Remembering Childhood Through Music

I really enjoyed last week’s class – the movie and discussion with Bassett students brought an interesting dimension to the reading that we did. The theme throughout all of these that really stuck with me was identity, and how that can manifest itself and change and be difficult to define. Coming away from the movie I was particularly intrigued how intertwined music and identity are. Some of these patients with Alzheimer’s or dementia have lost most of what makes them themselves – their memories, families, and personalities. Some people may view them simply as these people put away in a nursing home, with no way to get back what they have lost. It was striking to see how some of these elderly patients reacted when listening to music from their youth or that had strong personal meanings for them. They completely changed, and I feel that they got at least part of their identity back, at least for a little while.

This movie made me think about music and the role it has played in my own life and how it has shaped my identity. I don’t know how to play an instrument (I can’t even read music), nor am I particularly gifted at singing or any other related art. But music still has strong connotations for me, and I began to wonder about what songs would stay with me if I had a disease like Alzheimer’s. There are quite a few, all seemingly random but that instantly bring me back to a time or place or feeling. Take, for example, Tchaikovsky’s No. 6 Waltz from Sleeping Beauty. This wouldn’t be a logical choice even for those that know me – I don’t play or listen to classical music. However, my sister and I danced to this song when we did pointe. Although I can’t recall (without talking to my mom) what character I played or any of the steps, I can hum along to this song without even thinking about it.

Another song that I think would restore my identity would be Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm by the Crash Test Dummies. I know, a random song by a (vaguely random, at least for me) band. For some reason my sister and I loved this song when we were kids, around 4 or 5. We would sing it on long car rides on the way to visit family or go camping, along with many other songs that I’m sure would instantly bring back memories. Anyways, I hadn’t heard this song for at least 10 years when my dad played it again for me, asking if I remembered liking the song. Not only could I remember that, I could remember all of the words after not even thinking about the song for years. For me, this kind of random song brings me back memories of family and travel and childhood.

The list could go on and on, with songs from my high school and college years, songs that remind me of certain friends and families or favorite movies or traveling abroad. I guess the point I’m trying to make is that even though I don’t really consider myself super into music, it is still obviously significant in my life. I like to think that if I ever end up in the type of situation we watched in the movie (knock on wood), someone would be able to play me some of my favorite songs (or really, just songs that evoke memories) and I would be able to gain a little bit of myself back.

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