Musical Brain Surgery!

One of several things I do for money (working for a living is so inconvenient!) is transcribing audio from business meetings, conferences, interviews, etc. It’s a telecommuting job with very quick turnaround times, and that suits me pretty well; I get to work in my Cheeto-stained pajamas, but I still have that looming external deadline that I need for motivation.

I tend to keep the local classical music station playing in the background while I work, because when you’re listening to corporate-speak for hours on end, you definitely need the counterweight of some untarnished beauty to keep your soul from shriveling.

For a couple of days last week, one of the station’s hosts went on Chopin Ballade kick. I mentioned in my previous post how hearing two of them in a row sent me stumbling down memory lane.

The next day, that pesky host just had to go and play the Ballade no. 1 in G minor.


There I was, minding my own business, typing away as fast as I could while some slick suit bloviated in my ear, when outside my headphones I heard a sound that grabbed me the way I imagine a child’s cry seizes the attention of a parent. Whatever I was currently doing seemed insignificant; that sound was not just the most important thing – it was the only thing that existed in the world in that moment.

Naturally, I was annoyed. I didn’t have time to go to Music Nerdvana! I had a deadline of ASAP!

But I couldn’t help it; as had happened the previous day, a wave of emotions and memories welled up in me in response to that music. I’m no Oliver Sacks, but I know from experience that when you’ve listen to a piece of music over and over, when you associate it with certain events or situations – sometimes even if you hear it only once but it impacts you deeply – that music gets stamped onto your DNA, and when you hear it again, it’s as if some crazed brain surgeon stuck an electrode into your brain in just the right place so as to bring up everything you associate with that music.

Who needs hallucinogenic drugs, man? 😉

I don’t want to go off on a tangent right now (I know what you’re thinking: “Why change now?” Shut up! 😉 ), but I suppose I should write up some of my Ballade-associated stories, by way of explanation. They involve such things as frizzy hair, teenage angst and Gunne Sax dresses — I know the world is breathless to read all about it!

In the meantime… It’s your turn, music nerds: what music stops you in your tracks?

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3 Responses

  1. What stops me in my tracks? John Williams soundtrack music. So much of his music (via the movies they were in) are associated with big events in my life. They don’t play it much on classical stations, but I remember going through a whole range of emotions when the SLSO played their John Williams movie music concert a week ago.

  2. Chopin: Nocturne in E flat major Op. 9 No. 2

    Brahms: Ein Deutsches Requiem “Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit”

    Fauré: Requiem “Pie Jesu” & “Agnus Dei”

  3. Music that stops Alto2:

    Pachelbel: “Canon in D”
    Debussy: “La Mer,” and “Clair de Lune”
    Fauré: “Libera Me” from his Requiem
    Orff: “O Fortuna,” “In taberna,” and anything from Carmina Burana
    Masakela: “Grazin’ in the Grass”
    Traditional New Orleans tune: “Iko Iko”
    Morris Broadnax, Clarence Paul, and Stevie Wonder: Until You Come Back to Me

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