The Arts and Social Working

The most effective and meaningful forum for developing an appreciation for the arts and for self is through a program started by Rudolf Steiner in Germany in the 1960’s. We know of it by the name of Waldorf, an education system that honors the individuality of each child.

His vision was one of generosity, equanimity and tolerance, with no divisions between those labeled handicapped and those labeled normal.

Today, we strive to understand the abilities of the disabled through community involvement. If one wishes to experience an unfamiliar world, visit a community center that focuses on health for the disabled. My introduction to this community occurred upon hearing a concert. I’d attended to hear musical colleagues that were collaborating in the concert but little did I know how stunned I would be by the experience. Born from my enlightened moment was a beautiful co-production I created with the directors in 2009.

I feel all my work to date is a result of my attending that concert so long ago. I continue to learn from this community, supporting their efforts and shining a light on their amazing abilities. Sometimes I think they are more whole than I am, which is wonderfully humbling and grounding.

Horsehead Fiddle: The First Violin?

The Connection of Violin and Horse

Legend has it that the original violin, called a chuurqin, was born in Mongolia. In Central Asia, 6th Century, a boy loved his steed more than life itself. According to one Mongolian legend, the horse was slain and came to the boy in a dream. It said for him to use his body to make a fiddle so they would be together forever.

Clearly, the relationship between people and horses was a crucial union for survival on the steppes of Asia.

This is a tale from the book “On the Trail of Genghis Khan” by Tim Cope. On his trek, he stays the night in a yurt with a Mongolian family. The matriarch pulls out a stringed instrument known as the morin khuur, or horsehead fiddle.  

“Boasting a trapezoid-shaped box, carved horsehead at the top of a long stem, and two long, parallel strings – mare’s – it had been handcrafted in a tradition probably unbroken for at least a millennium.”

The ancestor of the morin khuur was the chuurqin.

And it is this story that made me marvel, so I had to stop reading.  I had always wondered at the pull I feel when violin and horse are in the same arena, that it makes complete sense to be playing the violin as I walk with a horse. They lick and chew, lower their heads, looking expressively at me, ears pricked and completely relaxed.

I wondered why.

Now I know. Legend has it that it is a very ancient union. How thrilling!

Deep Dive with Music

Deep Dive with Music

Plunge into the lakes of unknown communities. Everybody responds to music.
Music binds without prejudice or pre-conception: invisible therapy for anyone…….more coming

The Beauty of Music 2

Since I wrote the Beauty of Music 1, I’ve started reading Elena Mannes’s book called The Power of Music. I would highly recommend this reading for anybody. Her language is accessible and compelling. I’ve been thrilled to find her last few years have produced a body of collective knowledge that underscores my findings and passion.

In much of the reading I’ve been immersing myself, it is, naturally, focused on the relationship between music and the brain. It seems there is a burgeoning group of researchers out there interested in understanding not if but to what degree is music universally at the center of life.

Some say, “Why drill down to this nth degree on subject matter that should be mysterious? Maybe we aren’t supposed to understand it.” I understand these sentiments. I feel that way about hooking machines up to Stradavarius violins to see why they make such a historically beautiful sound. Fortunately, no one has figured that out yet. The magic is in the ancient stain.

However, we live in societies that don’t place value on music education, that view the arts as a luxury, not a vital part of who we are as a species. As specialists find quantitative evidence that music lights up the brain, a natural question for the music advocate is, “to what degree is the brain changed by hearing music?” If music creates neurological pathways, certainly music should be at the center of education, and life itself.


The Beauty of Music 1

How we use music to mirror or affect our emotional state can differ from person to person. When music is needed for release, it is there for us, from the dark oceans of Bartok String Quartets, the acidity of Shostakovich, to the wild head-banging of metal music. Others may chose to submerge into a soundscape and float their way to a state of nothingness.

The release or energizing power of music works in the therapeutic riding arena as well. The emotive capability of the violin voice fires vibrations instantly to the brain center of the client, sometimes with simple and direct bursts of melody to trigger cause and effect understanding, sometimes a song to reward. A rhythmic two-beat pattern of a walking tempo boureé or folk tune can also affect the horse, who will respond with greater impulsion, which translates to more activity to whomever is in the saddle or on the pad.

These minutes of sound build the treatment bubble and act as a gateway for the instructor or therapist.  New responses can mean a possible journey to physical and/or neurological development, and ultimately, independence.

Are Musicians Really Neuroscientists?

The more I read, the more I know I’m right. The more I experience with my wellness program, the more I see weekly the effects music has on people.
As I play my violin for disabilities in the therapeutic riding arena, a magical gateway is opened.
The client becomes pliable, a necessity for change to occur.

I think musicians know instinctively that their abilities can reach areas in the brain that are not
completely understood. We are all instinctive neuroscientists, ever striving to play that perfect phrase,
to find the perfect color, that will go straight to the soul of the listener.

It goes to the soul of the performer too.