#Music Evoking #Memory

Supposedly the sense of smell is the most evocative of the senses in terms of memory. Whenever I catch a whiff of flowers beginning to fade I am ten years old on my knees behind the blackboard, changing flowers from  one thick glass vase to another, the water green and smelly. There are worse memories.

But music  – ahh now for me that really strikes a chord – ok I couldn’t help myself. I listen to all kinds of music now, but as a teenager once I’d passed the pop phase, protest songs were about the only thing I’d listen too.  With a bit of Dave Brubeck,Miles Davis and Rolling Stones thrown in. Classical music was something I had to force myself to learn to like, which was a shame as there were wasted years of enjoyment. Same with opera. So my knowledge of both is sketchy at best .

In my novel Radio Echo, music is a constant theme. Raffaella grows up in an apartment above Cafe Musica, where local musicians come to play , either bringing their own instruments or borrowing ones, Raffaella’s father kept for that purpose. A musical impromptu get together is not unusual in Italy, especially in small towns. I’ve seen people show up of all ages, playing mandolin’s, accordions guitars or drums. The music would change from traditional Italian to jazz to 60’s folk depending on who was playing.

Here are some links from you tube that encapsulate the progressions of the music in Radio Echo. As a novelist it’s important to incorporate as many senses as appropriate in setting the scene. Music is often one that’s forgotten.


Trio Lescano’ were the Italian ‘Andrew Sisters‘, extremely popular in Italy in the 30’s and 40’s, with their close swing and jazz harmonies. They were actually Dutch, but in 1941 they became Italian citizens.Two years later their fame ended as their mother was Jewish. They were first cancelled from all radio programs, then arrested and imprisoned on allegations of espionage. The accusation was “their songs contained encoded messages for the enemy”. Once the war was over, after a two years’ silence, Trio Lescano wanted to bid farewell to their Italian audience with a final performance broadcast live by the radio on 1 September 1945. The three sisters then moved to South America, where their artistic career continued.

On a completely different note , Stefano, the son of the family in Bologna, played classical duets and Schubert’s Fantasia in F minor, the duet for four hands, was one of his favorites.


Later in the novel we move to Cole Porter’s Song “Night and Day” referencing Django Reinhardt and Stefan Grapelli. This is a 1938 rendition:


I couldn’t mention Reinhardt and Grapelli without including this fun little video of the members of the Hot Club of France playing “J’Attendrais”


Music is everlasting and a few bars can transport one back in time with such power it’s often overwhelming.

I’d love to hear your musical associations or if anyone else uses music in their writing.




  1. Music, and its memory will always conjure something won’t it? A story, a scrap of an image….. Whenever anyone mentions Stfan Grappelli though I always recall my childhood misapprehension that it was a double act (as in Steff and Grappelli) My mistake was only realised when he was on the television, and I, very puzzled, asked my mother where the other one was.

  2. la musica è la voce più importante del film, cullando lo spettatore nel viaggio.

    Here is the marvellous Jocelyn Pook, I think of her as a classical minimalist. She combines eastern world music with classic signatures, as in this one, which you will love. Gxxx

    • Thanks Glenys – I couldn’t have put it better myself. Thats great you left the link to Jocelyn Pook. She’s fantastic.

  3. I think ballads and love songs probably invoke the strongest memories within myself. Nothing like a song about the one that got away.

  4. Yes it’s curious how you can often instantly remember the first time you heard a piece of music, and how powerfully it can bring back emotions and moments. The strongest associations seem to be with deep emotion: Cream’s Disraeli Gears as an angstful teenager, looking through a window at a tree in the rain. Astral Weeks in a garret by Brighton station after a relationship breakup, Up all night witing a thesis to a Charlie Mingus soundtrack. But the last I’ll share is lighter and happened yesterday – a friend started singing the theme tune to ‘The Banana Splits Show’ from the 60’s/70’s and I immediately thought of the smell of omelettes. The show was on a Friday, and we always had omelettes on Friday.

  5. Wow – your memory is much better than mine. Fantastic to have such clear connections. Joni Mitchell fit the bill for me a lot of times thru troubled times as a teenager. But interesting that along with the poignant moments you mention one that is the opposite – they can be about such mundane things like having omelettes. But then it’s these small things that are often the most important in making up a whole, and we miss when they are not there. Banana Splits show? Two food refs. in one. I shall have to look that one up.
    Thanks so much for the post Ged

  6. Thank you for this posts. I totally agree.

    There are songs that make me think of special moments. Whether it is hearing songs from the old R&B station and remembering them fading on the AM stations when my father drove his 1974 red Mercury underneath bridges. Or whether it is listening to the Bee Gees on the adult light contemporary station at 6:30 in the morning as my parents got dressed for work.

    Now, as a swing dancer, I experience music differently, I am more sensitive to the nuances of the music.

    Great post AK.

  7. AK Andrew says

    Hi Coretta
    Thanks so much for the comment. Great to hear all the different things that music reminds you of. The 1974 red mercury sounds kinda fun too. But a swing dancer ? Now that really caught my eye. Dancing to music is a whole other ball game in terms of being in tune with what you’re listening to. Especially if you perform it’s impossible not to disassociate the songs from the dance.
    Hope to see you visiting again too
    A. K.

  8. Songs I remember most are those from my teens . Later ones it’s harder.