Dementia, noun, a chronic or persistent disorder of the mental processes caused by brain disease or injury and marked by memory disorders, personality changes, and impaired reasoning. Commonly known for its symptoms based on memory loss, dementia is a common disorder found in many elderly in all sorts of communities. While it can be described through words, it is often hard to explain.
An artist who created a project called The Caretaker made a collection of songs and tracks to help shed light on what it may be like for those with this disorder, the title being “Everywhere at the End of Time.” More than six-and-a-half-hours long, the album takes you through six stages, each sounding different from the last. Not everyone is able or willing to sit for that long so, on behalf of those people and my own curiosity, I decided to stay up late one night and take in the music.
Stage One: The First Signs
Stage One is the start of the selections and the start of dementia. Listening to the music I could imagine myself being old and looking back upon fond memories. The music itself was similar to what you may have heard in the 1920s. It had lovely music and I could even list off a few of my favorite tracks from it. While I was enjoying the music, I could hear this faint crackling, as though it was played through an antique record player. Overall, it had this odd sort of comfort to it, bringing what may have been considered a sense of calm.
Stage Two: Self Realization and Doubting
Stage Two is where the person whom the disorder has inflicted may begin to notice that things such as hobbies are being done at a slower pace than they were before. I, as the listener, began to notice more cracks and distortion, as though I am in a cave listening to this. Still, it had a similar feeling to the first stage. I did feel less of that comfort but there were still a few tracks that I can clearly recall and state that they may have been a favorite of mine. Overall, a small sense of something being off but still being able to enjoy the more prominent music.
Stage Three: The Last of Coherency
Stage Three is where I began to notice something was off. It was as though songs I had heard in the collection before were playing, but I couldn’t remember the tune quite right, or perhaps my rhythm was off. The music was more distorted, as though I was listening to the radio but the station was too far away to hear right. It seems as though I might have misremembered the tracks from before. Overall, still coherent, but very off-putting, as though you know something is wrong but you can’t quite place it.
Stage Four: Confusion and Self Awareness
Stage Four. At this point, I knew something was wrong. The music was jumbled and sounded like a radio that couldn’t stay on one station. It was almost scary, the music from the previous stages that had been so familiar before had become ghosts of what they once were. Ebbing and flowing into one another as though they were all one song. I was confused. Haven’t I heard these before? I know this song. What’s going on? Before I could figure it out, I was brought to the last piece. I was still so confused but the piece was almost calming, like a lullaby amidst a choir of screams and loud sounds. Occasionally, throughout the stage I could hear voices. “Are you okay?” was one that I heard the clearest. Overall, scary, confusing, and dreadful.
Stage Five: Horror and Self Awareness
In Stage Five, I can make out voices, sounds then, suddenly, music. Some parts sound like screaming. Others, singing. Others still, music. I could almost make out bits and pieces of conversation: whistles, shouting, what may have been a guitar, trumpets, but mostly just static and distortion. It sounds like strong winds or the distorted kind of screaming from a horror movie. It slowly dissolved into static. The most I could catch were some sounds almost as though I was walking past or flicking between channels.
Post-Awareness: Stage Six is Without Description
It’s like a void, this stage. Noises appeared here and there, but it was mostly a low humming, a light static, and what sounded like whooshing air. It was here I lost track of time, the flickering of string lights in my room slowly becoming less rhythmic. It felt like you were stuck in a room and the only senses you have are the sounds you hear. The sounds felt intimidating. Daunting. I was drowning in them only to resurface with more confusion. I gave up trying to figure out what was happening. Overall, it was as though you were stuck between the planes of existence, in some kind of void or in between.
Stepping Back: What it was like
This experience was incredible and educational but certainly not for everyone. I went into this with a clear head making sure I was prepared for whatever may have happened. What I didn’t expect was for it to be as stunning as it was. While I wouldn’t suggest this, both for the length and general well-being of the person reading this, I will say that this is something I was almost glad to have endured. There was something genuinely beautiful about this work. The Caretaker was able to depict such vivid things using music. It was like the scariest movie that ended in nothingness, but this is real. People go through this almost everywhere on Earth. Dementia is a scary thing, but it was interesting to see what it was like.