Science-Based Scientific Seeing...of Science!

Incompassing the entire range of absurdity, from specious science to bizarre grammar, is a hard one to pull off, but this article shows some plucky spirit and just won't give up! Some credit is due to the interviewee, without whose quotes I'd likely have let this one alone.

Utah tenor Michael Ballam's life is so surrounded by music that it's not a form of relaxation.

His life is not a form of relaxation? Predicates everywhere weep. Nominative sentences collapse for lack of structural integrity.

But when he finds himself facing personal trials, he'll turn to the choral movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.

Okay. Sure. Why?

"That piece always gives me strength in difficult times," he said.

Fair enough. Any reason?

"I considered where Mr. Beethoven was and how he was able to create that."

In Vienna? Oh, right, he was deaf and stuff. I saw that movie, or read about it somewhere, or something.

"It lifts me out of the pity party I'm experiencing."

Really? You make it sound so profoundly anguished.

Figure 1: A Google (tm) Image Search for "Pity Party" produced this entertaining (yet irrelevant) publicity photo for an eponymous band. Picture found at clubspaceland.com.

Having spent most of his 57 years of life onstage opera singer and pianist, Ballam has discovered that music has a far greater influence than just entertainment.


Having spent most of his 57 years of life onstage

Okay, I'm with you...

Having spent most of his 57 years of life onstage opera singer and pianist,

What? Not with you. Word count got you down? Afraid of indirect objects? Editor in a coma? Dead?...or murdered? (*Dun dun dun*)

...Ballam has discovered that music has a far greater influence than just entertainment.

Music has a greater influence than has entertainment? Or more influence than merely being entertainment? Which is reserved for...something other than music, presumably.

The founder and general director of Logan's Utah Festival Opera will share his experience and knowledge in a combination lecture/performance titled "Music as Healing" at the Madeleine Festival May 24.

"...combination lecture/recital" is really really redundant. Helpful hint: try to avoid superfluous words in your prose that you write for money for people to read (it's usually obfuscatory and cluttered). Unless, you know, you need to fill the word count. Too bad your editor didn't, er, edit this.

But anyway, "Music as Healing," huh? Seems like that could mean several things, from spiritual to speculative. No?

Organizers of the festival said the topic is especially timely as people experience severe economic hardships.

This sentence must be explained by the next one, since it is really confusing. It's timely because...music healing is free, so you can just not go get those antibiotics you need for your sinus infection? Come on next sentence, help me out, here!

They tapped Ballam for the speech because of his reputation.

That was not helpful, sentence.

Apparently, one would easily be misled, without this helpful sentence, to believe that Ballam was "tapped" for the speech because he has neither an opinion on nor experience with the topic at hand. Which is "Music as Healing" by the way. Which is relevant during an economic slump because...

As a singer, pianist and oboist, Ballam has performed around the world, from the Middle East to the Vatican, and created more than 40 recordings.

Oh. That...does show he has...experience with opinions about healing music. You know, all of those religious-y places he's been? Or something?

And don't get me started about the Oxford comma. (Mrs. Arepo is a copy editor.)

Locally, his voice is heard weekly on Logan's Utah Public Radio station.

Which again, speaks to his credentials for speaking in a combination mashup joint lecture/recital/concert/talk about "Music as Healing." Thus ends a paragraph that has nothing to do with its topic sentence.

"What I hope we can accomplish is to help people understand how they may tap into the great power that music has to soothe the soul, heal the body," Ballam said.

And how is that? Or do I have to go to the concertlecturerecital thing to get my free music healing?

"It's much bigger than applause-generating."

I honestly have no reasonable clue what that means. There should be a website named after this sentence that is about non-diagrammable sentences.

What is "it?" What part of speech is the clumsy, hyphenated "applause-generating?" A gerund? Some sinister subordinate clause?

Next paragraph! Make with the music-healing explanation, or your accumulated applause-generation will be next to nothing.

Ballam will sing several songs as examples of music that possesses a strong message of healing and hope.

So the healing power of music is in the words and/or message of the songs?

During the conversation, he will also explore those elements of music that transcend the traditional entertainment value, while drawing upon his personal experience.

