By Avis Cardella
M is a heart surgeon. He installs pacemakers, for those whose hearts can no longer keep pace. I’ve always been in awe of people who can peer into the human body—can cut it open and tinker and make the necessary adjustments, close it back up and say: There, there, now everything will be okay. I imagine it stressful to hold someone’s life in your hands.
Why does M listen?
“I’ve been listening for so long that I’ve forgotten why,” he says with a sly grin. “It’s like asking me: why do you breathe? It’s so much a part of my life.”
He confirms my suspicions about the serious business of heart surgery when he says, “I have very emotional work. So I try to listen to music as much as possible.”
Ninety-five percent of the time this means listening alone, maybe after a hard day in the operating theater. But once a week he’ll get together with friends to share a good meal, and listen.
For M, music can modify his emotions in a way that he likes them to be modified. “Music keeps me calm,” he explains. “But if I’m angry and want to be more angry I choose music to enhance that mood.”
And when he’s in a bad mood and wants to feel good? Vangelis’s soundtrack from the film Chariots of Fire always comes to the rescue. “When I want to feel better I listen to this,” he adds. “I feel like I can do anything when I listen to this.”
There’s no denying that music has always been able to touch the human heart, and soul. In his book, Listen to This, journalist, Alex Ross, says that the ancient Greeks believed the system of scales could be linked to gradations of emotions. Today technology throws a curveball on this concept: there is now an app that can make music from a heartbeat.
Pulse is an experimental app which generates electronic music based on your heartbeat. If you hold your finger over an iPhone camera, the phone’s optical sensor can monitor the flow of blood, determine heart rate, and make music off the tempo.
I suppose this gives new meaning to the expression: listen to your heart.
I’d like to ask M what he thinks about that.