chapter  13
Musical Meeting
Pages 16

Max sits beside a ninety-three-year-old woman with advanced dementia. She’s sleepy and hardly notices him, but he stays and improvises a quiet, simple melody on his violin, making a gentle call to her attention, but also matching the music to her low energy level. He moves to a more regular pulse and increases the energy when he notices her foot tap to his playing. She looks up at him, seeming surprised. Then she falls asleep. A week later, he tries again with the same woman. She’s livelier now, but shows no sign of recognising him or wanting to take part. This time, Max has little sense of contact with her in the music he plays during the first ten minutes. Then suddenly something in his music catches her, and she makes five quiet claps, which both Max and the woman carefully time together, including a final clap that marks the mutually agreed end of the phrase. She looks up at Max and says, ‘You’re the young man who made music for me last week!’ Then she falls asleep again.