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No. 1 Music, Medicine, and 'Connectionology': C'mon Along....

I needed some 'irrational input' about some upcoming life decisions in January, 2008. Closely reasoned arguments were getting me nowhere. So I consulted a psychic.

As I entered her incense-burning, jewel-bedecked psychic-atorium, she looked at me discerningly and said, ‘You’re a doctor…no, you’re a musician….no, a doc-,no, a musi-…wait, are you both?’ I affirmed her intuition in a sheepish tone, fearing that I was being somewhat disingenuous in representing myself as a musician.

' I never thought of myself as a "real musician"'

At that time, I’d been a physician for 25 years and had taught courses in two difference psychiatric residencies, guest lectured in others, did some research ('hey kid, there's this new drug called Prozac or some damn thing...go see if it's interesting'), did some writing and had developed some cautious confidence in treating patients. But even though I'd been playing the guitar for 40 years, I never thought of myself as a 'real musician'. The psychic then went on to say I would be asked to write about the experience of being both a physician and musician.

‘Well, that’s nice,’ I thought, and began to look to acquiring sufficient experience at this ‘both/and’ business that would afford me something intelligent to say in this article. But just one month later. I received a call from the President of the San Francisco Medical Society. He informed me that the next edition of their monthly magazine would be on the intersections of music and medicine. Would I write an article?

In the 12 years since I wrote that eminently forgettable article, I have come to realize there is a central common intention that forms the basis of the work for both musician and physician – that of facilitating greater interpersonal and intra-personal connection. After all, if healing involves 'making whole', then central to that endeavor is connecting previously ‘dis-connected’ parts. Viewed in this way, perhaps both music and medicine are both subdivisions of a larger conceptual and clinical enterprise called 'connectionology.'

'The first step in treatment protocol was to "call the musician"'

However, the melding of music and medicine in this manner is hardly a new idea both conceptually and clinically is hardly a new idea. Pythagoras, Aristotle, Plato (and their respective philosophical back-up bands) were all over this and might have uttered a collective 'yeah, duh!' at the above entire paragraph above.


And the principles of the interrelationship between music and medicine were manifested at that time (the 4th Century BC) in the protocols of the Temple of Asclepius, the first temple of healing in ancient Greece (pictured, photo by Davide Mauro). Upon entry, the first step in treatment protocol for any patient was to 'call the musician!' Doctors were summoned only after musicians played the right kind of music to patients more amenable to their ministrations.

It is my fervent hope that our collective connectionological sensibilities that make for a greater understanding of the healing mechanisms within music and medicine (as well as the synergy of the use of both modalities) will continue to evolve to a point…where they were 2,500 years ago.

So this blog is about sharing my musico-physicianly fumblings as I try to further discover, understand and even apply the principles of connectionology. Perhaps in the end, we are all ‘connectionologists', given that one of the downsides of being human appears to be that of ‘disconnection, of being ‘fishes out of water’ that paradoxically inhabit the same ocean.

'We are all Gulliver among the Brobdingnagians'

At some point, we are all Gulliver among the Brobdingnagians, or, perhaps, Dante without his tour guide, Virgil. And if nearly four decades of being a doc has taught me anything, it’s that ‘disconnection’ – actual or perceived – isn’t just subjectively painful. It can be a core part of all sorts of neuro-immuno-everything else-o cascades into illness.

So c'mon along with me on these fumblings. And we all get to bring our instruments…and as Dante might have said to Virgil, ‘How cool is that?’


About the author...BRUCE S. VICTOR, MD

Bruce was born at a very early age in Detroit, Michigan.  More here...  


Hi Bruce. I always thought of you as a real musician. it was the doctor part I want't sure about. Now I am less sure, unless you are talking about music therapy, which you do very well! :>)


Really enjoying this series. Wonderful.


Is this the teaser? Keep it coming and fare forward voyager, fare forward.


I am a 70% disabled veteran suffering from PTSD. I play instruments as a way to refocus my mind and ground myself into the present with the music I am playing. I've been to a camp where Marla was one of my teachers and she knows I'm not very good. Being good isn't the point. Getting my mind out of where I was and back to now is. Studying music is so different than the other things I studied that helps me to really focus and be grounded. I hope this agrees with your research.


one way or another yes it's always about the ways we find to reach out or past or through or from and then of course the magic of listening and hearing of touching and being touched and starting all over again, or maybe just connecting or connectioning

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