Memories sparked by music

As I was exploring the Electro exhibition at the Philharmonie de Paris, I was in awe of the transformation of electronic dance music over time. I did not know what to expect when I walked through those doors. Although I have recently been exposed to what goes into making a beat, I was truly amazed at the amount of detail and planning that needs to happen in order to create a harmonious sound. However, I don’t listen to electronic music all that often, and I was shocked at how much I was enjoying the exhibit. I realized that some of my favorite memories have been attached to songs and when I hear them, that rush of emotions comes back. I feel like I am reliving some of the best nights. Music has the power to move me emotionally and helps me remember experiences I wouldn’t always remember otherwise. I am always amazed with how much one song can mean to me, not because of the words but because of what memories are associated with it.

Part of the Electro exhibition

As I was walking through the Electro exhibition, I was reminded of some of my favorite nights listening to my friend make music, and it took me back to a time of such happiness. There have been studies conducted that conclude that music is strongly interconnected with memories (Belfi et al, 2015). In one study, participants heard 30 different songs and saw 30 different faces of famous people. The researchers were looking to measure the strength of memories evoked listening to the songs compared to looking at the faces. They found that the participants had stronger memory association for details and specific autobiographical information when listening to the songs (Belfi et al, 2015).  However, the researchers used a self-evaluation survey to rate the strength of autobiographical memory evoked by each stimulus. This recording strategy may have resulted in a bias or inaccurate association. This study helps us understand that it is possible for music to activate memories with greater specificity. The music in the exhibition had a similar effect on me as well. I was able to remember feeling happy and at peace  while sitting in my friend’s apartment listening to electronic music.

The same feeling of happiness and serenity may be triggered years from now by hearing the same kind of music. This phenomenon could be applied to help patients struggling with Alzheimer’s because music has also been shown to enhance memory in these patients (Cuddy and Duffin, 2005). Researchers wanted to test to see if listening to music helped patients learn and recognize new information (Simmons-Stern, 2010). By pairing unknown lyrics with sung or spoken recordings, the researchers measured which modality was easier to remember for these patients (Simmons-Stern, 2010). They found that after showing the song and the spoken word, the patients with Alzheimer’s disease recognized more words in the sung recordings rather than the spoken word as shown in the figure below (Simmons-Stern, 2010). Healthy patients did not have a preference between modality. To strengthen their conclusion, the researchers made sure to leave out any songs the subjects recognized prior to the study. This study helped demonstrate that there is a possibility of heightening arousal and memory for patients with Alzheimer’s disease through the use of music. Heightened memory may describe why listening to the specific music in the exhibit triggered happiness and peace for me.

The Recognition of Song vs. Spoken Lyric for AD and Control Patients

Stimulation in Electro Exhibit where you could make your own beat

Throughout the Electro exhibition, I was impressed with the way the sound made me feel. Even though I was just listening to the beat, I felt so at home in that space. I was truly impressed with how quickly I was able to transport myself to a different moment. As I walked to the part of the exhibit that let me manipulate instruments to make my own beat, I felt so happy, and I realize now that it’s because the music evoked a memory of my best friend teaching me to do the same thing on his computer. The comfort and happiness of that moment flooded me because the music I was listening triggered an emotional memory.


Belfi AM, Karlan B, Tranel D (2015) Music evokes vivid autobiographical memories. Memory24:979–989.

Cuddy LL, Duffin J (2005) Music, memory, and Alzheimer’s disease: is music recognition spared in dementia, and how can it be assessed? Medical Hypotheses64:229–235.

Simmons-Stern NR, Budson AE, Ally BA (2010) Music as a memory enhancer in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Neuropsychologia48:3164–3167.

Photo of Study:

Simmons-Stern NR, Budson AE, Ally BA (2010) Music as a memory enhancer in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Neuropsychologia48:3164–3167.




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