Sound memory


A few weeks before Poppy was born, a very good friend had her first child at the same hospital where I would be delivering. When announcing his arrival, along with the key details – weight, length, etc – she noted the song that was playing when he was born. Apparently our hospital had CD players installed in the room for families to use, and her husband had made a bunch of playlists so they would have good music to listen to while she was in labor.

Suddenly, I was on a mission. I needed to burn some CDs so we could have tunes while I labored. Screw cleaning the baseboards, man, my form of nesting was all about atmosphere. I assembled some favorites, started paying attention to some music blogs, let Pandora lead me to new stuff, and I put it on a cd I optimistically named  “sleepy playlist.”

Even as I was doing it, I recognized that I was being a little ridiculous. Interestingly, though, having a playlist of some of my own low-key music was one of my favorite parts of the whole birth experience. It made the hospital room, where John and I hung out for so many hours, feel a little more like ours. I laughed at my own optimism when “Just Breathe” came on during the height of my pre-epidural labor. I still get a little teary when I remember John dancing with Poppy in his arms to “One Crowded Hour” when she was about an hour old. He still sings her the song when he puts her to bed at night. We listened to the same cd at home a lot in the early days, trying to get through the witching hours, encouraging her to treat songs of lost love as adequate substitutes for more traditional lullabies.

Scent memory is known to be a powerful thing. Highly distinctive scents can bring us back to our previous selves: flowery perfume to grandma’s closet, baking pumpkin pie to Thanksgiving at mom’s, the smell of a fresh pencil eraser to the first day of school. For me, sound memory is similar – the first Sleigh Bells album reminds me of gritting my teeth through nausea-inducing train rides to work in the first trimester of my pregnancy with P, “Closer to Fine” brings me back to sitting under my lofted bed in my freshman dorm room at 2am, trying to learn the harmony; I hear the theme from Schindler’s List and I’m right backstage at my high school’s production of The Diary of Anne Frank; “Vineyard” by Jackopearce and I’m on a beach in Michigan drinking illicit wine coolers … I could go on.

And now, much like the smell of blueberry Lip Smackers brings me straight back to my sophomore year of high school, hearing the introductory notes of many of those songs from the Sleepy playlist brings me right back to the terrifying wonderfulness of Poppy’s early days. They’re her songs, in a way. And I love that.

So needless to say, I am taking the task of assembling the new baby’s playlist very seriously. It will doubtless include some repeats from the first playlist, but I also want to find some new stuff to include – stuff that will always be linked in our minds to the early days of our second (and likely last) child. This is where you come in. I’m attaching Poppy’s playlist here, as well as what’s on the new one so far, for style reference (with some links, in case you want to check them out, but not links for everything because, well, I’m lazy.) We tend to like folk, singer-songwriter, alt-country stuff, and for this purpose in particular I’m probably going to take a pass on aggressive dubstep drops, but I’m otherwise open to anything.

Poppy’s Sleepy Playlist:

New List in progress:

So: any suggestions? Anything new (or old) that you’ve been really loving recently? Or any cool sound memory stories you’d like to share? I find this topic endlessly fun.


9 Responses to Sound memory

  1. Aleks says:

    I walked down the aisle to “First Day of My Life” and got a little verklempt when I played it for baby Jude recently. His name also came about because when Luke was a baby, the Beatles were his favorite so I totally get where you’re coming from. We had a carefully selected playlist for Luke, but when Jude came a couple weeks early and, um, 30 minutes after we arrived at the hospital there wasn’t really time for soothing music. I did play him Ben Folds “Still Fighting It” the next morning in the hospital (“Good morning, son, 20 years from now maybe we’ll both sit down and have a few beers and I can tell you about today and how I picked you up and everything changed”). Also it’s a wee bit sappy but Mindy Gledhill “Hourglass” is another good baby boy song.

  2. Susie says:

    I’ve got nothin for ya, but I’m stealing these play lists. We have similar taste in music, but I never make music a priority for some reason. I have some strong sound memories, but fewer and fewer new ones as the years pass, because I’m never intentional about music anymore. It’s high on the list of things I wish I spared more time for.

  3. Robyn says:

    We have similar taste in music. Here are my recs:

    Keep Us – Peter Bradley Adams
    Promise – Ben Howard
    Northbound 35 – Jeffrey Foucault
    Hey Ho (cover) – Lennon Stella and Maisy Stella
    Gold in the Air of Summer – Kings of Convenience
    An Olive Grove Facing the Sea – Snow Patrol

    I was obsessed with the sound of rain just before and after I gave birth. I played this cheesy “torrential rainstorm” cd until I broke it (a blessing for my husband).

  4. Miranda says:

    I don’t have any suggestions right now, but I do have a few songs that bring up memories.

    Anxious Arms by Jealous Sound reminds me of being 18 and across the country from Geoff.
    Both Here Comes The Sun by The Beatles and Beautiful Boy by John Lennon remind me of the car ride to the hospital to have Damien. I still sing both of those to him.
    Enjoy The Silence, the Tori Amos version of the Depeche Mode song, reminds me of those first days with Hayley.

  5. K says:

    I second Here Comes the Sun. The lyrics are just so beautiful and peaceful.

  6. Aliza says:

    Second for Beautiful Boy by John Lennon. I just love that song.

  7. Erica says:

    I like a lot of the same artists that you do – have you listened to Nick Drake at all? Some good ones there. Also I love the Ben Lee album Awake is the New Sleep. I tried to have that on while I was pushing but my pushing just took so damn long and I didn’t want it to repeat, I didn’t make a playlist, yada yada I ended up turning the music off. I don’t have as good luck with the music as you do. With Anna, I had Enya on repeat for days and I don’t think I can listen to it ever again.

  8. hillary says:

    I’m loving Wild Country by Wake Owl right now. The song that will always remind me of brand new baby Grady is Willie Nelson’s cover of Coldplay’s The Scientist.

  9. Alice says:

    “having taste in music” is definitely not my forte, but a few songs i like on the chiller side of the fence:

    Arms by Christina Perri
    Running Out by Mates of State
    the Fiona Apple cover of Across the Universe

    yaaaaay for new baby :) :)