If you are — or ever were — a Company or Field Grade Officer in the United States military, please do not be offended at this. In a controlled
test some 30 years ago, your peers were used to prove a point I wish to make within this text today. It’s a point that occurs near the intersection
of music, the power of suggestion and individual memory. Weird
In the mid-’80s I was a communications engineer working for our government. As part of a team dedicated to integrating information and communications systems, we were never far away from our inner nerds, but the long, tedious hours often led to our playful sides seeking a platform on which to live. In instances like the one I’m about to disclose —
we found it.
As we neared the completion of a particularly long season of preparation, my team was ready to hand off a state-of-the-art system to be tested. Someone well above my pay grade determined the group of people most likely to possess the confidence to extract the best from the system while demonstrating the overconfidence necessary to simultaneously destroy it, would be mid-grade officers from across the branches of military services. No one wore uniforms. Everyone was sure they were in charge, and most of them wanted a little time to familiarize.
As they got themselves comfortable in their temporary home, my little group of behind-the-sceners began to stir in the shadows. We devised a simple plan that involved wandering through the aisle of young officers and whistling, humming or otherwise vocalizing theme songs from TV sitcoms. The objective was simple: get the unwitting participants to sing your team’s assigned song before they left.
And they did. They sang, they hummed, they tapped their feet and pencils, and they never realized what had happened.
Music is like that. It has a funny effect on our minds. It can evoke memories of a place or time in our lives — a first kiss, the night we proposed, the day our mother died, or the time we skipped school and watched reruns with a friend. Music has ways of affecting us in the here and now, as well. Runners may have multiple playlists for training at various distances, and guys like me pick music based on activities like woodworking, mowing the lawn, or simply getting ready to face another day’s challenges.
The point is simple: like it or not, the music is getting in. It can change your immediate responses for better or worse. And you might find yourself singing it when you least expect it. Choose your soundtrack wisely.