Yesterday I was transported in time, it was such an easy journey that to make that everyone should try and travel that way. There was no huge time machines required, suspension of belief was not required, nor was there any issues with paradoxes or anomalies normally associated with time travel. Thankfully I did not require a map and compass and I certainly did not need one of those new fangled global positioning satellite systems to send me over the nearest cliffs. All I needed for the journey was a fragment of music and I was instantly transported sixteen years into the past.
Sixteen years ago I travelled in reality to Oxford for a party to celebrate Tolkiens centenary; it was organized by the Tolkien Society and was an extended version of their Oxonmoot. For the journey I had one audio cassette to listen to all the way there and all the way back, it has ever since had the ability to transport me in mind to that time.
Now a book can take me from the here and now to another place and indeed another realm of reality, being transported through literature is indeed a fun journey, but it’s not instantaneous – you have to first create the mental image based on the text slowly (or quickly depending on how you read) creating each character or each piece of scenery, only when each element has been developed can you let yourself be transported into the text.
A film can at times transport me, but it is an easily disrupted journey with distractions pulling me quickly from the virtual to reality. If the film is really good and there is nothing to distract me then for a while I am there, but the journey is never really complete, there is no smell to fill my nostrils, no sensation of being there.
So what of a painting you may ask, well it’s true that a painting can transport me, I can immerse myself into the painting and wander the paths that the artist may have only hinted at, climb the cliffs and towers of the Kings, even feel sea sick standing on the deck of a ship tumbling around a stormy sea. But the immersion into the painting is a very fleeting experience, and is easily interrupted by what are at time the mundane elements of reality.
Music however is different, it does not require a conscious effort to trigger the journey, indeed more often than not the journey can catch you completely by surprise, which is how it was yesterday. I was flicking through tracks on the iPod at random, well it takes the sometimes agonizing choice of ‘what track next’ out of the way and you get the pot luck as decided by the shuffle. Within the first few bars I was no longer sitting at my desk reading a rather dense tome on astrophysics, I was walking past the porters lodge at Keble College, pausing to stare around the college which would be my home for the briefest of times. So why is the journey through music better than that experienced through any other medium, for no other medium can transport me without conscious choice, the musical journey is one that can bring back even the smells and long forgotten sounds in such clarity that only the pause button can disrupt it.
So the next time I need to journey in time, I won’t be looking to build the paradoxical time machine, but simply skip through the tracks until Enya pops up and starts starts to sing “Eist le mo chroi, Go bronach a choich….”
ps. to all the singers and musicians out there, remember to charge double for your next performance, as you never know where your music will take someone 😉