Category Archives: music

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! 


A CONSCIOUS COLLAGE

INSPIRATION FROM DAD

dad'skeyboard8x10

MY FATHER’S KEYBOARD

Music is ingrained in my father’s family. It is a way of life. To better understand this, I thought I’d share some facts about my fathers family, and then come back and explain what you see in the above collage – which is primarily material from my father.

Below is a picture of my grandfather and four of my father’s sisters as they get ready to perform on WDUN-AM in Gainesville, Georgia (the radio station still exists!)

wdun

Aunts Caroline, Martha, Mary Lou and Colene with my granddad

My father rebuilt pianos, my grandfather was a piano tuner. Even tough my father knew how to tune, he  preferred putting the piano together again. I began taking piano lessons at age five (from my aunt Colene pictured above).

When my father died and I was asked what I’d like to keep that belonged to him. I asked for his piano tuning fork – pictured below lying on my piano. 

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Now – back to the collage above.

Not only do you see music in the above collage, but you see pages from my father’s piano tuning book. Everything handwritten is in my father’s hands. You can see the cover of the book – kind of anyway (look to the left – see the letters FIR). There are the words “showing off the piano” – partially obscured – this is what a piano tuner does when the piano is properly tuned.

The keyboard you see at the bottom left is the Bearings Scale – which is the traditional “laying the bearing” or setting a central octave to proper pitch using the method of counting the beats (I don’t pretend to understand all of this! – but I heard discussions about counting the beats growing up).

At the top of the collage, there is a picture on the right and a drawing on the left of the “action” of the piano.  What is the action?  The Piano Tuners Guild says:

“The three systems involved in regulation are the action, trapwork and damper system. The action is the mechanical part of the piano that transfers the motion of the fingers on the keys to the hammers that strike the strings.”

The printed portion on the lower right are definitions of different part of the piano, such as string, damper, felt, etc.

Here are some additional pieces of art that were inspired by my family’s devotion to music.

The Butterfly

The Butterfly

The Buttefly uses my recital piece from about 6th grade. Here is proof!

recital copy

Rachmoninoff

Rachmoninoff

 

And – I know you wanted to see this – scroll down!

Here I am with my very first piano! (I remember sitting on my grandfathers lap about this time and learning where “Middle C” is located – it confounded me that is wasn’t in the middle of the keyboard!)

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Now – if you have read this far – I have a gift.  Subscribe to my blog (see block on the upper right corner) When you have done so – email me at vickiemartinarts@comcast.net and on March 21st (first day of Spring!), I will draw 10 names and send them each 10 pieces of original music like what is pictured below to use in your own collage!DSCN0008

BTW – an aside about the piano. I have long considered it a percussion instrument, because the sound is made with the hammer hitting the strings. Lately I’ve heard more and more are considering it a string instrument, as the musical tones originate in the strings. Any way you look at it, it is a chordophone.

I had to much fun putting this together, I’ve decided to do a series of blogs about where I find inspiration. Next up – for equal time, find out what of my mom’s I continue using in my artwork!