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What's in a Song?

Have you ever heard a song playing, and remembered where you were when you first heard it? Or perhaps you were eating something at the time and the song brings back the taste and smell of it? Of course you have. We all have. It’s called associative learning, and whether we realize it or not, we do it all the time.

For me, it’s music. It’s always been music. Every time I hear the song “Ghost Riders in the Sky” by Johnny Cash, I’m laying on the floor of the downstairs den in our split-level house in Grove City, Ohio, while my parents played all their favorite records. Yes, kids: actual vinyl records.

As I grew up through school, especially high school, music was always present in my life. I began learning to play guitar when I was eight, a hobby I enjoy to this day, and so everything that had a guitar in it was playing in my room, all the time. From classical flamenco to Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, it was always on.

I remember a few years ago hearing a song called Dance of the Dead, by Corrosion of Conformity. Yeah, I’m an old metal head. But the cool thing was that when I heard it, it immediately took me back to my room on the military base in Munich, Germany, where I listened to that album over and over and over as I read fantasy novels. This one was Ravenloft. I loved them. I ate them up. But when I heard that song, that room and that book was instantly where I was transported to.

Well I realized early that this could be an advantage in school. I would purposefully listen to my favorite songs from one album while I studied for a test. Then, because the teachers would let us listen to our Walkmans even during tests, I would play those songs, and ace the tests. Why? Because I could remember my studies by associative learning. It was totally cool. I ended up with a 3.9 GPA at the end of high school, thanks in part to Triumph and Dokken and Helloween and Motley Crue and several others.

Later in life, when my wife and I became a thing and started gaming with our kids (AD&D 2nd Edition, old school, baby), we had music playing in the background. Nothing in particular, just stuff we liked. But of course, it stuck. And even though that phase of our life was over a decade ago, the kids still remember those songs as the ones that were playing while we gamed.

Some of the songs rose to the top, though. They just, simply became the epitomal representations of certain things. Aspects of our gaming, aspects of our characters, the philosophy of a race or a nation, and so on. They so ideally captured the essence of our characters sometimes that we always referred to that song as so-and-so’s theme song. There have even been a few lines we have given some characters that were inspired by the songs.

What’s more, some songs continue to drive our “feel” of certain characters, sometimes just within certain scenes. I admit it, I’m nerding out a little right now. But there are songs that describe to us how some of our characters will feel about themselves in scenes we haven’t even written yet! Is that weird? I feel like that’s weird. But whatever.

If you want to hear some of the music that inspired us and continues to inspire us today, check out the Legends of Cyrradon playlist, and the Legends of Cyrradon – Unofficial Theme Songs playlist, on Spotify.

That’s it for now. Take care LOC fans!

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