Monday, December 14, 2009

Tell me something I don't know.

 There is no doubt that music has a unique effect on the human brain. As William Congreve once wrote (and is commonly misquoted) "Music has charms to soothe a savage breast." Neurologist Oliver Sacks has written an entire book, 'Musicophilia', about music and the fascinating influence it can have people, particularly when modern medicine has failed.

He writes stories of an Alzheimer's sufferer who is unable to string a coherent sentence together, however when asked to sing, he returns to his former self in a dazzling display of raw emotion and lucidity. Tourette's sufferers have their incessant ticks calmed by playing the piano, patients who are incapable of remembering anything longer than 7 seconds, except for intricate musical compositions.

Indeed, any music listener can vouch for their favourite album or song being able to lift them out of a bad mood. Emo music has thrived on the fact that angst-ridden teenagers find an escape from their emotional existence (whether real or imagined). Couples have "their song" that reminds them of when they first met, groups of friends have a tune that stirs memories of a particularly wild night or epic holiday.

But for all of music's good, it has committed unto me a heinous crime. Its great power can be used for both good and evil. This is made evident through it's ability to get a horrible pop loop stuck in your head for hours, days, even weeks at time, coming and going as it pleases. My problem? It has created a false memory.

Not just a little false memory mind you, an entire semester of memories. The album "Let's Bottle Bohemia" by The Thrills crafted, over a matter of weeks, the following memory:

Thomas spends a semester studying abroad. Specifically, he goes to the East Coast of America and completes four subjects in his Arts degree. He lives on campus in college and has many wondrous adventures with dozens of new friends. He returns home a new man with stories to tell his children and their children.
If any of you know me, you'll also be aware that the aforementioned memory never occurred. I have never studied anywhere abroad, let alone in America. I've never lived in a college anywhere. The album has manufactured these memories. And they aren't just fleeting fantasies, these are fully crafted recollections. I can recall driving across state (oddly, the actual state and university are not part of these lies) in a car full of students, one other Australian (male), two American girls and a guy (the driver, also American) as we headed to a football match.

I remember whole parties, including the type of house/bar it was in, the people there, as well as what I drank. I remember not one but two holiday romances, one which we promised we'd keep in touch but it never really worked out that way. I could describe a number of women I hooked up with, including some embarrassing sex stories. I recall sitting in lectures hung-over and/or tired. I remember cramming for exams, my cool room-mate, and the weird guy who lived across the hall.

Granted these "memories" are probably an amalgamation of the various American college movies I've seen over the years, but the odd thing is that I know I've never been to America, and it is not until I listen to this album, and this album only, that my brain thinks I've been there. And it is damn near convinced. I genuinely miss America and my adventures when I listen to the LP.

The whole tricky nonsense can be traced back to a few years ago when I was hoping to go on an exchange. I filled out the various forms, but I was denied due to poor results. At the same time, a friend of mine was over in America (at UMass) doing a semester abroad. I was listening to this album a fair bit, obviously it was a little too much.

I downloaded the album this afternoon (I have previously bought it, but at some point the CD has gone missing) and it has all come rushing back. I wont bore you with a track by track run-down (I don't want to sound like any more of a crazy man) but but I can guarantee you it is once again coming rushing back. I haven't listened to it in months, but it's all there, like it genuinely was something I've done and I'd just not thought about it for a while.

This has been a big secret of mine up until now, I'm not sure how people would handle my admission of a serious delusion. However, it's out in the open now. I'd be interested to find out if anyone had a similar experience. Any songs that remind you of things that have never happened? Post your crazy in the comments.

Now, feel my pain...

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