The Planetary Society
Visions Artists Engineers & Astronauts Scientists Systems
Richard Bing  –  cardiologist and music composer
" The greatest difficulty in my early composing was to discover that composing on paper is like slow motion molasses as compared to an improvisation. Gradually, I learned to slow the pace of ideas so that I could catch some on paper."
How were you motivated to choose your particular fields?
  I was exposed to music at a very early age. This is because my grandparents lived one floor below and played four–hand piano music every day two hours in the morning and one hour in the afternoon. They cataloged all the works played. The music was primarily classic, with a heavy emphasis on Beethoven's symphonies and string quartets (transcribed). Therefore the music which penetrated our apartment floor was classical. My grandfather was profoundly musical although he had very little organized training. Gradually I learned to differentiate between various composers. The greatest thrill of my early youth, when I was about 8 or 9 years old, was when I listened on a primitive radio to a performance of Beethoven's 9th Symphony. I still remember the exultation I felt.

I have written music since I was 6 or 7 years old, possibly stimulated by my grandparents' daily playing the piano. I was encouraged to do so by my mother who was an excellent singer, belonging to a chorus which was primarily devoted to the music of Bach and his passions. This must have been the stimulus which later induced me to compose church music. When I was 8, I began to take piano lessons from a nice piano teacher who worked with me until I reached a state where she felt that I would be better off having lessons from a more experienced teacher. I then transferred to the Conservatory and was accepted in the master class. I had very little training in composition at the Conservatory, but I took private lessons in harmony from a delightful teacher who lived in a 500–year–old house. He also introduced me to the music of Shostakovitch and Hindemith.

Improvisation on the piano was my strength then and has remained a source of enjoyment through my life. As a teenager, improvisation at the grand piano in our music room gave me deep satisfaction and a state of grace. The greatest difficulty in my early composing was to discover that composing on paper is like slow motion molasses as compared to an improvisation. Gradually, I learned to slow the pace of ideas so that I could catch some on paper.

Why has the music been a necessity for me since my early youth? The inspiration has come from the classics. When I listen to some of the contemporary composers, I am astonished by the breakaway from the classics. This itself is not objectionable, except when the break signifies a total disdain for emotion. Rhythm and intellectualism alone do not create great music. Looking back, I must have been genetically afflicted with the desire to write music but the soil in which I grew up made the little plant grow a bit.

Relative to my love of medicine, when I was a research fellow in Denmark in 1935, I worked on cell cultures, that is, cells growing outside the body. At that time there happened to be a congress in biological sciences in Copenhagen, Denmark, and Alexis Carrel, a Nobel Prize winning experimental surgeon from the Rockefeller Institute in New York, and his co–worker, Charles Lindbergh, the pilot (the first to fly from the United States to France) attended. They had traveled to Copenhagen to demonstrate their new invention, which was supposed to maintain life of single organs outside the body. Since I spoke Danish, German and English, they asked me to help them set up the equipment. Lindbergh and Carrel then asked the director of the Carlsberg Laboratories to permit me to spend a year at the Rockefeller Institute in New York to learn the methods of "organ culture". In 1936, I was fortunate to receive a fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation.

After a stay at Seven Oaks, England, with the Lindberghs, I began my studies under Carrel at the Rockefeller Institute in New York. This experience motivated me to continue my work on the heart and circulation. Later, after a year of internship at the Presbyterian Hospital in New York city, I continued my training in renal and cardiac physiology, amongst them at New York University and Bellevue Hospital. Later I accepted a position as an assistant professor in medicine at the Johns Hopkins Hospital working in the field of hypertension. After serving in the US Army Medical Corp, I returned to Hopkins where I was part of the team interested in surgical correction of children with congenital heart disease. This was the final experience which directed my career toward investigation and treatment of heart disease.

  Click for larger image
What can you share about your creative process?
    Creativity is an inborn characteristic. It however amounts to little if the urge does not result in tangible creation. One cannot turn on creativity as one would turn on a faucet. The creative drive is genetically determined and enforced by education. Self discipline is important. In order to be creative, one has to be programmed genetically and one has to have the willpower, the strength, and the endurance to convert the creative process into tangible creative works.  
What ideas do you have for a future human community on Mars?
  There will be a period of applied science by the new inhabitants on Mars. But it will be a long time before art is part of living on Mars. In the beginning, it will be entirely governed by the necessity to survive, and not by the luxury of making life beautiful. All this may come later. 30,000 years ago, art was entirely part of the daily activity of life. For example, the first cave pictures were concerned with animals which could be hunted. There was no time and no inclination to paint still lifes or portraits on the cave wall. So it will be on Mars for some period of time.  
Imagine Mars | Art/Sci/Astro Entrance | Visions | Artists | Engineers & Astronauts | Scientists | Systems