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Both science and music probe universal themes. Though the language Wuhan China of science can be much harder to access, it’s not unusual for talented scientists to be competent, at times outstanding, musicians. They don’t necessarily go together but, for those of us who aren’t Wuhan China tone-deaf, surprise encounters with music can be both a delight Wuhan China and a coping mechanisms that (once any capacity to write or think is exhausted) helps the peripatetic researcher deal with long hours Wuhan China on international jets. Of course, we aren’t alone in that.

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An intriguing, recent experience on a flight from Dubai to Sydney was spotting a substantially built fellow traveller blowing soundlessly into what looked vaguely like a children’s recorder. Having lived in Scotland, my alternative speculation was a bagpipe chanter. When we chatted later, that second guess was confirmed. Listening via earphones, he’d spent much of the ten plus-hour trip playing his electronic bagpipes! Such is the marvel that can result from bringing science/technology and traditional music together! Vocal practice en route for an opera singer would be a bit more challenging, though I guess that, reprising the deaf Beethoven, the performer can ‘hear the music’ while studying the score. At the same time, might they also hold a mental image of the conductor, orchestra and audience as part of their musical synthesis? Interpreting an aria via the prism of the mind is, no doubt, a quite different experience from blowing down a pipe to hear the immediacy of an electronically generated bagpipe sound.

It’s no secret that the skirl of the pipes is a celestial sound to some and just a horrible noise to others. For me, having lived for five years in Edinburgh, hearing and seeing the televised lone bagpiper high on the castle wall at the conclusion of the annual Military Tattoo brings back a spectrum of memories. Those unique registers and background drone always stir my Celtic soul – you don’t need Celtic ancestry to qualify! – but there are also vivid memories of being colder than expected, along with a (sometimes wet and slippery, sometimes crisp and clear) progress in the departing crowd as it moves down Edinburgh High Street, followed by a left turn to the steep slope of The Mound, left again for a flat walk along Princes Street, then across the Dean Bridge, to finally arrive home, climb the stairs at 1 South Learmonth Gardens and sip an Islay malt in a seemingly (by comparison with the street outside) much warmer than usual living room.

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