MUSIC AND MEMORIES
Music seems to get into our very core and remain there. How many of us are able to sing the pop songs from teenage years, or the hymns sung in long ago school assemblies or church services. A friend and myself once managed a whole journey along the M6 singing these – her Methodist and my Congregationalist upbringing served us well with the task! There was a similar happening just last week. My friend, Sally, and myself were happily wandering around an antique centre where a CD of 60’s music was playing. We accompanied our happy mooching to our version of ‘Spot That Tune’ and were amazed at how many we could name within the first couple of bars of the intro, even when the distance from the CD player was making it difficult to hear. On the occasional ones that we struggled with, usually the name of the recording artist, we got there eventually. We happily sang along. The music added so much to the whole afternoon and we weren’t thrown out either!
This ability of music to retain a place in our memory is probably the reason why Alzheimer’s sufferers are able to still sing songs from their past whilst struggling with so much else. How lovely it is to see the happiness as they are able to join in. Sadly, it is not a cure, but how wonderful it would be if the current findings could, in the future, lead to longer term, remission.
Music is also being found to be of support to Parkinson’s sufferers. Research that was carried out in Montreal and Calgary shows a link between music and the release of dopamine in the brain. The dropping off of dopamine production is felt to be contributory to Parkinson’s as it is essential for co-ordination and movement control. The use of music to trigger an increased release showed dramatic results.
I often wonder if there is some sort of muscle memory tied in with music, as if I hear a piece that was used in past aerobic classes, I’m straight in there with the old moves. An automatic response just like Pavlov’s dogs salivating to the sound of a bell. Ask me to go through one of the sequences that we used, that’s a different matter. Yes, I remember some of the moves involved – the grapevine etc, but if the music comes on the radio, I can go through the sequence, tea towel, spatula, whatever in hand and a perplexed cat watching on. Bovvered??? NO.
FURTHER THERAPEUTIC ASPECTS OF MUSIC
On occasion, music can bring to the surface feelings that we may not consider positive ones. However, this may lead to the release of emotions that had become buried, hidden, not dealt with, say following the break-up of a relationship or the death of a loved one. Certain pieces of music with previous memories attached can cause the tears to flow and this is no bad thing as tears can be very cathartic, an emotional release.
As Maya Angelou said ‘Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.’
Music therapy is sometimes provided in such settings as hospices, hospitals and nursing homes where it is felt to promote a feeling of emotional well-being but also, or maybe because of this, can promote physical healing. It usually takes the form quite soft, gentle acoustic music. There is often music composed specially to meet specific needs and requirements. Some feel that is a rather ‘New Age’ thing, but, in fact, Pythagoras taught music as a medical science in ancient Greece and it was also used by Druids and in monasteries in the Middle Ages.
Therapists, especially hypnotherapists can use backing tracks in support of their relaxation or therapeutic work. We use this in hypnobirthing and mums often make use of the backing track in the baby’s room as a form of lullaby as the baby seemingly associates the music with mummy’s relaxation and does likewise.
MUSIC AND THE FEEL GOOD FACTOR
The Montreal study around music and Parkinson’s also showed an increase of up to 9% in the levels of dopamine when liked music was played to non-Parkinson’s volunteers. Dopamine, as well as affecting movement gives us that wonderful feel good sensation, hence, why music lifts our spirits, especially if we are able to move or sing along with it.
How well I remember a day out in Spain with two lovely ladies. We had a real ‘girls’ day out’ with Sarah seemingly happily escorting two senior citizens. We had eaten, we had drunk, we had drunk some more and then we went into a Moroccan shop. The old belly dance music was going full blast and Brenda was back at the belly dancing lessons she had gone to some years previously. Hips gyrating in time to the beat as the guy behind the counter watched, clapped in time and grinned. It was great fun. She insisted on buying the CD. Probably, as much of the drinking had been of the alcoholic variety, we could do nothing to dissuade her from this purchase. Needless to say, a North West of UK sitting room didn’t have quite the same impact as a shop full of bright rugs, lamps, slippers with turned up toes, and the CD was never played, or gyrated to back home. However, it added to the musical memory of a lovely memorable day.
Music has been and remains a big part of my life. I began singing in tap/ballet/musical comedy shows at the age of 3. In those days, such things were always well attended as few had televisions, so it wasn’t only parents and doting grandparents who bought the tickets. Apparently, when I walked into the middle of the stage there was an audible aaahhh and I went on to sing ‘Lucy Locket lost her pocket’.
