Archive | November, 2013

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The Longing:

Posted on 28 November 2013 by Hao Li (Meds 2016)

The unique style of French composer Claude Debussy (1862-1918) made him one of the few composers who really stood out. In fact, most would credit Debussy with founding an entire era of music. While studying at the Conservatoire de Paris, Debussy shocked his music theory professors with harmonic writing that defied long-valued traditions established since the time of Bach. His policy was: “There is no theory. You have merely to listen. Pleasure is the law.” And that was just the beginning of his daring creativity. Under his gradual influence, French classical music entered a new age: a world infused with vague melodies, bizarre chords, and dreamy atmospheres. Acting like a musical counterpart to the newest trends of painting that were also taking root in France at the time, it came to be known as “Impressionism”.

For Debussy, most of this new style was expressed through the piano. His first major published piano work was the beloved Suite bergamasque (1890), which he began writing while still a student. Though modern and innovative, it was nevertheless an early piece by Debussy, and for a large part still looked back to the courtly and civilized dance forms of France in the Baroque times. This can be readily observed in the first, second, and last movements, respectively called Prélude, Menuet, and Passepied. All three contained the melodic and rhythmic clarity typical of late 17th/early 18th century France, and the Menuet and Passepied were both named explicitly after traditional French dances.

But the third movement, “Clair de Lune” (“Moonlight”), is exceptional. From the beginning one can tell that it is different from the others. Today, it is one of the most well-known classical masterworks, and has undergone countless arrangements and appearances in popular media. In short, “Clair de Lune” was very much ahead of even Debussy’s own time; it was as if he was possessed by his future self as he was composing it. In “Clair de Lune”, Debussy probably stole a glimpse of what he would later become, the man who would revolutionize classical music. It is permeated throughout by Impressionism, almost completely devoid of the organization and predictability exhibited in Classicism and Romanticism. Rather, the piece is left behind, like a dream, shrouded in an air of mystery.

It is, however, one of the most blissful mysteries ever conceived. The graceful opening melody is filled with an inexpressible sense of longing. We experience a scene of lovers sitting on the beach, mesmerized by the sight of the full moon as it bathes them in its gleaming radiance. And when they perceive the moon casting its heavenly reflection upon the face of the ocean, their yearning for each other becomes deeper and deeper. The cool summer night air brushes gently against their faces, and the ocean begins to rise. The waves arrive, softly at first, then gradually grows in intensity. At last the ocean reaches its climax, and their passions are fully aroused as the waters splash desperately against the silky white sand. Then, slowly, the waves die down, but the wind can still be felt. That disappears too, leaving them alone with the moon in a most intimate embrace. The waves sneak by briefly and playfully for a last visit. And finally, as the moon itself retreats behind the clouds, all is tranquil and calm.


Suite bergamasque: “Clair de Lune”

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A glimpse of the future

Posted on 05 November 2013 by Jimmy Yan (Meds 2015)

Today I was a medical student observer at the PARO General Council. PARO stands for the “Professional Association of Residents of Ontario”, sort of a student union but for the medical residents throughout the party. It was quite an experience sitting in this 5 hour meeting in a swanky business suite on the 19th floor of a massive bank building. Seemed more like the setting for a corporate take-over rather than the meeting place for a group of young physicians with a passion for advocacy.

The point was addressed fairly early on, “Residents have come a long way.” In the past the resident was seen still as more student than anything else, forced to sleep in the hospitals, barely compensated for their long hours of work, and kept voiceless on any of the matters happening in their workplace. They have the chance to start a family, they are paid for the long hours they put in (how fair renumeration is will always be a heated topic), and they are finally regarded as professionals when working with their colleagues and attendings.

Yet it was not a simple path to reach the guaranteed rights and benefits residents now possess. It took years of fighting, the insight to realize groups like PARO would become necessary, and incredible amounts of advocacy. Often this was done by residents for their fellow colleagues, even more so it was done so that future residents would end up with better conditions than before. It was a tremendous sacrifice of their time and effort, because they still had to keep up their duties to the hospital and their patients. Humbled was the only word that came to mind.

Actually, grateful would work as well.

And as the story of PARO’s early history and how it transitioned to some of the current day issues unfolded, I saw how the achievements were not just simple static events of the past. Everything continues to flow from one stage to the next. Some issues have been addressed and settled already, and some still require work. Efforts in trying to establish fair duty hours and manage fatigue while on service is becoming a hot topic, as is advocacy to ensure residents can be informed on what they can expect for a future job market when they emerge from their training.

As each generation of residents pass, new issues relevent to that cohort emerge and need to be handled.

I guess my point is that one day (sooner or later), my classmates and I will become a new generation of residents. We’ll be enjoying a lot of the benefits that hundreds before us worked so hard (maybe as hard as their clinical training), to achieve. But we need to keep up the fight. It won’t be enough to simply take these benefits like some sort of professional hand-me-down.

We need to pay it forward when the time comes.

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