startled look on my face>
<Heart skips a beat>
<Can’t catch my breath>
I haven’t thought about that in years.
And it all comes flooding back.
The memory — the very visceral experience, actually — that I hadn’t recalled in oh so many years was that of listening over and over again on my Walkman freshman year of college to a love song. In particular, “Love Song for a Vampire,” performed by Annie Lennox off the soundtrack of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (a film I have never even seen …surprisingly.)
The introduction of the song, indeed, sounds like train horns. And maybe that’s all it took yesterday, as I rode the train from Binyamina to Tel Aviv, for a memory to stir, to shoot up like a bubble waiting to be uncorked. All it took was the sound a horn makes.
I searched for the song on my smartphone, but couldn’t get to it due to a bad connection. So I obsessed a little all day long until I could return to the computer. In the meantime, because I had time to kill on the train, I pondered.
Why? I thought. What purpose does this memory serve now? Why do I need it? How does it apply?
I still don’t know the answer. It’s on the tip of my tongue, just like the song was yesterday, and while I don’t see the purpose yet, I know this memory will be a valuable one in my writing. This piece (this book, this short story, whatever it becomes) — it’s not just about music and memory. It’s not a clinical piece. It’s about me. About my own passage into middle age. About coming to peace with my past in the face of my present and in the prospect of my future. It’s about accepting myself for who I was and who I am now — acknowledging and embracing the differences.
It’s about forgiving — yourself, others, the cruel linear aspect of time.
And I think, in there, lies the key to “Love Song for a Vampire.”
In the meantime, I’m listening…