ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
Music has a sneaky way of opening up past chapters of our lives. An unfamiliar music that seizes us can create memories of things that never even happened. At least this is what commentator Andrei Codrescu recently experienced, thanks to modern technology.
ANDREI CODRESCU: The treadmill and the iPod are for my generation what the hammer and the sickle were for the early Bolsheviks — articles of faith.
I've been running my miles and listening to my music for a year now, and if I could write while in motion, I'd have a memoir by now, because each song comes with a memory and I must have chosen them with a view to recapitulating episodes in my life that they were the soundtrack for.
I used to think that life would be a lot more interesting if it had a soundtrack like the movies: eating breakfast would come with Mozart, giving the frying egg an aura. Well, life does come with a soundtrack, but it's a delayed soundtrack that comes long after you've lived the life the songs went with. The treadmill and the iPods gave you back your life as memories with a soundtrack.
Imagine my shock when my iPod died. It was like my memory died. And then Laura, my wife, said, use mine. So I put her music in my ears and started running. Man, not only did I have no memories to go with some of her music, but I didn't even know what some of it was.
She has pretty eclectic tastes, from bluegrass to gospel to R&B and classical. So I found myself like Dante in an obscure forest. My musical passions stopped being systematic at the end of the '70s and have advanced since, strictly along the lines of New Orleans live music when I took out-of-town friends to clubs, which is not negligible but not exactly knowledgeable either.
Laura's music was a richer and more diverse experience, and as I ran, I started to have feelings and see scenes that I hadn't lived through. At first, I thought that I was learning younger and smarter music, but as I gave myself to it, I had the sensation that I was actually remembering her life.
I used Laura's iPod for a week and had a voyeur's trip through her life. Her music made so strong an impression, I started dreaming what had to be her dreams because I found myself in places totally strange to me.
It's a good way to really know a person. I am now starting an iPod exchange club among my friends so we can all live our past lives vicariously. I think that this is what it means growing up: From being a memoirist, you become a novelist. You start to see what others saw.
SIEGEL: Our long-time commentator, Andrei Codrescu, is publisher of the online journal corpse.org. He's also the author of the book "The Posthuman Dada Guide: Tzara and Lenin Play Chess." He lives in New Orleans. And you can comment on his essay at the opinion section of npr.org.
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