The MET Orchestra

Where to begin?

There is so much to tell, I hardly know where to start. At the beginning, seems the logical advice. That would work well enough for a book, but I suspect that format would fail for a blog. So, instead, I begin with the here and now, then look backwards and try to weave threads of meaning into a broad tapestry of experience.

I begin with last Sunday’s MET Orchestra concert (Fabio Luisi conducting w/ Renee Fleming, and clarinet soloists Anthony McGill, and Stephen Williamson) at Carnegie Hall. It was a concert wonderfully performed and, for me, vividly experienced.

Indeed, for me it was a revelation. For the first time since the stroke, I truly experienced music.

For some months I have been doing extensive mental musical practice. Sitting in a chair or lying in bed at night, sometimes for hours art a time, I imagine pushing the keys of a piano and playing drum rhythms. With every key I push or every drum stroke I make, I imagine as richly as possible the sensations of touch and movement, and the instrument’s sound.

This is not a new idea. Most successful musicians do extensive mental practice.* I did too, when I made my living as a performer. But it was some time before I came to understand its benefits for stroke recovery.

Instead, since I could barely move my fingers, I thought I needed to work to actually move them. The work was so exhausting that at first I could only maintain it for a few minutes. I wonder now if it was too exhausting. Maybe even counter productive.

About two weeks ago, I began doing mental typing. I imagine the keyboard. Then I imagine moving my fingers through the alphabet and firmly pressing every key. I write this blog today with ten fingers. The left hand is slow, stiff, and clumsy. And using it is extremely uncomfortable. But I can do it. Two weeks ago, I would have used only my left hand index finger to type this entry.

Much more on all of this later.

For now, I need to finish the Met Orchestra story. As I listened, I engaged in more mental practice. I put the music into various parts of my body—a finger, a wrist, my skull, my chest. I imagined each finger dancing to Copland, the wrist’s nerves awakening to Mozart, and my brain making rainbows of energy to Mahler.

I have never felt more alive.

(See: Doidge, Norman. The Brain That Changes Itself. NY: Viking 2007. pp.200-204.)