Day 208: What Life Sounds Like

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July 26, 2012 by Alex Hoekstra

I wonder if music is really a universal language – whether across the galaxies, our symphonies and pop hits will resonate with their original meaning in the ears of alien species….who might not actually have ears.  Well, regardless of whether the Klingons can appreciate the depth of Beethoven, the spirit of The Ramones or the soul of Mavis Staples, music appears at least to be a global language – one shared at least in part by almost every human civilization.  It’s different wherever you go – nobody speaks quite the same dialect – but walking into a totally unknown culture and discovering their music is a sturdy common ground on which to make that first, critical connection.  Music is powerful in a way that words cannot be.  Today’s project is discovering just power powerful music can be.

When I first saw the video of Henry, whose eyes lit up, whose soul came to life when music filled his ears, I was dumbfounded.  The video (which you should have watched by now) went viral last month because I think the response to something like that really is innate to humanity: amazement, wonder, reverence and joy.  And for me at least, curiosity.  I knew even then that Henry’s story wasn’t alone (though certainly unique in many ways).  I didn’t know, though, that his was just one of many more being explored and chronicled by a documentary team out to discover the profound effects that music has on the human mind, body and soul.  ALIVE INSIDE is that documentary.

Alive Inside is the story of Dan Cohen, a small town social worker who discovers the power personalized music has to “awaken” and regenerate deeply locked memories in patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s.

This film is simultaneously a fascinating study of the human mind, and a heart-warming exhibition of the human spirit, reawakened unexpectedly and remarkably.  If the music-memory connection is something we don’t yet fully understand on a neurological, biochemical or genetic level, it’s one that we can all at least observe with the same feeling of wonder.  These stories create a common dimension for people of every condition, every background, every perspective to inhabit – to find as common ground, and to share in.  Henry’s story is breathtaking to watch, and this film is revealing how un-alone his story is.  Remember to breathe, and please, please consider supporting the film before July 31 so that these stories can be told – seen and heard and taken to heart, everywhere.


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