Temporal lobe(red). Polygon data are from Body...

The temporal lobe: Image via Wikipedia

It is winter again and my mind roams.  Tariq’s music is held hostage in his computer till I release it to the winds.

You never enter the world of music stealthily………………. First, there is the sound that you hear, it may be soft or harsh, then  words and then both words and music. Then it permeates you and transforms you.

Why it does so is because it has tones and nuances, which are deeply embedded, in the most primitive part of your brain, the temporal lobe.

Thus, long before you even spoke a single word from your lips, any music you heard in utero or in infancy or as a child has been embedded with all its circumstantial memory in your brain. Any time you hear the tones or nuances resembling the music of your past it evokes the same feelings in you and you relive the experience.

It is winter, the icicles hang from the benches outside, the sun shines on them and the dance of death or life begins depending on how you look at it. The warmth of life from the sun or the death of the icicles in the sun, each dancing with each other.

Music is much the same way for the soul, it can warm up sleeping cells of feeling within you or it can be the kiss of paralysis from memories long buried coming unbeckoned to the fore.

As Clint Mansell’s eerie music plays from Tariq’s collection, I feel it coming from the hall of memories. Spooky, laughing moments at Halloween with the kids. Innocent moments of life in the United States.

Leann Rimes sings of heartbreak…………….I think of her young face which has never been touched by tragedy or ecstasy except perhaps in a very superficial sense and wonder how she can put the soul in the song……..

Music is such a dangerous thing. It can open doors into a space into which if you step out you find that you are floating in memories along with other unknown emotions that turn and tumble you into a state of turmoil.  What is hidden in your temporal lobes, discovering it through experimenting with music can be terrifying or enchanting but never passive and always ever changing………..

Then I come to Shireen’s music from her teen days, “can’t get you out of my head” the dreams of a young girl, sweet, enchanting and innocent. More in sync with the reality of the stages of girlhood…….soft crooners, love, independence and a future that is clean and bright.

Music a power in itself, hardwired to your temporal lobe, the most primitive part of your brain that remembers forever. Music that you heard in joy and in pain stays hidden like a serpent in a hole, ready to come out if you stoke the entrance.

I will enter a restaurant and they will be playing Ludacris, and sure enough all the circumstances surrounding that concert will flash through me, rooting me in the quicksands of memories.Tariq………… the discussion we had on the language of this musician, he and Im wanting to go to Atlanta……

When ever I listen to Ludacris I never hear the words for they disappear in the music. It is the music of young men growing up in the south, having the courage to listen to someone local and at that time relatively unknown. The words fade and all I see and feel is the beat of the sound of Ludacris’s irreverent music wafting out of the windows of his Swarthmore dorm, bringing the sense and warmth of Southern Hospitality to the frozen North. Rousing fellow dormers to life, and dissipating the campus blues with the down home black crooners of the south singing “Sweet Georgia…………”

The music that I shared with Tariq brings on its wings all kinds of thoughts and emotions when played, and especially when played from his computer. It is like going on a journey with him.

Never underestimate the power of music. It is a force to be reckoned with. Entire nations and cultures have been conquered with music; Bolly wood and Hollywood are just two examples.

There is the wild and unharnessed potency of music that may touch a soul in its inner most dark corner and bring about bad results, untoward results, violence, suicide (rap)……….or some other action unexpected and surprising.

It is not the music that caused it. The music awoke the sleeping memories, perhaps some of them unbearable, imprinted in the most primitive part of the brain, which is also the seat of emotion, rage and thinking feeling. Without the reins of the frontal lobe, they run amuck in the life of the listener.

Perhaps we can even say that like a glass of wine, music releases the frontal lobe from guard duty and allows the neuronal relays to roam unchecked into forbidden arenas. These unchecked primitive feelings without being vetted by the wisdom of the frontal lobe whose job is to admonish, restrains and advise may express them selves at inopportune times to inopportune people resulting in social disasters.

