"Music is the soundtrack of our lives." ~Dick Clark
There are certain songs that when I hear them I am transported to a different time and place. These songs bring back memories of specific events or people that I have loved and lost. Hearing a specific song can transport me back to a different decade in a matter of seconds. The songs of your life define a summer or a particular rough spot. They move you and are a part of the fabric of your very being. Psychologists call this the 'reminiscence bump' when you relive your earlier years through the music you hear.
I might have trouble remembering my most recent user name and password combinations, but I have no trouble remembering a song I heard on the radio 25 years ago. I am always amazed at how quickly the words come back to me! Music becomes a part of who we are, it tells us where we have been and shows us how our sense of self is developed. Certain songs, specific pieces of music are associated with times, places and people in our lives. Music is such a powerful sensory experience that activates both long-term personal memory and deep emotions to which no other art form can compare. Songs in our memories become a sort of autobiographical mix tape of our lives. And every single one of us has a different playlist.
Music has been shown to deeply affect those that have suffered traumatic brain injuries, elderly dementia patients, and even the young to remember rote facts. One of my favorites was learning the planets from watching Blue's Clues with my son. I can still hum that song when I need to know the exact order!
I was particularly intrigued by the notion of music helping Alzheimer's patients. You see, my mother has early onset Alzheimer's at the age of 67. She is not who she was just a few short years ago. The sad fact is she never will be what she was. I know that music has always been something important to her. She sang in the chorus of musicals. I can hear her picking out harmonies of folk songs. She had a collection of Beatles albums that I used to play. And my parents were part of a committee that started a very successful music scholarship program at the UW-SP with an annual event called the Soiree Musicale celebrating music scholars while enjoying Big Band and Jazz standards. So maybe this is something that we can still share.
I had to know more about this connection of music and memory. In my own state there is a Wisconsin Music & Memory Initiative. I have since discovered that my state has funded 100 nursing homes for the certification for this program, the most comprehensive effort of all states. I wanted to know more. That lead me to the parent organization called MusicandMemory.org. They train elder care professionals in how to set up personalized playlists through iPods for those in their care. That is just such an elegantly simple idea! Often these playlists can bring a patient out of the fog and back to a toe-tapping connected existence, allowing for increased socialization, conversation and normalcy. This is something that I think I have to look more into for my personal situation.
Music And Memory has produced a documentary called Alive Inside that is an official selection of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. I very much want to see this film. Here is an excerpt showing one of the patients named Henry and his connection to music. Truly remarkable!
Before the music, Henry couldn't even answer a question, or look up into the eyes of his caregiver. After listening to his favorite Cab Calloway songs, he was alert, responsive and eloquent in his answers. But through the music he loves, his eyes are open, his heart is soaring and he is alive again. Such is the miraculous power of music!
The Challenge of Music
For this, the third annual Challenge of Music, I want to take walk down a musical memory lane with you. I want to relive the songs of my past, the ones that connect me to my history and that hold a special place in my heart. For this year's Challenge of Music, I want to focus on our own personal playlists.
1::Pick a year that is significant to your life story.
Some suggestions... the year you graduated from high school... the year you said, 'I do'... the year you took that trip abroad... the year your got your driver's license... the year you welcomed your child... Or perhaps the year that you lost a loved one... you got in a car accident... you got dumped... Or why not even the year you were born... or the year your parents got married.
I know you might not remember all of those events (the year your parents were married?), but they are significant to your personal history and each year has a specific soundtrack.
I argue that at each stop on your unique journey, there is a corresponding song to go along with it. The Challenge will be to pick just one significant year. And one corresponding song.
2::Find a song that was on the top charts for that significant year.
Here are some lists that will help guide you.
Billboard Number One Singles
Top 40 Charts
You will need to find some way to share a bit about that music, and hopefully a snippet of some sort, so that we can all enjoy it and be taken on a magical journey with you and be moved by the music, too. Embedding it into your blog post or even just posting a link to it on the web will be great. Because we all come from a different musical autobiography and often from different regions of the world, hearing the music that inspires your artistic expression is very important!
Use your musical inspiration to create something. I invite you to create whatever you want inspired by the piece of music that you choose. My choice is usually jewelry, but why not painting or drawing or sculpting or writing poetry or any creative way to channel the music. Or why not combining your creative outlets?
4::Mark your calendar: Blog Hop on Saturday, March 1st.
I will be using the InLinkz system for the hop. Of course, the best time to add your blog link will on the opening day of the hop, but I will leave the InLinkz code open for one week. So there won't be complicated lists of blog hoppers, with people who might go MIA. I will find a way for you to add the code directly to your blog under the HTML tab so that these links can show up on your blog as well, if you choose. And of course, plan to spend a little time over that week hopping around to take a musical journey and see what it inspires. Be a good blog citizen and leave meaningful comments wherever you visit.
5::Sign up to play!
Hop over to the tab above that says 'take the challenge' and enter your information in the form. Please note that this is not holding you to anything. If you sign up and then life throws you a curve ball, go catch it and don't think you have to apologize. This sign up process simply allows me to have a record of those who are interested and help me to send out email communications about the Challenge. You can expect 2-3 emails over the course of the month just to keep you on track and I won't use your email for anything else.
Consider Getting Involved
Stay tuned for more information to come about the Music And Memory drive for donations of iPods and iTunes cards. I am planning to find a way to do a donation drive for this worthy and awesome program while we use music as our inspiration for this Challenge. I hope you might consider joining me.