Simply put, music is time travel

With music one can jump back to a different time, a different space…

It folds time so that as you listen now to a steady beat, now to an aggressive guitar, you are easily transported to the first time you heard the song…

Or some other emotionally infused moment at which the song was present…

Such as sharing the song with a friend. Seeing the band perform in concert. Perhaps a sexually charged moment at which the song in question was playing in the background, or some poignant moment in which the season and sunlight were perfect, striking your eyes like polite needles through bare tree limbs in winter, as you walked along listening to a song that you had heard before, but will forever now be part of this particular memory, now. In addition to all the other times. Hearing it again later might open a cascade of events or times. Memories stacked or unfolding one upon another.

In many ways, the threads of emotion and feeling entwined in the music you love provide a greater gravity of sorts than visual or olfactory events. Listening to music is like dropping a black hole on your chest. Every time you drop a needle on a record, cue up a cassette, press play on your cd player or Ipod, you are at the event horizon of a lifetime of experience, awaiting to repeat over again and again this new/old aural adventure.

Any song can be a trigger. Any record can draw you through to the past, based on your personal experience with any particular song. It does not always have to be a favorite song. It can any random song or ditty, that invokes the past experience like a movie projected on your memory eye.

Sometimes this can be evoked by the very first time we hear a song. So that each subsequent listen takes us back to the initial exposure.

For instance, when I play Can’s “Ege Bamyasi” I can feel myself almost physically back in the record store in which I worked, playing the record for the first time after purchasing a copy from a customer’s stack of used records.

Or a song with which we are already familiar creates a new memory that supersedes prior listening.  For me, for instance, this happened with “The Gift” by The Velvet Underground … which I heard one night or early morning … around 3 am … driving with two friends across the country, somewhere between Colorado and Iowa … racing in the flat dark on a highway, and the song came on over the radio … heightening the mood with a more intense sense of fear as half-asleep, I absorbed the lyrics and rhythmic feedback guitar.

And now whenever I play that track, there I am again, flying in a car across the plains.

Or the time I took acid and put on a record by Sonic Youth. “Expressway to yr. skull” ends with a locked groove, which means that the needle does not pick up when the song ends. Instead the record continues to play the same 20 or 30 seconds over and over, until you physically remove the needle from the record. But in the state I was in, and with time itself dilated by the drug, the locked groove might have played for an hour or more before I noticed it was repeating. Or was it only a few minutes that felt like an hour? Regardless, whenever that song comes up on my Ipod, I am hurled through a narrow tunnel of self experience, standing out of my head again in my small second storey apartment, the music swaying against the walls forever.

A very different, and emotionally charged, moment for me came after I first met my wife. We had only been dating for a few weeks when we went to her parents home and played some records. I remember her putting on “Seventeen” by the Sex Pistols, a record that, as a punk rock kid, I was extremely familiar with. Its meaning was changed in an instant. Now when I play that song I am back with my future wife in her childhood bedroom, surrounded by happy abrasive guitar.

These are but a few examples of time travel that I have experienced, thanks to music. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of such situations. I have been listening to music all of my life and collecting such memories and moments, piling them up and gathering new ones each time a song replays. I am then whisked off through my life which is now bigger on the inside.

I am sure you have the same sort of experiences. Music, after all, is  a universal force that draws us together, from the past into the future.