O’er The Land of The Free, and the Home of the Brave: Star-Spangled Veterans Discover Music as a Way to Transition Back to Civilian Life

2013_0205_anim_concert_m[1]As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down, large numbers of soldiers are returning with a variety of injuries that severely impact their physical and mental health. Overcoming these challenges is so important for a successful transition to civilian life.

Musicorps, created by composer Arthur Bloom, began in 2007, after he was invited to visit a soldier recovering at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The soldier had been badly injured in combat, and was concerned about how his injuries would impact his ability to play music. Bloom and Resources in Music Education, his organization that uses a curriculum of music to help people in need, devised one for veterans in need. To quote from the Musicorps website, “Musicorps replicates real world music relationships. It integrates individualized projects, regular visits by professional musicians, and the use of specially-assembled computer-based music workstations, along with traditional instruments.” Soldiers are able to learn, play, write, record and produce original music.

One of Musicorps’ advisers, Dr. Allen Brown, director of brain research and rehabilitation at the Mayo Clinic, believes that for veterans with brain injuries, playing music may literally help the brain recover. This is because the process of learning to play music requires the use of many parts of the brain.

As far as the results of the Musicorps ccurriculum are concerned, one soldier, who was never musically inclined, described how much it helped him. Sgt. Levi Crawford was hit with a rocket propelled grenade while serving in Afghanistan in 2010. He was permanently blinded in his right eye, and almost lost his right arm. Sgt. Crawford also suffered traumatic brain injury, which affected his memory, speech and overall brain function. Musicorps helped him gain the confidence to not only learn to play the guitar, but to perform other normal activities such as rock climbing and hiking.

Below is a YouTube video of professional celloist Yo Yo Ma performing with the Musicorps Wounded Warrior Band.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9tQT152fzp4&feature=player_embedded

 

 

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Doctors Who Are Marching to the Beat of a Different Drum: Part 2

2013_0205_anim_concert_m[1]The Longwood Symphony Orchestra (LSO) in Boston Massachusetts, is a group of physicians who also play together as musicians on the side. They bring free chamber music directly to patients who can no longer attend concerts. The LSO plays in in hospital wards, rehabilitation centers, hospices, and other healthcare facilities throughout the state of  Massachusetts.

In Scales to Scalpels: Doctors Who Practice the Healing Arts of Music and Medicine, author and current LSO President Lisa Wong traces its history since its founding in 1982. Biographies of some of her musical and medical colleagues in the LSO are covered. What they all have in common is a belief that playing for the Orchestra has greatly helped them in their relationships with their patients. When these doctors play music, they become  better attuned to their patients’ emotional state of mind.

The LSO has a three-part mission. The first is the concert performances at health and medical facilities across the state of Massachusetts. Wong defines this as “Healing the Community through Music.” The second is “Community Engagement.” Chamber groups of young doctors and medical students are sent to perform in hospitals, hospices, and Alzheimer units. According to Dr. Wong, “studying the impact of chamber music on Alzheimer’s patients and senior citizens, their families, and their caregivers has the potential of changing the way we care for our aging population.” “Educational Work” is the third part, which consists of symposia that draws colleagues from across the country to discuss topics such as “Crossing the Corpus Collusum: Neuroscience, Healing, and Music.” This is an example of one which was hosted by the LSO, in partnership with “The Lab at Harvard University.” Topics that attendees  addressed for this symposium were about how music can help in recovery from neurological disorders, how music shapes the developing brain, and if music can “be the way towards recovering functions for individuals with autism.”

Most promising is a trend of some medical schools in thinking about how to integrate c curriculum of humanities into medical practice. Wong cites Harvard, Stanford and Dalhousie as examples of schools where a professor may encourage a first-year medical student to create art to express feelings about a first encounter with a cadaver.

Below you will find a YouTube video of Dr. Wong elaborating on the purpose of the  LSO and its impact on doctor and patient alike.

