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  • Writer's pictureVanessaHowells

"One song, a thousand memories'

What preserves music so purely and acutely in our memories? Why does a single chord in a song strike you so intrinsically - an instant recognition through your body where your mind follows slowly behind? How can an elderly relative grapple with your name and identity yet recall word for word an old wartime song?

Music is powerful; more powerful than words, actions or emotions because it needs no introduction. It goes straight to the heart, to that guttural knowledge of something honest and true to you.

Nostalgia, hope, ecstatic joy or a feeling of being home; tucking your toes into those well-worn slippers in front of the fire.

It is truly a fascinating topic and we are sharing some quotes from our favourite articles and websites which looked into this deeply ingrained connection between music and memories.

Specifically, nostalgia was a very common emotion which appeared in many studies hence why at an event, celebration or wedding choosing the music that binds you to significant life occurrences and moments gives you a sense of belonging, purpose and grounding.

1) "Autobiographical information associated with musical melodies is evoked when we hear relevant music or when we are engaged in conversation about music or episodes and events in our life in which music has been important. Hearing music associated with our past often evokes a strong 'feeling of knowing'."

In another study the focus on music to evoke memories in patients including those with Alzheimer's was discovered to be more successful than in silence; suggesting the connection between music and memories happens involuntarily.

2) "The main objective of this paper was to examine the involuntary nature of music-evoked autobiographical memories. For this purpose, young adults, older adults, and patients with a clinical diagnosis of probable Alzheimer's disease (AD) were asked to remember autobiographical events in two conditions: after being exposed to their own chosen music, and in silence. Compared to memories evoked in silence, memories evoked in the "Music" condition were found to be more specific, accompanied by more emotional content and impact on mood, and retrieved faster. In addition, these memories engaged less executive processes. Thus, with all these characteristics and the fact that they are activated by a perceptual cue (i.e., music), music-evoked autobiographic memories have all the features to be considered as involuntary memories."

Below is a beautiful example of the power of music - Marta C. González Saldaña; a prima ballerina is able to recall the choreography of 'Swan Lake' from years before.

The video was shared by the Spanish non-profit charity 'Música Para Despertar' (Music to Awaken) and the below quote is from their website (Reference 4).

"Musical memory and the ability to feel emotions, the last attributes to be lost in the brain damaged by Alzheimer's. Music and Love to live with dementia."

You can read more about this specific example on the Alzheimer's Website: 'Being Patient' (Reference 5)

3) "Established research has examined music as a recall trigger for autobiographical memories in patients with Alzheimer's [4], showing that there is potential to use music as a trigger when rebuilding memory."


2) 'The involuntary nature of music-evoked autobiographical memories in Alzheimer's disease' -

3) 'Assessing Wellbeing in People Living with Dementia Using Reminiscence Music with a Mobile App (Memory Tracks): A Mixed Methods Cohort Study' -

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