Bach: life, death, God and eternity
Handel: love, fury, loyalty and power
I thought about my preoccupations at that age. Definitely life and love. Probably wisdom as well. Not power, fury, God, death or eternity.
“Placebos are drugs, devices or other treatments that are physically and pharmacologically inert. Placebo interventions do not, by definition, have any direct therapeutic effects on the body. However, all treatments are delivered in a context that includes social and physical cues, verbal suggestions and treatment history. This context is actively interpreted by the brain can elicit expectations, memories and emotions….” * (my emphases)Studies reliably show a success rate of around 30%, or higher, if the therapist is caring and convincing (the "context"). The context of acupuncture, for example, includes ritual, tradition ('proven over centuries'), positive expectations, value (it's not cheap), and perceived competence of a skilled practitioner exhaustively trained in an ‘ancient art.’ The needles don’t even have to puncture, just prick, so long as the patient experiences the context.
In 1816, I was consulted by a young woman labouring under general symptoms of diseased heart, and in whose case percussion and the application of the hand were of little avail on account of the great degree of fatness.Such "percussion and the application of the hand," augmented by placing the ear directly on the chest, were used by Laennec's contemporaries to examine the heart. The fact that Laennec played the flute might account for the novel way he solved his problem.
I rolled a quire of paper into a kind of cylinder and applied one end of it to the region of the heart and the other to my ear, and was not a little surprised and pleased, to find that I could thereby perceive the action of the heart in a manner much more clear and distinct than I had ever been able to do by the immediate application of the ear.
The most dense bodies do not, as might have been expected from analogy, furnish the best materials for these instruments.... Bodies of a moderate density, such as paper, the lighter kinds of wood, or Indian cane, are those which I always found preferable to others. A greater diameter renders its exact application to certain parts of the chest, impracticable; greater length renders its retention in exact apposition more difficult, and when shorter, it...frequently obliges [the doctor] to assume an inconvenient posture....Flutes in Laennec's time were almost all made of wood. One might wonder whether Laennec as a flutist was especially able to evaluate sounds made by flow, of air through the flute and of blood through the heart. Laennec named his instrument, “stethoscope” (from the Greek stethos, chest or heart, and skopos, observer). Here is his drawing:
"A cell has to make a set of decisions to ultimately end up at a very specific fate. I compare it with playing a music piece. You can play jazz and get the liver [cell], or you can play classical and get something else. By now we can do that for about 40 cell types, and nearly all the time we can go from the stem cell to the young neural cell, then to a specialized subtype of nerve cell."Of course, he doesn't actually expose developing cells to music, but the musical metaphor helps illustrate the complex process of cell development and how we can influence it. The metaphor can achieve reality during whole brain development in childhood when the brain cells are deciding how to fit in and what to do in their new universe inside your skull.
1) Changing the music to appeal to a broader audience. Most 'crossover' and 'pops' concerts are unfortunate examples of a quest for 'relevance' and 'accessibility.'
2) Changing the concert: shorter duration, less intimidating ritual and formality, better 'communication'
3) Taking concerts to more venues, conventional and unconventional.
4) Seeking a 'new image' by 'creative marketing'
5) Going digital: streaming and filming
6) Avoiding the word, "classical"Despite these efforts the recent words of conductor Jed Gaylin remain, in general, true:
"We need to figure out ways for the potency of great music to reach audiences that admittedly bond, socialize, recreate, and rejuvenate with technologies unforeseen in the era when the symphony orchestra was born." 2When I see our musicians connect that "potency" with literally every member of our audience again and again each season, my first thought is always, "Why aren't more people here seeking this same amazing spiritual connection?" Tickets are affordable, walk-ups welcome, pre-requisites not necessary. Some people I'm talking about are sitting on porches just a few houses away -- in a Chautauqua!!!
. . . And perhaps it’s the wider cultural environment which surrounds classical music that has a problem.
In a culture increasingly obsessed with ephemeral celebrity, fed by a spin drier of rehashed PR trivia presented as ‘news’, where sport is the new religion, where Saturday night fluff like Strictly Come Dancing is analysed seriously and given acres of press coverage, then a cultural landscape invested in supporting all that activity damn well ought to have a problem with classical music – with its difficultly, with its emotional ambiguity, with its allusiveness, with its celebration of individuality, with its refusal to conform, with its ability to move our emotions beyond something that can be controlled and manipulated into turning a profit.
. . . the real reasons that students quit is often beyond their own understanding. It is up to teachers and parents to create “magical moments” during the year for students to want to continue on their instrument, especially during the early years of study, in order for the child to be successful and stay with their craft.
It is sad to have to write this, when it should be clear by now, but here it is: vaccines are the most successful medical intervention in the history of humanity. They have prevented millions of deaths. They are a triumph of human ingenuity and of our desire to alleviate suffering.