Doctors Who Are Marching to the Beat of a Different Drum: Part I

2013_0205_anim_concert_m[1]Oliver Sachs, a renowned doctor and author, and the physicians making up the Longwood Symphony Orchestra in Boston, Massachusetts, are examples of professionals dispelling negative perceptions about doctors. As Dr. Lisa Wong of the Longwood Symphony Orchestra put it in her book, From Scales to Scalpels: Doctors Who Practice the Healing Arts of Musical Medicine, “science, in the forms of innovative technologies, increasingly views the patient as an amalgam of dysfunctional parts, while the arts, since time immemorial, have probed the meaning of being human. The former focuses on curing diseases, the latter aims to heal a human being brimming with uncertainty, discomfort, and dread.”

This impact is part of an increasing trend in the medical profession to recognize an important role music plays in bettering our medical health. As far back as 1914, The Journal of the Medical Association published its first writing on the link between music and health. According to the article, a doctor used a phonograph during surgery for “calming and distracting patients from the horror of the situation.”

Dr. Sachs first became aware of the impact of music on mental health in 1966, when  patients who had been stricken with a sleeping sickness years earlier were suddenly showing active signs of life. In Sacks’s book, Awakenings, he addressed how some of these patients with this sleeping sickness, one form of Parkinson’s Disease, were freed up in their movements after hearing music. One of his case studies described a patient as having movements that were “wooden and mechanical, like a robot or doll. In this state, this statelessness, this timeless irreality she would remain, motionless-helpless, until music came.” As this patient herself described it, “songs, tunes I knew from years ago, catchy tunes, rhythmic tunes, the sort I loved to dance to” had awakened her.

Sachs wrote about a patient suffering from amnesia and the impact of music in another book, Musicophilia. This patient had been in his mid-forties when he was struck with a severe brain infection, which severely affected his memory. His recall span was just a few seconds. According to his wife, “his ability to perceive what he saw and heard was unimpaired. But he did not seem to be able to retain any impression of anything for more than a blink.” However since this patient had been a musician prior to being stricken with amnesia, he was able to recall every part of performing a musical piece. As Dr, Sachs described it, “when we remember a melody, it plays in our mind, it becomes newly alive. There is not a process of recalling, imagining, assembling, recategorizing, recreating, as when one attempts to reconstruct or remember an event or a scene from the past.”

Below you will find a YouTube video in which Dr. Sachs discusses the impact of music on people who suffer strokes.

Musical Missionaries with an Unforgettable Fire of Passion

2013_0205_anim_concert_m[1]

U2 has shown how popular music can be spiritual without being associated with any one faith. Their activism in causes such as eradicating the AIDS epidemic from Africa is based on the values of many faiths, which is to make the world a better place for all of us to live.

However their first album Boy, was about someone trying to find peace within himself, rather than peace in the world. The unexpected loss of Bono’s mother at the age of 14 began a difficult personal journey. “Walk away, walk away,  I will follow” may be his longing to accompany his mother into the next world she has entered. As someone who lost my own mother at the age of 3, I was powerfully moved when I first heard this song.  The other song on Boy that I powerfully feel is Into the Heart. “Into the heart of a child, I can’t stay awhile” brings back a loss of innocence I felt as a 3 year old angry at the unfairness of losing my protector parent.

The Unforgettable Fire is another album which deeply moves me. Its theme seems to be a memorial to the loss of many innocent people due to differing circumstances. Many of them were young, and had yet to fulfill their potential in life. But they all live on in a state of immortality. The song Bad seems to represent a wish to be able to bring all of these people back to life. “If I could through myself  set your spirit free, I’d lead your heart away. I’m wide awake. I’m not sleeping” conveys a sense of immortality to those who have died. Indian Summer Sky, the following song on this album, comes across as an attempt by the living person to follow the same path of someone such as Martin Luther King, the subject of a number of songs on the Unforgettable Fire. “Up for air to swim against the tide, up against the blue sky”, and “wind blow through to my heart, wind blow through to my soul” could be about how people fighting to continue King’s struggle can feel his presence as they fight their own battles for civil rights.

