Music, the “Quickening Art” – Kant

If you don’t believe in the power of music, watch this video of Henry, a man who has spent the last ten years in a nursing home.

This clip is from a new documentary called Alive Inside which follows the “awakening” that occurs when people who exhibit memory loss and Alzheimer’s are given music to which they have a strong emotional connection — often, music they grew up with. In the video clip, Henry is barely responsive before one of his caretakers puts headphones on him and starts up one of his favorite tunes on an iPod. Almost instantly, Henry begins to sway from side to side and sing with his eyes wide open.

After his headphones are removed, Henry is excited and answers questions about his favorite music, recalling memories. “I’m crazy about music, and you played beautiful music, beautiful sounds,” he says. “Cab Calloway was my number one band—guy I liked,” he remembers, before breaking into a vibrant rendition of “I’ll be Home for Christmas.”

According to neurologist, Dr. Oliver Sacks, “Music imprints itself on the brain deeper than any other human experience. Music evokes emotion and emotion can bring with it memory.” He adds, “Music brings back the feeling of life when nothing else can.”

The interviewer asks Henry, “What does music do to you?” and he responds, “It gives me the feeling of love, romance! … The Lord came to me and he made me a holy man, so he gave me these sounds.”

What is your favorite music? What will awaken you when your memory seems to be gone?

This entry was posted in Brainwaves, Deep Stuff, Music, Robin Helm on by .

About Robin Helm

Robin Helm's latest work is Understanding Elizabeth, a stand-alone Regency Romance. She joined three other JAFF authors for a best selling Christmas anthology - A Very Austen Christmas. After publishing all three volumes of The Guardian Trilogy: Guardian, SoulFire, and Legacy, she published the Yours by Design Series: Accidentally Yours, Sincerely Yours, and Forever Yours. She and her husband have two adult daughters, two sons-in-law, two granddaughters, a grandson, and a Yorkie Poo named Toby.

9 thoughts on “Music, the “Quickening Art” – Kant

  1. Laura Hile

    Robin, I have had this exact experience with our church chamber choir.

    Several years ago we sang in a memory care unit. During the first number an elderly resident, who had been slumped on a sofa in a near-comatose state, sat up. She began smiling and, like a child, clapped her hands in time to the music. It became trickier when she sang the words to The Farmer in the Dell. This was not the best complement for our baroque arrangement of You Are My All In All, but still. We were thrilled to see the transformation, and so happy to be able to minister to her. Music is powerful, absolutely.

    And years before that, when I was undergoing radiation therapy — alone in that treatment room with the all those machines —- hymns came to mind. Music. Music with potent, heartening, encouraging words of truth.
    Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul …


  2. Robin Helm Post author

    Thank you, Laura, for that powerful post.

    I’ve been writing this morning, playing music as the background for a scene in which Darcy is comforting Elizabeth by singing to her. Of course, he’s choosing my favorite songs, the ones I want to hear him sing.

    We’ve seen this in nursing homes, too. The residents love for people to come sing to them, and my husband does that sometimes.


  3. Susan Kaye

    God created man with a great deal of control. We are commanded to have control in many areas of our lives, And yet, He also has made us sensitive to things out of our control. Unbidden, music can revive us from the brink of the abyss. Or, in the case of music from our youth, make us cry over a lost love.

    Smells can bring memories flooding into our minds. I’m BIG on the smell of garages. My grandfather was an amazing man and when I was very young we spent time in his garage. Funny, no matter where they all seem to have the same underlying scent.

    And, I’ve noticed that nothing tastes like it did when I was a kid. Bananas in particular.

    We are fearfully and wonderfully made.

    Great post, Robin.


  4. Robin Helm Post author

    Thanks, Susan. Every time I listen to an “oldies” station, I am flooded with memories. “Cowboys to Girls” takes me right back to Myrtle Beach, dancing at the Pavilion when I was 17. Music is more powerful than anything else for evoking memories in me.

    I agree with you about smells and tastes, too. The smell of wet earth makes me remember driving a school bus when I was in high school. After a good rain, the red clay would stick to the tires, and I loved the smell.

    Using these memory triggers in our writing helps other people to identify with our characters. Many people have commented on the use of music in my stories.


  5. janashe

    Hi Robin! I always go to you tube and find the songs you reference so I can listen to them when I read. I have found music to be the one healing liberating force I can always count on throughout my life. Music and prayer are wrapped up for me as a single unit- they just flow together naturally!
    Which pieces do I think would stir my memory – Amazing Grace, esp played on bagpipes, Pavarotti singing Nessum Dorma, This is the day the Lord has made … classical treasures, scripture songs, dixieland jazz – love that sound and energy. Someone asked me recently how I got through the worst disappointments and fears and angry times during my life – I told them – music, I sing until I have my balance back. I belt out songs of praise and refuse to think about the problem and just keep singing til the healing comes.


  6. Robin Helm Post author

    What a wonderful post, Jan! Thanks so much for sharing with us.

    You know most of my favorites, because I’ve used them in my books. I, too, love all sorts of music, and it is one of my greatest comforts. I’m looking forward to playing at church tomorrow, in fact. As I’ve grown older, I enjoy playing more than singing, but I still enjoy both forms.

    I teach elementary school music part-time, and every Friday and alternate Thursdays I sing and dance with the children for hours. It’s such fun!


  7. LucyParker

    My dearest neighbor and my son’s surrogate grandmother had Alzheimers. She lived alone until her daughter caught on that her mother wasn’t well (another story) so neighbors organized to bring her dinner every night. She would be anxious and irritated until we would ask her to play her piano. She had perfect memory for the songs of her youth and it was during those times that we saw her true self.

    I pray that my memory lasts long enough for me to remember the faces of those that I love and the music and books of my life.

    Thanks for this, Robin!


  8. Robin Helm Post author

    You’re very welcome, Terry. I love hearing everyone’s stories. Thanks for sharing yours.

    When my mother was in the last weeks of her life, she lived more in the past than the present. At one point, in her mind she was still a girl home with her sisters. I had become a sister of hers instead of a daughter. She was happy.

    Another week, she spent talking to those who were already in heaven – my father, my brother, her sisters and brothers. I was very glad when she talked to one of my uncles – I had not been sure that he was in heaven. ; )


  9. Pingback: Music–The Brain Stimulant | Writing Wranglers and Warriors

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