Music Can Heal

Here’s another post on music. This one got started while watching Eric Clapton Crossroads Guitar Festival 2019 last night on the Iowa Public Broadcasting Service channel. It’s great pizza and beer music. It was the fifth event of its kind since it got started in 2004. Part of the profits go to support the substance abuse treatment center in Antigua, founded by Clapton. Although inpatient treatment programs are currently suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a virtual intensive outpatient treatment program is available.

I don’t mean to belittle Crossroads with the pizza and beer remark. I’m leading up to something and there is nothing wrong with enjoying music of any kind along with pizza and beer. Clapton and Peter Frampton did a superb job doing an old Beatles’ tune, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” Clapton did the original guitar solo on that one, which I didn’t know. Sheryl Crow and Bonnie Raitt rocked out Bob Dylan’s “Everything is Broken.” Many of the artists were older than me (I’m no spring chicken although they are definitely not retired). However, a newcomer, Lianne La Havas, delivered an outstanding cover of “I Say a Little Prayer for You,” originally sung by Dionne Warwick, later by Aretha Franklin.

It was great fun listening to these old songs. Most of them, except for “I Say a Little Prayer for You,” did tend to remind me of all the trouble going on in the world now, including the pandemic, political vitriol, and violence. Come to think of it, we could all use a little prayer right now.

I thought about posting the YouTube videos of a few of the Crossroads Festival songs. But I noticed that one of the YouTubers carried a large number of deleted videos, possibly due to copyright infringement issues, and they’re relatively recent. I figured the posted videos might not last long.

This brings me to an old (meaning much older than the 1960s) classical work I heard recently, “Vaughn Williams: Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis.” I saw it on the Light Classical cable music channel I wrote about a couple of days ago, the one about Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.

This one actually woke me up while I was sleeping on the couch. I frequently fall asleep to most classical music, partly because it helps me relax. However, the Vaughn Williams Fantasia didn’t just calm me—it also energized me. I’ve heard about the quality of music that can do that for people, but I was a bit skeptical. I have since looked for YouTube versions of the work, trying to find the same one I heard on the cable music channel.

I’m pretty sure I found it. It’s the one recorded by the Philharmonia Orchestra (London, UK) just last month, October 2020. I’ve listened to a couple of other highly praised recordings you can hear from a YouTuber called 2ndviolinist. One was by the Boyd Neel String Orchestra conducted by Boyd Neel in 1936. The other was done by the Halle Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sir John Barbirolli in 1946. Both are widely thought of as masterpieces.

The Philharmonia Orchestra players are all spaced at least 6 feet apart, adhering to the social distancing required to reduce transmission of COVID-19. If I close my eyes (or even if I don’t), this doesn’t make me nervous as I listen to the oceanic sonority of the music itself. Many comments about the recording attest to the beauty of the piece, making it a soothing treasure in our troubled times.

I’m less worried about the possibility of the video ever being deleted. I felt the same way about the one by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. It isn’t just because they’re old and copyright issues may be less of an issue. It’s more because they’re probably universally viewed as vital for healing our souls. At least I hope so.

Grab a pizza and a beer—and enjoy music that heals.

Author: James Amos

I'm a retired consult-liaison psychiatrist. I navigated the path in a phased retirement program through the hospital where I was employed. I was fully retired as of June 30, 2020. This blog chronicles my journey.

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