FTD allowed a torrent of creativity

Anne Adams painted An Unraveling of Bolero

Maurice Ravel and Dr. Anne Adams were in the early stages of a degenerative brain disease called FTD, or frontotemporal dementia, when they were working, Ravel on Bolero and Dr. Adams on her painting of Bolero, The disease apparently altered circuits in their brains, resulting in a torrent of creativity.

Bolero alternates between two main melodic themes, repeating the pair eight times over 340 bars with increasing volume and layers of instruments. It is an exercise in compulsivity, structure and perseveration, without a key change until the 326th bar.

Dr. Adams, who was also drawn to themes of repetition, painted one upright rectangular figure for each bar of Bolero. The figures are arranged in an orderly manner like the music, countered by a zigzag winding scheme. The colors remain unified until the surprise key change in bar 326.

Anne Adams painted a rendering of the mathematical ratio pi.

Pi is the Greek letter Π and it is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. It is also a transcendental number and has the value of 3.1415926535897932384626433832795… Some mathematicians have the weird urge to memorize the value of pi to a large number of significant places. I merely memorized it 30 places when I was young. The funny thing about memory is that one doesn’t forget things committed to memory at a young age. I typed from memory the above number at age 83 as was memorized at age 20.

The value of e is 2.718281828…. It is the base for natural logarithm. You would have a return of £2.71828 for an investment of one pound at an annual interest of 100% compounded daily. (Sorry, I fudged, but if the compounding is made at nanosecond intervals, you would get close to that).

The equation e = -1 asserts: e raised to the imaginary power iπ is minus one. Absolutely beautiful! Trust me, it's true.

Hardly anything can compare with the pleasure and joy of discovering some exciting knowledge for the first time. Feynman observed this mathematical equation at age 13. Me, not being the Nobel Prize winning physicist that he was, also felt the astounding pleasure of knowing this equation, but at a far more advanced age of 23.

My sister-in-law, Judy Chiu Eng, was also a victim of Pick's disease. She was diagnosed with the disease in 1999 and passed away in 2002. While the disease did not visit a torrent of artistic creativity upon her, she had always had a cultural bend which undoubtedly influenced her son's eventual profession as composer in classical music. I recall fondly accompanying her on the many trips to the zoo and ice skating lessons with the children.

Dr. Anne Adams, trained in biology, chemistry, and mathematics, was a scientist with the University of British Columbia. She was diagnosed with FTD in 2000 and died in 2007.

In the 1984 Winter Olympic Sarajevo, Christopher Dean & Jayne Torvill won the Gold Medal ice skate dancing to the music Ravel's Bolero. A more complete orchestrated performance of Ravel's Bolero is in my classical music selection: