As the haunting melody of “Danny Boy” drifted through the National Cathedral during the memorial service for Senator John McCain, millions of listeners heard an old Irish ballad beloved by generations of Americans. For some, it awakened personal memories of love and loss. But for others hearing the song for the first time, it will always evoke that moment of collective national mourning. Such is the power of music to connect us with meaningful experiences and stay permanently in our hearts and minds.
All of us have musical memories we associate with the poignant, joyful, and celebratory times in our lives. When Dan Kruse returns to the Arizona Senior Academy on Wednesday (Sept. 19) to talk about “Music and Memory,” he will ask the audience to share a few memories of their own.
He will discuss how one song like “The Star-Spangled Banner” evokes so many different memories. He will also highlight such musical cultures of remembering as the New Orleans jazz funeral and the Syrian-Jewish songs called pizmonim. The program begins at 3:00 and ends at 4:30 p.m.
In New Orleans, an old-fashioned funeral procession is both a farewell and a celebration of life of the person it honors. As the musicians and mourners make their way to the cemetery, the music tends to be somber and restrained, but on the return the jazz band breaks out into lively marches and onlookers join the line and dance.
For Syrian Jews of the diaspora, pizmonim, which are songs sacred to Jewish texts and Syrian culture, play a major role in ceremonial and social life and reinforce memories of the Middle East. Yet, while preserving their musical traditions, the songs also absorb ideas from their new homelands.
“Music and Meaning,” the last in this series, will begin at 3 p.m. on Sept. 26.
Written by Caroline Bates, Academy Village Volunteer