Musical Memory

by Barbara Cook

I have had two careers – the first in dance.  I was a ballet dancer, teacher, choreographer and examiner for the Royal Academy of Dance.  At age 49 I went back to school, to university, and graduated at 54 to become an ordained minister of the United Church of Canada.  I was settled in a three-point charge (three congregations) in rural Manaitoba, and several years later I moved into Winnipeg.  I didn’t notice any problems with my hearing until some time after I had retired.  Music has been a large, important part of my life, in both careers.  There are pieces that I know thoroughly.  This is because in order to choreograph, I listened to the music over and over until it was part of me.  Over time, I grew to realize that I don’t hear music inside me in my singing voice, I hear it as if an orchestra is playing, or a jazz group, or a piano or other instrument.

I love to attend concerts – lots of them.  Gradually though, I have been moving my seat in order to sit nearer to the players.  For instance, at the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, I have sat up in the loges, and on the main floor in the sixteenth row.  Now I sit in the front row.  I know the sound balance is off as I am too near the violins, but I have found good things are happening just the same.  I can feel the music rolling over me until I am enveloped in it, as if I am part of it, and part of the music-making process.  Wow!  Now I want to collect as many musical experiences as I can, so tht as I hear less I will have it stored in my mind.

I often think of Beethoven who still wrote music when he was completely deaf.  He never heard an orchestra play his 9th Symphony.  I now understand that he heard the music inside himself, enabling him to write the different parts with great feeling and accuracy.  So I will continue to enjoy concerts as much as I can, and store the music in my mind.  Even if I lose all of my hearing, I will still be able to listen in my mind to the wonderful sounds I have heard and put away for future enjoyment.