If music be the food of love - chow down.

I remember smells, some of which I would sooner forget.

For some reason when I catch a waft of opium perfume I associate it with a girl I used to date when I was in my late teens. She was convinced that Opium was the height of sophistication. All I knew was whenever I smelled it I wanted to have sex. Mind you I was in my late teens and needed very little provocation to want to have sex. Her mother called me The Prince of Darkness but I think it was out of affection.

I remember music in a similar way-by association. Certain songs and genres represent specific times of my life, so much so that when I hear music that I associate with, say, the time I drove around the far north of New Zealand one summer (1984) in a tiny Suzuki delivery van, I find myself overcome with nostalgia - a time when I was as thin as a contraceptive, the sun was warmer but didn't burn, and I thought that my mullet was the height of good taste.

I suppose the connection between smells and sounds is that they work on a part of the brain that has nothing to do with rational thought, perhaps smell and sound are more like the responses that Clotaire Rapaille discusses in his interesting book The Culture Code: An Ingenious Way to Understand Why People Around the World Buy and Live as They Do (which I heartily recommend), they provoke the lizard brain. Music and smell bypass the gatekeepers in our minds. Perhaps that is why music works so well in advertising. There is an excreble commercial running on New Zealand television for Toyota Corolla that tells the story of dim witted bloke who cant find his keys...alert the media (quite literally), in an absurdist twist the entire country is mobilised to locate the keys. What follows is a spoiler, so if you don't want to know what happens - close your eyes. He sits down. The car lets out a chirp and the problem is embarrassingly solved. The thing that has made the ad popular is the use of music. Like the plot and the lead actor the music has a certain charm -
"Let's go riding in my car, car...". The music bypasses the part of the brain that makes you want to have the character locked up in a sheltered workshop - though heavy media weightings eliminate any semblance of charm in the way that hearing Oasis' Wonderwall played everywhere I went in London during the mid-90s removed any skerrick of pleasure I took in the song (well that and the fact that it reminds me of my then-girlfriend who had a vile temper and a penchant for Oasis and Robbie Williams. Needless to say hearing Robbie Williams makes me recoil as if I have just had smelling salts wafted under my nose).

If you know what I am talking about check out this book. I had a spare moment today so I hung out in a book shop. I was taken by the cover of Love Is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time- picked it up and pretty much read the whole darn thing in the cafe of Borders. Brilliant, funny and evocative. Reminded me a little of the Nick Hornby book High Fidelity

Love Is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time
High Fidelity
The Culture Code: An Ingenious Way to Understand Why People Around the World Buy and Live as They Do


  1. This column reminded me of High Fidelity so pleased that you closed the loop there. What was good about that book is that the movie was also great -doesn't always happen that way.

    Mixtape sounds like a re run of similar ideas?

    BTW - The Clotaire Rapaille book is also freely available as a manifesto (short summary PDF) on ChangeThis see http://www.changethis.com/24.KnowTheCodes in 14 pages.

    I mentioned it on "real-change-means-more-than-a-heisenberg-t-shirt" over at Idealog as well.

  2. Thank you for your comment Jason.
    I use Rapaille in my lectures at Massey Design School. I first encountered him on a PBS documentary about advertising and marketing - it is available online and I recommned it.


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