As I was writing to my last blog post, and jamming Pandora, a series of songs from the movie Frozen came on. Though Frozen is a Disney movie meant for children, it has really stuck with me and the songs bring back many memories for me. While I sang the songs I remembered spring break the previous year. My family took a trip to Lacrosse, Wisconsin to celebrate my cousin Gowri’s fifth birthday. She was in a phase of Frozen craze and her grand gift was a Frozen bed. So when we got there that night, we played with her for several hours, wearing her down to exhaustion. Around nine I put her to bed in her parents’ room, telling her a bedtime story and burying her under a heap of warm, fuzzy blankets. As soon as we had determined that she was sound asleep, my brother, her brother, and I went to her bedroom and began assembling the bed. We navigated through the instruction manual, amazed that a bed could be so complicated. Slowly the bed began to come together, and four hours later, at 1 am we finally finished. Basking in the glory of this victory, we invited the parents upstairs who marveled at the finished product. Exhausted ourselves, we all called it a night. The next morning when we woke up, we had a tasty breakfast and decided to watch frozen. All four of us kids crowded around my lap top and watched the movie we all loved. It was adorable when Gowri sang along to the songs in a sweet and elated voice. Two hours later when the movie had finished, we had Gowri close her eyes, and we led her to her bed room. The joy on her face when she saw the bed was priceless. She immediately climbed under the covers, unable to believe that the she would get to sleep in the world of Frozen every night. We had a great time with her that weekend. I truly love music. Not only is it enjoyable to listen to, but as these past few blogs have shown, music bring back a plethora of memories and introduces a new way for people to travel.
I love listening to music in the car. Whenever NPR is unavailable, I hit up the local music stations listening to the latest pop music. The other day as I was driving with a friend Pompeii by the band Bastille came up. A wave of nostalgia overcame me and the car ride quickly turned into story time.
The previous spring, after all the AP exams had concluded, it was time to do interesting hands-on activities that tied our whole year’s content together. In AP Biology, this translated to making claymations of biological processes we had learned about throughout the year. A friend and I chose to depict the meiosis process. We labored through moving the clay centimeters at a time to make a seemingly smooth video and we attempted to create chromosomes, spindle fibers, centrioles, and cells with various color clay blocks. It was a very enjoyable project though. The atmosphere of our class room had become drastically more relaxed as we all realized that the AP test was done, and there wasn’t any more we could do to change that. Everyone began to appreciate the stressful year for all that we had learned. We would blast music as we created our claymation.
Everyone had left the AP test feeling fairly confident about having done well on it and we all began to realize how great a teacher we had the entire year. In this spirit, my partner and I decided to end our video with pictures we had accumulated over the course of the year from the class and a short thank you note to our teacher. As we added the finishing touches to our claymation, we decided that we needed some background music. Pompeii ended up being the perfect song. By chance, the lyrics “the walls kept tumbling down” lined up perfectly with the cell walls breaking down and the cells separating during the meiosis process.
Thus when that song came on the radio, I was taken back to AP Biology the previous year, and had a bittersweet feeling. As nice as it was being done with the course, I had really appreciated the challenge, I had great classmates, and I enjoyed having such a helpful teacher. Sharing this memory calmed my friend, who is currently taking this class and was somewhat stressed about the class at the time.
Thinking about this memory, I thought about the talk from Amy Belfi the previous week. Music really does enhance memory recollection.
“Listening to music is a form of traveling.” When I was introduced to this idea a few weeks ago, I was surprised that I hadn’t thought about music in that way before. As part the lecture series at my school, we had a speaker from the neuroscience department at the University of Iowa, Amy Belfi. Her research focused on music’s ability to enhance memories. From her research, thus far, she had determined that the prefrontal cortex of the brain helps connect songs and memories, and she also concluded that songs help retain memory more so than visual items like pictures.
As she explained her research she gave the example of a 90s pop song that took her back to a high school show choir competitions. She went on to play the most popular songs of the decade for the past 50 years. It was obvious when she entered the 21st century because the auditorium instantly erupted with murmurs of kids singing the songs, or jiving to the rhythm. I immediately turned to my friend and told her this song reminded me of the awkward middle school dances.
At the conclusion of her presentation, Amy Belfi really brought her research home by explaining the potential implications of her research. If music is better able to preserve memories than pictures, this is a possible treatment for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease.
It was crazy to think that listening to music, something I love to do, can not only enhance memories, but also help individuals with Alzheimer’s have a better quality of life. Apparently, I need to listen to music even more often!
In Visions of the Daughter of Albion, poet William Blake compares memories to a form of mental time-travel, stating that memories “traverse times and spaces far remote”. This got me thinking of how memories truly are a form of travel and I thought of how memories transport me at the most random times.
Last week as I labored over my tedious US history reading, a text from a friend brought me back to life and instantly transported me back to a challenging but wonderful summer. Suddenly I was with my friends from the SSTP research program, crowding in the basement at midnight as tornado sirens went off, comforting all the kids who had traveled from other regions and had never experienced a tornado. The next second I was sitting at a large dining table at the Hillcrest Hall, laughing with these friends about failed experiments in lab. Next we were all gasping for breath after an intense game of ultimate Frisbee, well past dark. After that I was in the lounge on the floor of my dorm room, blasting music, dancing with friends, and sampling various exotic food. Finally I was in tears as I said goodbye to all my friends on the last day of of the research program. All these memories came flooding back to me in a split second. Sitting at my kitchen counter, in front of my school textbook, I had just traveled a hundred miles and relived my summer.
Memories are truly fascinating. The more you recollect them, the stronger the memory gets because the neural synapses strengthen. The memories are also a form of travel, because you revisit the places you have been and the people you were with. As I sat there texting my friend and catching up with her on exciting events, I appreciated my ability to recollect memories and communicate with a friend sitting in North Carolina. While I stayed at home I was able to travel back in time mentally, and travel across the country at the same time with memories and technology.