Category Archives: MUSIC AND MEMORY

LET ME CALL YOU SWEETHEART

“Alice” had been in totally non-verbal and in memory care for over a year. The only sounds she made was a strange clicking noise. But the clicks she made had a rhythm. A visiting music therapist began experimenting with this rhythm and after some hit and misses, he finally realized it was the rhythm to the song “Let Me Call You Sweetheart”. This is what she had been trying to communicate. When she heard the song, she began humming along, eventually singing the words. This was the song that was used in her wedding! 

I found a piece of music, did a little research on the history of the song, even played it on the piano a few times, and the above collage was born, complete with hearts. The words on the right “SILVER THREADS AMONG THE GOLD” is music from a player piano which is pre-programmed music recorded on perforated paper.

Music and memory has become such a popular topic there is a wikipedia page dedicated to Music-related Memory.  Music engages MORE parts of the brain that anything else we do. First of all, it connects the left and the right parts of the brain. But that isn’t all it does, tt engages movement, even it is just clapping or tapping your toe. Music engages the auditory cortex, and it engages the hippocampus – which is where memory is stored, And of course, there is an emotional response to music.

In dementia patients, familiar music has been proven to reduce agitation, improve social interaction and facilitate cognition. Music has also been proven to reduce depression, a common occurrence with dementia patients.  We know dementia destroys the areas of the brain responsible for episodic memory, but usually procedural memory is retained.  What is procedural memory?   lt is the long-term memory which aids the performance of particular types of tasks without conscious awareness of these previous experiences.

If you know a story about the effect of an individual piece of music on an individual, I’d love to hear about it. There have to be dozens of stories like this out there that seem to prove that music has the ability to “wake” people up.

In case, you don’t remember how this song goes, here is a quick video of Martha Levison (Shirley McClain) in an episode of Downton Abbey.

 

 

INTRODUCING MY NEW SERIES: MUSIC AND MEMORY

Music and memory go together like a horse and carriage,  love and marriage, or my mom and dad.

“Music is the art which is most nigh to tears and memory”.  Oscar Wilde

I’ve always been vaguely aware of the power of music and how it can bring back memories at a moment’s notice. But, until I became my mother’s caregiver as she struggled with dementia, I’d never really paid attention to it. I guess there are things that are so much a part of your life, you don’t see what is right in front of your eyes.

Probably my first piano at age two.

To say I came from a musical family is an understatement. My grandfather taught singing around North Georgia and tuned pianos at concert halls in Atlanta and also at various universities and colleges, eventually opening a music store. My father followed in his footsteps, preferring to rebuild pianos instead of tuning them. I started banging a piano as soon as I was able, pointing out to my grandfather that “Middle C” was NOT in the middle of the keyboard.

My father’s sisters appeared on a local radio station and recorded gospel music.

Alas, I began to ignore my calling to create music, it took too much time, too much practice, too much everything. That is until my mother slipped into dementia. I returned to the piano so I could communicate with my mother, as well as other dementia patients. I was amazed how alive and engaged they become when hearing songs that previously meant something to them. I saw catatonic patients “wake up” when hearing music. they remember who they are. Doctors have discovered music memory can survive after other memory has disappeared.

“Music can lift us out of depression or move us to tears – it is a remedy, a tonic, orange juice for the ear. But for many of my neurological patients, music is even more – it can provide access, even when no medication can, to movement, to speech, to life. For them, music is not a luxury, but a necessity.”  Oliver Sachs

SO, I am making a public statement that I am creating art that holds music and memory at it’s core  – beginning with music that has been known to trigger memories in dementia patients. Some of these songs include “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, “Let Me Call You Sweetheart”, “You Are My Sunshine”. As I create I will share the stories that inspired me.

I don’t know where this will lead, but I’m excited about this journey, and I would love to  have you follow along with me. Simply, scroll up to the top of the post and enter your email in the block on the right hand side of the page. And, I welcome and WANT to hear YOUR stories about the power of music and memory.

To show you how music has influenced my art in the past, here a few older pieces.

One in eight people are diagnosed with early on-set Alzheimer’s (before age 65). Music is proving to be a powerful tool giving moments of clarity

If you are unsure about how powerful music is when it comes to memory, watch this six minute video of Henry reacting to music – get your tissues ready!