Tag Archives: Music and Memory

JULY 2020 READING

As we all navigate through another month of “stay at home”, my reading is finally getting back to normal. For the past several months, I started more books than I finished. But, in July, I managed to finish 8 books – which is a normal amount for me.

THE ART DEALERS by Laura de Coppet – This book has been on my bookshelf for years, so I finally took it down and read it. Interesting, but a little dated because it was written in 1984. Thirty-two contemporary art dealers talk about their careers, trends in modern art, and their opinions on art history and evaluation. 

NEVER HAVE I EVER by Joshilyn Jackson – I picked this up from a Little Free Library while on a walk and it is written by a fellow Decatur, Ga. resident (who says she moved here because of the Decatur Book Festival, considered the largest independent book festival in the states). This is a psychological thriller, based on the game “never have I ever” that a new resident into the community introduces to the book club. There are some twists, many that involve blackmail. I put this in the “good beach read” category.

ONE PLUS ONE by JoJo Moyes – I have read several books by JoJo Moyes, and they are always fun reads. This is the story of Jess, a cleaner/barmaid struggling to make ends meet and IT Guru Ed, who is involved in a financial scandal. They embark on a road journey to Scotland with Jess’s daughter Tanzie (a math genius), Nicky (a goth,  kind of a stepson that has been bullied) and Norman, the drooling smelly dog. While it is a fun read, it seemed vaguely familiar. When I logged it into Goodreads – I had read it back in 2014!

LUNCH AT THE PICCADILLY by Clyde Edgerton  – Edgerton has a gift for capturing Southern dialogue, and this book gives us the challenges of aging with sympathy, sensitivity, all done with a sense of humor.

ANTI-RACIST BABY by Ibram X. Kendi – I have been very impressed with interviews with Ibram Kendi – so I ordered this  book prior to publication to send to my one year old grand niece – and of course I had to take a peak! I love it!

THE ENGINEER’S WIFE by Tracey Enerson Wood – Historical fiction based on the building of the Brooklyn Bridge and the role Emily Roebling played in it. When her husband, the chief engineer of the project is injured on the job, she puts her role in the women’s suffrage movement on hold and takes on the project under his guidance. It is interesting, but the introduction of P.T. Barnum as a possible love interest is not based on fact at all. Their paths may have crossed, they were in New York at the same time and P.T. Barnum historically took his circus across the bridge (with all the elephants) to prove the strength of the structure. But, it did succeed in sparking my curiosity to look up these characters.

THE WEIGHT OF A PIANO by Chris Cander  – This is the first of two books I read in July where a musical instrument is actually a character.  I was captured by the first paragraph in the book referring to the spruce trees in Romania that would be made into a Bluthner, commonly referred to as one of the big “four” of the piano makers, (the others are Bechstein, Bosendorfer and Steinway). My grandfather sold pianos, and there is a Bosendorfer in my family and I have owned a Steinway. It is the story off Katya, who leaves her beloved Bluthner in Germany, and a woman that inherits one in 2012. It’s a good concept, but it turns into a road trip of a photographer moving the piano around to photograph it around a National Park. Even with an unbelievable story line of endlessly moving a piano around a national park, I couldn’t put it down!

GONE, A GIRL, A VIOLIN AND A LIFE UNSTRUNG by Min Kym – In this memoir, you learn what it is like to be a child prodigy – she wins her first international prize at age 11. Her violin is a personal choice for many reasons, and when it is stolen from her in a London cafe, her world crashes. She felt as though she had lost her soulmate, and with it her sense of who she was. Overnight she became unable to play or function and is silent. Even though the violin is recovered 3 years later, it no longer belongs to her – it belongs to the insurance company and she can’t afford it. I loved this book. I loved the way she described the music and the instrument. I loved the music history she threw in. For instance, I’m aware of Clara Schumann – who was herself a child prodigy – and I knew she was expected to take care of the entire household even while traveling and performing. I didn’t know Brahm’s was in love with her, they travelled together with her children, and he felt he had to choose between love and music – and obviously – he chose his music. 

I’m going to finish some of the books I began in April and May and research more books where a character is actually a musical  instrument. 

What are you reading during this “Stay at Home”? Are your reading habits changing? I’d like to know!

 

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 STILL REMAINS

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!