Lastly, four songs, New Years Day, One, Beautiful Day, and Ordinary Love not only rank as favorite U2 songs, but as personal favorites of all time. They individually and collectively send out a spiritual message without being associated with any particular faith. Lyrics such as “a crowd has gathered in black and white, arms entwined, we can break through, though torn in two (New Years Day), “we’re one, but were not the same , we get to carry each other”(One), “what you don’t have you don’t need it now” (Beautiful Day), and “we can’t fall any further if we can’t feel ordinary love, and we can’t reach any higher if you can’t feel ordinary love” (Ordinary Love) are all about the purpose and big picture of what the meaning of life should be all about. If I could summarize the message of these four overarching songs, I would describe them as we are one, but we’re not the same. Recognizing this, resolve to make your own life as a New Years Day to begin again by displaying ordinary love for your fellow human beings. So make New Years Day a beautiful day. Life can be short. So touch me, take me to that other place. Teach me love, I know I’m not a hopeless case.

Below you can access lyric videos of three songs I discussed in this post, Into the Heart, Indian Summer Sky, and Ordinary Love.

The Punk vs. The KGB: How Artists Are Among the Leading Opposition in Post-Cold War Russia

2013_0205_anim_concert_m[1]The Russian artistic group Pussy Riot has gained international attention as a result of their arrest in 2012. They were performing an act of non-violent resistance in front of the Russian Orthodox Church, singing their statement of protest against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s close political relationship with Church leaders. Popularly known as the “Punk Prayer”, Pussy Riot were clad in neon colored balaclavas, beseeching the “Mother of God” to “chase Putin out.” Two of the group members were recently released prior to the end of their sentences, thanks to international pressure.

The formation of Pussy Riot was part of a larger political reaction against a culture war being waged by Putin. He and Russia’s Parliament have passed laws against homosexuality. The Russian President has also made statements against women doing anything other than their traditional roles as wives and mothers.

Pussy Riot is actually an artistic collective of women protest artists, rather than an actual punk rock band. Their original name was Voina, or War, in english. Formed in 2007 by Nadya Tolokonnikova, also one of the later founders of Pussy Riot, Nadya’s husband, and another couple, Voina was a group of college students protesting the usurping of political power by Putin.

Some of Voina’s acts, without the use of music, included a portrayal of a Russian Orthodox priest wearing a police officer’s hat, and entering a supermarket. He left the store without paying for a cart of groceries, demonstrating that priests and cops in Russia were both corrupt.

Voina later broke up, and Nadya and Ekaterina Samutsevich, another member of Voina, then formed Pussy Riot. It was founded in 2011 as a feminist protest artist movement, but with music as an important addition to their message. The group went on to total eleven women, with some of them being musicians.

Pussy Riot adopted their identity from the Riot Grrl movement that began in the United States during the early 1990’s. Riot Grrl was an underground punk rock movement that addressed issues such as female empowerment, domestic abuse, and sexuality. The leaders of this movement regard Joan Jett as a major influence.

Since the release of group members Nadya and Maria Alyokhina, the two of them have formed a human rights organization that will address issues of freedom within Russia, as well as the rights of prisoners serving time in Russian prisons. They appeared with Madonna at an Amnesty International Concert in Brooklyn, New York in early February, 2014. Nadya and Maria gave impassioned speeches about the plight of Russians under Putin’s regime.

