"When I hear music, I feel no danger, I am invulnerable, I see no foe, I am related to the earliest times and the latest". Henry David Thoreau
Over the course of the last 50 years I have amassed a collection of 1,000s of songs in print, album, tape, digital and video/DVD formats. Included are the complete works of Beethoven and popular, western music of the last 150 years. I am a natural born ethnomusicologist and enjoy music from around the world. Eager to learn, which songs to memorize is always a difficult decision and how many songs am I capable of remembering anyway?
Someone should invent something to bring our memories back, a lady said to me one day during a group sing session. I thought for a second and then said, they have, its called a book. On my music stand was a large book with lyrics to new songs and songs people loved that I may be called on to play but might not remember. The music score would contain lyrics, breathe markings and key signatures, the key in which I currently sang the song. Here was my memory aid.
I walked into a room recently and someone said, here is the entertainer. I replied I am not the entertainer but the repository for all the songs you know longer remember. Fortunately they laughed and afterwards I reflected on that statement. Just like the wandering minstrel of old, the musician is entrusted by his or her community with the task of retaining and performing the songs. These songs help people to reflect and recall the memories that have became linked to songs. Once the minstrel held our collective musical memories in his brain, now we use Ipods!
Songs can act as a framework for the memory and set up as a trigger for recall. Many people do not remember they know or can do a specific task until they are doing it. Just as every singer has had the experience of singing a song and if you can remember the first words or line often the rest of the song can be recalled. Looking at brain scans during musical experiences indicates heightened neural activity. For some reason we are better able to recall events when our memories are aroused by music and people retain musical intelligence long after other memories are gone. This is possibly the reason that live musical performances are the number 1 favorite event at most facilities.