I walk along the city streets you used to walk along with me/ And every step I take reminds me of just how we used to be/Oh how can I forget you…when there is always something to remind me?
Music is a unique portal into our personal past, into the memories that are alive in us. What about when we are trying to forget what music brings back? Loss is already painful, whether it be leaving a partner, having a partner leave, death in the family, illness in the family, ailments in general, financial setbacks – name it.
For me, music evokes wonderful recollections of people. It is the haven of a broken heart. However, for some there may be no desire to remember someone. When there is no intention of remembering, yet remembering occurs it is an involuntary memory. Music-evoked autobiographical memories, or memories that music triggers, have the characteristics of involuntary memories (El Haj, Fasotti, & Allian, 2012). Any perceptual cue in the environment can provide rapid connection to a mental representation. I don’t know if there is a way of completely avoiding all circumstances and environments with the wish to forget.
The truth is, there are contextually rich events in our personal past, that are detailed affectively and precise with specifics of time and place. Perhaps these are the memories that make us feel most human, or most vulnerable. There is sorrow in the type of human suffering that would bring one to one’s knees. The powerful emotions that make us similar to each other – these feelings have guided my research and curiosities. I also wonder about the science of what brings healing to these emotional experiences.
El Haj, M., Fasotti, L., Allian, P. (2012). The involuntary nature of music-evoked autobiographical memories in Alzheimer’s disease. Consciousness and Cognition 21(1), 238-246.