Did You Remember the Camera?

My family has always  mutually supported all of our musical pursuits. Piano recitals, church soloes, boys’ choirs, school symphonies, all city choirs, variety shows, church choirs, musicals, youth symphonies, high school ensembles. I’m sure there are more I’m forgetting.

Remembering correctly is part of what I’m up to with this blog. As I head home to Wichita for a weekend visit, the instruments sitting around my parents’ house as I grew up are on my mind. My dad played the trombone as a teenager and kept it around – he probably still has it. Mom grew up playing the piano. Sister 1 (the middle child) started my generation off with the piano, then I (the oldest) brought in a violin. Sister 1 then took on a second instrument – the oboe – in late elementary, right about the time Sister 2 (the youngest child) started piano. Of course all of us sang in the church and in the house and in the car and in the yard more or less from birth. For all our efforts, I think everyone would forgive me for divulging right now that Sister 1 (the middle child) is the only real maestro of the family.

In anticipation of my visit and considering my new endeavors, I’ve asked my mom to think about where some old pictures of me playing the violin might be. As I’ve compiled the above lists, it’s occurred to me that while music was a hugely significant part of my childhood, I have almost no photo-reinforced memories of any of the musical part of it.

Photos have a strong way of reinforcing memories. It’s because memories are forged most strongly when they are experienced through multiple sensory channels, and the visual channel is one of our species’ strongest. Photos can also plant memories – many of our early memories that have been reinforced by photos were not laid down at the time the photo was taken at all, but rather they were imprinted upon viewing and re-viewing the photo after the fact.

Of course photos were not as ubiquitous when our household ensemble was active. Now that every gadget we’ve got has a camera, in the era of social media and (mea culpa) blogs, many of us have taken to narcissistically recording much of our lives.  Love it or hate it, it’s interesting to think about the influence so many of us doing all this chronicling might have on our individual and societal memories. Will having reference-book type access to so much information about our pasts make us biologically lazy, as in, will our capacity to remember diminish as the tools we create are able to hold more of our knowledge for us?

I don’t think so. I think we’ll be better at remembering as we evolve. We are in an era that enables us to obsessively review our pasts from the moment we create them, and all that reviewing will help us better remember.

I’m struggling to decide how much photo content to include in this space – I am a word person, and I plan to maintain a word-person’s blog. But we’ll see what develops.  I do look forward to delving into the family albums shortly for those “boy with violin” pics.

Thanks for reading,


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