Has a simple sound or snatch of music ever surprised you by opening up a whole world of feelings, or perhaps reminding you of things you'd long forgotten? We are surrounded from birth by music and sound - a language beyond words which slips easily past conscious thought and becomes part of our deeply-embedded memories.
For most of us, memory loss is a just normal part of ageing but it can also come with illness, accident, dementia or other conditions. My work with Come Singing groups in Norwich has shown me how powerfully musical memories can connect us to other people and the world around us, even when we are vulnerable. This was the inspiration for Music Mirrors, a way of capturing special memories and hooking them up to the sounds which were a vital part of them.
It's done like this: first, talk to people about times or relationships that have been a happy part of their lives, and spot memories with a connection to sound. Then write these snapshots of life story briefly in the person's own words as an e-mail, and match each reference to music to a suitable Youtube link. That's all there is to it! The Music Mirror, with live links, can then be shared with family and friends, attached to personal records or sent wherever it's needed. If someone needs care, or has to go into hospital, the information is easily passed on to help them connect with new people or surroundings. It's a resource for comfort and reassurance, and if speech is difficult, it can help someone to feel that they are known and recognised. And it doesn’t need to be digital: written words on paper can be just as valuable. Music Mirrors are for building bridges between people. They are not playlists of music for entertainment or solitary listening but scrapbooks of positive personal audio cues.
My own Dad might well have loved a Music Mirror. For him it was hearing one particular word from a childhood story he himself had written which prompted him to speak again after five years of painful hostile silence in dementia. Perhaps memories of sound could have helped even more?
Music Mirrors are easy and a pleasure to make. There is information and guidance, including short video clips, on the website www.musicmirrors.co.uk.
Free training workshops are regularly available in the Norfolk area or for the cost of travel and printed materials.
My dad taught me that vulnerable people are like the Chilean miners: once they knew they’d been found, they held on to the will to live, and rescuers on the outside would have given anything to bring them out of the darkness. I see Music Mirrors as a very simple way to capture signs of our lives, so that others can help us to remember and celebrate them. They could also be one small step towards transforming the experience of dignified care both for people living with dementia and those caring for them.
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