Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Good medicine music

Dr. Tom Archie releases new CD

Express Staff Writer

Dr. Tom Archie

The demands of a career in medicine have not hindered the creative impulse of local singer/songwriter Dr. Tom Archie. Known for his emphasis on holistic and complementary medicine, Archie also lays down Southern-jam-band tracks with a heavy dose of social commentary. 

Dr. Tom’s Alchemy band blends a range of musical styles and influences, including Southern rock, bluegrass, funk, swing and folk. On Saturday, Feb. 23, Archie will release his latest CD, “Speak Plainly,” at the art barn at the Ezra Pound House/Sun Valley Center for the Arts in Hailey, 314 Second Ave. S. He recently took some time from his busy schedule to answer some questions about medicine and music:

IME: How much does the practice of medicine inform your lyrics?

Archie: It’s all about the story. I started writing songs during my residency training late at night when sleep deprivation and the creative process would collide. Early in medical training, I was taught that 85 percent of the diagnosis lies in the patient’s story. For me, emoting through songwriting is all about blending story with melody and rhythm in a process that is sometimes intentional and often intuitive. After 14 years of songwriting, “Speak Plainly” and “Medical Bankruptcy” are the first songs whose subjects arose from my experiences as a physician.

IME: How much does playing music affect the practice of medicine?

Archie: Years ago in Fort Collins, Colo., I saw a bumper sticker that resonated with me: “Music is life—the rest are details.” Music and medicine are both very pattern-oriented. Biology has rhythm and vibration at its foundation. Relationships between notes and chords can either be harmonious or dissonant. The same is true in the biology of wellness and illness. Practicing medicine requires a contrast of compassion versus objectivity and distance. Music makes me more humane. I rely on songwriting and performance to keep myself grounded and to uphold my sense of humor and humility.

IME: Would you like to change the world through music? If so, how?

Archie: I have often wondered if the U.S. could balkanize—turn political division into internal violence in the face of resource shortages. I believe the key to avoiding this is for people to empathize with others—to see themselves reflected in others around them—to destroy xenophobia. Storytelling is inherent to the human experience and necessary for generating compassion. A good storyteller spins a yarn, invites a diverse group of listeners to visualize the plot and conflict, and evokes an individual emotional value response that can open minds to previously unfamiliar ideas. Generally speaking, people will not harm others with whom they identify and share experiences and values. Song has the power to transcend differences and evoke compassion.

IME: What have been your favorite gigs?

Archie: Playing two stages at the High Sierra Music Festival in 2004 was certainly a highlight. Since moving here, I’ve had the most fun on a summer evening in the backyard of the Powerhouse in Hailey with my son hanging out on stage.
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