Community Magazine

Music Triggers Memories

By Thegenaboveme @TheGenAboveMe

Music Triggers Memories

Photo by twm1340. 

We're approaching the end of summer.  In this liminal space, summer shimmers like a mirage, moving between being an experience and a memory.
As Labor Day nears, I wonder which fragments of this summer will I shore up against my future challenges? (to twist TS Eliot's words in line 431 of The Waste Land).
Will I remember walking along a rain-swollen bridge with my husband's cousin and his family? Making pavlova with my daughter?  Laughing and crying while watching Silver Lining Playbook with my son?
Or will I best remember singing songs from Spam-a-lot with my husband and our kids at home after they returned from seeing that musical?
I recognize the connection between music and memory based on my own youth.
~*~*~ This post is part of a Blog Hop with the dynamic women bloggers of Generation Fabulous. Check back on Monday, August 12th for links to related posts on Summer Songs.  ~*~*~
Being an oldest child, I didn't have an older sibling to introduce "cool music" to me. Instead, I raided my parents' record collection.  Consequently, many of memories from my teens are wrapped up with my parents' LP collection.
I can remember singing along with Barbra Streisand's Greatest Hits, particularly "Rain on My Parade." I spent hours singing her songs into a wooden spoon. I can see the floral wallpaper. The floor-to-ceiling mirrors on my sliding closet doors. My ivory dresser with gold trim. The light blue carpet.
I was dreaming big back in the 1970s, and like Fanny Brice, nothing was going to get in my way.
Another song from my parents' LPs is "Summer Wind." Songwriters Meier & Mercer capture the bittersweet feel of summer memories.  Note the haunting and tender interpretation in Sinatra's version:  

Even though the value of music in aiding memory is about as well known as the "ABC" song, my news feeds on aging have been filled with stories about music helping older adults who have memory problems.
Many of these news stories refer to the documentary Alive Inside, produced & directed by Michael Rossato-Bennett.  The film shows older adults with memory problems becoming more communicative and animated when listening to music from their youth.  Here is a 3 minute clip:

Based on the power of music demonstrated in this video, the charitable organizations such as Music and Memory have begun raising funds to duplicate the results shows in the film.  Donors are helping to place iPods and gift certificates in the hands of residents of skilled nursing centers so that they could benefit from having self-selected music playlists.
As a volunteer at a skilled nursing center, I have seen this principle in action many times.  I have seen a few documentaries about mature singers who still have the passion and talent to perform.    The activity directors often invite musicians to come play music from earlier decades, and the residents sing along. I have seen some sing folk songs such as "You Are My Sunshine" to residents.
When present circumstances grow difficult, music can often help people of all ages and circumstances to find their way to a more comforting emotional space, a space that is familiar, a space that feels like home.  
Whether through pictures, storytelling or music, older adults are perhaps more capable than others of transcending the difficulties of the present through a return to the past. And if we are around to witness such a return through the power of music, we might benefit from their insights from such a reverie.
"We shall not cease from exploration.
At the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time."
 Lines 26-29 of T.S. Eliot "Little Gidding" from Four Quartets
Talking with Older Adults, Serving as a Witness

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