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Harnessing the Power of Music

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Oliver Sacks once said in his book, Musicophilia:

"The power of music whether joyous or cathartic must steal on one unawares, come spontaneously as a blessing or a grace..."

Music has incredible power. People today listen to music all the time, walking down streets and sitting in subway cars. We can't escape music.

For many of us, certain songs have this mystical power of throwing us into the past to a certain time and place. It might be a wonderful memory or a memory we would rather not remember. Regardless, we begin to understand that our brain and music have a pretty special relationship.

Musicophilia coverI myself am fascinated by the connection between our brain and music. I've read Sacks's Musicophilia and also enjoyed Daniel Levitin's book This is Your Brain on Music. So when the Music & Memory Drive came up as a potential intern project I could work on, I immediately picked it up.

Music & Memory is a non-profit organization founded by Dan Cohen. He realized that people with Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia responded well when they were given iPods with their favorite music from their younger years. Some of you might know the Music & Memory clip that went viral (see below). It's fondly known as the Henry clip and shows a man who becomes animated, alert, and alive when he is given his iPod. The clip is amazing, no matter how many times you've seen it. To watch Henry transform, all because of a few songs, is incredible.

Cohen (and others) realized areas of the brain that are responsible for memories and have been affected by Alzheimer's or dementia can be stimulated when music they once loved is played. They created this organization and collect used iPods every day for Alzheimer's patients across the country.

The Kingsbridge Library in the Bronx and their Teen Advisory Group (TAG) decided to start a drive of their own. The kickoff occurred last Friday (March 22) and I was there to see it begin. We had several teens there and they took an interest to this program. I'm hoping these teens can be the movers and shakers for this project and help to put this drive into high gear.

From now until May 31st, the Kingsbridge Library will be collecting gently used iPods that will be used by the residents of Kingsbridge Heights Rehabilitation and Care Center. I hope that once the drive is over, the TAG group and others will head over to Kingsbridge Heights not only to donate the iPods but also to volunteer there and help put music on these iPods and talk to some of the patients.

If you are interested in making a donation, finding out more, volunteering once the drive is over, or becoming a part of the team, please contact the Kingsbridge Library.

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