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Music As Medicine

I try to play piano daily, preferably first thing in the morning before my brain is cluttered with remembering what else I need to do today. And since last fall, when cancer became an ongoing issue, it’s been especially soothing to pound the keys.

While I recuperated from surgery I played a piece by the Russian composer, Alexander Borodin. Called “The Dance of the Polovetsian Maidens,” the music is loud – very loud — repetitive, and challenging. Both my piano teacher and I agreed it was the perfect piece to express any unconscious feelings I had about the situation.

Over the holidays and during physical therapy to regain full mobility of my right arm (which was essential to starting radiation), I played traditional carols, studied the scales and chords in various keys, and worked on an easy arrangement of “Ode to Joy.” None of it was about being angry.

Now, two weeks in to radiation, I’m working on “Hallelujah!” It’s not the one written by Handel and often sung at the holidays. Instead, it’s the one by Leonard Cohen that was made famous by Jeff Buckley and was sung on American Idol a gazillion times. I’ve always loved the song and found an interesting arrangement that starts in the key of C and moves through the theme and variations into the key of A flat Major.

Originally this choice of music was no reflection on how I planned to feel when my radiation sessions – 21 to go as of today – were over. On second thought, however, it’s the perfect piece to work on.

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