Alive Inside: Music Triggers Memories

Every year, I look forward to fall movie season—comedies, crazy horror movies (looking at you, Tusk,) big blockbusters, and sweet, small romantic dramas—I don’t have a favorite genre. As long as its well written and well acted, I’m in.

I’m also a nut for music, and the two are combined with great effect in the documentary, Alive Inside. Great documentaries not only entertain, but by their very nature, teach us something we didn’t know before or gives us a deeper understanding of a subject. Documentary filmmakers are rarely in it for the money, so you know that telling their story is a labor of love.

Filmmaker Michael Rossato-Bennett follows social worker Dan Cohen, founder of the organization Music & Memory, a nonprofit that uses music to trigger memory and emotion to those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and memory loss. Winner of the Audience Award for U.S. Documentary at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, the film showed music’s capability of reawakening the mind and soul of the listener, restoring an individual’s sense of self, especially when that person is battling memory loss.

It’s been chronicled that those with Alzheimer’s and dementia feel emotion long after memory has faded. Alive Inside shows nursing home patients respond to the music they enjoyed in their youth.

Just as “Radar Love” takes me back to cruising the streets of Chicago in my first car (a 1970 Nova), Henry reacts to the big band music played through an iPod and headphones. The 94-year-old man suffers from dementia and initially seems cut off from the outside world. We watch as he listens. The transformation is immediate and profound. Henry sits up, sways to the music, and starts raving about how much he loves Cab Calloway. He responds to questions and suddenly he is full of energy and life.

The movie is full of those kind of examples. Mr. Rossato-Bennett spent three years watching and recording the effects of music therapy. At its best, the movie let’s us see the transformation of memory loss patients from isolated to reconnected—all through the power of music.

The documentary also contains interviews with experts including renowned neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks, who discusses links between music and emotion and the strength of musical memories. Musician Bobby McFerrin (Don’t Worry, Be Happy) also weighs in on the power of music as a trigger of emotional memory.


Caregiverlist supports the family and professional caregiver and understands the challenges of caring for seniors with memory loss. We think music therapy is a great technique for connecting with those with Alzheimer's disease.

And if you are looking for a a little escapist fun in theaters this fall, Irma la Douce and Captain von Trapp (Shirley MacLaine and Christopher Plummer) are living it up in Elsa & Fred, an American remake of a 2005 Spanish-Argentine film of the same name.

Do you have an issue you'd like to see tackled on this blog? Connect with Renata on Google+

Loading

Log in