- We may never pass this way again. [Title of a song by Seals and Crofts]
Only a special work of art can avoid becoming cliche with overuse. The song “Auld Lang Syne” meets this test as well as any. The lyrics are those of a poem by the great Scottish poet Robert Burns.
Remembering and commemorating the past, briefly, serves a useful function. It allows us a catharsis and prepares us to resume our work.
- Antonia Fraser, Must You Go?: My Life with Harold Pinter (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2010).
- Joshua Foer, Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything (The Penguin Press, 2011): about a fellow who tried to perfect his memory.
- Elisa Gabbert, The Unreality of Memory and Other Essays (FSG Originals, 2020): “Gabbert draws masterly portraits of the precise, uncanny affects that govern our psychological relationship to calamity — from survivor’s guilt to survivor’s elation, to the awe and disbelief evoked by spectacles of destruction, to the way we manage anxiety over impending dangers.”
- Susan Minot, Why I Don’t Write and Other Stories (Knopf, 2020): “Minot has always been interested in how the past can flood the present while remaining stubbornly unrecoverable.”
- Janet Malcolm, Still Pictures: On Photography and Memory (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2023): “. . . assembling photographs and vignettes of her family, friends and childhood as an immigrant to America.”
Documentary and Educational Films
- Nostalgia for the Light: “a poetic meditation on time and distance” and a nostalgic look at astronomy, an embattled culture and the driest place on Earth
- The Mouth of the Wolf (La Bocca del Lupo), a “melancholy rumination on time, love and decay”
- Memories of Lisbon, “an elegiac meditation on love lost and rediscovered through misted memory”
Music: songs and other short pieces
- Seals and Crofts, We May Never Pass This Way Again
- Mary Hopkin, Those Were the Days, My Friend
- Chad and Jeremy, A Summer Song
- Brothers 4, Greenfields
- Franz Schubert (composer), Andenken (Remembrance), D. 99 (1814) (lyrics)
- Franz Schubert (composer), Erinnerungen (Memories), D. 98 (1814) (lyrics)
Music: Composers, artists, and major works
Franz Schubert composed his final three piano sonatas in the final month of his life, when he was only thirty-one years old. Pianist Paul Lewis observes that they express turbulence, nostalgia and acceptance.
- Piano Sonata in C minor, D 958 (1828)
- Piano Sonata in A major, D 959 (1828)
- Piano Sonata in B flat major, D 960 (1828)
- Schumann, Myrthen, Op. 25, a cycle of 26 songs, which he dedicated to his wife Clara
- Liszt, Bunte Reihe, s 484, R 149, a cycle of 24 short piano pieces
- Hindemith, When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd: (A Requiem for those we love) (1946), for mezzo-soprano and baritone soloists, chorus, and orchestra, based on the poem by Walt Whitman
- Each movement in Ives, Holidays Symphony, New England Holidays (1919) is based on something of the memory that a man has of his boy holidays.
- Janáček, On an Overgrown Path (Po zarostlém chodníčku), JW8/17 (1908)
- Morton Feldman, Triadic Memories (1981)
- Rihm, ET LUX, for vocal ensemble and string quartet (2009): “Into this memory space, voices are prompted to enter, and what went before redefines itself . . .” (Paul Griffiths, from the liner notes to this album)
- Langaard, Symphony No. 8, “Minder ved Amalienborg” (Memories at Amalienborg), BVN 193 (1926-1928, rev. 1929-1934)
- Glinka, Souvenir d’une nuit d’été à Madrid
- Delius, Over the Hills and Far Away (1897)
- Carbon, Time Out of Mind
- Dun, Eight Memories in Watercolor, Op. 1 (1978, rev. 1982), and 2002 version: “a diary of longing”
- Hayasaka, Piano Concerto (1948): an elegy for victims of World War II.
- Jesús Guridi (1886-1961), piano works: Homenaje a Walt Disney (1956); Ocho Apuentes
- Holst, A Somerset Rhapsody, Op. 21/2, H. 87
- Sainton, The Island (1939): the feeling in this tone poem is about memories stirred by a place, once visited.
- Patrick Hadley, The Trees So High, symphonic ballad for baritone, chorus & orchestra in A Minor: about a young man’s life, cut short.
- Granados, Escenas románticas (Romantic Scenes)
- Dove, The Passing of the Year (2000)
- Lauridsen, Les Chansons Des Roses
- Fennelly, A Sprig of Andromeda (1992): the work is drawn from a letter by Louisa May Alcott on the death of Henry David Thoreau.
- Stephen Albert, Flower of the Mountain: lying next to her husband, a woman remembers their youth together.
- Braga Santos, Concerto for Strings in D Minor, "To the Chamber Music Academy" (1951): remembrance of happy and sad, good and bad, agitated and calm.
