I don’t need a gull-winged stainless steel sports car with a flux capacitor bolted to the rear to experience time travel. The magic of music is my chariot.
First of all, I love the now. The serendipity of the unknown or being unable to predict with whom my path will cross, or what lessons life might unwrap before my eyes are my favorite drug. If there is a default direction for my feet to point, it is forward.
The one exception, however, is music. I love the instant journeys brought on by hearing a song I first heard decades ago. The firing of millions of electrical connections inside my head quickly transports me back to moments in life I couldn’t remember on a bet.
Last night an Allman Brothers tune began filling the living room. Before the first six notes expired into the air, my mind placed me into a chair 20 years ago. Sitting in a screened-in porch in Georgia, surrounded by a swarm of tall pine trees and thirsty mosquitoes, my fingertips remembering the cold sweat dripping from a phantom bottle of beer.
Any song by Creedence Clearwater Revival surfaces memories of my wife’s late brother, complete with his gentle smile and electric eyes. Or whenever the band Journey boomerangs me to the sound of my wife reminding me how I stupidly declined her offer of free concert tickets during the first few months of dating. The music of Queen reminds me of my brother bringing their mind-bending music into the house. Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” delivers thoughts of a friend who, I swear, wore out the grooves of his first copy of the double-album.
The sound of the keyboards dancing by Thelonious Monk never fails to catapult me to Iowa. Driving gravel roads in Iowa with my wife and young son, clouds of white dust billowing behind, we were in search of the remote farm from the movie “Field of Dreams.” The memory of pitching a foam baseball to our son with the sun melting into surrounding cornfields remains as magical now as it was that night.
One of my favorite memories is tied to Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition.” While famous for cultural reasons, the notes never fail to transport me to laying in the living room with my brother, surrounded by sheets of paper and wax crayons.
Holding up the colorful cover of the LP, my mom encouraged us to draw what we heard in the music. After a brief explanation of the music, she left the room.
“I’ll check on you boys later,” she said. “Have fun.”
Today, as a parent, I can read a time-killer a mile away. But at that moment, my brother and I were locked into an exciting journey of unwrapping a riddle. And for that introduction to creative thinking, I will always be thankful.
Music is as emotionally powerful as the spoken word. But only music can send us back in time without a flux capacitor.