What is the "traditional entertainment value?" The part of music you...like? Like but can't explain? It's got a good beat, but I can't dance to it, I give it a 74.

The healing power of music, Ballam acknowledged, is nothing new.

The idea or theory of healing power? The fact that music heals? Or, rather, is perceived to do so? I'm still not sure how I can cut down on my medical bills in these hard economic times.

The difference is living in a time when people can scientifically see how music affects the body.

I hate it when I see, but not scientifically. Induction is good. Inductive reasoning gave us sitcoms. Wait, what about seeing music? Science? Living in a time?

Hence there is a science today, music therapy, that didn't exist when he was youngster.

Sort of. Music therapy can take many forms. Playing soft, slow music to help someone relax is hardly a new idea (neither is the idea that what mode (or key, whatever) the piece is in affects the mood, too. See Plato, and stuff). But, sure, as a field per se, it's sort of new.

I kind of think we're not talking about the same thing, though.

"If such a field had been available when I was a child, perhaps that would have been the direction I took as opposed to standing on the world stages," Ballam said.

That's super. It's also irrelevant, speculative, and uninteresting.

From an early age, Ballam has been compelled to use music to bless people's lives.

Compelled by what or whom?

More importantly, what does that mean? I know it's Utah, but that's pretty nebulous. Is it like getting blessed by a priest or something? "Bless you, son." Hey! I'm blessed! Awesome.

"I have seen it not only heal people but bring people back from the dead, from comas."

We are certainly not talking about the same thing. I'd like to see the research on that. You know, the science-seeing research.

Also, and not for nothing--if true, there are some editors in Salt Lake City that are either dead or comatose. You might look into that, as there is probably some money to be made promising not to resurrect them, by the looks of things.

That exploration of music's healing power was further enhanced in raising his son, Benjamin, now 17, who was born with spina bifida, as music has helped the young Ballam overcome significant challenges.

That's fantastic, if true. Or even if it's not, really. But that doesn't make it science. How, exactly, or, shit, even anecdotally, did this happen? I'd be less snarky if I wasn't actually curious about this stuff. What kind of music? Any music? Anything?

"I don't think a week goes by in my life when I don't see some manifestation of music has help someone get through a difficult time," Ballam said.

I don't think a week goes by in my life when I don't see seme music/write person has made difficult concerttalkrecital article reading hard-generator.

"And healing isn't just a physical thing. ...There is a lot of mental and emotional anguish people carry with them that are just as painful."

Just as painful...as healing? I'm not sure this nominative sentence is functioning properly. Better call a sentence mechanic. Or maybe we could play it some music.

Broad sweeping assertion! Nonsense sentence! A perfect ending to a perfect day.

Figure 2: A Google Image Search for "superfluous" led me to this tortise. I bet Mister Tortise likes arts criticism, too.


Empiricus said...

Re: "Organizers of the festival said the topic is especially timely as people experience severe economic hardships."

Let me get this right: music heals the wounds left by predatory baking practices and short-sighted financial planning?

Maybe its power could compel the arctic ice to cease melting, too.

BTW, my word verification is READIG. Blogger must share the same editor.

Sator Arepo said...

Predatory baking practices are indeed dire. Our very sustenance is at risk!

Empiricus said...

Doo doo head.

Gustav said...

I think its safe to say that Michael Ballum and I would not get along very well. And of all the crap that guy spewed, the worst has to be the conflation of science and music therapy. Science is to music therapy what Bernie Madoff is to a legitimate businessman.

Sator Arepo said...

Um, Gustav, dude. Check your construction there. In your version, music therapy is the legitimate businessman.

However, it should be pointed out that music therapy is not some kind of bunk science, at least not entirely. I had some employers once who had a toddler (~3 yrs old) that wasn't really talking; their insurance send over a music therapist that led the child in noise-making activities of various sorts--you know, connecting the self with the activity of making sounds. It seemed to help.

However, that's a far cry from reviving a comatose person (or editor).

AnthonyS said...

Just... wow.

Gustav said...

Good call, SA. I'm not knocking music therapy necessarily, it's just more akin to acupuncture than it is to chemotherapy. People swear by it, but its results are far from reproducable (which would be the one element that would make it science).