Tag Archives: Music and Memory

THE STORY BEHIND THE PAINTING

The Clock Ticks, ©vickiemartin2018,
20×24 Mixed Media

My new series “The Rhythms of Memory” is inspired by my journey with my mother as she struggled with dementia – arguably the most feared disease that happens to be incurable. This is the story behind the painting you see above.

I began the painting with multiple layers, adding texture as I went along, representing the abundance of plaques and tangles found in the brain of dementia patients.

One question I constantly hear from those with dementia is “What time is it?” In fact, losing track of time is an early symtom of dementia, they often loose track of dates and even the seasons of the year. As the dementia progresses, routine and structure become more important to them, it helps ease their anxiety and confusion. Knowing all of this, I placed a clock face into the painting.

I also painted a hill with the steps, illustrating the daily struggles they face. The steps have a rhythm that mimics the notes on a piano keyboard – this was intentional. Music has been proven to improve memory. Watch the short video I posted below of Henry’s transformation after hearing one of his favorite musicians, Cab Calloway.


“Music and rhythm find their way into the secret places of the soul.” Plato

This is something we have known for a very long time. After all, Plato lived from 427-347 BC!

Do particular songs evoke certain memories? Have you ever reacted to music the way Henry does in the above video? I’d love to know about it!

I used the term “dementia”. Alzheimers accounts for 60-80% of all dementia cases (depending which study is referenced). Click here if you want to read the !0 Early Signs of Alzheimers.

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!