Music, Memory and Pavlovian Nostalgia

Anyone who knows me, even remotely well, knows how much I value a good run.  I have a run to associate with nearly every place I’ve ever been to, and I have been to many many places.  I typically don’t map out my run beforehand either and often get lost.  But I’ve learned that getting lost in a new town or city is one of the best ways to get to know it.  And on these runs I listen to particular albums that I’m into at the time.  I used to be picky about running music, singling out only the uptempo and heavily rhythmic songs in a running playlist, but I’ve learned to really enjoy running to slow tempo ballads just as much.  As long as it has soul, I can listen to a wide variety of albums straight through on a run.  In the winter of 2013 I took an online Psychology class while touring across Canada on the Keith Urban tour with Little Big Town.  I became really fascinated with Ivan Pavlov’s discovery of conditioning and how our past experiences can trigger our body’s memory and cause behavioral changes yada yada.  I won’t get too technical about it, but I can draw a comparison to my experiences running through towns across the globe, listening to albums.  When I think back to a city I’ve been in, one of the first things that comes to my mind is the record I was listening to in that city and how I was feeling listening to it.  Clear Lake, IA - Bob Dylan’s Oh Mercy.  Asheville, NC - Grandmaster Flash’s The Message.  Salta, Argentina - Sheryl Crow’s 100 Miles from Memphis.  Florence, Italy - Shuggie Otis’s Inspiration Information.  The list goes on and on and as soon as I hear a song from those albums it takes me right back to that location and whatever feeling I felt at that particular time.  And vice versa, if I revisit the place, I hear the song in my head and re-feel the feeling I had.  For instance, on a long drive from Nottingham to Bath, England today we drove through the lovely Cotswolds.  Immediately, Jimi Hendrix’s song Angel came on in my mental record player.  An ex girlfriend of mine used to live in the Cotswolds and I was really into that song during the time I visited her.  I embarrassingly cannot remember what street she lived on or even what area in the Cotswolds it was, but that song and a whirlwind of emotions is what was triggered as I drove through.  I might have a more emotionally driven memory.  I used to listen to the Godzilla soundtrack while reading Garfield comics before I fell asleep at night when I was in the fourth grade.  Garfield and Godzilla are forever tied together in my strange brain.  This week, I listened to Pop Staple’s album Don’t Lose This (per awesome recommendation instagram post by sir Rob McNelley) in Bristol and today I listened to Darrell Scott and Tim O’brien’s Real Time in Bath, England.  Those incredible albums will forever remind me of these remarkable places.