SUMMARY: My chief philosophizing here is that the mind has a jukebox; it relates music as memories; and indeed, links new events to existing musical memory devices.

Who cannot attest to the songs that are stored in a person's mind? These are learned with the passing of time as we move through gestation, birth, schooling and into adulthood years. We build up, each of us, a collection of songs we've heard. We hear tunes and songs on radio, television, live concert, from ordinary people whistling/singing, in music class, in retail and work shops, through home speakers, portable playing device and myriad other places. Music is so ubiquitous too, during a lifetime.
The mind stores it all, even songs we like less, as much as those we enjoy more.
Hazard not to say that songs heard more often, are reinforced in the mind, better understood, with lyrics or tune elements better recalled.

Evidently, the human mind has a "jukebox." A song or tune can come back into mind because we hear it again in our immediate environment, that is, an "active or environmental recollection of music."
Another kind of recollection though, is when the mind has no external stimulus to trigger the remembering of a song or tune. The mind simply thinks of it, like an echoing memory or for personal pleasure. This could be called a "random or self-stimulated recollection of music."

On this self-stimulated kind, an interesting point can be noted, or hypothesized: that somehow there is still some kind of less direct trigger for thinking of a song. Perhaps we heard a song recently and so it keeps playing again in the mind. If this is not the case, if a song/tune was not heard for a long period of time, then perhaps some cues in the environment such as hearing a word/phrase or group of beats/noises, help us to again recall a piece of music.
This refers to the use of logical processes from the standard senses--mostly vision and hearing--to give an input that links to brain memories of music pieces.
Besides the logical though, there is another path to recalling a song, without recourse to hearing it directly in the outside world, and without happening to hear a phrase or set of musical beats. The other way is not through the five senses, but rather through the emotional consciousness.
Music always relates to a feeling or feelings. If a feeling is triggered within the human, then all the more possible is it for the person to mentally recall a song or tune, that matches.
Why? To what purpose? The human mind finds it engaging and useful to link events, building on what it already knows and has memorized/stored.
Yet also, to have a tune that matches a feeling of the moment, can be a sympathetic play, like an offering, but also help the brain, in some logical way, to store memories of a current mood/emotion in the mind. All events/feelings are stored by the mind as best it can; the more something happens or repeats, the more easily it is stored permanently and strongly in mind.
The mind uses relations of things to create or fuse together memories.

Why use music? Why recall it in a moment? Or more the question could be reversed, as to why not.

Probably the most interesting thing about a jukebox is that it's really an expensive machine for mapping a short code or button press to a particular piece of music. (Presumably we're talking about one that doesn't require a quarter for its services, for the sake of simplicity.)

To make this a little more explicit, we can say that for each model of jukebox, there is a language which translates a code, like C4, to one of many long, preexisting strings of content, like George Michael's Faith. While to call this a language is more than a bit of a stretch—for one, songs are hardly efficient or comprehensive enough vehicles to replace the lexemes of, say, English, Mandarin, or Russian—it remains a valid abstraction, and can help us to create analogies.

Forcing the jukebox-as-having-a-language analogy in the reverse direction (language-as-being-a-jukebox), for instance, would be asserting that the combination of language and mind is like the combination of song list and jukebox machine, and making us analyze our own languages that way. And there are so many beautiful analogical ties that you can make spurred by this:

  • Every lexeme—strictly speaking every word—of a language is like a button on a jukebox, which "plays" the meaning of the word
  • Conceivably a jukebox can be big enough to hold, say, both an original song and a cover or remix by another artist, just as languages can have synonyms, or, more gloriously, near-synonyms
  • Song lists can vary from jukebox to jukebox, even within the same make/model (i.e. language), just as exact vocabularies vary between people
  • Mistaken definitions are mislabeled/misinstalled records, while differences in the connotative nuances of words can be likened to imperfections in the records themselves

So what does looking at language in this way have to say about meaning? When two people communicate, the exact informational content of the sentence—the raw bits of complexity—combine with the e.g. English-dictionary jukebox in the listener's head/brain/mind to play a 'song' (a 'playlist', even?) of meaning. In order to avoid having to communicate the entire English language grammar rules and word meanings in every sentence and conversation, each person walks around with their own implementation of those rules, just as every computer has its own installation of Java, or every jukebox has its own internal repository of records.

Recognizing this idea alone is already peeling away and making evident an understanding that most people take for granted. (And, indeed, this is not the first time such a thing has been done.) But there is more mileage to be squeezed out of this free ride.

Consider an admittedly unlikely scenario wherein some large, accidentally thrown object makes its way over to the jukebox and mashes some key, changing the playing song, to the dismay of the patrons. Everyone in the diner might've been jamming to the previous tune, and the change might've been an unsanctioned event that nobody approves of, but it still happened: how is the jukebox to know you didn't mean to change the song, when the standard protocol for doing so (pressing a different song button) was followed to a tee?

The jury is still out on what the equivalent on the other end of the mind jukebox analogy is. It could be when you hear a random sound (or combination thereof) that seems to have been the trigger for your name, or a dig at your weight, or the agitated exclamation, "Duck!" and are momentarily confused as to whether it was intentionally uttered or just a knock in the wind. It could imply the existence of a sound or word or phrase which, when uttered, forces an involuntary reaction in someone, like a war flashback or the mythical brown note.

BONUS CONTENT.  Have you ever been listening to a song, and you could swear that it was this one song you know, but then it turns out to be another with a similar riff or beat pattern? That has an 'unjukeboxed' equivalent, too. There's also an old cross-lingual one.

