Music and Memories

Thursday, May 20, 2010 - 04:17 PM

room with fireplace and green carpet (iLoveButter/flickr)

Is there music that triggers instant memories for you that have nothing to do with the music itself?

Here's what I mean: When I bought my first house, I removed the yucky, old, wall-to-wall carpet to the accompaniment of Mahler's Second. Ever since, as sublime as Mahler's Second is, whenever I hear it, I think of mint green carpeting.

And then there's Beethoven's Leonore Overture No.3. We had to analyze it for music theory class in college, and make a chart of everything going on in the piece.  As I tried to figure out how to break the chart into page-sized pieces, I spotted a huge, white, corrugated cardboard cloud I'd dragged home the week before--a souvenir of our college orchestra's concert performance of Das Rheingold.

I proceeded to pull the only all-nighter of my college career on the floor, charting the entire Leonore Overture No.3 on the back of that cloud. The closer it got to dawn, the loopier I got, adding little notes in the margin like a cherub with a balloon coming out of its mouth, saying, "If this were Beethoven's Ninth, this would be Cloud Nine!" Of course, my poor professor had to spread the thing out on the floor to grade it, so the cloud came back to me with comments like "Ouch! My knees hurt!" I don’t know about her, but I still can't hear the Leonore Overture No.3 without smiling about the cloud.

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Comments [16]

gary from asbury park

On a beautiful summer night onthe Parkway heading to the ocean, I am hoping for Ravel, please Gershwin. Okay, how about Mendelsohn's concerto in E minor. Then maybe Barber or Copeland. No, what I get is some pissant la la from an insignificant early 1800's composer. There was a revolution in tthe 20th century. Modern melodious music sprang forth. When will WQXR awake. You can take the Times out of the radio but you cant take the radio out of the Times. Alas!

Jun. 21 2010 09:02 PM
GCL from Astoria NY

Every time I hear "Thus sprach Zarathrustra" by Richard Strauss on the station I promptly stop and think.

I always find myself thinking about the film.

Also every time I hear his second horn concerto I promptly think of Q from Star Trek the Next Generation, because the actor's father was who suggested it to the composer.

Jun. 19 2010 12:05 AM
franklundunne

Uh-oh, I think I meant to write Raf Vaughn Williams not Elgar.

Jun. 14 2010 01:47 PM
franklyndunne from Mexico

Years ago I was driving a van on the Long Island Expressway and yearning for the past:my year spent exploring the ruins of the pyramids in Mexico and Guatamala.Driving a van seemed like a terrible come down the only consolation of which was that I was able to tune into WQXR. On this particular winter afternoon a bleak gray sky was suddenly brightened by the light flashing off of the wings of hundreds of pigeons in flight over the old Elmhurst storage tanks and in an unforgettable synchroncity the music being broadcast was the Elgar, Flight of the lark. This moment stays with me as evidence of the Magic that can be found in even the most mundane of moments.

Jun. 14 2010 01:39 PM
Sanyi S. from Boro Park, planet Venus

Yes, I heard they played the Ciocirlia, at the execution of comrade Ceausescu....

Jun. 12 2010 11:13 AM

The first time I read the Barbara Michaels book, "Here I Stay," I was listening to the original cast recording of "Mame." Since then, every time I hear "My Best Girl," I think of that book.

Jun. 10 2010 10:55 AM
Rand S. Gartman from NY

Prelude to the Afternoon of a Fawn

When I was a young man working as a carpenter I was building an addition to a lovely home in South Florida. Every morning about 9 am the woman of the house would come into her sunny living room with a big mug of coffee and sit at a beautiful baby grand piano and play a heart rending "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Fawn". I would be sitting outside the screened windows with the other carpenters and laborers listening. We could not see her, only hear the beautiful music.

One day, after she was done practicing, I knocked on the door and when she answered I told her how much I enjoyed it. She looked surprised and asked if I would like to watch her play it. I said yes whereupon she sat at the piano bench and picked up her coffee cup and took a sip. She flipped a switch and the player piano came to life playing Debussy's magnificent music.

May. 27 2010 09:06 AM
Rand S. Gartman from NY

Prelude to the Afternoon of a Fawn

When I was a young man working as a carpenter I was building an addition to a lovely home in South Florida. Every morning about 9 am the woman of the house would come into her sunny living room with a big mug of coffee and sit at a beautiful baby grand piano and play a heart rending "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Fawn". I would be sitting outside the screened windows with the other carpenters and laborers listening. We could not see her, only hear the beautiful music.

