Music and memory


This Thursday afternoon, I created a Slashdot account for the first time. One of the signup steps prompted me for about ten different forms of contact—email, AIM, ICQ, and “Warcraft Main”. I take it that last is a way of asking for some form of identity in World of Warcraft.

An hour or two later, there was a bit of music running through my head. It took me a few minutes to place it: it was a line of background music from Warcraft II, which Wikipedia helpfully reminds me was released in 1995. (In other words, when Newt Gingrich was shutting down the federal government, encyclopedias came on CD-ROM, and dinosaurs walked the earth.) The last time I heard that music through my ears was probably about 2000. Somehow, apparently, after I saw that name my brain decided to make a field trip browsing through some of the dustier shelves of the library, and it put this music on without my noticing.

On the other hand, right now as I’m actually thinking about this, I can’t recall the music even in fragments. Maybe in half an hour I’ll catch it playing in my head again.

I’ve had similar experiences before where I notice that the music playing in my head is connected to some stimulus from minutes or an hour earlier. I don’t think it’s ever come from a shelf this dusty before.

Written by Greg Price

March 29th, 2010 at 2:23 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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2 Responses to 'Music and memory'

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  1. Memories of music can be pretty powerful. My grandmother, who grew up in England in the 1920’s, could remember hundreds of English folk tunes well into the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Even after she’d forgotten her daughter’s name, and could barely carry on a conversation, she would sing along with tunes, and sometimes sing them in their entirety at a few bar’s prompt.

    So I guess I’m saying that, when you’re old and senile, if instead of playing “Scarborough Fayre” and “Greensleeves,” your grandchildren decide to play the themes to Warcraft II, Tetris, and Myst, they will be super-impressed.


    29 Mar 10 at 3:43 am

  2. It is entirely possible that you heard that over sipbmp3 more recently than 2000. I’ve played it music from WarCraft II a couple times.

    Andrew Farrell

    24 Apr 10 at 1:48 am

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