Music and memory – our soundtrack in the age of LOCKDOWN!

We are living through HISTORY at the moment. In the years and decades to come, we will look back on this season. Our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren will ask us about the “Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020”.

What will you remember about this time?

Lockdown newspaper 2020
Local Cape Town Newspaper from Lockdown 2020

I want to suggest that MUSIC can play a role in helping us to recall the details of this season, as well as the emotions around it.

Have you ever heard a song and it has brought back a memory?

That memory may include the place where you heard the song, what you were doing at the time, how you felt and sometimes even a sensory trigger, like the memory of a certain taste or smell.

The effect is so profound that a heart-warming movement called “Music and Memory” creates personalised playlists for residents with dementia in nursing homes. Apparently, the response is incredible!  Eyes light up and bodies start to move with the rhythm, as the music awakens memories of forgotten lives.

Read more about the amazing work of the organisation “MUSIC and MEMORY” here –

All this from a piece of music! Which begs the question …

Why does music impact memory so profoundly?

Neuroscientists have analysed the brain mechanisms related to memory, finding that words set to music are the easiest to remember.  We can all relate to that. Just try and remember anything set to a tune and your powers of recall will be stronger!

Apparently, the hippocampus and the frontal cortex are two large areas in the brain associated with memory. They take in a great deal of information every second. But, we all know from experience, that retrieving all that information is not always easy.

The structure of a song helps us to remember, because it provides a rhythm, rhyme and sometimes alliteration, which helps to unlock that information with cues.  The cues can also include things like the melody or the images that the song lyrics evoke.

Neuroscientists are constantly discovering more and more about how music affects memory.

A 2009 study done by cognitive neuroscientist Dr. Petr Janata at the University of California, found a potential explanation for the link between music and memory. The study mapped the brain activity of a group of subjects while they listened to music. 

Dr. Janata found that songs linked to strong emotions and memories corresponded with fMRI images that had greater activity in the upper part of the pre-frontal cortex. This is the section of the brain which sits right behind the forehead. This suggests that this area of the brain, which is also responsible for supporting and retrieving long-term memories, acts as a “hub” that links together music, emotions, and memories.

The soundtrack of LOCKDOWN

Little girl cuddling her teddy

What are you listening to at the moment?

What songs and instrumentals will you and your children associate with LOCKDOWN in the future?

An anthem of hope

As parents, let’s fill our children’s brains with memories of how we loved them, cared for them, nurtured them and did our best during these extraordinary times.

Let’s use the MUSIC of this season to evoke feelings of hope and perseverance in adversity.

One day in the future we will hear a song on the radio or a piece of instrumental music, and our mind will flood with memories.

We’ll turn to each other and say … remember the CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC of 2020!

That’s the power that music has in helping us to remember.