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  • Writer's pictureNathaniel Keen

"I was very flattered"

Musician: Nathaniel Keen (guitar)

Today was a gorgeous, bright and warm day. Hipsters and their little dogs were sprawled out on benches along the canal, sipping their iced lattes and angling their bodies towards the sun. Spring has been teasing us for a while now, but today felt like the official announcement of its arrival. Warmer weather is welcomed by most of us but even more so at Bridgeside Lodge where the residents have endured another tough winter inside. Throughout the summer we'll be providing plenty of musical happenings out in the garden for everybody to enjoy, including the canal loungers and the pugs.

I spent a long time with resident JG today, she very much enjoys visits from us musicians and the feeling is mutual. For a long time, I've found something fascinating about the duality of her memory, on one superficial level our visits seem to reset each time as her memory of us and the session quickly fades away. However, I believe that there is a more permanent, deeper nourishment and memory that comes through music. I've often wondered how is it possible for somebody to forget a person after 10 minutes but then to hear a melody once or twice and remember it for a month....

JG has demonstrated her musical retention ability with me on several occasions and today I was amazed to hear her singing 'Ca' The Ewes' again, having briefly taught her the melody months ago.

Upon hearing Jane join in with the melody, I asked her:

Nat: you remembered it?!

JG: Well yes, I must recognise it

Nat: I actually find it amazing, you might not remember but I visit you fairly regularly to play music and you've mentioned that sometimes you forget things?

JG: oh yes!, I've got a memory like a sieve...

Nat: ..but, what's amazing is that I briefly taught you this tune more than a month ago and you remembered it, isn't that amazing?

JG: I don't find it so very amazing as all that, because I was probably very flattered that you wanted me to sing or to make some music with you

Nat: So you feel like therefore the music was stored more deeply in your memory?

JG: yes, yes I do

Nat: I just find it fascinating that music seems to be stored and recalled from a different part of the brain. We might forget somebody's name after 10 mins but can then recall an entire melody months later having heard it once or twice.

JG: well yes, I've never actually had that thought before but now you've said that, I realise that that is really very surprising indeed, and it explains perhaps a lot of things about forms like Opera and so on...

We continued to sing through the song, through the many verses of old English text which neither of us fully understood but enjoyed guessing at. Jane's confidence grew as the verses progressed and by the end, I had cast away the stabilisers and she was taking the lead. It's so clear that the engagement these sessions bring are incredibly important to Jane and although she might not remember the finer details, she does remember melodies, and in these moments, she feels connected and alive.

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