- Reed, Giligia (A Song of Remembrance) (1999)
- Raga Anandi Kalyan (Nand – Anandi – Nand Kalyan), for late evening (performances by Rais Khan, Banerjee and Gandharva)
- Paccione, Book of Hours
Jazz and other popular albums:
- Jan Garbarek, Bill Connors, John Taylor and Jack DeJohnette, "Places"
- Andy Fusco, “Remembrance”
- Franz Koglmann, “The Use of Memory”
- Danny Grissett, “Remembrance”
- Yarina, “Remembrance”
- Lukas Huisman, “Finnissy: Gershwin Arrangements, More Gershwin”
New Age albums:
- George Winston, “Remembrance: A Memorial Benefit”
- Deuter, “East of the Full Moon”
- Various artists, “I Am of Ireland: Yeats in Song” – W.B. Yeats set to music by Raymond Driver
- Burd Ellen, “A Tarot of the Green Wood” (2022) (47’), “explores ideas of transmission, memory and hidden meaning.” “Something about Burd Ellen’s eerie take on drone-heavy, experimental folk is uniquely suited to the crepuscular nooks of the year, the times of seasonal change when the cast of a landscape changes almost imperceptibly or the quality of light shifts ever so slightly.” It gives the feeling of hazy memories of a long-distant past.
- Daoirí Farrell, “The Wedding Above in Glencree” (2023) (42’): “. . . the first (song) is the epic retelling of Father Murphy that digs deep into history and the rebellion of 1798 while One Starry Night is accompanied by a stark shruti/harmonium drone. The impact of Dublin’s An Góilin Traditional Singers club (with a mention in dispatches to the Munich Folk Club ) is evident again and reinforces the importance of these clubs in keeping traditional music alive and reinvigorated.”
- Salvador Dali, The Hallucinogenic Toreador (1970)
- Norman Rockwell, Attic Memories (1925)
- Victor Borusov-Musatov, Requiem (1905)
- Wassily Kandinsky, Old Town II (1902)
- Gustav Klimt, Beech Grove I (1902)
- Vasily Perov, Old Parents Visiting the Grave of Their Son (1874)
- Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, The Clearing: Memory of Ville d’Avray (1872)
- Dante Gabriel Rossetti, The Gate of Memory (1864)
- Norman Rockwell, Fondly Do We Remember
- Kathryn Forbes, Mama's Bank Account (Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1943).
- Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr., and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey, Cheaper by the Dozen (T.Y. Crowell Co., 1948).
- Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending (Alfred A. Knopf, 2011): "a mystery of memory and missed opportunity."
- Tom Barbash, The Dakota Winters: A Novel (Ecco, 2018): “ . . . Barbash has vividly captured the end times feeling of this period in America and has populated his sad and funny tale with a highly engaging mix of real people and fictional characters who take us to its ordained and dreaded finale, Lennon’s death.”
- Niall Williams, This Is Happiness: A Novel (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2019): “. . . as full of detours and backward glances as it is of forward motion and — as befits a novel narrated by an old man who comments that ‘as you get toward the end, you revisit the beginning’ — is centrally preoccupied with time itself.”
- Salar Abdoh, Out of Mesopotamia: A Novel (Akashic, 2020): “Saleh, the protagonist, is a journalist embedded with the Iranian-backed militias that have fought against the Islamic State for the better part of a decade. Early on in his story, which toggles between the battlefield and the home front, Saleh finds a volume of Proust’s masterwork, left by a fighter in a ruined building. This text underpins Abdoh’s novel, which is as much a meditation on time and memory as it is a book about war.”
- Charmaine Wilkerson, Black Cake: A Novel (Ballantine Books, 2022): a woman leaves a note in her freezer, for her adult children, next to a piece of her black cake. The note says, “‘I want you to sit down together and share the cake when the time is right. You’ll know when.'”
- Bridget Collins, The Binding: A Novel (William Morrow/HarperCollins Publishers, 2019): “ . . . the experience of memory returning, a rush of recollection that can change the whole world, if only for one person at a time — or sometimes two.”
Film and Stage
- The Dead: only at the end of the film do we learn the story behind one of the characters, whose life is colored by one haunting memory
- The Trip to Bountiful, an elderly woman’s final farewell to youth, dreams and perhaps life
- Au Revoir, les Enfants (Goodbye, Children), film-maker Louis Malle’s memoir of a childhood under Germany’s Third Reich and his unintentional betrayal of a friend – “an epitaph to innocence”
- La Plages de Agnès (The Beaches of Agnès), one woman’s retrospective look at her life
During that summer
When unicorns were still possible;
When the purpose of knees
Was to be skinned;
When shiny horse chestnuts
Fitted with straws
Crammed with tobacco
Stolen from butts
In family ashtrays)
Were puffed in green lizard silence
While straddling thick branches
Far above and away
From the softening effects
During that summer--
Which may never have been at all;
But which has become more real
Than the one that was--
Thick imperial slices
Melting frigidly on sun-parched tongues
Dribbling from chins;
Leaving the best part,
The black bullet seeds,
To be spit out in rapid fire
Against the wall
Against the wind
Against each other;
And when the ammunition was spent,
There was always another bite:
It was a summer of limitless bites,
Of hungers quickly felt
And quickly forgotten
With the next careless gorging.
The bites are fewer now.
Each one is savored lingeringly,
But in a jar put up by Felicity,
The summer which maybe never was
Has been captured and preserved.
And when we unscrew the lid
And slice off a piece
And let it linger on our tongue:
Unicorns become possible again.
[John Tobias, “Reflections On a Gift of Watermelon Pickle Received from a Friend Called Felicity”.]
- Sara Teasdale, “I Thought of You”
- Billy Collins, “Forgetfulness”
- Maya Angelou, “Remembrance”
- Edgar Lee Masters, “Hare Drummer”
- Seamus Heaney, “Casualty”
- Seamus Heaney, “Clearances”
- H. Lawrence, “Piano”