Mind jukebox

A self-discovery guide

by Andycyca

0. Abstract

  1. Insert coins
  2. Album number: 42 (Ah Via Musicom by Eric Johnson)
  3. Song number: 2 (Cliffs of Dover)
  4. Step back. Hear the machine whirring.
  5. Wait. The machine stops whirring. Hope that you entered the correct numbers and the machine isn't malfunctioning
  6. Listen. The glorious guitar intro starts rolling.
  7. Air guitar like nobody's watching.
  8. Have the time of your life (for the next 4 minutes and 10 seconds, at least)
  9. Return to Midgard.

After a while, this process can omit completely the steps 1, 4 and 5 (and, depending on other factors, step 9). Enter the Mind Jukebox. The author presents here a way of self-discovery of the mechanism behind the Mind Jukebox in every individual.

1. Introduction

For some reason, humans have the strange ability to recall music very precisely in response to a number of stimulus and sometimes just for the pleasure of "listening" inside one's head. 

This process of recalling music, however, is more than just an example of how memory works in humans. Music is a complex and very distinct combination of parts: sounds and their combinations; words, their meaning, context and interpretation; memories associated with the particular piece of music; the composer and his historical and artistical background... The list could go on for a while depending on the listener/remember-er and his/her particular conditions.

For example, an aspiring conductor, a concertgoer and a singer will most probably never hear Verdi's Requiem in the same way. Sure enough, they can listen to the exact same notes if they are in the same room at the same time, but their brains/minds will not process the same thing and will not have the same thoughts.

The actual brain/conscience processing of a particular piece of music is more akin to the concept of a Jukebox, which is mapping machine of sorts where one input (the disc/song code) yields a predictable and unique outcome. The mind's workings, however, are a lot more mysterious than those old machines that used to select a vinyl album and place it under the needle. A normal jukebox can be understood in mechanical terms, a Mind Jukebox can't.

But this doesn't mean these workings can't be known; they just need a different approach. Here, I present a way to explore the workings of your own Mind Jukebox that may enable you not only to explore your own consciousness, but also expand your musical interests.

PLEASE NOTE This guide is not and probably will never be comprehensive. The actual methods of exploring one's thought processes and conciousness in any field have been the subject of men and women of all kinds around the world throughout history via science, art, religion, philosophy and many combinations of those. There is no right or wrong way of exploring just as there is no right or wrong way to walk

2. Background questions


  • Answer any and all questions that interest you. Discard the rest and discard those that don't apply.
  • Answer whenever you want. Either when you're listening to the song via external stimulus (playing through headphones/speakers) or when "imagining" the music.
  • Not knowing is fine. Not wanting to know is not.
  • If the question is ambiguous, define it as you want.
  • Some of this questions were made with older ("classical") non-popular music in mind because I'm listening to Arvo Pärt right now. Feel free to discard those as well if it pleases you.

2.1. Sounds

  1. What instruments is this piece using?
  2. What kind of sounds am I hearing? Are they all playing at the same time? In succesion?
  3. What is the mood of these sounds? Are they more sad or happy? What's the best word that could describe it?
  4. Are these sounds actually of my liking? If not, why am I still listening to them?

2.2. Words

  1. Does this piece have any words? What do they say?
  2. What do they mean?
  3. Is there a subtext, a hidden message beyond mere words (like sarcasm, double-talk, irony, etc.)?
  4. What is the context of these words (setting, place, intended audience, desired effect)?
  5. How is it written? Does it follow any convention on rhyming and structure? Why?

2.3. History

  1. Do you know who composed this piece? Do you know when or where?
  2. Do you know who influenced the composer? Who was his/her teacher? Who did he/she influence?
  3. Do you know whether the piece had any purpose? Was it comissioned for something?

2.4. Opinions

  1. Did someone recommend this piece to you?
  2. Does anyone of your friends, family or acquaintances know this piece? What do they think of it?

3. Discovery questions

The "rules" for section 2 apply here as well. Define your own answers. Give meaning to your thoughts. There is no right or wrong discovery. Learn from others' paths but follow your own.

3.1. Memory

  1. Have you heard this piece before? When and where? Who was with you?
  2. If this piece isn't new to you, how did you discover it? Recommendation? Luck?
  3. Do you or did you learn any part of this piece? Which instrument? (hint: the human voice is an instrument, the oldest one)
  4. Have you dedicated this song to someone else? Has it been dedicated to you?
  5. If the piece isn't playing right now, what made you remember it?

3.2. Feelings

  1. How do you feel when this song plays? Is it consistent with the piece's mood?
  2. If the piece doesn't have lyrics (or if it's in a language you don't understand), what do you think it talks about?
  3. Does this piece evoke a reaction on you (whether physical, phichological or any other)?

3.3. Imagination

  1. Can you picture an image or scene with this piece? Is it something concrete, abstract or somewhere in the middle of those?
  2. Have you dreamt with this piece? What did you dream? Was it a good dream?

4. Getting it all together

Hopefully, by this point you'll have an interesting collection of answers (or even better, a fresh collection of questions). These should allow you to better understand your relationship with music and how your brain/conscious/subconscious/soul acts and reacts with music. These are some of the patterns that I try to identify:

  1. How my mood was affected by the music and/or vice versa
  2. How many pieces of music make me remember a specific person or situation and/or vice versa
  3. How the music influences my writing and/or vice versa
  4. How the music influences my focus
  5. Whether this song is or would be useful in a particular scene, situation or setting (at a wedding? Funeral?...)

5. Conclusion

Just go and be aware of music around you. It's a whole world that merits exploring. Seriously, just go. If you're here because you wanted a definitive verdict on whether this works or not, you've missed the whole point.

Just go. Enjoy life.

Corrections and addenda are welcome 

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