Sounds Like Teen Spirit
A young woman with a weakened sense of smell, and a heightened love of music, explores the science behind why songs can have such a powerful pull on memory and emotions—especially when other senses fail you.
Photos by Zack Herrera
It’s Friday night, and the taste of cheap beer from a flimsy plastic cup lingers on my lips as the band strikes its final, final note of the night. The room is packed to capacity, and we show-goers are all stuck, like cattle. Someone moos; people laugh. My ears are ringing from standing too close to the speakers, and my eyes are overwhelmed by the sea of colors pulsing before me – tattooed arms, dark crimson lips, a rainbow explosion of hair colors: electric blue, neon green, fire engine red. The crowd is electric. All I see is neon. My senses are on fire. The air smells of cigarette smoke mingled with cheap cologne tinged with underage trouble. Adolescent abandon.
Smells like teen spirit, I think to myself, chuckling soundlessly.
I was born with a weak sense of smell – not quite anosmia, the inability to perceive odor at all, but a decidedly duller olfactory gland. The physiological connection that most people have linking familiar scents with particular memories …