One day, after she was done practicing, I knocked on the door and when she answered I told her how much I enjoyed it. She looked surprised and asked if I would like to watch her play it. I said yes whereupon she sat at the piano bench and picked up her coffee cup and took a sip. She flipped a switch and the player piano came to life playing Debussy's magnificent music.

May. 27 2010 09:06 AM
John Christiano from Franklin NJ

My grandfather was a piano player who learned his art in the honky-tonk tavern that his father owned. He was great with rags and sing-along bar tunes. But he also had a classical side. At eight years old he taught me Schubert's Serenade (aka Stanchen) on the organ.

My love of music began with him. And to this day, the Serenade or a Scott Joplin rag will stop me in my tracks.

May. 25 2010 08:15 AM
Rich from The Bronx

Many moons ago I spent quite a bit of of time hiking the high desert in Southern Utah and Northern Arizona. One of my favorite places was Arches National Park near Moab , Utah (the opening of the 3rd Indiana Jones movie, ..."Last Crusade", was filmed. there)..When heading out into the desert we would often begin near one of the large washes (a sort of cross between a gully and small canyon) Spectaular rock walls, clean water flowing in early morning and the ocassional bat cave. I went up the wash many times and from the first time on the opening of Prokofiev's 7th Symphony would run through my head. To this day I don't know why this connection between the Southern Utah desert and that Prokofiev work. Even looking at a picture of it brings the music to mind.

May. 24 2010 05:10 PM
Janet Sullivan from Brooklyn

Rachmaninoff's piano concerto #2 always reminds me of the first time I saw "Brief Encounter," which features the music lavishly throughout. I was about 11, and my mother let me stay up late on a school to watch it with her. Seeing a wonderful movie for the first time, having a great time with my Mom (and sobbing with her at the movie's ending!), and basking in the guilty pleasure of staying up past midnight for one of the first times ever. What a combination!

May. 24 2010 03:23 PM
Serge Ledan from Queens, NY

Oh yes!! The glorious adagios from Beethoven's Pastorale (6th Symphony), the Emperor Concerto (5th piano concerto) and the 9th Symphony instantly resurrect the memories of an ex-lover from my younger years (we used to listen to them together) and ... Richard's "Ride of the Valkyries" spontaneous resonate in my mind whenever I am ready for any battle (in life or in a chess competition).

May. 23 2010 01:37 PM
Silversalty from Brooklyn

I've got a few music triggered memories. Probably the earliest is somewhat general. Vague might be a better word in that I can't remember the exact music. A few weeks ago Jeff Spurgeon played some marching music. It was around 8am in the morning. I don't remember the piece but it reminded me of my childhood when my mother would listen to a particular radio station which played a marching tune at the time kids should leave for school. Going with a stream of consciousness, that reminds me of Ogilvy's department store in Montreal where at closing time a bagpiper, in full tartan dress (literally) would march through the store piping a tune (again, I don't remember what it was) to let customers know to finish up their purchases. That was in the '70s. Don't know if it's still done.

Also in the '70s I was introduced by a young woman to the playing of Glenn Gould. The album she put on her stereo had Gould playing Beethoven's 5th Symphony (a Liszt transcription). I've never heard that on the radio but I've got the (now) CD and I'm reminded of that young woman and "those days" whenever I listen to it. I've got a nice picture I took of her then. I should scan it and add it to my '70s flickr set. Almost feels like it is the '70s when those images of the mind are re-viewed.

To steal a phrase, those faces never age. They only gently fade away.

May. 21 2010 07:34 PM

Well Naomi, whenever I hear the glorious Beethoven 9th, it just reminds me of lashings of the old ''ultra violence''.......( ah....such exciting memories) (SOUSABOY)

May. 21 2010 02:48 PM
Frank Feldman

When I hear Debussy's En Bateau, I quite naturally, and fondly, think of Nimet's old New York at Night show.

May. 20 2010 10:18 PM

Edvard Grieg, Two Elegiac Melodies. I have over 300 gigs of music. These few minutes are my favorites because of the TV show, "I remember Mama", brought to us by Maxwell House, good to the very last drop.

May. 20 2010 07:03 PM

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