Last Thursday, Chris and I performed violin/viola duos in a very special concert. and in a very special setting. Produced by Artists for Alzheimers, our audience of about 15 consisted of people living with Alzheimers and their caregivers. The concert took place on the grounds of the Frederick Law Olmstead Historical Site. It was a steamy summer day, but fortunately the impending thunderstorm held off until the music was over.
Sean Caulfield, the ARTZ program director, opened the event by inviting the audience to introduce themselves and to talk about their own personal relationship to music. Many recalled that they had studied music or dance as children and all said they continued to love music.
We had chosen a series of short 2-3 minute dances from the 17th and 18th centuries. I arranged them so there was a tonal relation between them, alternating G major with g minor (adding one work in Bb major to the mix), and varying tempos. We ended with the 1st movement of the Mozart G major duo for violin and viola, and Ashokan Farewell as a fitting encore. The dance element was not lost on the audience, who happily swayed and moved their hands to the music.
The people at ARTZ are most familiar with this phenomenon, but it always touches me deeply. It is this: After our performance --and other arts interventions--the audience comes alive - the people there were more talkative, more engaged, more sociable after the performance. They are not "Patients with Alzheimer's" but music lovers in any audience who happen to be living with Alzheimer's. It is a powerful distinction.
I thought the attendees were particularly grateful for Christopher's performance, appreciating his youth, enthusiasm and energy. They engaged him in conversation for a long time following the performance!
As with other performances I have done for ARTZ, the experience has a personal connection. A member of my own family is living with Alzheimer's and attended--one could see that the music brought back strong musical memories that brought joy.
Remarkable art installation featuring musical instruments, rising church pews, glass mirror stars and music
On Friday July 20, my son Chris and I drove to North Adams to visit the Mass MOCA. A restored/salvaged mill, the large open spaces invite bold art pieces.
When we arrived, we learned that the contemporary music project "Bang on a Can" was performing at 1:30 and that the musicians were friends, Isobel Hagen and Gabe Taubman, both New York violists. They played a work called "Spiccato" (I didn't catch the composer's name) which was written one week ago.The musicians were instructed to stand at least 10 feet apart from each other, and to play on 4 music stands (see below). It was a rhythmic, driving work, with polyrhythms and close harmonies.
Later, when we looked at the score, it turned out that the notes were written on an 8 line staff with no clef or key; shapes and rhythms were suggested and the rest depended on communication between the two musicians! What we heard was a conversation between the two musicians who had been given parameters for the conversation - no two performances would be the same.
Joy, sorrow, tears, lamentation, laughter – to all these music gives voice, but in such a way that we are transported from the world of unrest to a world of peace, and see reality in a new way. --Dr. Albert Schweitzer
I've just spent a refreshing and restoring weekend in the Berkshires. My talk on Thursday, July 19 at the First Congregational Church in Stockbridge drew 35 people, some of whom were medical professionals, others who were musicians or artists. My reflections on medical musicians and the role of music in healing alternated with movements from Bach's Goldberg Variations which were movingly and beautifully performed by Andy Jennings, Matt Dane and Norman Fischer.
I shared stories and thoughts of Dr. Albert Schweitzer.
Start early to instill in your students awareness that they are on this earth to help and serve others--that is as important to pass on to them as knowledge
Following the presentation, I had the opportunity to meet colleagues from the Berkshires, including Dr. Deborah Buccino, a clarinetist/pediatrician who played with the Longwood Symphony during her pediatric training in Boston, and Dr. David Elpern, whose thought-provoking blog is invites the reader to consider the role of the arts and humanities in medicine.
Thanks to Suburban Internal Medicine of Lee for sponsoring the event, First Congregational Church of Stockbridge for hosting, and my deep gratitude to David Anderegg and Kelley DeLorenzo for organizing the event.
In case you're in the Berkshires this week:
Please join me for a reading/performance on Thursday evening at First Congregational Church in Stockbridge, MA to introduce Scales to Scalpels: Doctors who Practice the Healing Arts of Music and Medicine.
I'll be sharing some of my thoughts about the many connections between music and healing, from the perspective of the medical musician, caregivers and patients, and will touch a bit on the exciting field of the neuroscience of music.
In the spirit of Albert Schweitzer, who was devoted to Bach, healing, and service, the presentation will include excerpts from Bach's Goldberg Variations especially chosen to augment the remarks and performed by Tanglewood Music Center faculty members Norman Fischer, Matt Dane and Andy Jennings.
I hope you can make it and join in the discussion about music and healing! The evening is free and open to the public.
Booksigning, Bach, and Reading
Thursday July 19 at 7:00 p.m.
First Congregational Church of Stockbridge
4 Main Street
Sponsored by Suburban Internal Medicine
Books provided by The Bookstore in Lenox
Vermont is a beautiful, idyllic place. I visit there every summer to soak in the music from a variety of music festivals, appreciate the art, and revel in the rolling hills (ever notice how each hill is a slightly different shade?).
On the way home from each of these trips, I always make a point to stop in the town of Woodstock for an iced coffee, pay a visit to the jersey cows at Billings Farm and buy a new fish mobile for my pediatric office from the Yankee Bookshop.
But this summer I had a new mission: A friend called last week to tell me that he had purchased Scales to Scalpels at a bookstore in Woodstock. First I stopped at Shiretown Books, across the street. While they did not yet have the book, my visit prompted them to think about stocking it - the saleswoman told me her brother was a jazz pianist at Berklee who would love it.
Then I went across the street to Yankee Bookshop to inquire after the book.They had just SOLD OUT and were placing an order for more!
The conversation on music and healing continues!
Dr. Lisa M. Wong
I'm a musician and pediatrician, passionate about arts in education and about bringing the community together through music