Just a thought… The beautiful thing is, music can be like a time machine. One song – the lyrics, the melody, the mood – can take you back to a moment in time like nothing else can. [Lisa Schroeder]
I’m hearing of snow and ice pellets in my former home province. I thought today maybe you could use something a little warming to the soul. It’s a story that will perhaps even put a song in your heart for a bit today. There’s a story on the BBC that I came across recently and it rang so many bells I thought I was living near a fire hall. This is surely going to resonate with you on some level, too.
The headline read: “BBC Music website offers dementia lifeline” and basically it tells the story of people contributing, via a website, the songs that made a difference in the lives of their loved ones.
The selections can be regional (in Canada’s case, it might be a tune that’s been popular for generations in Newfoundland but that someone in, say, Saskatchwan might never have heard of). It could be a particular singer like Leonard Cohen or Jann Arden that a patient really cares for. The reason for these songlists and contributions? They’re just another way of opening a window into a mind slowly closing because of Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.
Fourteen years ago this month, we lost our dear friend Carl Moase. Carl was only in his seventies, but had been struck by brain cancer, which may or may not have been an echo of prostate cancer he’d suffered years earlier.
Carl was like a dad to my Rob; they were more alike in many ways than my husband and his real father. They were also bandmates; Carl was the bass singer in the quartet that formed the original front vocal line of our band Generations. Most of all, he was a close friend to all of the band members (his wife Helen is still like a surrogate parent to us, as she was surrograte grandmother to Lauren).
What does this have to do with dementia? A fellow quartet vocalist, Jack Marsh, had been living with Alzheimer’s for several years by the time Carl took his final bow. But the day that we held a celebration of Carl’s life and our band assembled to play some of our favourite songs in a bar setting afterward, we all witnessed the incredible power of music. Because, although he could barely remember anyone’s name in our tight-knit group, there stood Jack just bellowing out the songs we played for 20 years, with nearly every word perfect. Or as perfect as any of us ever got ’em!
We were all bug-eyed as we saw and heard Jack’s performance. I’d long known of the power of music in the mind and the indelible associations we can make. Who doesn’t remember a song they heard right after a break-up or the tune playing when you got the best or worst news of your life? Apparently, according to a phenomenon known as the “music bump,” the songs we heard between the ages of 10 and 30 are the ones most likely to have the biggest impact.
There’s anecdotal evidence enough to fill the Smithsonian, and here’s that article from the BBC. I found it absolutely fascinating and how I’d love if the CBC followed the BBC’s example and helped us all compile playlists for life. I already have mine: it’s Channel 18 on SiriusXM – The Beatles Channel. It’s really all I need, love.