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Art, philosophy and musicians’ health

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Music plays the main role in the lives of many people. Music is a human language, the philosophy of life and science. A non-verbal language, a way of giving thoughts, learning and describing the world. Metaphysics, i.e. exploring the nature of being, and epistemology as knowledge, and the ability to understand allow to know scientific issues with the language of rhythm and melody. For example, the Doppler Effect which was a basis for developing the ultrasound scanner, radio waves which are part of MRI, infrasound – part of the therapy with Tibetan singing bowls. Music is also social philosophy and probably the most philosophical puzzle arrangement of thinking and life. Music is a language which people use to communicate in the most intimate, often indefinable issues. It makes people and communities more sensitive, enriches individual and social imagination. With imagination „people are now hoping to comprehend what happens in the world and understand what happens with themselves being small spots in the community, on the edge of biography and history (C. W. Mills).

The philosophy of music is abstract thinking which lies at the basis of discovering undiscovered things. Pure music discovers the beauty of a landscape which cannot be described with words. Pieces by F. Chopin are the best example of pure music. What Picasso was not able to express with words, he expressed in his paintings. In his paintings the guitar theme appears. The theme and playing the guitar are different things but certainly it does not differ so much from painting in terms of influencing man. To what extend? I will just quote Albert Einstein „I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.”

My Dad was coming to the end of his life. He was not ill, he was a fading away old man. Dad was not able to talk in a logical way anymore. So I took an instrument. I started to play and sing. It was not easy, I felt a different sad kind of expression but I went on. At some point I heard him singing, Dad was singing with me, he did not stop for long. This was our last meeting. I will remember this duo concert. Our last conversation, not its content, but its meaning, saying goodbye, and waiting to meet each other in the other world.

In people who cannot communicate with words pronounced in a comprehensible manner, phonetically and logically, art and its non-verbal way of conveying content are the only communication language available. This happens in old people, infants, people frightened of a disease, in intensive care units, in the deaf-mute (but they hear infrasound, the rhythm of drums) or in vacuum. (Odyssea 2000 by S. Cubric)

Life goes on dynamically, in the limelight, among people, in the world of sounds and images in Tokyo, London or New York; in case of sick people it goes on in loneliness, darkness and the silence of hospital where you hear the increasing sound of infusion pumps, dialysers, and other equipment in the rhythm of a disease. Art, in this case music, can change the reality that is difficult to accept. „If only they had music there,” Bożenka said, with a central port for the chemo.

The curiosity of music influencing life and health led me to looking for the answer to the following question: How long did the composers of classical music of the 20th century lived? A list of famous composers of that period includes 61 people. The average age was more than 70. George Gershwin (1898–1937) had the shortest life, only 39 years. He died of brain cancer. Józef Koffler, a Polish composer from a mixed Polish-Jewish family, lived relatively shortly (1896–1944); he was shot during the war. Scott Joplin (1868–1917) lived a little longer, for 49 years. He died of syphilis. In this group Irving Berlin enjoyed his life the longest, he lived for 101 years. Some did not live so long, only in October 1791 nobody assumed that Mozart would be dead two months later. The cause of the composer’s death was not known for many years, while the romantic tradition created a lot of fantasy legends about this fact. After a long medical analysis performed by Anton Neumayr, the course of Mozart’s disease was determined in a pretty detailed way, the analysis includes symptoms such as high fever, extensive sweat and rash, inflammation and limb swelling, body immobilization because of severe pain. The diagnosis mentions high rheumatic fever with a clinical picture of rheumatoid arthritis recurrence.

The lifespan of pop stars from the moment they started to gain high in record charts and be famous was compared to the expected lifespan of the whole population. Age, sex, ethnicity and nationality were taken into account. In the studied period between 1956 and 2005 a hundred stars died in total. The average age of North American stars at the time of their death was 42, European stars – 35. More than a quarter of those deaths resulted from a long drug abuse and drinking alcohol. But there is a long list of rock musicians who live long and happily. Trubadurzy performed jubilee concerts for ex-member Krzysztof Krawczyk entitled “Half century, man”, 51 years on stage; the same applies to Czerwone gitary; The Rolling Stones – 53 years on stage. Wille Nelson, born on 30 April 1933, has great artistic achievements, charisma and plays even today. One of his greatest hits is “Always on My Mind” and the four-time platinum album “Willie and Family Live”. Mieczysław Fogg, or actually Mieczysław Fogiel (born on 30 May 1901 in Warsaw, died on 3 September 1990 in the same place), is rather a pop singer from a slightly different pre-war world.

Music changes the quality of life. The quality of life means „perceiving by individuals their position in life in view of the culture and value systems in which they live and in relation to their objectives, expectations, standards and interests.” It is a great challenge for idols, often an unbearable burden. They are as we want them to see. The mystery of the world is that the world is what is reflected in it. Musicians are immortal. In some sense musicians do not die as long as their work is alive, as long as we listen to it. So let’s listen to it.