Music-Evoked Nostalgia
Marc Gordon - March 30, 2018

Lester

By Shel Silverstein

Lester was given a magic wish
By the goblin who lives in the banyan tree,
And with his wish he wished for two more wishes-
So now instead of just one wish, he cleverly had three.
And with each one of these
He simply wished for three more wishes,
Which gave him three old wishes, plus nine new.
And with each of these twelve
He slyly wished for three more wishes,
Which added up to forty-six -- or is it fifty-two?
Well anyway, he used each wish
To wish for wishes 'til he had
Five billion, seven million, eighteen thousand thirty-four.
And then he spread them on the ground
And clapped his hands and danced around
And skipped and sang, and then sat down
And wished for more.
And more...and more...they multiplied
While other people smiled and cried
And loved and reached and touched and felt.
Lester sat amid his wealth
Stacked mountain-high like stacks of gold,
Sat and counted -- and grew old.
And then one Thursday night they found him
Dead -- with his wishes piled around him.
And they counted the lot and found that not
A single one was missing.
All shiny and new -- here, take a few
And think of Lester as you do.
In a world of apples and kisses and shoes
He wasted his wishes on wishing.

We all find ourselves falling through our memories after hearing a song from back in the day. One single song can make us feel like were so much younger, while at the same time remind us that we are so much older than we thought we were.  Music, for most, induces a deep feeling of nostalgia throughout our entire bodies, quickly and easily.

 

For others, different sensory experiences such as smell or a sight can induce nostalgia as well, but music appears to be a powerful memory cue for many. According to psychologists, the power of songs brings to mind previous time periods and events.  Researchers Schulkind, Hennis, and Rubin (1999) played hit songs from various eras for both adults and college students, and found that songs commonly evoked memories, or even a general recollection of a life period, or specific event.

 

The team of psychologists found that the more emotion a song generated for a specific person, the more likely the song would bring out a memory.  Older songs evoked more memories for the older participants, and the opposite was true as well.

 

What’s truly interesting about their findings is that songs frequently evoked general memories rather than a specific event.  Basically, the songs evoked nostalgia.  Not every song brought memories to mind of course, but a great deal of them.

 

But why do some songs evoke nostalgia and memories, while other do not? Well, sensations need precise connections. If you have never eaten a certain cookie, it will not spike feelings of nostalgia. A song however that you heard 30 years ago will evoke a sense of nostalgia for that lost adolescence.  The effect of nostalgia is proven to be more powerful when there has been few encounters with the memory.