Song and Memory

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  • Location: New York, NY

Song and Memory

American culture is rich in forgetting. Every day we see it taking place; we see news cycles coming to an end, we see ideas and trends that were formerly imperative to the culture wiped from the collective consciousness, we see villains inexplicably rehabilitated and heroes consigned to the dustbin of history. Forgetting is so hardwired into the American identity that we almost seem to forget that we remember anything.

So what do we remember?

One thing we do remember is the music of childhood. These songs carry untold amounts of sentimental freight: the carpet in the living room where the song in question was once heard, the smell of that car interior where the AM radio played, our father's hairstyle, our mother's dress, our siblings' annoying habit of trying to sing the harmony, and so forth.

At the same time, what emerges from these memories is more than personal remembrances. These memories capture a lost past for all of us. We are able step into the 1930's and hear Ethel Waters sing the blues for the first time. We can trace the roots of a lullaby sung through generations. We can hear vivid recollections of moments of
cultural ferment, whatever the period: the student movement, the Vietnam War, the Watergate years, etc.

The Song & Memory Series is an ongoing catalogue of these kinds of youthful memories that also are an oral history of our nation's culture and history in song. Mostly the memories are preserved in interviews of a few minutes each, accompanied by a short bit of singing, in which the interviewee attempts to reconstruct the song or songs of his or her youth from memory.

The Song & Memory Series is produced by Ann Heppermann, Rick Moody and Kara Oehler. It appears regularly on American Public Media's Weekend America. We're also creating additional pieces for PRX. We'll be updating this page pretty often, so check back frequently. The Song & Memory series also receives support from Hearing Voices.



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A sad ending for a childhood hamster set to the tune of Manhattan by Rogers and Hart

Bought by and PRX Remix

  • Added: May 17, 2006
  • Length: 03:14
  • Purchases: 2
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Remember the Time by Michael Jackson provides a soundtrack for Pascall's memory of being disciplined by his cousin.

Bought by PRX Remix

  • Added: May 15, 2006
  • Length: 03:30
  • Purchases: 1
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A Brooklyn woman how on St. Patrick's Day her father and his friends from the neighborhood would sing a spirited rendition of the classic drinking ...

Bought by Spokane Public Radio, PRX Remix, New Hampshire Public Radio, The Neighborhood, and WFUV

  • Added: May 15, 2006
  • Length: 03:34
  • Purchases: 5
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A song and memory story about a Christian summer camp, John Denver and a psychotherapeutic fad from the seventies.

Bought by New Hampshire Public Radio, PRX Remix, and KRCC-FM

  • Added: May 15, 2006
  • Length: 04:11
  • Purchases: 3
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The exhiled son of Ghana's former emir, king of the Muslim people, remembers the song his father listened to as he carried the burden of leading Gh...

Bought by PRX Remix, KUOW, KCUR, and KZYX

  • Added: May 15, 2006
  • Length: 05:16
  • Purchases: 4