Kaplan: Welcome back to “Mad About Music” where my guest today is the world’s foremost sex advisor, Dr. Ruth Westheimer.
Kaplan: She’s become so famous as a sex counselor, that like rock stars Madonna and Sting, she is known only by her first name, but with a “Dr.” attached to it. Her role as an advisor on sex began in 1980 with a 15-minute taped radio show that aired at midnight in New York. One year later it was moved to 10 pm and expanded to an hour where listeners could call in their questions. Soon that show and many others that followed mushroomed into a sex counseling empire with television shows around the world, games, calendars, home videos, computer software and, of course, books – now more than 30 of them. Her efforts have earned her awards, honorary degrees and name recognition normally reserved for celebrities. Well actually, she is a celebrity, at least according to People Magazine which included her on their list of the most intriguing people of the century. Dr. Ruth, welcome to “Mad About Music.”
Dr. Ruth: Thank you so much for having me here. This is very interesting and exciting.
Kaplan: So. Some thirty books, almost not surprisingly, about sex; and then all of a sudden, a few years ago, you write a book about music and the role it’s played in your life. How come?
Dr. Ruth: I’ll tell you how come. This is one of the books that makes me smile all over because this is an autobiography. I did once an autobiography, All In A Lifetime, but this is really a message to future generations, by my exploring and explaining how music helped me in my life. And through the different countries that I have lived in, and through very hard times, and it also gives a message. Since I usually give homework in that other area of my expertise, that we don’t talk about today…
Kaplan: Oh, we certainly will talk about it today!
Dr. Ruth: …I’m giving homework, I’m saying to everybody, cut a CD of the music in your life for your children and grandchildren.
Kaplan: Well, you know, another guest on “Mad About Music” the Hollywood director William Friedkin, you know, he directed “The Exorcist,” “The French Connection,” he described classical music as the soundtrack of his life, and in a way, I suppose looking at your fascinating selections today, perhaps the same could be said for you. So, let’s start with your first choice, perhaps the most famous lullaby in the world.
Dr. Ruth: I have to tell you that I thought of you the other night. A few days ago, I went to Lincoln Center and I heard Emmanuel Ax playing Brahms, but not the lullaby. What I really wanted him to do is to play just once that beautiful lullaby of Brahms because when I was – I lived in Frankfurt, I lived with parents, I was an only child, and a grandmother. And that grandmother and my mother used to sing – I don’t think that they were trained, because I can’t carry a tune, but they used to sing that lullaby of Brahms. And when my daughter was born, it’s exactly now fifty years ago, I was so delighted here in this country in New York City, I found one of those music boxes that played that Brahms lullaby. So, every evening, after tucking her into bed, and after saying the prayer, I played that Brahms lullaby.
Kaplan: Brahms Lullaby “Guten Abend, gut Nacht” performed by the Boston Pops led by Arthur Fiedler, the first selection of my guest on “Mad About Music,” sex therapist Dr. Ruth, Dr. Ruth Westheimer. Now, when you agreed to appear as a guest on this show, I imagined we would explore music as perhaps the most universal aphrodisiac. Everyone knows that music can create a perfect atmosphere for seduction, or maybe the wrong music might even kill it. When another Hollywood director, Mike Nichols, was on the show, he said that he always played the last scene of Strauss’s Rosenkavalier because it always put girls in the right mood – always worked, he said. Then, of course, we all know about Ravel’s Boléro and the role it played in the movie “10” so I assumed you would share advice you have given patients over the years how to select the right music, how to avoid what composers maybe, but when I mentioned this to you before we went on the air, I must say I was shocked because you said I was the first person really to ask you about music and sex.
Dr. Ruth: Right, because first of all, in that book Musically Speaking, I explain I don’t like music background. Not during sex or not during talking about sex. If I listen to music, I want my entire being concentrating on the music. Now, I’m not saying that other people, let them listen to the Boléro, and let them listen, if that’s an aphrodisiac for them. I like the way you said aphrodisiac – you were smiling. But for me, it is not background music. For me, music is something very serious. Now, go to a concert beforehand with your significant other, with your lover, hold hands, even make some kind of movements with your hand, don’t caress in the concert hall! But some slight movement, that’s a different story. But when you go and actually make love, I want everybody to concentrate on the lovemaking. It also permits fantasies to be developed if you don’t have background music.
Kaplan: Well, you would be an exception to the rule, I guess, because I bet every teenager starts with the thought, a little nice music helps the atmosphere. All right, let me share with you, though, the results of two studies and one celebrity confession I’ve recently come across and see what you think about this. First, the journal Pediatrics, which is the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, found that teens who listen to music with degrading sexual lyrics have sex sooner than teens who don’t. And the numbers were something on the order of 29% of those who don’t, and 51% of those who do. Do you make anything out of that?
Dr. Ruth: I am worried about very young teenagers with this explicit terminology. I speak very openly. But I’m old-fashioned and a square. I don’t want to hear the lyrics that are constantly about sexual functioning, so sexually arousing. So, if I could be the Tsar of music in this great country of ours, I probably – even so, we live in a democracy – I would probably censor the lyrics in some of these songs.
Kaplan: All right, well let’s look at this from a second angle, then. This is another survey. This is sort of an amusing one, but it nonetheless makes the statement that this is a British magazine called MUSO. They conducted a survey for Valentine’s Day as to which musicians make the best lovers. And the conclusion was, it’s the cello players. And they make the best lovers, but the viola is the one most likely to have sex on a first date, and have the most sexual partners. Now, as an observer of musicians – I don’t know if you’ve had any as clients or not –what do you think about that?
