Music is a powerful stimulant. According to studies, music possesses intrinsic psychological benefits that help in supporting our own mental and emotional health. Boosting our mood, enhancing productivity and has also been claimed to encourage deeper, more restful sleep. Which could explain the therapeutic effect “Slipknot” has on my nocturnal rejuvenation. Serenading me to a wistful slumber. Music has such cathartic properties that are as unique and intimate as any family photo. Memories ingrained in the notes and compositions themselves, that elevate these sounds beyond the rudimentary perception of auditory gratification. To me there is nothing that possesses such emphatic nostalgia, as the “Donkey Kong Country” original soundtrack.
Having not heard any of the game’s melodious theme’s for almost a decade, I was immediately transported, almost violently so, to those care free days of adolescence where the most problematic issues were deciding what cereal to have for breakfast. Awash in the curative grasp of nostalgia, the comforting familiarity of the music, conjuring vivid images of my time traversing a tropical island as a barrel throwing gorilla, inexplicably sporting a bright red tie embroidered with the initials “D.K”. Hunting down the thieves that poached my vast banana supplies from the cavernous pantry under my hut. Incapacitating the litany of anthropomorphic crocodiles that hinder my progress, as well as crippling the passive wildlife that I encounter, by forcing them to be mounts for my rather dubious excuse to debilitate any indigenous life that has made the unfortunate decision to take a morning stroll. All with the complicit assistance of a cap wearing minor, in Diddy Kong. What this experience did, other than teach me just how violent the animal kingdom can be, is just how important music is to informing that experience. Especially at such an impressionable age.
Though almost every song sparks some kind of cognisant memory, whether it’s the rhythmic bongo’s in the opening level. The dynamic tension that was disseminated by the mine cart stage. Or even the jolly chirpiness of the final boss. It’s the transcendent beauty of the underwater stage that I find most potent. “Aquatic Ambience” has always been an evocative inspiration on my recollections. It’s soothing yet melancholic ambience, that belies the apprehension you experience navigating through this submerged labyrinth. There’s something hypnotic about this track. An ethereal longing that’s both comforting and isolating. As well as an extraordinary example of prestige gaming compositions. This song also has the unfortunate recognition of being a jarring parallel with my own parents separation. Though this would strike most people as a despondent association, it actually provides me with a lot of comfort too.
Hearing a song that sparks these kind of wistful memories makes you wonder if the games we play with our children, will inspire the same cognitive retentions. It does however remind you of your own mortality. Time seems to move differently as we get older. Perhaps it’s just are perception that does, but whatever the reason, these musical memories do abate the violent acceleration. If only for a short moment.