Saturday, January 19, 2013

music and memory

Music and memory: that’s a powerful combination. It’s also a powerful choice. Music can help us remember, and it can help us choose and understand what we remember.

It is also a way to reach across loss of memory. I’ve a friend whose mother could not speak toward the end of her life, but she could sing, and loved to sing with her family as she’d always done her whole life long. Another friend’s grandmother was lost in her mind to Alzheimer's and did not know her grown up granddaughter at all -- until her granddaughter began to sing to her, a song they’d both loved when she was small. Then, for the space of the song, recognition and love returned past the gates of memory.

Singing to a child -- to an adult, too -- calms when nothing else will, establishes that connection of voice and melody which, while it may use words, important words, connects also in ways beyond their meaning. Further along this line of music and memory, how many times have you had a fragment of a tune or a verse of song bring back to you in vivid detail a place, a time, a person you’d not thought of in many a long day?

Music can help us remember, and it can help us understand and connect with what we remember. It can help heal memories. How has any of this happened for you?

To go along with these ideas, you may also wish to see
Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin: Songs of the Scribe
Kathy Mattea: Calling Me Home
Cathie Ryan: teaching tradition
listening to Christmas

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posted by Kerry Dexter at


Anonymous Sheryl said...

Lovely thoughts, Kerry. I agree. Music has a powerful effect - just like scents - of bringing us back to a specific memory or feeling. I still find myself singing (in my head) some of the songs that comforted me as a child.

9:44 AM  

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