Thursday, April 12, 2012

The day Henry got his iPod!

How music worked its magic in 'awakening' this man
Wednesday, March 12, 2012

Meet Henry, a man who has been in a nursing home for 10 years, who spends his time hunched over his chair, unresponsive and depressed.

Then caretaker Yyonne Russell puts headphones on his head, linked to an iPod full of music from his childhood.

And the transformation begins.

A moving YouTube excerpt of Alive Inside, a new documentary about the power of music to awaken deeply locked memories has gathered more than a million hits. It features neurologist Oliver Sacks, best known for his 1973 book Awakenings. The book was made into an Oscar-nominated film of the same name in 1990, starring Robert De Niro and Robin Williams. Awakenings deals with patients in strange, frozen states, unable to initiate movement and Sacks’ treatment of them with what was then an experimental drug, called L-dopa.

In the excerpt, Henry becomes animated, voluble and able to express his feelings about music. “I’m crazy about music,” says the man, who can usually only answer “yes” or “no.” And he uses terms such as “love,” “dream,” “sound,” “romance” to describe his feelings. He even breaks into his favourite song, “I’ll be home for Christmas” from his favourite artist Cab Calloway, a jazz singer and master scat singer of the 1930s and 1940s.

“Immediately he lights up,” says Sack, whom New York Times once called, “the poet laureate of medicine.”

“His face assumes expression, his eyes open wide, he starts to sing, to rock and to move his arms . . . he is being animated by the music.”

Alive Inside premiers April 18 at the Rubin Museum in New York City. Its website states, “Besides telling a moving story, it is our hope that this film will encourage widespread adoption of personalized music programs in nursing homes and outpatient therapy in homes . . . It questions when we stop being human, and what it takes to restart a life that has faded away. It asks questions about how we see our elderly.”


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