You may have heard the term “music releases you”. It probably does, but it does not release you it tinkers with the imprints on the thinking feeling part of your brain and releases unvetted emotions. Feelings held there for a good reason. This may be a good thing or it may be highly detrimental to the fragile soul that is unable to restrain or survive untouched, the emotions unleashed,

Then there are the tremendously complex sounds of classical music. Composed by a child of nine like Mozart, or thrumming from the fingers of a man going deaf………Beethoven, his 5th symphony resounding in its intensity speaking of a finale in a man racing towards losing his sense of hearing.

Then there is the voice of Coldplay a man I believe from the UK, His singing voice is music in itself, bringing out the dreams of an unspent youth “wanting to live life, and have friends around………………..we never change Don’t we?

The words appeal, the voice touches in its plaintive sounds the vast lands of desperate loneliness in which each soul lives, searching for a soul partner who would understands these emotions………and yet never finds one who does.

Listen to the foregn accented voice of Astrud Gilberto and one is plunged into the exquisite world of romance and sweetness in the gracious world of old Spain and memories of my son in spring

Living in the south, country songs saturate the atmosphere as much as the red soil is on everything and everybody……It is woman’s dream where men sing what the women dream of, want and wish for but never get.

Winter is here and once again I have……… like an alcoholic tuned in to Tariq’s side of the computer and his huge library of songs, and music, which for me is a blast to the past, his past and mine………..all mixed up sometimes and distinct at others times. It, propels me through the open door of memories into space where there is no past, no future, just the present and the sound of music………..where the street symphony takes you into unknown streets of the past and bring you back to the present with Savariya……….and sometimes without.

So “get me away from here I am dying………”

Remember that whatever music a mother, pregnant or later plays or listens to is being actively imprinted onto her baby’s brain forever!

What is the most stupendous aspect of all this power of music is that when the Quran was recited in front of poets and singers of the time of the pagans they were silenced. They bent their heads realizing that nothing in their portfolio could compete with that.

Not only the words of the Quran were celestial but also it came with a rhythm that was irreproducible even by the most talented.

Thus as I turn to the celestial music of the Quran even though I close my eyes as I listen to Surah Insaan by Sheikh Alafasy in his melodious recitation. It is solace for the heart.  I  am unable to read the translations, the cadence of the words holds me. I am enveloped in the affectionate embrace of my Creator. His words comforting me.  He steadies me in my loneliness, insecurity of what life holds and the feeling of being lost in space.

He brings me home to Him after all the exhaustive roaming in the music of this world, with all the grace and gentleness that comes only with the words of our Creator. He knows my need, desires and ambitions and hands them out to me as would be best for me……for only He knows that and none other……….sometimes not even me!

Sharing with you just the word of God in the voice of Sheikh Al Afasy:

and with english translation……..


  1. salam,
    subhanallah. i’m not even kidding – we were just in the middle of discussing alzheimer’s and memory in general, and one of my coworkers mentioned something about music and memory, so i googled “music, memory” in google scholar. simultaneously switched windows back to my google reader and this was the article i scrolled to immediately, completely randomly. [nothing is coincidence, though, right?] this month i’m listening to surah al-hajj by alafasy – very beautiful recitation.


  2. salam alaykum,
    I love rock music since i was 11 or so.
    I dont listen to it many times now, also i have selected ones with acceptable lyrics to be heard when i miss it’s sound, or i just listen to instrumental guitar by Joe Satriani that I found some years ago.
    But yes, I totally agree that qur’an recitation brings us peace, even when we don’t read the translation (and better when it is read)
    And my personal surah will be Ar Rahman, because the repetitive lines really makes me fly.
    But the good thing is, Qur’an recitation makes us fly still it never makes us lose our minds – instead it makes us ‘remember’ the priorities in life, that’s the proof that Islam is not an opiate religion.

    nice post, LOVE it.


    • Walaikum asalaam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatahu,
      Thank you for sharing! Never heard Satriani, but will check him out. I will listen this time to Ar Rahman, it is the true surah of Thanksgiving, May Allah reward you for reminding me.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s