Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Echoes, Teaching, and Memory

As I got ready to take the little guy to his drum lesson this evening, he insisted that I download a bunch of Pink Floyd onto my iPhone.  He's been on a hardcore classic rock kick lately, with Zeppelin and Floyd being the rock of choice.  It's history to him, as far back in the past as Count Basie or the Ink Spots are to me.  But good music is good music, and that he is twelve going on thirty doesn't hurt his taste.

And so on the way to the lesson, as we navigated across the snarls of country-worst Beltway rushhour traffic, the sounds of Pink Floyd's Meddle filled the car.

The little guy sat back, soaking it in.   "This is an amazing album," he said.  Then he reclined the bucket seat, and promptly went right to sleep.   In-transit naps seem to be a genetic trait both boys have inherited from their mom.  It's a useful skillset.

This left me in the car, as what was side two of the Meddle record/cassette kicked in.  Back in the analog era, those grooves in vinyl or magnetic variances on a tape would yield Echoes, a twenty-plus-minute drifting bit of sweet psychedelic mind-butter.

As I listened, and as he twitched slightly in his sleep, I was struck by just how long it had been since I last heard that song.  I don't think I've listened to that album since before I got married.  

Twenty years, at least.  Twenty two, more like.

Every note, every change, every word of the lyrics was familiar.  Not a one was surprising, or out of place.  And as much of my life has passed since I last listened to it as had passed when I last heard it.  The last time this music played for me, the Internet wasn't a thing we knew about.  Cell phones weren't common or even viewed as necessary.  I was thin.

Yet my mind received the music like an old and familiar friend, a peculiar assemblage of neurons lighting up in recognition in encounter with the song.

Music is like that.  As are stories.  They linger with us, folding their harmonies and progressions into our minds in a way that simple data cannot.  They become deep memory, and they weave themselves into our identity in ways that are both subtle and inescapable.

Which is why both musicality and storytelling are so key to teaching anything of value.