A Little More Jazz

This is a follow-up to the musical analogy from my last post.  A hospital functions like a jazz ensemble.  Intricate, intertwining, indispensable parts come together to form a unified, breathing, well-oiled whole.

The nurses play the role of the bass.  The bass is the heartbeat of the ensemble.  You don’t necessarily notice or think about the bass, but you feel it deep inside.  It’s actually what you dance to, what you tap your foot to, and what you bounce your head to as you listen to the music.  The bassist sets the overall rhythm, stepping out at times to solo and demonstrate the profound foundation the instrument provides along its range of deep beauty, and then brings back steadiness to the piece.  You cannot do without a bassist.  You cannot do without the nurses.

The internists, pediatricians and family practitioners are like the trombones.  Trombones are in the middle of everything.  They slide from high to low and back as they maintain the steady middle ground of each piece.  They harmonize, and tie together the sounds of the other instruments.  The trombonists provide the backbone for the other brass and the woodwinds.  Their range is wide, and they function across their range to blend the treble and bass sounds to coordinate the overall flow and sound of the music.

Saxophonists are sexy, and a little bit cocky.  Kind of like surgeons and obstetricians.  They solo frequently, and have incredible manual dexterity.  They’re a little showy, and with good reason – they’re really good.  They open the piece, close the piece, and take the piece on fantastic rides throughout.  Have you ever watched a saxophonist solo?  They tend to move with their instrument, leaning and thrusting their bodies into the sound almost in a “Dirty Dancing” kind of way.  It’s very physical.  They are fully immersed and sure of what they’re doing.  Like you have to be when you’re gowned, gloved, masked, and cutting into a person.

The specialists come in like the trumpets: loud, sure, and precise.  They can make a statement playing the same note repeatedly, and then when you think you can anticipate their next sound, they jump pitch, leap back and forth, and add a brilliant flourish as they bring the narrative of the musical story to another level.  You want them to weigh in on a subject.  When they speak, you listen.  And they know what they’re talking about.

The social workers and the respiratory, speech, physical, and occupational therapists fit the role of the electric guitar player in the jazz ensemble.  The guitarist has unique style and technique, filling in and enhancing the melodies and rhythm.  The guitar licks punctuate the storyline, adding layers that before you heard them, you might not have realized were missing, but once they’re there, you realize how important they are.

A drum set encompasses the behind-the-scenes people within the hospital.  The snare, like the clerks and secretaries, takes the lead in moving things along at a reasonable pace.  Each drum in the set has to beat in exquisite coordination with the others, fulfilling basic roles and ensuring that the rhythm and tempo proceed as they should.  The scurry of activity within each drum fill takes the musical piece to the next spot.  You’re not sure what just happened, but you liked how it sounded and you know you’ve shifted.  There’s a lot of complicated action.

The pianist sets the tone of the piece, like the administration of the hospital.  The tone can be soft or harsh, bright or dark.  You hear it louder at some times than others, but it is always there, affecting the overall mood.

The individual musicians in the jazz ensemble need to practice and hone their skills.  Each section needs to function together, and while each section speaks out and sounds great, you can’t listen to any one subgroup by itself for too long without its getting a little annoying.  You need the balance of the different facets of the ensemble playing off one another.  The entire group needs to practice together, listening to one another and adjusting as necessary to achieve an overall sound that is mind-blowing in its complexity, flawless in its integration, and simply beautiful.

And with that, we will return in the next post (on Monday) to your regularly scheduled installment of Your Hospital Guide.  I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief musical interlude!

One thought on “A Little More Jazz

  1. Sallee Lipshutz

    Did you forget about the person who’s writing the music…oh, I mean the person who’s writing the book? What a lovely analogy you have made, Dr. Philosopher-Doctor! Beautifully articulated and not to be missed! I can’t wait to read the book!


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