The soundtrack of your life

I came across a quote from W H Auden. I can’t tell you where he said it because I found it by accident on one of those ‘thought for the day’ type sites that have a purple background and lists of quotations from many sources. Those sites tend not to give full citations. That is my excuse.

The quote said: ‘Music is the best means we have of digesting time.’

By ‘digesting’, I wonder if he meant ‘passing’, or ‘understanding’. It seems to me that memory has a hand in it. I use memory often in triggers for writing, with bereavement writing groups and others that are more general and mainstream. In the case of bereavement, the emotive power of music and our response to it, can be complex. I often hear people talk about the music they have loved, listened too, sung along to or played, but it is often accompanied by the comment that, since their loss, they cannot bear to listen to music. The emotions it evokes are too raw.

If listening is too difficult, for a time, perhaps other senses can provide the way into memories and personal stories that are associated music. Try this: choose a decade of your life, 0-10, 10-20, 20-30 or as recent as you wish to go. Think about that time of your life. What music were you listening to? What was on the radio? What music did you own on vinyl, cassette, disc or download? The media we remember using can say a lot about the way life has changed. If you can, recall what was going on in your life? Who was around? What were you wearing? What were you doing?

Give yourself three writing prompts: ‘when I think about this song I can see… I can hear… I can remember’. Write freely for ten minutes from the first two prompts. When you get to the third, give yourself longer, up to 20 minutes. If you can do this for each decade of your life you will have made your own soundtrack and you will have provided your own narrative of memories to accompany the music.

What will you choose? 

4 Comments on “The soundtrack of your life”

  1. Carolyn Hughes

    I’ve never thought about using a song as a writing prompt but as soon as I read this I had my ultimate favourite tune Iggy Pop’s – The Passenger playing loud and clear in my head. It’s not so much the song that cheers me up, but the wonderful memories around it. Thank you Jane for giving me another excuse to put it on and relive something very good!

  2. joinedupwriters

    It can be surprising to hear what arrives in your head when you do this exercise – for some reason I got the theme to Z Cars! it came with a black white image of the old family living room and a memory of hiding behind the sofa. I can see the texture of the fabric; blue, black and white tweed with wooden legs at each corner, and red cushions.

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