Below are YouTube videos that show their performances of their controversial, Punk Prayer, a graphic video of their intense opposition to the Putin regime, entitled Putin Lights up the Fires, as well as their speeches at the Amnesty International concert.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NrLI-5xYybo&list=RDscnRS3cOKTg&feature=player_detailpage

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0HyjZKFfOoU&feature=player_detailpage

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ERZAEDpbHVo&feature=player_detailpage

How the Power of Music Helped Tear Down the Wall of Apartheid in South Africa

2013_0205_anim_concert_m[1]Nelson Mandela’s death on December 5 presents an opportunity to tell this story. Musicians inside and outside of South Africa had a big impact on the ending of apartheid, an official policy of racial segregation that was practiced by that country’s white minority government.

One prominent black South African musician involved in that was Miriam Makeba. She was known as Mama Africa, popularizing African music around the world. Makeba was best known for a song “Pata Pata”, first recorded in 1957, and released in the United States in 1967. This is the song that made her popular throughout South Africa.

Makeba’s role in the anti-apartheid movement gained public attention when she testified against it before the United Nations in 1962. As a result, the white minority government revoked her South African citizenship and right to return.

Paul Simon’s tour promoting his album, Graceland, in 1987 became an occasion to publicize the plight of black South Africans suffering under an apartheid government. Graceland was to become a form of a bridge of troubled water, to borrow a song title from his earlier years performing with Art Garfunkel. Much of the Graceland album was recorded in South Africa. Although Simon faced accusations that this was breaking an international cultural boycott against the South African government, Graceland showcased the talents of many black South African musicians.

Makeba toured with Paul Simon promoting the album. One of the shows was part of a big event, The African Concert. Held in Zimbabwe, Africa in 1987, video footage showed Simon and Makeba singing duets.

However the musical event that is widely believed to have prodded the South African government to release Nelson Mandela sooner than planned was the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute. This was a concert held in 1988 in London, and broadcast to an audience of 600 million people in 67 countries. 83 artists performed that day, for a total of 12 hours.

A second anti-apartheid concert was held at the same location in 1990, this time at the request of Mandela himself, who by that time had been freed from prison. At this event, entitled An International Tribute for a Free South Africa, Nelson Mandela travelled to London, asking an audience of 500 million listeners to keep up the pressure to end apartheid. Apartheid did come to end in 1994, when Mandela was elected president.

However long before professional musicians outside of South Africa became anti-apartheid activists, inmates in South Africa’s prisons used music as a tool for survival. Music Beyond Borders, an organization that conducts international projects of the “uses of music by individuals suffering under oppressive regimes and its key role as tool for protest against the violation of human rights”, published one such study on apartheid in South Africa, entitled, Singing Through the Pain: Music in the Apartheid Prisons”.  The focus of that project was Robben Island,  the penitentiary where Nelson Mandela and others were imprisoned.

In the cells where Mandela was held, housing 30 inmates, music was allowed only at restricted times. These prisoners set up a choir in these sections, which was conducted by a music teacher outside of the prison. Music in this prison provided, according to an article about it in Al-Jazeera, “a model of cultural expression that advanced social change and by individual suffering and protesting  the violation of human rights under oppressive regimes. It was an example akin to the recent rap and hip hop commentaries from the Arab Spring revolutions.”

Below you will find YouTube links to Miriam Makeba’s song, Pata, Pata, her joint performance with Paul Simon in Zimbabwe,  and one from the organizer of the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e-VrfadKbco&feature=player_detailpage

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=85rr5SqrCZI

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=lTtg7QZPRRE

God was Alive in the Sixties, Living in the Music of a Singing Rabbi

2013_0205_anim_concert_m[1]During the 1960’s there was a movement called the “Death of God” that arose in American theology. Some of its advocates felt that God, in the traditional way many of us think of as an almighty Higher Power, had died during the Holocaust. As a result, large numbers of young people became lost souls, believing that they were left entirely on their own, without a compass to find direction in their lives.

One theologian who flatly rejected this notion was Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. The Singing Rabbi, as he was affectionately called by his followers, was born in Germany in 1925. He and his family moved to the United States in 1939.

