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.
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!