Scales, sounds, and selves

I love playing scales. I play them every day, and think of them as one of the fundamental elements of a musician’s art.

Because I hope to convey my enthusiasms to my students in a way they might find infectious, I was surprised when one admitted to me that she found her daily scales practice boring. She had, she told me, religiously played scales in her “key of the day” with varied bowing patterns and articulations as I’d directed her to, but hated it so much that she’d started setting a timer and glancing at it every few seconds to see how much closer she was to being “done.” (Are we ever really “done” with anything, as musicians, the way a batch of muffins are “done” when the timer goes off? I don’t think so.)

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Philosopher’s stone? Or placebo?

When my daughter started cutting her first teeth, she was miserable. Babies don’t understand why they’re in pain; they just want it to stop.

My husband and I felt powerless to help her. We wanted to do something, so we got into the car and drove to a pharmacy. There were various teething remedies there, so we picked one called Hyland’s Homeopathic Teething Tablets and headed home.

Sure enough, they seemed to soothe some of our daughter’s pain, so we used them every time she seemed to be having a rough time.

The next time we were at a pediatrician appointment, I mentioned the tablets, and asked if they were OK to use in the long term. The pediatrician shrugged. “Homeopathy is entirely ineffective,” she said, and explained why. “It may be useful as a placebo, though.”

Continue reading “Philosopher’s stone? Or placebo?”