Memory and music now

Memory and music now
Photo by Margaret H. Laing

“I remember the time I knew what happiness was; let the mem’ry live again.” — from “Memory” in the musical “CATS” by Andrew Lloyd Webber

I have been touched deeply by two musical stories resulting from the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Both feature the same little girl, Amelia Anisovych, age seven.

Amelia gained fame on the Internet when she sang the song “Let it Go” from Disney’s “Frozen” — and she sang it to a crowd in a bomb shelter in Ukraine.

In recent days, from safety with relatives in Poland, she appeared at a fundraising concert and sang the Ukrainian national anthem.

I may have been the only U.S. citizen who needed to search out a clip and listen to the translation of “Let it Go,” but I did search. I was touched by how defiant and strong the song is. Amelia Anisovych sang it in Ukrainian — but like any Disney-loving seven-year-old, she sang it from memory.

Then she did the same with the national anthem.

That’s had me thinking. If I were trapped, what song would I sing to anyone with me — or to myself? What stories would I repeat about family members getting through difficult times, or enjoying brighter ones? (Chances are they would be the stories I’ve heard dozens of times, stories I remember my parents telling me.)

What poems would I recite to express the pain of being trapped? One would have to be “A Prayer Under Pressure of Violent Anguish” by Robert Burns.

What songs would I sing to build up morale? “I Have Confidence” from “The Sound of Music” would do nicely — when I feel low, I like to sing that until it’s true.

“Memory,” from “CATS,” would fit, too — the quotation above and “Daylight! I must wait for the sunrise! I must think of a new life, and I mustn’t give in. When the dawn comes, tonight will be a memory too, and a new day will begin.”

Thinking over these powerful memories reminds me that the expression for “memorizing” in much of the English-speaking world is “committing to memory.” It’s a commitment to remember things for when they might be needed.

Music is so connected to memory that a popular hit from a particular year, for good or evil, can bring back the time it was popular like few other things. So when you’re not fond of how things are now, try reminding yourself of music from a different time. I probably wouldn’t escape with my cello if real trouble hit, but the discipline of practicing and memorizing great cello music at least leaves me with tunes to hum or whistle.

What do you feel like listening to or singing repeatedly? Let it, well, happen. Keep the material in your mind.

May you never need it, but if you do, you’ll be ready.

Filed under: Music and language


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  • I usually pick one per decade; at the top of my mind are Carole King: "You Got a Friend" (with or without James Taylor) and Laura Nyro: "And When I Die" (without BS&T). Somehow, I have a thing for female songwriter-singers.

  • In reply to jack:

    One per decade is a good system, Jack. Thank you.

  • Beautiful post! Thank you. Yes, we need music and poetry and beauty, now.
    I wish I could sing Woodie Guthrie's This land is my land, this land is your land, John Lennon's Imagine, and Sade's Soldier of Love.

  • In reply to Weather Girl:

    You're welcome. If you can't sing something, there's always reading the words. Treat them like a poem to remember.

  • To build morale, I would sing, perhaps off key, "You'll Never Walk Alone" from Carousal:

    When you walk through a storm
    Hold your head up high
    And don't be afraid of the dark
    At the end of a storm
    There's a golden sky
    And the sweet silver song of a lark
    Walk on through the wind
    Walk on through the rain
    Though your dreams be tossed and blown
    Walk on, walk on
    With hope in your heart
    And you'll never walk alone
    You'll never walk alone

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    That is, "Carousel".

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Got it.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    That's a great morale-builder. Thank you.

  • Actually, in these times, carousal fits better than it should.

  • In reply to Grundoon:

    Well put, thank you.

  • I was reminded, after a weird bunch of foreshadowings culminating yesterday, of my comment at the end of this Chicago Weather Watch.

  • Thanks, Jack. That is a funny connection.

  • In reply to Margaret H. Laing:

    In my view, tragic. I certainly didn't want for her to go at 49. There's also a personal connection, but as I told WG, not one I would post on a public board.

  • In reply to jack:

    No offense intended, Jack. I should have used "odd" or "curious" rather than "funny," since I did not mean it to be humorous.

  • In reply to Margaret H. Laing:

    None taken. It goes back to the joke "do you mean ha ha funny or peculiar funny?" But you're serious about words.

  • In reply to jack:

    Thanks for noticing, Jack. I just should have been more serious about what kind of "funny" I meant.

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