On the Strange Magic of Music
The Bittersweet Sounds of Sirens Singing in the Night
Unless you’re a total clod, you’ve had the experience: you hear a song, and in an instant the music inspires a memory in full living color, so close you feel like you could almost reach out and touch it. That’s the strange magic of music.
The sense of smell can have a similar property: you catch a whiff of a forgotten scent, and it immediately triggers a tangible memory of a specific time and place. But smell is not nearly as powerful as music.
A song can summon all the feelings you felt during the original experience, feelings that you could not consciously call to mind if you tried, but which spring forth unbidden and unrestrained. These emotions have a life of their own, and depending on the feelings and memories in question — and also depending on your level of intoxication — they can hit your heart like a riptide sweeping a helpless swimmer out to sea. But what gives music that power?
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