Music and Memory
Music is so amazingly powerful. It can conjure memories and encapsulate a time or person so well- reminding you of it or them so vividly. Cannot hear the Bagpipes without thinking of my cousin Callum, Auntie Debbie and Uncle Mac. Foremost Callum’s great talent for playing them. The nights at Gellions (an old fashioned Inverness pub), where he played the pipes for a Scottish folk/ceilidh band: Schiehallion. He also played in Pipe Bands throughout his childhood and beyond. Most memorably, for The Beauly and Glens Pipe Band. Remember going to watch him in Beauly (a small town situated in the North of Scotland).
There was too, that night when he played at Blair Castle. The grounds of which were lit by torches, all the band dressed head to foot in traditional Scottish dress and the beautiful noise echoing throughout what was a magical setting. It is an important family connection and brings one closer to national identity and of course, I am so proud to be Scottish. I love my country. So very much, it is varied and stunningly beautiful with rich a rich culture to match. The pipes are at their most melancholic when you hear them at the football- especially the lone piper. That is surely the time I am most connected with my Scottish pride, though the team rarely gives you anything to be proud about! It is a glorious pain one feels being a fan of the national side, it is the hope which kills you! Wonderful fans and a pride in how the travelling fans are respected by the other nations.
The strongest song, in terms of memory associated from my youth, is “Don’t Look Back in Anger” by Oasis. That was such an outpouring of emotion at the school disco, especially I think for those who had been at the nursery and school from the start. A factor was that some of us did not want to leave Pitlochry High and also that a-few in the number wouldn’t go onto Breadalbane Academy, it really did feel like the end of an era.
I attended a small school which only went up to a 4th year secondary. A move to another school in order to complete the last two years was necessary. I was fortunate to have such a fantastic year group, a wonderful group of people. Did once regret, that I never let my guard down or that I didn’t mix, socialise or get to know people as I could have done. Don’t Look Back in Anger, the lyrics are very emotive. The song played at the last dance and so many of us cried, cannot remember if I cried there or later at home. Some people took their lighters out and waved them, all hugging one another. It is just some song and that moment will stick with me and forever be linked with it.
Here comes the much hidden but undeniable romantic in me. This manifests itself, via opera music. Particularly the Italian variety. Italian has to be the most gorgeously romantic language in the world (in my maybe biased opinion). It sure makes me emotional, the voice of Andrea Bocelli, in particular, is just beautiful, angelic. Moving unlike modern music- you hear every single note and there is not the listening to nor the interpretation of the lyrics.
Classic music has a powerful effect- Mozart’s Concerto, Schubert and piano instrumentals, in general, there really is so much to love in that genre, too many pieces of music and artists to mention. I recently discovered modern day violinist, David Garrett who is really something too. Though not classic, Sigur Ros’s stuff is ethereal. It is so calming, again here you do not have the distractions of words. Cannot understand Icelandic and there are markedly few words. Instrumental music is great, where it is just the music and nothing else. Memory links here in terms of seeking it in times of sadness, deep thought and when in the need of comfort. It also makes better backing music whilst working on something that needs a little concentration.
Probably my biggest music binge times came when I was in my early twenties and my football enthusiasm hit fever pitch. I listened to so much music from the city of Manchester, none more so than the Stone Roses. I loved Sir Alex Ferguson and the story of Manchester United's history and Ferguson's vision to build teams the way he did.
So much has changed now of course, and the club as is, is unrecognisable. Of course, the history, his history and that before will always be there. Not keen to watch them anymore, could be tempted to when Louis Van Gaal leaves. There is also the free spending Ed Woodward, the businessman who has turned United into a buying club more akin to Real Madrid and every bit the modern-day juggernaut. Wish I didn’t think that way or have such a romanticised notion of Ferguson's United- it wasn’t all good but then what in life is?!
Back to the music, so much freedom and escapism was enjoyed in the music listened to then- especially the Stone Roses. Think their music has an ability to take you completely out of your head. I stopped living during this time and needed every distraction I could get. Certainly sought comfort in music opposed to people during this time.
Remember listening to and loving a lot of Radiohead’s songs during my difficult to navigate teen years. The most avidly listened to band of my teen aged youth. In adulthood, I rediscovered Radiohead in a big way, around the age of 24. Thom Yorke is a deep soul. Their music- the instrumentals, Yorke’s haunting voice and even their videos combine to make them highly emotive. Another band whose music is escapism. Travis, a Scottish band of a similar genre and they too provided many a tune in the soundtrack of my teen years and beyond. Cannot forget my obsessions with Coldplay either. They create a beautiful sound, especially in their slower and melodic early stuff.
Family and music are linked so tightly. Dad has generally good taste, apart from the dance stuff. Gillian (my sister) has talked about music with him more than I have. Certainly taken a liking to The Eagles, Dire Straits and Pink Floyd due to him. There was always music on and being discussed where Mum was concerned and she always sang tunelessly- just the odd lines from songs on repeat at the top of her lungs. Predominantly take Simon and Garfunkel and Cat Stevens from her, there is so much more, though. Casting mind back and I am seeing her doing the housework to Queen.
The most emotive song I can relate to my family though, is Edelweiss. A lover of the film “The Sound of Music” like my Granny, it is so very sad. Had always loved this song. It was played at my Grandparents funeral. Such a very fitting song and will forever be synonymous with them. It speaks of nature and my memory of them both is their love for it. The song evokes connotations of family and loss, when you listen to it and think of the Von Trapp family needing to flee over the mountains. History is repeating itself again, the world is in a state of a new kind of global warfare. Lessons from the past never learned from, naively thought it would never occur in my lifetime- society as a whole would somehow move on. They are very much missed, my Grandparents and I regret so much that I did not see them as much as I should or get to know them as well as I could.
My Grandmother on my Mum’s side is someone who I am so close to. Love her dearly. She is a real character. She loves her music. The song I strongly associate with her would be “We’ll Meet Again” by Vera Lynn. Think, that is largely due to the fact that she is a hopeless romantic and as a gifted storyteller- a song from the past is so apt.
This is one of the most personal things that I have written before. Borne out of strong feelings of nostalgia and written in less than an hour. My emotions seem to be all over the place at the moment.
Before I conclude I must mention “Desert Island Discs”, a feature of Radio 4. It invites the famous and successful to share the music that has impacted their lives and is certainly worth a listen. I opt to listen to them via a podcast and you can go back in time through their archives. The interviewer, Kirsty Young is excellent. If you are interested I have added the link to the site under the above image.
I cannot imagine that it will mean much to anyone else my musings in this post. I would be interested, however, if you wanted to share any songs/bands that have impacted you and those that have strong memories attached. I would be very interested to hear them.