About neuroscience and music (mainly classical). Exploring the relationship of music and the brain based on experience of two careers.

March 16, 2014

Random Thoughts on a Cold Sunday

If you didn't hear Gilles Vonsattel's spectacular Ives Concord Sonata at Leffler Performance Center last night, I am sorry for you. Gilles' father is a neuropathologist.

If you didn't attend the Met HD Live Werther yesterday I am sorry again for you. We thought it was one of the best HD Live productions this year. Maybe I'll read Goethe's novel. Gilles' wife, Sarah, expecting their first child, played in the orchestra's violin section. (They have au pairs lined up.) 

I was also sorry to learn of the passing of Iola Brubeck. Here are some things you might not have known about a wonderful woman.

Catching up on my reading. I found some fascinating items:

 "No part of the brain is not connected to some other part of the brain, either directly or indirectly." --Dr. Damien Fair, Oregon Health and Science University. The current map of connections, still very rudimentary, reminds me of the airline map in the seat pocket on my last flight. If this fascinates you, check out the Connectome Project.

  • "We come into the world knowing almost nothing. You can trace almost all of your behaviors to learning as opposed to genes. Language, riding a bicycle, how you button your shirt -- basically everything is learned, which means once that information gets into the brain it has to be turned into a stable form." --Dr. Jeffrey Lichtman, Harvard University (Note that he said "behaviors")

  • Among all schools at Yale, the School of Music has the most international students: 87 of 215 (40%). Yale College (undergrads) has 11%.

  • In deciding how of face the near-inevitability of sharing their last decades with prostate cancer, men may first need to examine their philosophy of life and then earn a Ph.d. in Statistics. N Engl J Med 2014; 370:932-942. Don't expect much help from your doctor; s/he probably doesn't have time: Diagnose This; How to be your own best doctor. Harper's Magazine, April 2014. Or: When Doctors Don't Listen, Leana Wen and Joshua Kosowsky, 2012.

  • Lured back to Russia in 1936 and hoping to rescue a faltering career, the composer, Serge Prokofiev was largely disappointed--and then the exit doors closed. He walked out in his wife, Lina, to move in with a much younger student, "thinking well enough of his wife to summon a physician to ensure that she was well cared for," according to Simon Morrsion, who wrote the recent Serge and Lina: The Love and Wars of Lina Prokofiev. Seven years later Lina was arrested and spent 8 years in the gulag. When she was released Prokofiev had died (obscurely in 1953 on the same day as Stalin). Lina spent her remaining 33 years as his cultural ambassador, attending concerts, donating papers to archives, and giving interviews to journalists. The Soviets, surprisingly, eventually recognized both marriages. --from a review by Orlando Figes, New York Review of Books., Mar 6

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