One word for music and memory association?
April 3, 2008 10:20 AM   Subscribe

Is there a single word or phrase to describe the association of songs (or music in general) with memories?

I've searched, and couldn't find this question asked before, although I found this one, which sent me off on a long trail of links, and managed to distract me for a good half hour (short attention span, that's me). I'm hoping for one word, or a short phrase, to describe that feeling a person gets, when a song starts, that stems from their memories associated with the song.
posted by routergirl to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I don't think there is, no.

"Proustian moment" is a larger term for sensory association (specifically taste) with memory.
posted by ottereroticist at 10:29 AM on April 3, 2008

Best answer: I can think of two answers: nostalgia and chronotope. Chronotope has been interpreted as a way of analyzing expressions as being inextricably tied to the time in which they occur. "Nostalgia" better matches your desire to connect with the "feeling" one gets from hearing a song, though.
posted by rhizome at 10:37 AM on April 3, 2008

I think reminiscence might be a bit closer to what you're looking for than nostalgia.

Nostalgia generally refers to something you look back to and yearn for, but you can have negative emotions associated with the past too. You can look back and be glad you're far away from that time, while you relive the (negative) emotions brought on by the music.

Of course, neither of these applies to music specifically, but I think it's pretty well understood that music is one of the best avenues for invoking reminiscing and nostalgic feelings.
posted by nzero at 10:48 AM on April 3, 2008

Evocative? It's not specific to music but applies generally.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 11:05 AM on April 3, 2008

As a twist on the original question:

What about when a memory jogs a song into playing in your head, and you can't get it out for days, even long after you stopped thinking about the memory?
In fact, song-replaying-incessantly (regardless of whether a memory generated it) must have a name for it, maybe someone here knows.
Most important: how to get rid of the song, when you've tired of it by the 3rd or 4th day, but nothing seems to work -- not listening to other music, watching a movie; the moment they're turned off, the same old song returns?
posted by skyper at 12:09 PM on April 3, 2008

Trigger? Also not specific to music, but "memory trigger" would be the phrase I'd use.
posted by fings at 12:31 PM on April 3, 2008

Response by poster: skyper, I think that's an Earworm.
posted by routergirl at 12:50 PM on April 3, 2008

yeah, "Boards of Canada."

but seriously, I think rhizome is right on the money.
posted by blastrid at 1:05 PM on April 3, 2008

I can't think of one. Proust coined involuntary memory. You may want to do some reading on episodic memory, echoic memory, flashbulb memory, etc. Wikipedia has a nice article on emotion and memory.

Of tangential interest might be the reminiscence bump, given that people tend to be most interested in music in adolescence.
posted by Eideteker at 1:31 PM on April 3, 2008

It's an example of a broader phenomenon known as sense-memory, which Uta Hagen and others have explored as an acting technique.
posted by Jaltcoh at 1:41 PM on April 3, 2008

posted by Solomon at 1:47 PM on April 3, 2008

I call it my personal soundtrack.
posted by mynameismandab at 8:35 PM on April 3, 2008

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