Carlebach’s father was a renowned rabbi, and someone who would open his house to all strangers. This was a trait that greatly influenced Shlomo in his later life.  Hasidic ultra-orthodox Judaism had a fervor that fascinated Shlomo during his early years. He found his passion in it, leading him to become a rabbi. He decided to focus his rabbinate certification on outreach to young people. Rabbi Carlebach decided that music was the best way to perform this outreach. The Hasidic melodies were very appealing to many young Jews who had lost their connection to Judaism.

Shlomo Carlebach became nationally known when he became the only religious leader to participate in the Berkeley Folk Festival in 1966. He performed alongside musicians Pete Seeger, Peter, Paul and Mary, and Joan Baez. According to one observer, “when the concert ended, Shlomo had in tow hundreds of fans whose hearts he had opened during his performance. A virtual unknown at the start of the show, his charisma, warmth and authenticity had instantly transformed him into a kind of Pied Piper of Judaism.”

As a result of this sudden popular appeal in the San Francisco area, Rabbi Carlebach opened an outreach center there, called the House of Love and Prayer. It provided a home and shelter to Jewish and non-Jewish young people who had run away from the homes of their parents. Torah study classes, as well as regular Sabbath and High Holiday services were held there. This was the second facility that Carlebach had owned. The other was the Carlebach Synagogue in New York, which also held Torah classes and regular religious services.

Carlebach’s other high profile musical performance was on a visit to Russia during the Moscow Peace Festival in 1989. He performed in front of large numbers of Jews, inspiring them with a spirituality they had been lacking for so many decades during the Cold War.

Rabbi Carlebach’s international influence also extended to Israel, where he was chauffeured by the Israeli military to visit soldiers during the Yom Kippur War in 1973. This differed from other entertainers who visited soldiers, since Carlebach’s presence was regarded as being inspirational to troops fighting in a war. A religious community, or Moshav Modiin , was founded by him in Israel in 1976. Its purpose and programming was the same as the House of Love and Prayer in San Francisco.

Shlomo Carlebach died in 1994 at the age of 69. As a final addition to his legacy, the Singing Rabbi’s melodies permeate the liturgy of many Jewish and non-Jewish religious services.

Two YouTube videos of Rabbi Carlebach below,  include one in which he has gotten into a very high spiritual state. The other is one in Montreal, Canada at the time when Soviet Jews were finally leaving Russia at the end of the Cold War.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=pgkz6wbCcFo&list=PLA1C7692B0D3D3281

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpXX9MJ9Oxg

Barry Dwork, author and owner of Peace of Music, October 29, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from Barry Dwork is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Barry Dwork and Peace of Music with appropriate and specific direction to the original content

Harmony for Humanity: A Silver Lining in the Daniel Pearl Tragedy

2013_0205_anim_concert_m[1]Daniel Pearl was a journalist who was killed by Al-Qaeda terrorists in Pakistan in 2002. People who knew Pearl could not understand why the terrorists specifically targeted him. As his widow,  Marianne Pearl described Daniel, “as a journalist and sojourner of the world, Danny held no prejudices about the people he interviewed and met. He first and foremost considered the human being in front of him, regardless of religion, race or social status.”

As one way of lighting a candle to curse the darkness, the Daniel Pearl Foundation each year holds an event called World Music Days. It “showcases original music, lyrics, poetry, stories, articles, art, photography and video which reaffirms and intensifies Danny’s convictions that music, truth, honesty, and dialogue can build bridges across cultural divides, and help achieve international friendship.” Daniel Pearl himself loved music, and played several instruments as a hobby.”

Each year musical performers produce videos that can be viewed on an e-stage. Viewers on the Daniel Pearl Foundation website can click on one link for lyrics, poems, and dedications, another to see photos and musical videos, etc.

