Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The strength of music

Music has all kinds of mysterious qualities: it is well known for instance that music is healing. I always told my students that anything that they find hard to memorize should be turned into music.  They will never forget it is they sing it! Take a long mathematical equation and put it on a popular song, you will remember the whole thing fifty years from now. So, music has lots of power over humans.
One thing I noticed when I was writing this book - and I did not know this before - is that music has a truer memory of how we felt than our memory of the past.
We all lie to ourselves: ten years after something traumatic like a divorce, we have a "story" to tell about it. It is not how we felt, it is how we want the story to be. Everybody does that. So for instance, you would say: "once we decided that there were too many incompatibilities between us, the rest was easy and we are still good friends." But then you listen to a song that you liked at the time you divorced, and all the feelings of despair you felt at the time come back to you.
So, when I was writing this book and listening to songs my grandparents loved, some true feelings came back to me that my general memory ignored. For instance, how scared I was during the war.
My general memory says I was a happy protected little child. My musical memory says I was afraid of everything: the noise of bombs, the German officers, the night, the radio, hunger...

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