Music as Madeleine

There are certain pieces of music that, when I hear them, instantly evoke memories. In some cases, they are very strong; some music remains firmly attached to specific incidents in my life. In others, they form a nebulous connection to a period of my life. Like Proust’s madeleine, music can take you on a trip back in time.

Today, browsing Apple Music’s For You section, I noticed that in the New Releases section there was an album by Blaine L. Reininger, a remastered version of Night Air, his second solo album from 1983. That reminded me of Tuxedomoon, an avant-garde post-punk band he co-founded in the late 1970s. I went in search of some of their music, and started listening to Desire, their second album from 1981.

What a rush of memories. I listened the heck out of this album back in the day, both on vinyl and on cassette on my Walkman. This quirky, slightly askew music brought me back to a time when I had a bunch of friends all interested in this type of music, much of it on indie labels like Factory, Rough Trade, Les Disques du Crépusucle, and others. I remembered walking the streets of Queens at night, heading to a friend’s house or back home, with this as my personal soundtrack. I remembered the friends I used to share music with, including Richard B., who passed away earlier this year, and who I was very happy to see again, briefly, when he and his wife passed through Stratford-upon-Avon last year.

Music can do that; it buries itself in the depths of our brains, forming indelible links with time and space and people and places. Sometimes, when you listen to a piece of music after a long absence, it can be surprising how much it reminds you of.