If you click on the YouTube links below, one video is Elton John’s tribute to Pearl, and the other is a musical tribute by musicians from Afghanistan that was held at the US Embassy in Kabul.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7zvV1BDOUw&feature=player_detailpage

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=MqlRuomr5ig

Barry Dwork, author and owner of Peace of Music, October 29, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from Barry Dwork is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Barry Dwork and Peace of Music with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Orphaned in the Land of Milk and Honey: Israel’s Arab Spring

2013_0205_anim_concert_m[1]As Rai Ben Yehudah, Professor of Conflict Resolution, put it, “the story of an Israeli band Orphaned Land’s surprising success in the Muslim and Arab world rests on three pillars: music, examples of cooperation and community.”

Orphaned Land was formed in 1991, and it’s musical message is about peace. Their style is a combination of melodies from Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

The album that has drawn a large amount of publicity is Mabool. It is fictional, telling a story of three sons who are angels representing Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. God forbids them from uniting, for fear of their strength. Ignoring the order, they unite into one angel. They’re immediately exiled from heaven to earth, and then divided into three, sentenced to fight each other until they can prove themselves and get back into heaven. The angels try to convince humanity to stop their sins, and warn of an upcoming flood if they do not.

What makes Orphaned Land stand out is its appeal to fans in Arab and Muslim countries. Many of these fans wear tatoos with the band’s name on their arms. The Internet and social media has opened up a world for them that was unheard of for their elders. But as Kobi Farhi, Orphaned Land’s lead singer put it, “how bizarre that an Israeli band has a huge stream of followers coming from the countries of enemies. It shows music as a weapon that unites people. It may sound like hippy crap, but I come from a place where I have to raise kids that will go into the Army to fight terrorists who are coming to kill them. We are trying to change that, and we are trying to change that with music.”

Two significant developments demonstrate the appeal of the band’s message. First, being featured on the cover of an Iranian rock music publication, Diovan, in 2010. The other is a petition being circulated by fans from Turkey, Syria, Iran, Palestinian territories, Lebanon, Morocco, Dubai, Yemen, as well as Israel,  to award Orphaned Land the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize.

See the YouTube link below to one interview with Kobi Farhi, as well as the Facebook page of fans in Syria.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iByRh_HBvEY&feature=player_detailpage

https://www.facebook.com/#!/Orphaned.Land.Syria?fref=ts

Barry Dwork, author and owner of Peace of Music, October 29, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from Barry Dwork is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Barry Dwork and Peace of Music with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Is Islam Still Alive with the Sound of Music, with Songs That Have Been Sung for a Thousand Years?

2013_0205_anim_concert_m[1]The title of this blog was borrowed from a 1965 musical entitled, The Sound of Music. While its theme is about the transformational power of music, there is an ongoing debate within Islam about whether or not it is a permissable form of expression.

Although not expressly addressed in the Koran, Islamic militants such as the Taliban have used Mohammed’s alleged hostility toward music to enforce brutual punishment against people singing and dancing at weddings.

Many moderate Muslims, on the other hand, believe that Islam forbids music when played in public places such as bars and taverns, where alcohol is consumed. Muslim musicians such as Salman Ahmad, from a Pakistani-American band, Junoon, and Yusuf Islam, formerly Cat Stevens, believe that musical expression has a place in Islam. Ahmad draws inspiration from Sufi poets, who subscribe to the less well-known denomination of Islam. Ahmad is regarded as the Bono of the muslim world, in his lobbying for Third World development, and building bridges between the islamic and western worlds.

Cat Stevens had stopped recording music after he first converted to Islam in 1978. After a lot of time and reflection, he concluded that there are no real guidelines about instruments, or the business of music in Islam. “Whenever one is confronted by something that is not mentioned in the scriptures, one must observe what benefit it can bring. Does it serve the common good, does it protect the spirit, and does it serve God?”

From the YouTube link below you can hear a song sung by the Pakistani band, Junoon, about the theme of world peace

Barry Dwork, author and owner of Peace of Music, October 29, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from Barry Dwork is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Barry Dwork and Peace of Music with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.