Music-Evoked Nostalgia


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Gwendolyn Woods, Writer

Everyone finds themselves falling through memories of a certain time when that one song comes on. Whether that is happy days when you were young or times that hurt you to think about. A single song can bring you back to a certain age, a certain feeling, a certain moment. For me and most people, music can induce nostalgia very easily.

Many people also feel nostalgia from their mother or father cooking, the taste brings them back to when they were young, but music seems like a powerful memory cue for people. Songs frequently evoke memories. Sometimes, and in my case, it reminds me of a certain time period in my life. When I was little when I was head over heels, or even when I was going through a hard time. Other times It reminds me of certain events. The age of a song that has a lot of emotion is very important. For example, older songs more often evoked memories in older people that grew up listening to those songs or listened to in their younger days. Where newer songs bring that same nostalgic feeling to younger people. 

Oftentimes music does not bring you back to a specific moment, it brings you back to a categorized moment. Not one that you can remember so clearly. For example, early Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber’s songs remind me of when I was younger, not a specific memory of listening to them. They feel like an elementary school rather than a specific time. Or your time with someone rather than a specific date. In one word, the music evoked nostalgia. Obviously, not every song brings you this nostalgic feeling, only actually a couple of songs will do this for you. Mostly the songs that you listened to over and over again in a specifically memorable time in your life. We are very good at recognizing music that we have heard before and relating it to a specific memory or era in our life. Scientists have even shown that babies can do this from birth. 

Something that researchers know for sure is that the music we listened to during our teenage years will continue to be very influential throughout all of our life. There is an explanation for this. Since your brain is developing during these years, the music you listen to becomes very formative. Human memories during teenage years and early 20s are the ones that we cherish the most and because of that often remember the most. It makes sense though, the music that you listened to every day while you were figuring out who you are will tend to stick for the rest of your life. And oftentimes while being a teenager you will find yourself listening to more music than you ever will again in your life, at party’s, during your first heartbreak, while you do your homework, swapping playlists with friends, etc. 

For me, and maybe even for you, listening to a certain song can take you back to being small, heartbroken, happier times, and overall a very nostalgic sensation. The risk of playing those oldies is that a certain feeling may surface. A sight, smell, song, maybe even a cookie, basically any sensation in the world can bring you the feeling of nostalgia.