Unusual Concert of Music that Heals

An unusual concert last night at the Larry Sitsky Room, ANU School of Music, saw the culmination of a week-long residency involving German neurologist/flautist Prof Eckart Altenmüller, an authority in the area of music and the mind.

Staged as an informal concert with a short talk in the middle, the event allowed Altenmüller, a trained flautist, to join ANU woodwind lecturer and flautist Sally Walker, in demonstrating that music can speak louder than words with an animated rendition of Carl Philip Emanuel Bach’s “Trio in B flat Wq.161/2”, supported by Natalia Tkachenko at the piano.

A performance by composer-pianist Cyrus Meurant of two movements from the work, “Monday to Friday” followed. Meurant’s soothing composition, intended for nursing home residents, has been nominated for “Innovation of the Year – Dementia Solution” at the Asia Pacific Eldercare Innovation Awards.

Prof Altenmüller spoke informally to the audience in what proved less a lecture and more a pep-talk about the neurological origins of the “feel-good” elements of music, giving example of the therapeutic use of music in with Alzheimer’s and stroke recovery patients. It was frustratingly brief and 20 minutes seemed insufficient for him to do more than whet the appetite of listeners for more hard scientific information on the subject.

There followed the Elena Kats-Chernin work, which gave its name to the concert “Apollo’s Gift”. The audience learnt it had been commissioned by Walker and in response Kats-Chernin had composed multiple variations on the “danse macabre” theme to match the computer “skeleton” which had initially inspired Walker.

Tis light but eloquent evening devoted to music that heals concluded with Johann Joachim Quantz’s “Trio Sonata in A minor QV 2:40”, also performed by Walker, Altenmüller and Tkachenko.