The Ache From Familiar Songs You’ve Never Heard Before

And Why They Haunt You

Jen Sonstein Maidenberg


Original photo by Jen Sonstein Maidenberg

This won’t be a piece on music theory or chord progressions, nor an exploration of the cognitive processes underlying music; although those very likely play a role in why we believe we’ve heard a song we’ve never heard before.

This is a piece about love. And time.

This is about how I have come to believe love, feelings, and music travel not just forward, but also backward in time.

It presents just a little intro to a larger, more-researched theory that’s been percolating in me for decades though I only became aware of it about nine years ago when my then seven-year-old daughter interrupted me folding laundry.

I was playing a song on YouTube I first heard when I was in college. Should I tell you the song yet? Or should I wait?

Let’s wait.

I hadn’t heard the song in many, many years. During that time (when I was folding laundry), I had been immersing myself in old music for a book project I was working on. Mainly I was listening to mixed tapes from high school and college my boyfriend had made me, but this song wasn’t on any of the old cassette tapes.

It took me a little while to find the song on YouTube because I couldn’t remember its name. In fact, I wasn’t sure the song even had a name. What I could remember then of the song was the horns, and a verse from the arrangement. I knew it was a jazz melody, and I knew the song had no lyrics.

I mostly remembered how the song haunted me. How when I first heard the song all those years ago, I had felt as if I had always known it. How in a way, it made me feel connected to God. I didn’t understand why I felt that way. I wasn’t sure back then I even believed in God.

Back then, in my freshman college dorm, I would listen to the song over and over again, rewinding the tape in my stereo, pressing play, rewind, play. But I hadn’t thought of the song or heard it in years until that day.

I should add that I decided to listen to the song on purpose, to evoke a feeling, to bring me back to a time, away from the time I was in. Things weren’t going so well in my marriage. My life was a bit of a mess. The music…



Jen Sonstein Maidenberg

Dreamwork practitioner, researcher, writer. Healthfully obsessed with dreams, time, & memory. To learn about one-on-one dreamwork, visit