Madeleine Davies

Songs of agony and ecstasy: a review of “Music on the Mind”

In Uncategorized on January 13, 2016 at 11:19 pm

Harvey Brough conducts Vox Holloway at the Premiere of Music on the Mind, 29 November 2015

It was the loss to suicide of four friends within two years that inspired Justin Butcher and Harvey Brough to create “Music on the Mind”. A new choral work, drawing on texts by “unquiet minds”, including those of Sylvia Plath and John Clare, it was performed for the first time at St Luke’s, Holloway, in November. I was in the pews and deeply moved.

I think it was the sight of members of the Maudsley Hospital’s Mind and Soul Choir shouting “KICK IT DOWN! KICK IT DOWN!” that thrilled me most. Comprised of staff and service users, their friends, family and carers, the choir was the beating heart of the performance. As they delivered with gusto this refrain (part of a choral adaptation of “An Unquiet Mind”, Kay Redfield Jamison’s memoir of manic-depression) they were both deliberate – eyes firmly fixed on their conductor – and free, exhilarated.

Bible therapy? CBT and Scripture

In Uncategorized on January 5, 2016 at 10:53 am

There is a famous passage in the Bible where Paul tells the early church to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ”. Deploying the language of war, he lays claim to a divine power that can be mobilised to destroy arguments and “every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God”. Just how difficult it can be to take control over thoughts is articulated by John Donne in the Holy Sonnet that begins “Batter my heart”, in which he urges God to take his heart by force. “Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend, / But is captive, and proves weak or untrue.”

The idea of an internal war, of the fight to lay hold of our thoughts because of the sway they enjoy over our feelings, is central to the principle of cognitive therapy. In fact, Dr Pablo Martinez, a Spanish psychiatrist, believes that we can find in Paul’s instruction “the embryo of cognitive therapy”. 

In praise of poetry

In Uncategorized on December 17, 2015 at 2:44 pm

WHEN World Poetry Day was established, in 1999, UNESCO declared that poetry could meet the world’s “unfulfilled aesthetic needs”. It was the means by which young people could “return to their roots” and “look into themselves at a time when the outside world is irresistibly luring them away from themselves”. UNESCO saw signs of a “shift in society towards the recognition of ancestral values” and “a return to the oral tradition”. Finally, it hoped that the day would “offer endangered languages the opportunity to be heard within their communities”.

Fifteen years on, the 21st March passed with little fanfare. One newspaper published a collection of the funniest tweets about the day. Others ignored it altogether. In Britain, sales of poetry appear to be in terminal decline. Last year, Jeremy Paxman, a judge for the Forward prize for poetry, accused poetry of having “connived at its own irrelevance” and suggested that poets, guilty of only “talking to other poets”, should be hauled before an “inquisition” to explain themselves.