Music in Your Life: The Bipolar Question of the Week

John McManamy Health Guide
  • Beethoven lived with bipolar. So did Mahler, Schumann, Handel, and no end of composers and songwriters and musicians. Now that I have set the scene ... 


    A friend informed me that Yo-Yo Ma and his Goat Rodeo collaborators will be performing in Boston on Tuesday, and that the event will play live at theaters throughout the country. I have a board meeting that evening and will miss it. Curses.


    A bit of background: Yo-Yo Ma is acknowledged as one of the world’s finest classical cellists, but he has also collaborated with musicians across many genres. The ideal is a product that reflects the best of both worlds, but the hazards are legion. Way too many things can go wrong. Thus the Goat Rodeo title. 

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    Goat Rodeo is an Air Force term to describe a difficult situation where everything has to go right in order for a plane to not drop out of the sky. A classical musician slumming with the boys is simply asking for trouble. Classical performers are notorious for playing and singing every note "correctly." If you want to hear something painful, check out Kiri Te Kanawa attempting to sing jazz.


    On second thought, spare yourself.


    Another hazard: Voices (including instrumental voices) rarely match up. Exhibit A is a John Denver-Placido Domingo paring that sounds good in theory until you flip on the “on” switch.


    When the collaboration works, though - oh, my oh my. Yo-Yo is the master. He meets the other musicians on their terms. They meet him on his. The result transcends genres. This happened on his latest collaboration, Goat Rodeo, where Yo-Yo recorded with three bluegrass string musicians. The result is neither bluegrass nor classical - more like a new breed of string quartet music. 


    Trust me, Goat Rodeo is one of the prizes in my music collection. 


    A few days ago, I took a nap on the couch to Yo-Yo’s recording of the Bach Cello Suites. I woke up in an unbelievably tranquil state of mind that lasted throughout the rest of the day. If I could only live every minute in this state.


    My guess is that my sleep and semi-sleep alpha and delta states opened my brain to a type of healing I can only describe as “vibrational.” But I won’t over-think it - it just happened. 


    Music leads me into all kinds of profound inner experiences, from the sacred to just plain fun. Cello Suites one day, Louis Armstrong the next, some guy on a street corner with his saxophone a few days later. It’s always been this way with me. Okay, I’ve rambled on long enough. Let’s make this a very open-ended question:


    Music and you - tell us about it.


    Hint: To help you get started, why don’t you pop on something right now? Then hit the comment button and describe your reaction to the music.

Published On: January 21, 2012