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Poetry and Medicine
May 16, 2017

Musician’s Focal Dystonia

Author Affiliations
  • 1Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant, Michigan
JAMA. 2017;317(19):2022. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.0201

It’s the voice of that person

comes through the instrument.

Franz Welser-Möst

When dystonia scrambled my brain signals like a virus
     corrupts a hard drive, I was sure I could not spend ten thousand
hours retraining my brain to play the flute a new way,
     but when I heard that a luthier and his son restored the holocaust
violins to free their lost voices, I changed my mind. If I
     am silenced, you would not miss me but the way my vibrato,
on the first C# of L’Apres Midi d’un Faun, conjures up
     a sultry summer afternoon, the way your hips swing when I play
a tango, the way you hear whales when I close my lips
     around the mouthpiece to hum Voice of the Whale. The original
ten thousand hours, I will tick in reverse, a feat as tricky
     as learning to ride a backward bicycle, until once again I can curve
quiet fingers over the keys, whistle my lips to laser the tone
     down the silver tube, your body ringing in sympathetic vibration.

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