If I was given the impossible task of inventing a time machine, I wouldn’t start with 1.21 gigawatts or a flux capacitor. No, I’d start with music. Here is a fun, geeky proposal for a time machine powered by music.
Time and music share one fundamental quality: they are both intensely personal. Our individual choice in music is as unique as our thumbprint. Or more pertinently, the songs we listen to are like markers on a timeline. For most of us, when we hear a song, we think of a specific time in our life. Songs behave like catalysts, instantly stimulating the brain to conjure up specific memories. Some song catalysts are stronger than others and everyone’s song catalysts are unique.
So, my time machine is actually not a time machine at all, rather it is a personal memory database powered by musical associations. Here’s how it would work. First we’d need to observe the brain’s hippocampus while the subject listens to his catalog of music. The hippocampus is the the part of the brain where long-term memories are stored. Significant brain activity in the hippocampus indicates that a memory has been recalled. The more activity, the stronger the memory. Meticulously, we’d chart the activity of the subject’s hippocampus for each song in the subject’s library.
Once completed, we’d have a list of songs and their aptitudes for recalling memories. The songs with the most activity we’ll call song catalysts. Next, we ask the subject to write a description of the memory that they associate with each song catalyst. After that, we’d have a list of songs that act as a journal outlining the subject’s strongest memories, complete with dates, times and descriptions.
The end product is a personal memory database that the subject can use to transport himself to a specific time in his life just by listening to the appropriate song catalyst.
Here’s a song from my personal memory database.
Date and time: August 1996. Late morning.
Place: Anne Arundel County, MD. Route 10, southbound. Driving a brown Mercury Cougar.
Description: I was on my way to visit my girlfriend in Severna Park. I was just about to start my senior year. I was on top of the world. The windows were down and the radio was up, playing:
Let’s hear some of your song catalysts. Reply to this blog and share.
For more information about me and the guitar lessons that I give in and around Baltimore, visit www.ewguitar.com.