I have always had a tumultuous relationship with music. I started playing violin before I was able to form memories, and grew up with music as an integral part of my life. I burnt out on it in college, even though I was studying vocal performance. I graduated in three years, mostly because I wanted to be done and get on with it, whatever “it” turned out to be. I stopped playing violin for a few years. Only recently, since I’ve been in Minneapolis, have I played it with any frequency again. Now I use music as a tool for others. I haven’t though I use music for myself. I’ve resigned myself in the last few years to thinking of music as a job, albeit a creative and fulfilling one. I have had trouble really identifying myself as a musician. I’ve always thought that I would have to know more in order to identify as one. I’d have to be better able to work with music theory. I’d have to know about more bands. I’d have to write a certain kind of song. Essentially, I’d never be able to truly be a musician, because I don’t have the time, energy, or interest to be or know all these factions of music.
Only this week have I had something of a revelation in regard to my relationship with music. What if I re-position myself? What if I acknowledge that the way I compose my music, the way I play, and certainly the way I sing and use my voice to connect with others really is music? I don’t write songs in the traditional way. I don’t analyze fugues (anymore). I don’t remember a whole lot of the music history I once learned, even though I did find it fascinating. But I do engage with my own music on a daily basis. I use music as a means to communicate and find meaning where I can’t otherwise. I use music to soothe, calm, excite, and energize. I use it to regulate my own energy. I use it in myriad ways, really, and I find it emerges in very natural, unique expressions, given the needs of the circumstance. I do use music. I use it for others and for myself. I take this opportunity to re-create what music is in my eyes.
Do you have trouble identifying yourself in a way that you think you should?
I have always had trouble listening to music unless it is for a specific reason. Sometimes that reason is for research, sometimes it’s to keep me at a certain pace while exercising, and of course sometimes it’s to change or augment my mood.
I came across the idea of creating a “waking playlist” (as I like to call it) or a playlist to hear in the morning which has the function of staging the coming day. I read about this in a couple of different music therapists’ blogs, and I really like the idea. The first piece that I choose for mine is “Boléro” by Ravel. I discovered this piece when I was in fifth grade, and have adored it since.
Recently I heard a Radiolab podcast called, “Unraveling Bolero,” in which the hosts reported on a very unusual story involving one Anne Adams, a biologist whose path resembled Ravel’s in a peculiar way. Here is a synopsis of the episode:
At some point, Anne became obsessed with Maurice Ravel’s famous composition and decided to put an elaborate visual rendition of the song to canvas. She called it “Unraveling Bolero.” But at the time, she had no idea that both she and Ravel would themselves unravel shortly after their experiences with this odd piece of music. Arbie Orenstein tells Jad what happened to Ravel after he wrote “Bolero,” and neurologist Bruce Miller and Jonah Lehrer helps us understand how, for both Anne and Ravel, “Bolero” might have been the first symptom of a deadly disease.
Find “Unraveling Bolero” here:
Directly following our Minneapolis music therapist meeting last night, I received a text from one of my good friends and colleagues, saying that Clive Robbins of the Nordoff-Robbins approach to music therapy died. I am sad to hear this, and know that he will always be a very prominent figure in our profession.
Roger Williams, playing an excerpt from “Autum Leaves.” Known as the “pianist to the Presidents,” Williams died yesterday at the age of 87.
This date in music history
in 1988, Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” left Billboard’s Hot 200 Album Chart after a record 741 weeks.
in 2003, Coldplay singer Chris Martin asked police to drop a charge of malicious damage after allegedly attacking a photographer’s car. Supposedly, he was charged for breaking the windshield of the photographer’s car after he or she took pictures of Martin surfing. Martin did not appear in court.
in 2007, Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black” won Best Album at the Q Awards in London. I miss her.
Born on this date in 1948 was Johnny Ramone, the guitarist of none other than The Ramones.
Nirvana’s “Nevermind” is now officially 20 years old. On September 24, 1991, the album was released (OK, I’m a few days late to recognize its birthday). I still consider “Smells Like Teen Spirit” to be one of my favorite rock songs… I will always have a special place in my musical heart for Nirvana.
What else happened this date in music history? Well…
in 1978, John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John had their second UK No. 1 with the song, “Summer Nights” from “Grease.”
in 1989, Tina Turner went to No. 1 with “Foreign Affair” on the UK charts.
in 1995, Mariah Carey made history with an eight-week stint at No. 1 in U.S. singles chart with “Fantasy,” becoming the first female artist to enter the chart in “pole position.”
Born on this date in 1952 was John Lombardo, of 10,000 Maniacs.