New Favorite Word – Musemory

– (myu-ZEM-or-ee) Mental time travel triggered by music. (I made this word up. Do you like it?)

Yesterday, I was listening to “Free Fallin’” while working on a blog post about what I thought would be my New Favorite Word. (It was mondegreen—a terrific word. Look it up.) Of course, I couldn’t focus on my writing because, in my mind, I was “moving west down Ventura Boulevard.” Today, that song is my earworm. (Look that one up, too.) It’s playing over and over, again and again in my head. That catchy song became annoying, but the earworm phenomena prompted me to think about the impact of music and how it sometimes triggers memories of people, places, and emotions.

I don’t associate Tom Petty’s music with strong musemories, but there are a few popular songs that dredge up recollections from my past. I remember exactly where I was standing at age ten when I first heard “I Saw Her Standing There.” I see pictures in my mind of Wichita State University in the autumn of 1971 when I hear, “Maggie May.” And hearing “Brandy” takes me back to cruising around Fayetteville with my cousins in the early ’70s. None of these songs signify life-changing events, but the mental pictures still pop up when those familiar notes begin.

Much dearer to me are the sweet family images that come with songs like “In the Light” by DC Talk and “Love Me Good” by Michael W. Smith. And then there are the memories of our wedding ceremony on August 16, 1975, when I listen to Cinquième Symphonie: V. Tocatta by Charles-Marie Widor—five and a half minutes of pure bliss.

Listening to the third verse of “Give Me Jesus” prompts the strongest emotional memories, so much so that I must prepare myself before I get to that track on my playlist. It brings back images of 2004: of my brother Wes suggesting that we play it at Mom’s funeral, of our deep grief, and of the sufficiency of Jesus throughout.

I recently read an interesting article in Psychology Today regarding MEAMs (music evoked autobiographical memories) and their use in treating those with Alzheimer Disease. I wonder what songs might have prompted my mother’s memories during the years she was a victim of that horrible disease.

I’m in the hunt for a new potential earworm. Right now, “That Thing You Do” is in the lead followed closely by the chorus of “Someone to Lava.”


“Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” ~ unknown

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