Boxes of Song Boxes

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On another late night drive home, I put my music collection on shuffle. This is rare for me – I’m much more of a ‘one album at a time’ kind of person. However, one of the songs that played had quite a profound impact on me, but not for the reasons you might think. The song is called ‘Try’ by Nelly Furtado:

This happens to be one of my favourite songs ever, although not necessarily for the words or melody – though both are pretty good. Rather, what I realised was the amount of extra information connected to me that was stored deep in the recesses of that song. When that song plays, I find myself traveling back in time to a past reality. It’s almost like the song itself is simply an elaborate packaging for more information. For instance:

‘Try’ takes me back to 2004. Initially April 2004, to be exact. I remember the girl I was in a relationship with at the time sending it to me on the eve of a ski trip to Sunday River in the United States. I remember missing her way more than was appropriate at that age to – but I didn’t know any better at the time. I remember listening to the song on the American-styled school bus in Boston, on a Nokia N-Gage mobile phone with headphones that weren’t really worthy of their purpose. I can still picture the retail park we visited, as well as the cafe we mobbed as I watched my credit deplete faster than I could stand; delighted with the realisation that I actually had signal, and with it a means to communicate with life at home. I remember the mistakes I made that week, the lessons I learnt (briefly) following that week and the summer that soon proceeded it. It was during that year, and that song, that my obsession with tuna and sweetcorn became apparent. It was also the year and song that defined the trajectory that I’m currently on. The latter stages of that year were home to some of the largest struggles I’ve faced in my lifetime…and ‘Try’ by Nelly Furtado played repeatedly throughout. I would have been in an altogether different place without them. Lastly, it reminds me of friendships that were broken and never restored. Listening to this song reminds me of how such immense closeness can turn immensely sour. I remember how much I wish certain friendships had turned out differently.

Now, I would be shocked if you felt the same about this song when you heard it. But I wouldn’t be so shocked if you had similar memories attached to different songs. Today I’d like to put it to you that the power of music is not in its technicality or how beautiful a song sounds. That’s just music. Instead, I’d like to suggest that the power of music is in its storage capacity. We each carry ‘song boxes’, filled in varying amounts with memories, pictures, locations and people. In fact, our iPods and MP3 players are simply boxes of song boxes. Perhaps this is just me…and I’m really very happy for it to be just me…but I honestly do believe that the power of a song lies in its storage rather than its sound.

For example, some of my favourite songs are directly linked to some of my strongest memories:

“Say” – John Mayer

“Solution” – Hillsong United

“So Much Love” – The Rocket Summer

“The Little Things” – Colbie Caillat

“Zebra” – John Butler Trio

“Mighty To Save” – Hillsong

You may have heard of some of those songs. They may mean nothing to you. Maybe they do mean something to you. Either way, they aren’t just song titles to me; they are song boxes with a whole host of memories locked inside.

This is why I love music. This is why I couldn’t imagine spending my life doing anything else. I’d rather dedicate it to reorganising, repacking and writing my own song boxes, because let’s face it – I’ve got a while before I run out of memories to store!


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