On Love: Songs, Science & Psychology

February 2, 2015 |
Dr. Paula Fan, pianist and powerhouse behind Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry's Creative Collaborations. photo by Chris Richards Photography/courtesy Paula Fan

Dr. Paula Fan, pianist and powerhouse behind Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry’s
Creative Collaborations.
photo by Chris Richards Photography/courtesy Paula Fan

“There’s a song for everything, for every issue – a piece of music,” imparts pianist, Professor Emerita and the UA Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry Senior Fellow Paula Fan.

Fan is referring to the premise behind the event series she coordinates, Creative Collaborations, in conjunction with the Confluencenter. The monthly Saturday morning events are mini-concerts, with Fan on piano, and include dialogue with a distinguished guest – generally a UA scholar – on a theme that is explored through music and discussion.

On Saturday, Feb. 14, from 11 a.m. to noon, Fan is hosting “What’s Love Got to Do with It?” for the Valentine’s Day Creative Collaborations presentation. Joining her for the discussion at the campus bookstore is UA Associate Professor of Psychology David Sbarra.

“The irony – and I think this is a delicious irony – is he does a lot of research on divorce,” Fan shares with a laugh. “And he has come up with a program that he calls ‘Seasons of Love.’ Basically, it is the stages. It is attraction, falling in love, maintaining the relationship and – we shall call it, for want of a better term – transitions or we can call it change. And that can take many different forms. Of course there is divorce, but there is also widowhood.

“We’re putting a scholarly slant on things we’ve always wondered about, and an explanation,” Fan says. “We talk about the whole idea of getting together, what draws people together and also when it is one-sided, when it is unrequited, which of course is the theme of so many romantic songs. We talk about the chemistry of love, the biological aspects – the reward biology. David also mentions how you maintain a relationship through forgiveness and sexual satisfaction, talking about all the things we experience as human beings in a scholarly fashion.

“And of course with transitions, the idea of when it is over – through either loss through death or whether it is through a break up. And so he’s actually addressing everything that someone has experienced, and something that most of the cohort of music has addressed too. It is a universal experience addressed in scholarly and musical terms with a lot of fun thrown in. A good humored examination of a universal human emotion.”

While, as of press time, Fan was still working on what songs will be performed, she was certain of a few. “We’re going to do ‘Love in the Dictionary,’ we’re going to do ‘The Last, Lousy Moments of Love,’ by William Bolcom. We might do ‘I Never Knew’ which we did at the AIDS (Creative Collaborations on Dec. 14, 2013), because the whole business of love nowadays is not heterosexual love, it is just love. And so there are some composers who have written about love from the gay standpoint and I’m exploring that repertoire too.”

Bemused by the title, “Love in the Dictionary,” I ask Fan to tell me more about that particular song.

“In the first half of the last century and maybe through the 1960s, there were a number of songs written for concert performance that were not popular but they had popular overtones and they were novelty songs and ‘Love in the Dictionary,’ is one because it is a dictionary entry that’s been set to music. And so what better thing to start Valentine’s Day with? So that’s fun. It was done by Celius Dougherty and he wrote a lot of novelty songs in that period. These songs are very, very charming. And it’s just a great kick off and it is literally a dictionary entry!”

Creative Collaborations’ “What’s Love Got to Do with It?” is free and runs from 11 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Feb. 14 at the UA Bookstore, first floor – located next to the student union at 1209 E. University Blvd. There is free parking in the Second Street Garage at Mountain Avenue. More information is at Confluencenter.arizona.edu or by calling 621-4587.

Category: Arts, Community, Entertainment, Events