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Walking Thoughts: The Power of Nostalgia in Synthwave

It is said that we are made of our memories. The conscious mind is suspended in the present, between echoes of the past and dreams for the future. A single moment between years passed, and years to come. Of love lost, and learned, and found.

Nostalgia defined, is the sense of pleasure often mingled with a sense of sweet sadness or yearning for a time in the past, with sudden and strong feelings of nostalgia often described as waves of nostalgia✨.

Memories. They sweep through us, they fill the senses, and sometimes something so simple as a certain slant of light, the scent carried on a breeze, can evoke the most powerful and personal response from our memories. Memories of bright lights and hazy summers, the smell of salt, and the sound of distant shouts from the waterside carnival, where the neon lights that whir on the spinning structures flash wildly in the mirage-like hues of twilight. Mysterious pathways lit with stars, dreams of the universe from long before human memory.

Artforms that focus on capturing this sense make an interesting subject with many various ideas, especially when considering the nostalgic power of the synthwave community that has grown into a vast network of artists spanning many styles and generations of creators and listeners. It takes little time to notice that whether it is the heaviest darksynth or the brightest, most romantic vintage synth style, synthwave offers the listener a sense of nostalgia for the past, and a hopeful (or sometimes dystopian) glimpse of the future. It offers pure escapism with a powerful undertone, regardless of why you came to listen, and pasts and futures seem to collide seamlessly across the many styles. Through innovation of vintage sounds, to the reproduction of classic electronic styles, and often the combination of both, creating the emergence of new styles in a vibrantly growing synth-infused scene, an electric underground full of wild kids with even wilder synthesizers.

There is an odd sense of beauty in that while creators who seek to capture the sense of nostalgia rarely share their precise memories or emotions, a profound shared experience takes place by inviting the listener to step in, explore, and find journeys into their own experiences, memories and dreams. Synthwave, for this reason, offers a very unique personal experience, for the creators and listeners alike. That music can provoke such dreams, and such reflection, is no secret. Music allows us to experience our innermost thoughts, dreams, memories and desires from a different perspective. It has the power to heal, the power to influence and make change. Music innovates the soul. When linked so strongly to nostalgic emotion and the experience of youth, it then becomes no surprise when many write that they feel that they have 'come home' upon discovery of synthwave, regardless of their tastes in subgenre. Whether that is finding a lost part of themselves in the memory-evoking music, or the strong sense of community that the artists and listeners have created in this snare driven, heart inducing, surreal neon dream of a genre. It is possible that synthwave sparks such a community through deeper bonds that go beyond a simple love for retro style. It offers a shared sense of personal reflection, and holds shared hopes and promises for the future.

One can only speak from personal experience in such ideas. Though it is surely permissible to say that in part, synthwave is crystalised in the shared yearning to recapture the sense of wonder we knew before time taught us to think differently. Synthwave expresses a strong desire for the excitement of daring to dream. To dream boldly, to explore vastly and to love hopelessly. It ignites the psyche that once knew that anything is possible, and recaptures the sense of wonder that was pure instinct in the days of our youth.

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