THE LISTENER | How music connects us to other people, places, and things


by Skylar

Hey readers.

Sorry it’s been a while since you’ve heard from me or “The Listener.” Things got hectic with me graduating college and adjusting to life after school. We’re gonna be getting back into the swing of things now. Actually, we did last week, but more on that in a little bit. This first paragraph is going to bring you all up to speed on what I’ve been planning for the next couple months. We are, of course, going to continue our bi-weekly meetings unless there is enough interest to change them to weekly meetings. I am constantly finding new topics to discuss in the group meetings, and I am observing some very interesting reactions to music as well as interesting personal backgrounds. I am going to continue these blog posts, but I am going to be going a little bit more in depth on what I am talking about. There may be more self-disclosure on my part in these writings, and there may be more lyrical analysis of the songs I talk about. Now, onto the new things I will be bringing to “The Listener.” To start, I will be attending more shows around the Twin Cities (now that I have time to) to observe the diverse reactions to the music being played. I will be discussing one of the recent shows I attended later in the post. Another new thing I have considered is individual (or smaller group) meetings outside of our scheduled group meetings. If, for some reason, you are unable to make a group meeting but still want to participate in discussion, whether it is the planned group discussion or one of your own, an outside meeting can be arranged. My goal for individual meetings is for it to be slightly less formal and structured than our scheduled meetings.

To continue this post, I’ll write to you about the show I went to for observation, and then discuss the last group meeting.

Recently, The Devil Wears Prada came through Minneapolis. The other bands on the show were Secrets and Sleepwave. Secrets played a good set but I didn’t observe any significant reactions in the crowd. Once Sleepwave took the stage, however, I noticed a couple very interesting reactions. One of them was my own. Upon seeing vocalist Spencer Chamberlain take the stage, I just about had a heart attack. This was the vocalist for Underoath. I was instantly taken back to being a young kid first getting into heavy music. Amidst the Demon Hunter, Norma Jean, and Haste the Day, I also loved Underoath, especially They’re Only Chasing Safety. That album has stuck with me since. Seeing Sleepwave and watching Spencer sing reminded me of a time in the past that I had almost forgotten about. I also observed someone having a similar reaction. This person enlightened me on how they did harsh vocals and how Spencer was one of their first inspirations. I also observed a personal reaction during The Devil Wears Prada’s set. I used to listen to Prada a lot back in high school. When I say a lot, I mean that I would listen to them almost daily. Hearing many of my old favorites from this band played live both excited me and made me feel five years younger. To me, these reactions spoke to the timeless nature of music. Music forms mental connections between different times, people, places, and things. An article written by Petr Janata explains that these mental connections with music are concentrated in the prefrontal cortex (2009). He explains, “What seems to happen is that a piece of familiar music serves as a soundtrack for a mental movie that starts playing in our head. It calls back memories of a particular person or place, and you might all of a sudden see that person’s face in your mind’s eye” (Janata, 2009).

This was also the theme of the most recent group meeting. I asked the participating group members to create a list of songs that remind them of people, places, times, etc. There was a good variety of music played. Below are a few of the songs that I shared in that discussion:

  1. “Heroes Get Remembered, Legends Never Die” by Four Year Strong.

This song was another one that is tied to high school for me. It specifically reminds me of two of my friends from back then. I got them into Four Year Strong, and then the three of us sang this song at the talent show during the spring of our Senior Year. This song, to me, embodies the essence of fun, specifically the carefree kind of fun that one has with his or her best friends.

  1. “All My Best Friends Are Metalheads” by Less Than Jake

This song takes me back to being….. 8 or 9 maybe, and playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 with my best friend at the time. This song will always remind me of him and the times we spent at his house playing video games and staying up “way too late” (back then, staying up until 1am made you a god amongst men). Ska is a fun genre of music to begin with, but this song is twice as fun for me, given the memories I have with it.

  1. “All Consuming Fire” by War of Ages

This song will always take me back to Sonshine Music Festival and the two years that I was in the circle pit to this song. The first time was in 2009. I was 15 and watching some of my favorite bands in the HM stage; three straight days of metal music was exactly how I liked to spend my time. War of Ages always does this at Sonshine, where they call a huge circle pit before the verse of this song kicks in. For those of you who do not know, the HM stage at Sonshine was set up in a hockey rink. This circle pit stretched from one end of it all the way to the other. There’s still a video of this particular circle pit on YouTube, and yes I can point myself out in it. The second time I was in this pit was in 2011. I had just graduated high school and was at Sonshine with one of my best friends from school, a good friend from church, and my soon-to-be college roommate. We all jumped in this circle pit and still laugh about it to this day.

There were many songs that I wished I could have shared with the group; songs that remind me of other friends, songs that instantly take me to At Mourning’s End’s van driving home through the night from a distant show, songs that remind me of other places (specifically Station 4), and many others. In my studies of psychology and my experience with music, I am always finding out incredible things about it. From my senior project this last year I found that it is incredibly therapeutic, and from my studies with “The Listener” I am finding that it is a bridge to our memories, a reliever of stress, and a common denominator with many friends.

Before I end this post, I would like to share this with you. This is something that a close friend of mine took it upon himself to experiment with, and I am flattered to report that he was inspired by “The Listener.” This friend of mine is a guitarist. He does not play in a band, but he does write his own solo music, which takes on a fusion approach. A couple days after the last group meeting, he sent me a song on Facebook and asked me the question I ask often in our group meetings: “How does this song make you feel?” I listened, and I told him. Afterwards, I asked him his thought process behind having me listen to that song. He told me that he was doing that with a few different people and a few different songs for his own creative purposes. He intended to write music that reflected or painted a picture of the different reactions he observed. Again, I was flattered when he said he was inspired by “The Listener.” I thought it was really cool of him to do, and if more comes of it I’ll be sure to put it in a post.

This concludes this blog post. If you have questions about when the next group meeting is, where it is, or what the next discussion topic is, here’s my email.

Also, here’s the link to the source I cited if you wanted to look into it more.

See you soon.


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