There are not too many. They are not administered too soon. They do not cause autism or allergies or cancer. The only thing “too bunched up” about vaccines, as a matter of fact, are the falsehoods and deliberate misconceptions spread by demagogues and then endorsed by people like Carson and Paul, both of whom should—and almost certainly do—know better.
|Scene of the crime: Emporium straight ahead, Jigger Shop to left. Stacey was shot in front of the bench to the right. The shooter tried to enter the Jigger Shop, then sat on the bench for a minute or two, then stood and shot himself in the right temple.|
On gun violence and how to end it, the facts are all in, the evidence is clear, the truth there for all who care to know it—indeed, a global consensus is in place, which, in disbelief and now in disgust, the planet waits for us to join. Those who fight against gun control, actively or passively, with a shrug of helplessness, are dooming more kids to horrible deaths and more parents to unspeakable grief just as surely as are those who fight against pediatric medicine or childhood vaccination. It’s really, and inarguably, just as simple as that.
Treatment decisions for patients...should be guided by the goals of care; providers [new name for doctors and nurses] and patients' health care proxies [persons you entrust to speak for you after you no longer can] must share in the decision making. After the provider has explained the clinical issue to the health care proxy...the proxy should then articulate the goal or level of care that aligns with the patient's preferences, such as treatments that promote comfort only....If I ever should suffer the misfortune of this condition, my goal of care will indeed be comfort, even before my Alzheimer's becomes advanced. We talk about the "healing" power of music but maybe should talk instead about its "comforting" power. After all, music can temporarily restore a Parkinsonian patient's ability to walk (to the beat) or speak (by singing) or help Alzheimer patients access memories (like a "can opener" according to music therapist Gretta Sculthorpe), but it can't heal a wound or restore failed kidney function.
...music therapy in people with dementia...seeks to address the emotions, cognitive powers, thoughts, and memories, the surviving "self"...and to enlarge...existence....Music has no side effects like tranquilizers that calm at the expense of blunting further any remaining trace of self and sensibility.
Reject fundamentalism wherever it raises its ugly head. It's not civilized. Choose to live in the Bedford Falls of "It's a Wonderful Life," not its oppressive opposite, Pottersville...
Don't confuse monetary success with excellence. The poet Robert Penn Warren once warned me that "careerism is death"...
Read. The book is still the greatest manmade machine of all -- not the car, not the TV, not the computer or the smartphone.
Do not allow our social media to segregate us into ever smaller tribes and clans, fiercely and sometimes appropriately loyal to our group, but also capable of metastasizing into profound distrust of the other...
Convince your government that the real threat, as Lincoln knew, comes from within. Governments always forget that, too. Do not let your government outsource honesty, transparency or candor. Do not let your government outsource democracy...
Insist that we support science and the arts, especially the arts. They have nothing to do with the actual defense of the country -- they just make the country worth defending...
"It is the function of medication, or surgery, or appropriate physiological procedures, to rectify mechanism--the mechanism, the mechanisms, which are so deranged in these patients. It is the function of scientific medicine to rectify the 'It.' It is the function of art, of living contact, of existential medicine, to call upon the latent will, the agent, the 'I,' to call out its commanding and coordinating powers, so that it may regain its hegemony and rule once again--for the final rule, the ruler, is not a measuring rod or clock, but the rule and measure of the personal 'I.' These two forms of medicine must be joined, must co-inhere, as body and soul."
"It was quite unusual in those days to have a music therapist--the effects of music, if any, were considered no more than marginal--but Kitty...knew that patients of all sorts could respond strongly to music and that even the postencephalitics, although often incapable of initiating movements voluntarily, could respond to a beat involuntarily, as we all do."David Leventhal of the Mark Morris Dance Company has taken that phenomenon to a new level; his efforts displayed in a new film, Capturing Grace, will soon be released. Then, in a footnote, Sacks relates:
"By 1978, Kitty had decided to retire; we thought she had reached the usual retirement age of sixty-five, but she was, we learned, in her nineties, though astonishingly youthful and vivacious (could music have kept her young?)"Little 'hard' evidence could be mustered to answer that question, Dr. Sacks' neurology colleagues would hasten to assert. But they don't get it. In On the Move, an amazing story teller reveals his own amazing life.
The fulfillment of high talent, the just exercise of power, the celebration of human diversity: nothing so redeems these things as the recognition that what seem like personal triumphs are in fact the achievements of our common humanity. .. They flow from E.M. Forster's injunction in Howard's End: "Only connect..."
"An experiment: place a football fan’s brain in an MRI scanner during a game. I would bet that most of the moments of peak activity in the nucleus accumbens—the pleasure center—would correlate with the most violent collisions: a quarterback sacked from his blind side, a running back breaking through a tackle, a receiver laid out by a vicious open-field hit." (reference 1 below)
". . . nearly every current NFL player can expect to suffer from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative disease that leads to memory loss, impaired judgment, depression, and dementia.
Football players are also four times more likely both to die from ALS . . . and to develop Alzheimer’s disease. An NFL player can expect to live twenty years less than the average American male. The average NFL career lasts 3.3 years. By that measure, each season costs an NFL player about six years of his life. Football fans, in other words, must ignore the fact that we are watching men kill themselves."
"...[football's] real advantage is that it’s louder, faster and more violent [than baseball] — which is to say, better in tune with our cultural moment. 'We are a shouting culture now….'"
--New York Times, Sept 29, 2013