The Anatomy of Music
The song came on the radio and an image flashed: She was wearing a blue skirt that swirled like the wind as she moved. A black belt was tight around her waist holding in her silky white blouse. The room was cloudy, filled with the haze of cigarette smoke. He held her tight as he spun her around the dance floor. His deep, brown eyes were holding her gaze as her cheeks became hot and the fluttering in her stomach grew. She could smell the musky scent of his warm skin pressed to her face.
As she sat staring out the window of her room in the senior facility, her body swayed in her wheelchair. She could feel the smile growing across her face. That memory was more than 65 years ago but in her mind it was vivid and alive. She was reliving it.
Our memories are the threads of the fabric that makes up our life stories. We weave these memories from the past into the present like a well-made tapestry, the threads made up of emotions, images, smells, temperature, and physical sensations.
While memories can be triggered by sounds, smells, and places, music appears to be one of the strongest triggers to evoke the most vivid memories, particularly when a song hasn’t been heard for a long time.
When we hear a song for the first time, our brain processes it through the auditory cortex as we integrate the melodies, harmonies, and rhythms. Our premotor cortex, the area of the brain that coordinates movement, is activated as we sing along to the song. When we dance to the music, our