TOUCHED BY LYME: “Ehrlichia,” Rhapsody in Discomfort #6
Dan Flanagan is a professional violinist and composer based in Northern California. He takes pleasure in creating music for solo violins and small ensembles. He often pairs his compositions with paintings from artists who inspire him—sort of a multi-media artistic approach, if you will.
I haven’t met him. But in the introduction to the following YouTube video, Dan comes across like a playful guy with an impish sense of humor.
Yet beneath the surface, there is much more to his story.
Dan has made his way in the music world despite severe muscle, joint and nerve pain—and other unpleasant realities—that have plagued him since the age of 12.
Finally, a diagnosis
Five years ago, at 37, after years of seeking out different doctors in search of relief from his agony, he was finally diagnosed with Borrelia (Lyme), Bartonella, Babesia, Ehrlichia, relapsing fever, and Epstein-Barr virus. (He does not recall ever being bitten by a tick.) Since the diagnosis, he’s undergone a wide variety of treatments that so far haven’t achieved the level of healing he has long sought.
“While it’s possible that these things have helped a little or at least slowed down the progression, I’m still miserable,” he says.
Physically playing the violin is a struggle for Dan, because of stiff muscles and other symptoms. But he says that music is what keeps him going, his raison d’etre, what gives meaning to his life. So, he carries on.
Putting pain to music
In the spirit of focusing on what he loves to do, Dan recently composed a short piece of music entitled “Ehrlichia,” Rhapsody in Discomfort #6.
Here’s how he explains it:
“Ehrlichia” is written in Rondo form. The repeated Rondo theme, representing the disease traveling through the body, is a fast moving, feverish collection of scales in C minor.
Each digression represents a different symptom experienced by the victim, and each return of the Rondo theme mutates as the disease develops.
Traditional harmonies, tonal clusters, and extended techniques combine to create feelings of discomfort, exhaustion, confusion, fear, and hope. Indeed, toward the end of the piece, the violin represents the attack of antibiotics with piercing and relentless C major chords, followed by temporary calm.
Beginning with a pizzicato tick bite, “Ehrlichia” brings the listener through the tribulations of a Lyme disease patient, ending with joyous relief and tranquility… followed by relapse.
With the aid of a financial grant from IntermusicSF, an arts advocacy organization, Dan has created a video of his three-person ensemble performing this work. He has made it available for all to see.
In the video above, Dan is playing with his friends Paul and Vicky Ehrlich. Amused that their last name closely resembles one of his infections, he chose the title “Ehrlichia” for this piece of music. Their ensemble goes by the name “Trio Solano.”
The video also features a painting that Dan commissioned from East Coast artist Nancy Schroeder, who also has Lyme disease and co-infections (including Ehrlichia).
At the end of the video, he includes information about Lyme and other tick-borne diseases, with URLs for more information.
“Ehrlichia,” Rhapsody in Discomfort #6 is a remarkable piece of music and the video is beautifully shot and edited. However, the musicians sit in a grassy meadow. I must admit, I found myself nervously hoping they were all wearing permethrin-treated clothing, with bug repellent on their bare skin!
I emailed Dan to ask him about it—and he assured me, the three took proper precautions to protect themselves from ticks. Whew! Good to know.
The Bow and the Brush
He continues to work on the music that sustains him. He will make his Carnegie Hall debut with “The Bow and the Brush,” a solo violin recital on October 3. Every piece on the program will be a world premiere, commissioned or composed by Dan, with images of the art projected during the performance.
The West Coast Premiere of “The Bow and the Brush” will take place at UC Berkeley on October 16. Learn more about Dan’s work and his upcoming performances at his website.
Photo credit: Russ Gold
TOUCHED BY LYME is written by Dorothy Kupcha Leland, LymeDisease.org’s Vice-president and Director of Communications. She is co-author of When Your Child Has Lyme Disease: A Parent’s Survival Guide. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.