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  • Writer's pictureAugusta Philippou

Music and Memory

BBC Radio 6 ‘Music and Memory’ programme motivated research into the way music can be used to prompt emotional memory. Within the programme there was discussion about the functional aspects of the human brain looking at the role of the hippocampus and procedural memory; parts of the brain assosiated with emotion.

‘our ability to create short term memories occurs in a different part of the brain to long term memories. Moreover, musical memories are stored in a completely different part of the brain all together.’ (Music and Memory, 2017)

This understanding has led to studies into the way music can be beneficial to people that have neurological conditions such as Dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. The programme discussed how ‘People with Parkinson’s, who struggle with walking, can listen to music and have the ability to walk better. Music can be used to initiate getting movement started and keep it going, by distracting the brain.’ (Music and Memory, 2017) Therefore I began to consider how to link textiles practise to improved well-being for people living with neurological conditions, and began contemplating how to embed sounds into samples.

Additionally, the programme discussed the way elements of certain songs and music can be borrowed, for example ‘Mr Scruff sampling Moondog’ (Music and Memory, 2017), are added to and evolve overtime, but still evoke the same emotive memory. I continued this theme, taking an image, drawing or texture, and gradually altering it in some way to resemble the way changes occur gradually in nature; becoming weathered or bleached. Importantly, I began to use time-progression documentation and incorporate sounds of the machinery to trigger memories that correspond to my samples being created.

I was drawn to the way that researchers from the Boston University Alzheimer’s disease centre believe there are two theories for why music can hold such vivid memories; firstly,

“because music has emotional memories, which he says are ‘some of the more powerful memories that we have… music can be so transformative to people with Alzheimer’s… when we learn music, we store the knowledge as procedural memory. Procedural memory is associated with routines and repetitive activities.” (Sauer, 2016)

Repetition and routine was incorporated into the workshops I ran with the Alzheimer’s society, using applique, embroidery and mark-making; all repetitive movements, with the intention that the participants to can gain emotional enjoyment out of the activities and in turn this will generate conversation and sociable connections.

BBC Radio 6, Music and Memory

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