Ravel’s Bolero

Watch this Flash mob rendition of Ravel’s Bolero, and thanks to Keith Oliver for sharing it with me.

Published on YouTube Feb 10, 2013:

The Queensland Symphony Orchestra surprises a curious and enthusiastic crowd with a guerrilla-style performance of Ravel’s Bolero in Brisbane’s South Bank.  The Orchestra relocated to the city’s cultural hub in December of 2012 and performed the pop-up performance to celebrate their move into a new state of the art studio.

The Orchestra’s conductor was Tecwyn Evans. The film was co-produced with the ABC.

In an article in the New York Times, Sandra Blakeslee reported:

Ravel was in the early stages of FTD,  or frontotemporal dementia, when he worked on “Bolero”. The disease apparently altered circuits in his brain, changing the connections between the front and back parts and resulting in a torrent of creativity. Ravel composed “Bolero” in 1928, when he was 53 and began showing signs of his illness with spelling errors in musical scores and letters. Dr. Bruce Miller, a neurologist and the director of the Memory and Aging Center at the University of California, San Francisco says

The disease apparently altered circuits in their brains, changing the connections between the front and back parts and resulting in a torrent of creativity.

“We used to think dementias hit the brain diffusely,” Dr. Miller said. “Nothing was anatomically specific. That is wrong. We now realize that when specific, dominant circuits are injured or disintegrate, they may release or disinhibit activity in other areas. In other words, if one part of the brain is compromised, another part can remodel and become stronger.”

Thus some patients with FTD develop artistic abilities when frontal brain areas decline and posterior regions take over, Dr. Miller said.

An article by Dr. Miller and colleagues describing how FTD can release new artistic talents was published online in December 2007 by the journal Brain. FTD refers to a group of diseases often misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease, in that patients become increasingly demented, Dr. Miller said. But the course and behavioral manifestations of FTD are different.

In the most common variant, patients undergo gradual personality changes. They grow apathetic, become slovenly and typically gain 20 pounds. They behave like 3-year-olds in public, asking embarrassing questions in a loud voice. All along, they deny anything is wrong.

Two other variants of FTD involve loss of language. In one, patients have trouble finding words, Dr. Miller said. When someone says to the patients, “Pass the broccoli,” they might reply, “What is broccoli?”

In another, PPA or primary progressive aphasia, the spoken-language network disintegrates. Patients lose the ability to speak.

All three variants share  the same underlying pathology. The disease, which has no cure, can progress quickly or, as in the case of Senator Pete V. Domenici, Republican of New Mexico, who announced his retirement last fall because of an FTD diagnosis, over many years. Ravel had the PPA variant, Dr. Miller said.

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