Skip to content

Alive Inside

August 6, 2014

“Best seats in the house, eh?” the woman emphatically exclaimed to us. SY and I laughed and agreed. We were sitting in the front row on the top floor of the Bloor Cinema, chatting to the people next to us about other documentaries that were also showing at the Cinema, eagerly awaiting the start of this documentary, “Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory.”


Then it was all hush hush, the doc was about to start.

I couldn’t help but sob through most of this documentary. All around me, people were crying. The woman beside me who had earlier been discussing Vivian Maier and 112 Weddings with me was now frantically looking through her purse for tissues. The couple behind me took turns sniffling.  The couple to SY’s right kept saying to each other, “Hey, I love that song!”

SY later said to me, “Dude, you were like sobbing through the whole thing,” to which I said, “Dude, you have no emotions. You are like a rock!” But I was only kidding, of course. SY was full of tears as well, just not to the same extent as I was.

Winner of the 2014 Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival, Alive Inside illuminates the extraordinary power of music and what it can do for us. Dan Cohen, a social worker in the US working in nursing homes, witnessed over the years the effect of music on patients with Alzheimer’s. It made them alive again. It makes them alive again. Music brought them back to themselves again. Music brings them back to themselves again.

Cohen created this organization called, Music and Memory, which fights to get patients their own iPods with personalized music–music from their respective pasts. I mean, what a wonderful and simple idea! $45 for iPod, and you have given a person so much more.

I was sobbing throughout the movie for so many reasons. The obvious reason was that the documentary was just plain moving. Seeing how such a simple thing like an iPod, something that most us throw around and take for granted, can literally change a person’s life makes you feel so sad and yet so incredibly happy at the same time. My tears were tears of happiness for the Alzheimer’s patients who felt alive again, recalling their “past” selves. I do not mean to say that these people’s lives lack meaning or purpose. On the contrary, I am saying that the meanings and purposes are within them and that music is what draws it out.

I was sobbing because I could imagine myself in their position, and I think this was the reason why everyone else was sobbing, too. We cried out of empathy; we cried out of happiness.

I cried because I could feel the joy radiating through the screen. I cried because I already know first hand the exalting power of music.

Music is my life. And everyone who knows me well knows this well about me.

This is strange to say, but I rarely cry for myself, as in I rarely cry about things that happen to me, etc. But this does not mean to say that I don’t cry. On the contrary, I think I cry more often than the average person–almost every day actually. I cry when I laugh. Tears literally stream down my face when I laugh, and that’s why I almost never wear mascara or eyeliner. I look like a monster with black smudges around her eyes who is both laughing (and yet crying) at the same time. Sometimes people ask me whether I’m laughing or crying because they just can’t tell.

I cry when I watch sad movies and read sad books, and of course, I cry when I listen to music.

During exam time of last December, I was at the school library studying when I decided to take a mental break. I went on Youtube and typed in Andrea Bocelli and stumbled upon “The Lord’s Prayer.” The first three words/notes sung are glorious. Does it not send chills down your spine? The ending surely will. When I listened to this song for the first time, sitting at the school’s computer, I started crying. I felt so… loved. I felt so… connected. I felt like everything made sense and that I was finally complete–whole.

The guy beside me turned and asked me if I was okay–that was how intense it was.

I was reflecting the other day on what it is about music that has made me think to myself, on two occassions while listening to music, “If I were to die now, I would have died extremely happy.” What is it about music that makes me feel so myself, so transcendentally happy in a way that I’ve never experienced, so connected to some supernatural power that is beyond me?

I don’t know the full answer to that question, but I do know that one reason why I love music so much is because it allows me to imagine. My music imagery is, I know, off the charts. It is through music that I travel to different worlds. It is through music that I live.

When I listen to Dmitri Shostakovitch’s “Waltz No. 2,” I am transported beyond the walls of my baby-blue room to a majestic palace where I am romantically spinning across the dance floor, my hooped-skirt swaying with me, with a handsome man who actually knows how to waltz.

Or when I listen to Anna Netrebko sing Musetta’s waltz song from Puccini’s “La Bohème,” I feel so at expressive, so emotional that although I have no clue what the words mean, I find myself, raising my eyebrows this way and that, widening my eyes and then closing them as I vocalize the sounds along with her.

Orchestral/operatic pieces have the strongest hold on me; they have the power to move me to tears, but virtually anything lyrical or melodic can act as a portal to another world.

Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” makes me feel like I am singing at a country dance hall, swaying on stage and heartbroken.

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, The Platters’ version, makes me rest my chin in both of my palms, with my elbows perched on the window sill, and gaze longingly out the window.

John Denver’s “You Fill Up My Senses (Annie’s Song)” makes me feel like I am the main character of a Bohemian romance who is in her senior years, reflecting on the wonderful love affair she had as a girl.

Dean Martin’s “That’s Amore” transforms me into an Italian belle singing this with a signore as we drift along in a gondola.

Music constantly jogs my memory too, making me recall past moments in my life. Every time I listen to Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream,” I am transported back to August 22nd, 2010. It is a Sunday. I am in the back of my parents’ car, all of my prized belongings in the trunk. The windows are down and the wind streaming through my face and hair, I’m on my way to “an exciting new life” that awaits me in Montréal. I’m young. I’m naive. I’m full of hope. I’m full of dreams. Now, when I listen to that song, I’m 17 again.

Wham! “Last Christmas” doesn’t take me back to a time of heartache but instead takes me back to my second time driving the car by myself. I had just dropped my dad off at his Christmas dinner with his tennis buddies and decided to take a pit stop on the way home at my favourite fro-yo place. Yes, I do like fro-yo, even in December. After I got my fro-yo, I pulled back out onto the street, and as I did so, “Last Christmas” came on the radio. I turned the volume up, not only because I loved this song but also because I was so happy to finally be driving on my own. Mostly, I wanted to be like one of those movie characters who belted out songs in the car by themselves.  As I drove home, I became one of those “movie characters” who belted songs out at the top of her lungs.

Music is amazing, and I just cannot imagine my life without it. The documentary has reminded me of my love for it, and I am so happy that music can affect others in the same way that it affects me. It has the power to enlighten, the power to help you remember, the power to help you know yourself. I would not be who I am today without music. And I will not be me if I ever lost music.

It is through music that I find myself over and over and still all over again.

The words of a song that we used to sing in fourth-grade music class hold true: “Music moves me to laugh or sing or cry. Music moves me to reach right to the sky!”

So I say, go watch the documentary! If it’s not playing in your area, please visit the site here, and if you can, find out whether the Alzheimer’s society in your city is collecting donations for new or used iPods and donate!  It will make someone very happy and will change his/her life. (If you are living in Toronto, you can click here and find out how to donate an iPod.)


Here are other posts about how much I love music:

Click here to read all about how I like to stick my head in my piano.

Click here to read all about how I don’t care if I never fall in love so long as I can listen to music.




So apparently, I have sworn off (romantic) love on two separate occasions and have traded it in for music.




And here is something that I found absolutely, positively hilarious:




No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: