The Necessity of Musical Hallucinations – Issue 20: Creativity

During the last months of my mother’s life, as she ventured further from lucidity, she was visited by music. In collusion with her dementia, her hearing loss filled her consciousness with musical hallucinations. Sometimes welcome, more often not, her musical visitations were vivid, yet segmented and tattered. She would occasionally comment on the singers. On rare occasions she would identify the performer.

Mitch Miller, who wrote oppressively cheerful arrangements of popular songs from the 1950s, seemed to command a prominent role in her hallucinations.

At times she would spontaneously hum fragmentary melodies, apparently singing along to the music she was hearing. But since the music was inaudible to me, all I heard were occasional vocalizations. I felt compelled to transcribe these wordless shards of her past for posterity. Here are the notes I transcribed on Jan. 16, 2010, played on a piano.

With lots of patience and some luck, I was able to trace these fragments comprised of ascending melodic leaps, and among my mother’s more persistent and recurrent visitations, to their origin, a popular song from the 1940s called “Cruising Down the River.”

“Cruising Down the River” was number one on the Billboard charts the week…
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