The 53rd Annual Grammy Awards are long over now, but the Music is Life is Music project, nominated for a SXSW Interactive Award in the Music category, continues. As social media moves us to create our own digital autobiographies, Music is Life is Music gives us a way to tell our stories through songs. How many times have you heard something on the radio and said to yourself, “Wow, this reminds me of the time…” before slipping into a nostalgic reverie? Thanks to Music is Life is Music’s digital platform, you can map those memories and link them to the songs.

Music in the autobiographical sense has fascinated music-lovers for years. There’s a great scene in the film High Fidelity (Touchstone, 2000) where John Cusack’s character, Rob, is sitting on the floor of his apartment surrounded by all of his records, which he has decided to re-organize in the midst of reflecting on his life and asking himself what it all means. Todd Louiso’s character, Dick, comes in and tries to figure out which reorganization method Rob is using. He’s greatly impressed when Rob informs him that he’s arranging his records autobiographically. This would certainly be quite the undertaking, even for the biggest audiophiles, but think of the kinds of stories our music could tell about us.

And now that our music collections are largely digital, what’s stopping us? Sites like MILIM make it incredibly simple to get started.

Using Music is Life is Music
What’s so interesting about MILIM is that it isn’t set up in the traditional way that you log in, pick a song, and post it from a stationary location that your computer reads (based on your IP address, etc.). Instead, you log in and choose a location on their map. Then you choose a song. At this point, you’re given the option to write a short blurb about it, which, in theory, should be the memory attached.

Audio Autobiographies: Music For Our Personal and Collective Narratives
This is a powerful tool in a creating a personal narrative set off by music, but we can’t forget either how music is woven into our collective fabric. Here’s what I mean by that: after spending approximately 30 seconds creating my MILIM account, I searched the map for the town where I went to college. As a freshman in my first few weeks of school, I had trouble adjusting to sleeping in a dorm, so I’d listen to Pete Yorn’s album musicforthemorningafter every night. Now, whenever I hear a song from that album, it makes me think of going to college. So I searched for a song from that album, wrote about that memory, and now that location has become part of my “audio autobiography.”

But what, then, about larger scales stories? What if we could create soundtracks to major world events? Then it wouldn’t be simply asking “Where were you when…?” but also “What were you listening to when…?”

Just a few weeks after I was listening to that Pete Yorn album, 9/11 happened. There are certain songs (“New Years Day” by U2, for example) that I clearly recall being in my head that day. So I searched for one of those, and tagged my college town again. Now that story isn’t just part of my audio autobiography, but it’s part of the entire country’s, as well. Though there doesn’t seem to be a search feature for collective events, something of that calibre could be absolutely revolutionary as far as music and history are concerned.

Mobile App
If you’re out somewhere and realize that a memory is in the making right at that moment, you’re in luck. A mobile app exists for iPhone and Android and allows you to update your map on the go.
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The concept of an audio autobiography is a fascinating one, and using Music is Life is Music makes it easier to create your story from music than ever before. Have a look at the site, contribute your memories and stories and see what kinds of memories others have made in those same places.

Image Source: Wikipedia (Grammy icon); Renee DeCoskey (screenshot)