Stardust strain, beautiful refrain
I hear you ringing in my ears.
“That’s my kind of music.”
“They’re singing our song.”
Is there any form of human expression more personal than music? How rarely, if ever, do we hear someone say, “That’s my kind of poem” or novel or play or painting?
Musical memories define so much of who we are and the many stations we pass through on life’s journey: your high school graduation, your first real love, your courtship, the first Broadway show or concert you attended, your loss of a loved one, your connection with your parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren.
For starters, think of such standards as “Memories of You,” “Memory Lane,” “Laura,” “Unforgettable,” or “Memory” in Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Cats.
Or how about the Hoagy Carmichael classic, “Star Dust,” which is “a richly layered statement about memory. It is not simply a conventional ballad of love lost, but rather a song about a song, and the evocative power of that song, as a lover, solitary and forlorn, gazes at the stars, humming it in his head all the while” (Joshua Berrett, Louis Armstrong and Paul Whiteman: Two Kings of Jazz. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2004, 166).
The list goes on and on. How many operas, musicals, and movies depend on themes and motifs to recall or identify a situation or character?
Think of John Williams’ music for Darth Vader or Princess Leia in Star Wars, Verdi and his Ethiopian princess Aida, Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung, Bernard Herrmann and his soundtrack for Hitchock’s Vertigo, James Horner’s “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic, and so many more.
What do you hear and feel when you listen to certain music? What music lives in your personal memory?