I do not think that there can ever be enough books about anything and I say that knowing that some of them are going to be about Pilates.The more knowledge the better seems like a solid rule of thumb, even though I have watched enough science fiction films to accept that humanity’s unchecked pursuit of learning will end with robots taking over the world.-Sarah Vowell

Monday, June 12, 2017

Instrumental: A Memoir of Madness, Medication, and Music by James Rhodes

From the age of five to ten concert pianist James Rhodes was repeatedly raped by his gym teacher Mr. Lee.  This book has two objectives: to show how he was able to overcome the abuse through the healing power of music and various other means and to educate on classical music and why it is important today and how the classical music industry needs to change or die.  For those who seek salacious details of the rapes, you will be sorely disappointed as he does not provide them.  It was hard enough living through them at the time. Recalling them is like living through them again and that is not something he wants to do.

The rapes happened at Arnold House a Preparatory School for boys in St. John's Wood in England.  James tells of how Mr. Lee singled him out for special attention which made him feel good.  Pretty soon he was helping Mr. Lee put away the gym equipment and was his little helper. Then Mr. Lee started with letting him burn matches. This forbidden activity had a twofold purpose. It allowed Mr. Lee to get close to James by allowing him to do something he wanted to do and it provided Mr. Lee with blackmail material for when he wanted to get James to do something James might not want to do.  He also bought him chocolate and toys.  When it came time to sign up for boxing classes (the school didn't have much of a PE program, just the part-time program that Mr. Lee provided) he signed up.  Now, what happened after that is taken from a police report that was filed in 2010 by the Head Teacher who took the boys to the boxing classes and back to school. She complained about what she believed that something going on to the Headmaster, but was told she was overreacting. She also told James's mother about it as well.  The reason she didn't go farther was that back then no one suspected that kind of abuse.  She suspected that Mr. Lee was frightening him and causing personality changes in him, but she never suspected what was really going on. The reason she filed the police report was that James had become public about his abuse and she didn't want Mr. Lee to hurt any more children.  

But just because the abuse ended when his parents sent him to another school when he was ten it didn't mean that he became better. Physically his body was messed up. He had to defecate all the time.  Later he would require multiple back surgeries to fix the damage.  Mentally he was really messed up as those who have been abused are. He slept with any who wanted to sleep with him or gave blowjobs to the boys or to teachers and other grown men.  All of this is perfectly normal behavior for someone who has just survived the kind of abuse he went through. He wasn't even sure of his sexuality for a while.  But he had the piano to play and lose himself in.  Though he was told he would never be good enough to be a professional.  

When he went off to college he fell even more heavily into drugs and would stop playing piano for ten years. He just stayed high constantly until his parents got him out and placed him in a rehab facility where, while he got sober, he still didn't deal with his abuse issues.   He spent the next year in France working at a Burger King and having a great time with the ladies and the amazing things you can see and do in France.  It was the healthiest year of his life. He then went back to college and tried being normal. He just shoved all of that pain and craziness down and pretended it didn't exist.  He made it through college and got a good job and met a nice woman whom he married but didn't tell about his past.  But that pain would not stay down forever and it would come out and destroy everything.  

He would spend time in various hospitals seeking help and finally found himself a good therapist to see. But music was the guiding force that saved him.  When he was seven he heard Bach-Busoni, Chaconne and it transformed his life.  It was a place to escape to.  Each chapter of this book is set to a piece of music that he has picked out tells the story behind it so you can get the full experience of it like he does and set the mood for the chapter.  Be warned there is classical music talk in here, but he makes it so interesting you want to learn more.  Overall this book packs a powerful punch and I can't recommend it enough.

Music has infiltrated our lives as much as nature, literature, art, sport, religion, philosophy and television. It is the great unifier, the drug of choice for teenagers around the world. It provides solace, wisdom, hope and warmth and has done so for thousands of years. It is medicine for the soul. There are eighty-eight keys on a piano and within that, an entire universe.

If Goethe was right and architecture is frozen music (what a quote!), this piece [Bach-Busoni, Chaconne] is a magical combination of the Taj Mahal, the Louvre and St. Paul’s Cathedral.
-James Rhodes (Instrumental: A Memoir of Madness, Medication, and Music p 31)

There is nothing as terrifying to a mentally ill person as a feeling. Good or bad doesn’t matter. It still has the potential to turn our minds upside down and back to front without offering the vaguest clue how to deal with it reasonably or rationally. 
-James Rhodes (Instrumental: A Memoir of Madness, Medication, and Music p 44)

To be nobody-but-yourself-in a world which is doing its best, night and day,to make you everybody else—means to fight the hardest battle which any human can fight; and never stop fighting.
-ee cummings

If there were an ultra-neurotic Jewish mother, on coke, who was beyond evil and got wet off malevolence, that is that part of my mind.
--James Rhodes (Instrumental: A Memoir of Madness, Medication, and Music p 49)

Musicians were meant to be all shades of fucked up, none more so than classical ones, who don’t even have the luxury of ripped jeans, groupies and cocaine—they have to express their issues with stupid jumpers, non-existent social skills and deranged facial expressions, and I knew I fit the bill.
-James Rhodes (Instrumental: A Memoir of Madness, Medication, and Music p 63)

How I wish psych wards had a loyalty card programme, with cards stamped for each day spent inside rather than each latte bought, where every tenth one resulted in a free day.
-James Rhodes (Instrumental: A Memoir of Madness, Medication, and Music p 69)

Could anyone be miserable in Paris? I’ve yet to see a fat Parisienne, the city has the heart-stoppingly beautifully architecture that can only come from surrendering to enemy forces in the early days of war, art, coffee, crepes, husky accents, a natural disdain for work, and smoking everywhere.
-James Rhodes (Instrumental: A Memoir of Madness, Medication, and Music p 70)

A creative artist works on his next composition because he was not satisfied with his previous one.
-Dmitri Shostakovich

There are many things I wish for. Cricket matches to not be able to last five days and still end in a draw. A massive increase in awareness and funding for mental health units and rape crisis centres. A six pack. KFC to deliver.
-James Rhodes (Instrumental: A Memoir of Madness, Medication, and Music p 98)

But feelings sometimes feel like Auschwitz, even if in reality they’re closer to Butlins. Real compassion comes from understanding that what feels true for someone is, to all intents and purposes, true. Doesn’t matter a bit if it is patently untrue to you and everyone else. And this terror felt true to me. It was my reality, however skewed that may seem.
-James Rhodes (Instrumental: A Memoir of Madness, Medication, and Music p 102)

Stupid love. Makes us all act like dickheads.
-James Rhodes (Instrumental: A Memoir of Madness, Medication, and Music p 168)

The people behind classical music seem to have lost sight of the fact that the composers themselves were, in effect, the original rock starts. Today the phrase ‘rock star’ brings to mind Heat magazine photoshoots, tattoos…being a judge on Britain’s Got Talent. Back then it meant really bad hair, some form of venereal disease, mental illness and poverty. They were for the large part mental, depraved, genius bastards who would have pissed themselves laughing at the ideas about performance that the classical gatekeepers of today are so rigidly stuck to. They didn’t throw TVs out of hotel windows, they threw themselves out.
-James Rhodes (Instrumental: A Memoir of Madness, Medication, and Music p 186-7)
Link to Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Instrumental-Memoir-Madness-Medication-Music-ebook/dp/B01M28JX4Y/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1497279999&sr=1-1&keywords=instrumental+james+rhodes

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