Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Tag: Michael Yafi

  • The musical and medical journey of Jean Sibelius

    Michael YafiChaden YafiHouston, Texas, United States The Finnish composer Jean Sibelius (1865–1957), one of the twentieth century’s greatest composers, was known for his ability to capture the stark beauty of his country’s landscapes through his unique, austere musical style. Born into a family with diverse talents, his father, Christian Gustaf, served as a municipal and…

  • Tumultuous crescendos and tranquil decrescendos in Ravel’s work

    Michael Yafi Chaden Yafi Houston, Texas, United States   Maurice Ravel in his hometown, 1914. Via Wikimedia.  The world is commemorating the 95th anniversary of Maurice Ravel’s Boléro. The composer continues to be one of the most enigmatic classical music personalities. Born in 1875 in Ciboure, France, he displayed from an early age a keen…

  • Picasso and medicine: From early paintings to a syndrome

    Michael YafiHouston, Texas, United States Pablo Ruiz Picasso (1881–1973) was known for his love of the good life. Reportedly, his last words were “Drink to me!” But early in his life, Picasso witnessed sick and dying friends and relatives in his hometown of Malaga, Spain, and was haunted by the deaths of his sisters. Cholera,…

  • Nikolai Medtner: his forgotten melodies, music, and life

    Michael Yafi Houston, Texas, United States Nikolai Medtner recording for HMV, 1947. Photographer unknown, copyright controlled, courtesy of Warner Classics.   The music of Nikolai Medtner (1880 -1951) is among the most enigmatic of the piano repertoire. Medtner was an opinionated composer who admired Rachmaninoff and rejected all attempts at modernism in music. Rachmaninoff met…

  • Hector Berlioz: from medical school to music conservatory

    Michael Yafi Houston, Texas, United States   Portrait of Hector Berlioz. Gustave Courbet. 1850. Musée d’Orsay. Via Wikimedia Louis-Hector Berlioz (1803–1869) was born in La Côte-Saint-André, France. His father was a well-known physician in his hometown in the French Alps and wanted his son to follow in his footsteps. At the age of eighteen, Hector…

  • Ludwig van Beethoven: music and medicine

    Michael Yafi Chaden Yafi Houston, Texas, United States   Beethoven home and surrounding area. Photos by Michael Yafi. December 2020 marked the 250th anniversary of the birth of Ludwig van Beethoven. The causes of the composer’s deafness and his death at the age of fifty-six have remained unknown, even after an autopsy carried out soon…

  • Sergei Rachmaninoff: The dichotomy of life and music

    Michael Yafi Chaden Yafi Houston, Texas, United States Rachmaninoff. Photo by Bain News Service. between ca. 1915 and ca. 1920. Library of Congress Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943), a Russian composer, was known for having very large hands. With a span that covered twelve white keys on the keyboard (the interval of a thirteenth), he could play…

  • Shostakovich, shrapnel, and chronic poliomyelitis

    Michael Yafi Houston Texas, United States   Illustration by Elena Toponogova Pianist, London, U.K The life of Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) has fascinated artists, musicologists, and physicians who have tried to make a connection between his medical history and musical repertoire. Having once said, “When I hear about someone else’s pain, I feel pain too,” Shostakovich…

  • Epidemics from plague to Coronavirus

    Michael Yafi Houston, Texas, United States   Copper engraving of Doctor Schnabel [i.e Dr. Beak], a plague doctor in seventeenth-century Rome. From the Internet Archive’s copy of Eugen Hollände Die Karikatur und Satire in der Medizin: Medico-Kunsthistorische Studie von Professor Dr. Eugen Holländer. circa 1656. Throughout history humanity has faced many epidemics and pandemics that caused…

  • Mahler’s endocarditis and broken heart

    Michael YafiHouston, Texas, United States Gustave Mahler (1860–1911) suffered from personal setbacks throughout his life. Despite receiving more acclaim in early 1900, the death of his daughter Maria from scarlet fever and diphtheria affected him deeply.1 During the same year, Mahler received a vague diagnosis of a “defective heart,” which was later confirmed by the Viennese cardiologist…