Heart w staff paper
Music and The Heart

Music and The Heart

Heart w staff paper

My Heart on staff paper

I drafted this from the ground, on a bus between Chicago and New York.

The Body is what I meditated on last week.  This time, I will hone in on an even more centered topic: The Heart.

In Sports et divertissements, Erik Satie writes:

C’est mon cœur qui se balance ainsi.
Il n’a pas le vertige.
Comme il a des petits pieds.
Voudra-t-il revenir dans ma poitrine?

The last line poses the question, “Will it [The Heart] want to return to my chest?”  What a bizarre image—a heart with little feet that plays on a swing, and you wonder if it will return home.

This is one of my favorite poems and pieces of music.  I don’t really know why. I sure wish my heart would explain itself.

The heart is often characterized through disembodiment.  It’s as if your heart is a separate creature you interact with in the exterior world. Follow your heart. Listen to your heart.  Wear your heart on your sleeve.

Imagine a thing that has little feet, talks to you, plays on a swing, clings to your arm, and leads you forward. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Your Heart.

Why do we think it gross when The Heart is ripped from us?  The images from Mortal Kombat and Indiana Jones movies have saturated my childhood, but I do not remember them as particularly grotesque. Disheartening perhaps, but nothing more.  Ha ha.

I apologize for writing too friskily.  My Heart hops about, outside of my body’s jurisdiction.  Writing comes from The Heart—my pen is merely its translator.

My Heart has a Mind of its own.  My Heart has a Heart of its own.  My Heart has a Heart, a Mind, Little Feet, and a Swing.  Once My Heart is on The Swing, His Feet are useless.  Progression means nothing to My Heart when he plays on The Swing—each step forward is a swing back, and each step back, a swing forward.  The Swing perpetually effaces clarity of advancement, and undoes its own direction with opposing force.  My Heart is only along for the ride.

Playing on a swing and abandoning the feet of logical progression is not so bad after all.  There is something blissful and liberating about following the Heart, wholeheartedly.

Ha ha.

To play on a swing, you must sacrifice your feet, the tools for Progress and Order.  So here’s a big question: How does one generate Progress and Order on a playground swing?

Unfortunately for readers who may be interested in form or progression, I believe this is an occasion where my Heart is playing on the Swing.  He has run away with the show.

Although The Heart has seemed to run away with this particular article, this is still about Music and The Heart.  So here goes it: The Heart does not care about the Music you have prepared for him to grasp.  Music is already difficult to grasp through the Mind and Body; why would it be any different for The Heart?  The Heart does not care about music with a capital M.  The Heart prefers to swing to his own beat.

Heart w/o staff paper

My Heart, not on staff paper

The short piece from Satie’s Sports et divertissements is entitled “La Balançoire” (“The Swing”). The focus is not the Heart, nor the Body, but The Swing.  The Swing itself is what sways us.  The relationship of the Heart to The Swing is the same as the Body to the Heart.

Does my Heart have a plan for this article?  Absolutely not.  Does The Swing have a master plan?  No.  If I am a musician, does that make my Heart a musician too?  Not even.  As stated in the first article, I am a musician, therefore what I say is musical.  My Heart, however, does not follow these same rules.  He is disembodied from me and from Music, giving orders from afar.  And we are along for the ride.

My bodily plans as a musician try to take into account the playground antics of my Heart.  But still, no matter how hard I try to create Progress and Order, my Heart will occasionally swing unexpectedly fast, unexpectedly slow, or not at all.

So back to the big question: How does one generate Progress and Order on a playground swing?

In its original French, Satie uses the verb “se balancer” which literally means “to balance oneself.” His heart does not “play” on the swing, nor does it merely “swing” on the swing, rather, it balances itself.

Playground Swings are a balancing act.

As a musician in the U.S., I am blessed with a wonderful freedom to create and express.   In music, I often feel like the embodiment of my Heart—in a playground of delightful activity.  But if I’m not careful, I can easily suffer from vertigo.  The swing is the carrier of this said vertigo, and it happens to be where my Heart loves to play. Like a proud and patient parent, I stand at the edge of the playground, planted on my other two feet, supervising as best I can a mysterious, disembodied Self.

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2 thoughts on “Music and The Heart

  1. william osborne

    To continue some of the thoughts about mind/body dualities, there has long been a saying that the thighs are the second heart. Some Danish researchers put this to a test through a study of 2816 men and women over a 12.5 year period. They found a significant correlation between low thigh circumference, heart disease, and premature death. Apparently, thigh muscles play a significant role in circulating blood. See:


    Since strong legs lead to improved blood circulation, they contribute to the ability to maintain a positive, active spirit, physical endurance, and sustained concentration. I have found that riding my bike a lot, and working while standing at a lectern really help me as a composer. It’s amazing how much more exercise you get when standing to compose, and how much blood circulation and breathing are improved.

    There’s even an old saying in German that music is in the legs. The idea is that music is closely associated with dance and movement, but it might also show how the body and mind are deeply integrated and inseparable. And this is to saying nothing of those organs right above the thighs that seem to so preoccupy song writers and opera composers….


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