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Pauline Lerner

August 4, 2005 at 7:04 AM

Right Brain, Left Brain, Music, and Ravel

I read an interesting thread on this site about Ravel’s brain injury and how it affected him musically. Then I stayed up half the night reading more about it. It’s fascinating. In Artistry and Aphasia, which I highly recommend, the authors noted that aphasia, the language dysfunction of the brain, is similar to amusia, music dysfunction of the brain. I also recommend http://www.drunkenboat.com/db7/statement_right.html . From the latter reference, I learned that after Ravel’s auto accident in 1933, he developed Wernicke's aphasia, which "gradually eroded his ability to write music. Still, he retained the ability to recognize notes and rhythmical patterns, choose his scores, even perceive that his doctor's piano had gone out of tune due to the damp winter weather. As he was to report near the end of his life, the music was trapped in his head." The authors of Artistry and Aphasia explained that "he could not translate his auditory imagery of a
piece of music into a visual form (by notating it) or into a motor form (by
playing by heart…Ravel commented poignantly, I will never write my Jeanne d'Arc; this opera is here, in my head, I hear it, but I will never write it. It's over, I can no longer write my music.” Ravel died in 1937 from complications of brain surgery.

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