Track of the Week: “Santeria,” by Sublime

Track of the WeekIf 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.

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6 responses to “Track of the Week: “Santeria,” by Sublime

  1. I remember heading to captain Harvey subs with pops driving bobbing his head , adjusting the volume on the old knob job head unit in the blazer ..” you have to listen to this ” the song … Joe Walsh lifes been good to me so far .. He taught me how to power brake that day lol

  2. Here’s the first one that pops into my head. Riding in the car with my sister, heading to TCBY (!!) and “I’ll Stop the World and Melt with You” comes on. That song has a humming solo and a great drumroll!

  3. Very insightful…The funny thing is that some of the songs that are most precisely identifiable are the ones that you hated, or were played to death. Some regrettable Boyz2Men during junior high comes to mind for me! But it’s still burned into memory.

    Another one for me is Wallflowers — 6th Avenue Heartache. I wasn’t really a fan, but it provides instant relocation to college in my mind.

    • “Mowtown Philly” makes me think of middle school instantly. And “Sixth Avenue Heartache” makes me think of the tumultuous relationship I had with my girlfriend at the end of my senior year in high school. Amazing.

  4. Pingback: TBT: A summer of reflection | Guitar Lessons Baltimore·

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