Music, Memory and Reciprocal Impression
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Do you ever wonder how many songs you remember – even if just a snippet of melody or random segment of lyrics? It’s probably too many to fully realize. This is a fascinating effect of music, something we understand and agree is true, yet don’t fully understand why. Melody in particular has this way of becoming so embedded in our brains that these aspects of songs will remain in our minds forever. They become links to other memories of what was taking place at that point in our life, the wall color of your childhood room, the food you ate on your first date, or the pain you felt when twisting your ankle at the skating rink.

Sometimes a memory is more illusive, not the typical memory of an event or visually perceived one, but of a feeling, an instinctual relationship with the body and the unique state it was in at the time of hearing a song. This is an altogether wilder dimension of musical memory that seems to transform the entire body into a warehouse of recollection. Since the nervous system connects and maps the brain to several billion points throughout the body, it’s not surprising that our recall includes bodily impressions, though this doesn’t demystify the experience of these sensations.

If we sit still with any piece of music which causes more visual or event-based memories, I believe we can detect an emotional impression that was made at that time which sits behind the more intellectual components. This suggests that our bodies may be far more involved in the formation of all memories we carry with us. Therefore, we might be a walking collection of brain-body impressions receiving information and slightly morphing in form on a constant basis. The obverse relationship is how we impress upon the world and everything around us including people, animals, plants, and humanly imperceptible elements.

This rich epigenetic interplay is so vast it can hardly be grasped and yet it may be pivotal to our growth as a species. So how might we rectify this entanglement of reciprocal expression and impression? It seems to me that music is a fundamental medium for creating and fostering beneficial expressions and impressions. It is mystical in nature, invisible yet capable of everlasting impression and has proven itself a leader in bringing millions of people together around numerous issues central to the progression of humanity. So… let us sing, let us embody song, let us be moved by the songs of our bodies and evolve through the collective swirl of worldly music that we all generate together.

Eric Whitacre’s virtual choir of 2,000 voices is a wonderful example of we can globally unite ourselves through music.