I grew up in a small terraced house in a cul-de-sac and every Sunday morning, members of the pipe band who lived there also used to march up and down, kilts swirling, bagpipes echoing between the houses. I can only presume that nobody complained as it happened so regularly. I wonder how long it would continue for these days?? I used to be mesmerised and still love the sound of pipes and drums, but only in the open air. This was re-kindled when living in Cyprus and the Gordon Highlanders were visiting. They would perform a concert at the Curium (open air) Theatre. The highlight of my evening – the lone piper spot lit on the top outer rim playing the Last Post with the sound of waves breaking on the beach as the backdrop. There was always a tear in my eye.
I also love acoustic guitar music. I did try to learn to play the guitar but it just wasn’t to be. My enjoyment was destined to remain with listening. I love the playing of Milos Karadaglic and was lucky enough to be invited, with a group of colleagues, to a London Phil concert at which he was performing. Bliss. The evening began with a champagne reception at which the orchestra leader was amongst several people circulating and chatting. He asked what I was most looking forward to. For me an FSQ – Milos of course! We chatted about my love of his playing. The fact that he is rather gorgeous sort of adds to the package – an old bird can dream can’t she!! I drooled over his playing and sort of floated up to the second champagne session at the interval. There I was sipping my drink, when there was a tap on my shoulder. I turned round to find Milos saying that he understood that I liked his playing. Luckily, there was a stout pillar next to me as apparently I sort of draped myself onto this with my colleagues laughing at Mrs Practical, Mrs Down to Earth - going all gooey and eyelash fluttery…. Life in the old girl yet and an evening I treasure - and not only for the music!
As mentioned, I performed in concerts. I have also been to quite a few and I did get away with going to a club in Manchester though I was never sure how I managed to persuade my parents about this. What I could never persuade them to allow was going to the Apollo in Ardwick. They had never been, but considered it to be ‘not nice’! A big regret is not going to see such as the Beatles perform there. I did get to go, several times but not until my 50’s – and you know what, I felt guilty, even though my parents died very many years ago and I’m sure that my 50’s can well and truly be classified as grown up and independent!
My elder son had experienced his choice in ‘concerts’ – or whatever he would have called them! When it came to my younger son’s first one, big brother warned him of the volume of the music. He thought he would take action to prevent long term hearing problems by ramming toilet paper into his ears. I didn’t know about this until he came home and up to my bedroom, loudly assuring me that he was deaf. He told me of the toilet paper, but assured me that he had taken it out. I angled my bedside lamp down his ear and could see orange toilet paper still in there. An appointment at the doc’s next day saw the safe removal of this. Don’t think he did that again, or, if he did, he didn’t tell me!
IS ALL MUSIC GOOD FOR US?
I guess it isn’t. My son’s first concert nearly wasn’t! Then there’s always that niggling, totally annoying music that, rather than acting as a calming or stimulating agent, simply winds you up, especially if it becomes that good old ear worm forever wriggling around no matter how much you try to ignore it, focus on other things to find it still in residence. Maybe the orange toilet paper was an early version of the ear worm?
Then there can be annoying musicians. I end with a tale of one such.
A friend of my younger son phoned to tell me that he was learning the guitar. I made what I felt were the right supportive comments. Obviously, too supportive as he asked if he could come round to play. An excuse was too slow in coming. My elder son and his girlfriend were joining me for a meal and I explained this, but still he said he would come round. When he arrived, we were just about to eat and were asked if we could take our meals into the sitting room as he needed to be by the television. He put on a DVD – The Snowman – and began to ‘play’ and ‘sing’ to this whilst we attempted to keep our eyes on our plates for fear of laughing. Sadly, the singing and playing weren’t in tune with one another nor with the rendition being played on the television. We finished our meals and still he battled painfully on. I said (a complete fabrication) that we were going out. On he played. We got on our coats. On he played. In the end, we had to get into the car and drive off in the opposite direction to his home, gratefully returning when we had seen him leave. I managed to think more quickly when he next offered to play for me!!
Thank you for reading what I have written - please do leave a comment. It is always good to get genuine comments to counterbalance the adverts for condoms or Viagra that folk feel I would like them to share! Nowt so queer as folk is there? Do get in touch about the therapies I offer both face to face and distance therapy too.