The Music-Memory Connection

I read an article by Judy Jones* about boosting memory in general and it contains a fascinating sidebar.  The work of British psychologist Catriona Morrison is quoted briefly, and specifically it mentions her exploration into how music affects memory.  (link to sidebar below)

Which of course got me thinking about how music affects my own brain, and not just in terms of memory. I’m a writer  and I’ve found that when I’m working, if I play music from exactly the time and place in the piece, one things happens.  A kind of calming.  A yes, that’s right.  Uh huh.  It’s a feeling that tends to increase my recall of details needed for the piece.

But if I switch the CD to something completely different from the story I’m working on – another whole set of mental triggers kicks off – and sometimes they lead to something better than what I started with. Often the new thoughts aren’t memories at all, but rather completely new avenues.  Of course this often takes me to an entirely different route, far away from where I began – which could be considered procrastination, but I’m not apologizing for that. 

Here’s an  important finding from my own personal research: Playing music while I work always leads to something good emotionally, which eventually leads to an enhanced version of whatever I’m doing. 

I’m now testing this theory away from the computer – changing the CD’s while doing routine chores to see if I let my mind go and follow the music, will I be more or less productive or relaxed or in what ways, exactly, will things change? 

I can see why therapists consider music a crucial tool.  It’s an absorbing topic.  And now I’ve wandered away from the original article I want to recommend.  Must be the music I’m playing.

Here’s a link:  http://www.more.com/2025/5338-how-music-boosts-your-memory

* Judy Jones’ complete article: http://www.more.com/2025/5336-new-rules-for-saving-your

Ó Anita Garner 2009

Christmas is too far away.

Last month a local radio station played Christmas music and called it “Christmas In July.”  I was right there, singing along.  Our local American Cancer Society Discovery Shop also declared it was “Christmas In July” and devoted half of the store to decorations, special china, the works. I browsed but didn’t buy.

Now that it’s August, Christmas still seems too far away.   I could use a little Christmas right now.

Every year I buy at least one new holiday CD.  Last year it was Yo Yo Ma’s “Songs Of Joy & Peace”  which features guest stars, among them  Diana Krall and James Taylor.  I’m humming those songs and seriously considering taking my holiday music collection out of storage. 

It’s been a long time since Christmas created any kind of frenzy in my life.  I don’t shop all that much even during the season, but I look forward to a round of trading meals and baked goods and conviviality with friends.  

I’ve now settled into more of an appreciation of how Christmas looks and sounds and smells and of course, how nice everyone is to everyone else.

With this  weather, it’s hard to picture lights twinkling from every window the way they do in December, but if I squint and use my imagination…

Ó Anita Garner 2009

The Truth About Gift-Giving

When people say “Don’t get me anything,” it’s best to pay no attention.  They’ll  say “I have everything I need,” but that doesn’t rule out wish fulfillment.  And it helps if we’re mind readers about what they’d really like, if only they’d say so.

I’m going to a birthday party for a man who’s 85 years old today.  Getting a gift for him takes more than a little  thought.  After we’ve lived a certain number of years, most of us feel we own enough things.  In fact, we’ve started giving things away. 

It’s much easier to shop for younger people.  They really do need things and then they want so many things, there’s a world of gadgets they feel they can’t live without.

My birthday friend says “Don’t get me anything.  I don’t need a thing.”  But I think when someone says that, he’d still like to be surprised with a little something.  So I’m paying no attention  and giving him a gift anyway.  Sounds simple enough – but it’s not, because he really does have everything he wants and duplicates of everything he needs.

Over these past few birthdays I’ve about used up every creative notion about gifts for him.  Someone suggested “a gift of time” and last year I spent an afternoon with him over coffee and sweets I baked myself.  But this year’s a big number with a big party and I don’t want to arrive empty-handed.

I finally settled on the one thing that he uses every day – music.  He plays music at the top volume of his Bose extra-special CD player that his daughter insisted he buy.  So I got him a CD.   Oh – and one of those cushioned “kitchen slice” rugs to put in front of the stove.  He didn’t say he needs one, but I think he does. 

Thanks to his grandson,  who got him a DVD player and installed it, I’ve got a head start on gift ideas for Christmas.  

Ó Anita Garner 2009

It’s Never Too Early For Christmas

While everyone is talking Thanksgiving turkey, I’m putting out my favorite Christmas decorations, stacking up Christmas music, lighting holiday incense and soaking in the sights and sounds and smells.

 

It’s not because Thanksgiving comes a week earlier this year.  We’ve always played Christmas music during Thanksgiving dinner, but by now my music and dvd collections have expanded so there isn’t enough time between Thanksgiving and Christmas to hear/see each of them once.  So I started earlier this year.  

 

I love everything about Christmas.  There’s no frenzy here.  I don’t love shopping, never did, but gathering a few things to give as gifts isn’t a hardship.  I do much of it online, but I also go to malls on purpose during the season, just for the festive look of it.  

 

Making fudge and apple cake with a Christmas glaze for my neighbors is nice. (Christmas music plays while we cook.) 

  

I love church during Advent season.  The faces of the acolytes who carry the light down to the altar candles always look like Christmas  – a bit shinier than usual and quite reverent.  As the kids walk slowly, jeans poking out below the white robes, they resist the temptation to jostle each other and I imagine their parents watch and wonder, who is this child, so somber?  Surely this is not the kid who had to be reminded (threatened) to get here on time.

 

You won’t find me griping about the commercialization of this event, because for me it never has become that.  If all I ever had of Christmas were the sights and sounds and fragrances, and if that could last for months, I wouldn’t complain.  

 

Ó Anita Garner 2008