Think of somebody who you adore, who’s no longer here.

I’m listening (half listening) to this NPR podcast titled How Art Changes Us and half surfing.

I pause when I hear a familiar voice.  It’s Benjamin Zander, the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic.

For the next 10 minutes, he has my full attention.

So here’s the instructions:

  1. Listen to 10 minutes (from 40:22 to 50:40) of this podcast How Art Changes Us and then,
  2. For the next 4 minutes (from 12:35 to 16:45), watch this Ted Talk: “The Transformative Power of Classic Music“.

Or if you don’t have 14 minutes, jump Step 1 and move to Step 2.

And here’s a few excerpts that lead into the punch line:

Q: When can you remember a time when you played music for somebody and it had a profound change on what was going on around them?

Benjamin Zander: It’s hard for me to remember a time when I played music when it didn’t have that effect on people because that’s the given. I consider music to be a transformational experience. Mendelssohn said that music is a much more precise language than words. And when you think how easily we misunderstand words, and God knows there is enough evidence of that at this time. Music speaks directly to the heart. It speaks through the molecules. It is irresistible…

All the emotions that human beings are capable of feeling can be represented in music. It’s the music that generates the emotion that releases the human experience. It doesn’t go through the brain. It goes through the molecules…

It’s one thing to hear it in your earphones alone. It is quite another to hear it in a concert hall with 2000 other people who are all experiencing it together, and whose reaction and spontaneous enthusiasm at the end is part of the experience…

And on a tour, when you go from one town to another, you have the sense that people come out of the concerts with a different feeling about life, with a different perspective and with a different sense of being. And that’s why we do it and keep doing it and keep doing it. And as I approach my 80th birthday I have no intention to stop doing it at any point. It’s my life blood. That’s where I get my joy from. It’s the sense that people’s lives are really transformed.

Q: You play this piece by Chopin, but first you ask everyone to do something.

Zander: Yes. “Would you think of somebody who you adore, who’s no longer there. A beloved grandmother. A lover. Somebody in your life who you love with all your heart. But that person is no longer with you. Bring that person into your mind and at the same time follow that long line from B to E and you’ll hear everything that Chopin had to say.

(Now for the next 4 minutes from 12:35 to 16:45, watch this Ted Talk: “The Transformative Power of Classic Music“)

Photo of Benjamin Zander


  1. Interesting, since I heard that on NPR yesterday, as well!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Music truly is a universal language..

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I adore this post and I’m glad it’s here.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. And that my friends, is a master’s class in listening…..❤️

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Flagged to listen to this evening. I’ll get back to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Beautiful post David.
    There is no life without music.
    The first thing that comes to mind now is that when I’m on a stretch of bad days I always realise I haven’t listened to any music for just as long. And all I have to do is play some music and instantly I’m in a better place. The kids say if mom is in the kitchen and not playing music something is seriously wrong.

    And I remember the day my youngest discovered one of her favorites, David Garret. She ran to me at the door and said, “Mommy, did you ever listen to music so beautiful it made you cry?” It was Viva LA Vida she was referring to.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. I can’t do this now. I’d never stop crying.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Not the brain, through the molecules….that’s about perfect.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Reading this post when I’m learning new songs and etudes. What a boost of inspiration. Thank-you!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. love this, david. music transcends. years ago, i wrote about sitting with my kinders as we listened to a classical concert at the high school. one turned to me and said, with a beautiful smile, ‘miss kennedy, my ears are dancing!’. yes –

    Liked by 1 person

  11. “Shifts the molecules”, “. . . the emotional pores of all life’s experiences”
    Beautiful. Thanks for finding and sharing this.

    Liked by 1 person

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