Hello again from Josh and Lynne. We want to apologize for our long hiatus between posts. We have been deeply affected by some very sad personal events, specifically serious illnesses and deaths in our close family, all happening within a relatively short time. Thankfully, our family bands together in trouble as well as joy. And, yes, music has played a major role in helping us all get through the hard times. Our first post, below, is our way of sharing some of what we have learned, which we hope will benefit you during difficult times too.
Here is just one example.
When a family member had to be taken to the hospital, she took her iPod and built a protective wall between herself and what we call “hospital toxicity.” This was a spontaneous act on her part, an intuitive self-prescription for health. The Beatles were her personal medicine.
For us, the connection between music and positive psychology has become even more vital because we have seen its value in action over and over again. We also see, more clearly than ever, that the idea of music and happiness, like love, holds whole worlds of meaning when you start to explore them. Our mission is to bring you all the healthful benefits of music that we discover as we scour the global world of research and practice out there for you.
We want to draw your attention to a recent article on Gabrielle Gifford’s recovery from the horrific shooting in Tuscon. Therapy through music is playing a key role in stimulating her brain, helping her speak again.
And just last week (March 17, 2011), at the Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville, NY, we were blown away by a new movie, “The Music Never Stopped” — a movie, which in the words of James Greenberg of “The Hollywood Reporter,” “honors the ability of music to heal even the most damaged soul.”
The movie is quite loosely based on a case study by Dr. Oliver Sacks, “The Last Hippie, ” included in his 1995 anthology AN ANTHROPOLOGIST ON MARS. It touchingly dramatizes the enormous power music can have when it taps into our deep memory. It also illustrates the crucial role music can play (something we believe in very strongly) when shared between generations: in the movie this sharing heals a broken relationship between an alienated father and son.
At the beginning of the movie, the son, Gabriel Sawyer, is afflicted with a benign brain tumor that leaves him unable to process new memories or remember anything after 1968. He hardly speaks. We soon learn that he ran away from home in his mid-teens after an angry showdown with his father, Henry, who forbade him to attend a Grateful Dead concert in the late 60’s. He disappeared for twenty years. When he is ill and reunited with his parents, his father is initially convinced that their early bond around the father’s music will bring his son’s memory back.
However, thanks to the intervention of a gifted music therapist, the father begins to accept the truth that for his son another kind of music–music his father hates–is the key to Gabriel’s moments of awakening. As the father starts to appreciate the son’s music, they gradually bond in a way that was never possible for them before. They do this by savoring together the music of such iconic groups as The Beatles, The Grateful Dead, and singers like Bob Dylan, working their magic in songs like “Truckin,’ ” “Touch of Grey,” “All You Need is Love,” and “Desolation Row.”
Go see this movie for yourself! You’ll find a lot to think and feel about. Here’s a link to an inspiring podcast where the Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart talks about his personal connection with Oliver Sacks and Greg, the real “Gabriel Sawyer.”
This story validates, in the most profound way, how memory, especially when linked to music, is so fundamental to our nature as human beings. You can check out Josh’s posts on music and memory by clicking here.
The performance of “All You Need is Love” in the movie, the moment when Gabriel comes alive for the first time (listen here*–you may need to turn down the volume; it’s a loud piece!), has a historical footnote. Thanks to the newly available satellite technology of the time , the first performance was reportedly seen by an audience of some two hundred million on June 25, 1967, two weeks after the Arab-Israeli War. This paean to international peace and brotherhood combines the opening phrase of “La Marseillaise”–rallying the world community, the global tribe of peaceniks–with its own driving rhythms. The refrain, “All you need is Love,” reminds us of the simplest and perhaps purest of childhood memories by suggesting the opening phrase of “Three Blind Mice,” then morphing into a resolute descending major scale pattern.
Our goal, as we move forward on our musical journey, is to share with you–and we invite you to share with us –the music you love. What resonates for you when you remember the most difficult and most joyous moments of life?