Dr. Ruth: Nonsense!! However, I have to tell you, people like myself when they sit in the concert hall, and they watch Zubin Mehta conducting, there is no question that by the movement and by the hand motion, and the motion with the head, that this whole ensemble, that could be, you could say, probably a good lover. But to distinguish between the viola and the other instruments, I don’t want to do that.
Kaplan: All right. Well, then finally, somebody who agrees with you is the famous pop star, Justin Timberlake, because he recently disclosed being a flop in the bedroom when there is music playing in the background, because, he says, he starts picking out the chords and gets distracted…
Dr. Ruth: Oh, I like that!
Kaplan: You would agree with him.
Dr. Ruth: I like that!
Kaplan: All right, then, let’s return to the music you selected, and this time it’s Mozart, and “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.”
Dr. Ruth: First of all, I love that melody and I never get tired of it. I’m now 78 and a half. I never get tired of that wonderful, wonderful piece of genius music. I once did ask Zubin Mehta, in the book, when I did the book Musically Speaking, why is it that I love that so much? And he did say to me, because it’s very complete. It has a beginning, it has a middle, and it has an ending. That makes sense in terms of my way looking at the world.
Kaplan: You like music to be a bit tidy.
Dr. Ruth: Yes.
Kaplan: I think you like everything to be tidy!
Dr. Ruth: I think so! So it does make sense for me and then, not being a musician, and not being musically trained, this is a melody that can resonate in my head. It is not too complicated for somebody like me.
Kaplan: The first movement of Mozart’s Serenade in G, best known as “Eine kleine Nachtmusik,” the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, with Sir Neville Marriner conducting, a favorite work of my guest on “Mad About Music,” sex counselor Dr. Ruth When we return, we’ll explore conductors as sex symbols.
This is Gilbert Kaplan: with my guest, the sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer. You know, earlier you mentioned the conductor Zubin Mehta, and he was our guest last month on “Mad About Music.” I also noticed a picture of him and you dancing, printed on the back cover of your book. Is he a good dancer?
Dr. Ruth: Superb!! What do you mean, good dancer? Just superb, it was, he was conducting the Israeli Philharmonic, and somebody came over and said, the maestro wants to dance with you. It was one of the highlights of my life! I did listen to your program with Zubin and it was most interesting!
Kaplan: Well, thank you. Now in your book, you make the comment you made a few moments ago, that a good conductor looks like he or she is making love to the orchestra. Have you ever had any conductors as patients?
Dr. Ruth: If I would, I would never tell you.
Kaplan: Well, I wasn’t asking you who.
Dr. Ruth: Oh, I would never say even, even if there was somebody. You know, it’s interesting. I do have clients, because I am not a medical doctor, for psychological problems, for marital problems, for sexual problems. I even have in my office, there are two ways of coming in and out, so if God forbid, if you would come to me, I would make sure that nobody who has any dealings with music is going to be in the hour before you.
Kaplan: So I wouldn’t run into Zubin Mehta, you mean!
Dr. Ruth: Right!
Kaplan: Now, let’s stay with conductors for a moment. When they show up in novels, they’re often portrayed as sexually over stimulated, but they always seem to get the girls. What do you think about conductors as sex symbols?
Dr. Ruth: I think it’s a very serious question. Because people sit and watch the conductor, and they are relaxed, they are not thinking about the stock market, they are not thinking about their problems, and I think once you are in that state, it is easier to be sexually aroused. And I would say that anybody who has the fortune of having a relationship with a conductor, if he is unmarried, and if, let’s say, she’s unmarried – careful, I’m old-fashioned, I’m a square – but I think they should rejoice in that relationship. I do believe that there is something about the chemistry between the conductor whom we are watching, conducting and making eye contact with the orchestra. I’m not necessarily saying making love, even though that’s what I would like to think. But I don’t go so far of saying making love because I’m old-fashioned! I want only one person to make love to another person. But I do think that there is something that is in the air, that is like electricity, and that is, how fortunate we are that we can sit in the audience and have that presented to us.
Kaplan: You know, conductors are often regarded as power figures, and so I wonder if you would agree with Henry Kissinger’s observation that power is perhaps the most potent aphrodisiac.
Dr. Ruth: You see, an aphrodisiac is anything that you decide it to be. If you want it to be black olives, then that is an aphrodisiac for you --
Kaplan: But can power be…
Dr. Ruth: But I do agree with Henry.
Kaplan: You do agree.
Dr. Ruth: I do agree. I think the word power is complicated. But a person who does like what you do, Gil, a person who does what they love doing, a person who has passion, a person who is doing something productive, that’s power. I’m not only talking about power someplace in the political area; but the power over one’s self, that you are doing something, you are choosing people with whom you want to do a program, that’s power. When you asked me, do I want to do your program, I jumped to that opportunity. I brought you my book “Musically Speaking” the next day!
Kaplan: Yes, you did, yes, you did! All right, let’s return to your music, and you spend considerable time in your book talking about what I would regard as a rather ambivalent view of German music and culture. You seem to recognize its greatness, but at the same time, you certainly resent the Nazi government co-opting it for their own use. And I gather your next selection, Haydn’s “Kaiser Quartet” is really part of that story.
Dr. Ruth: Yes. This quartet, this melody is so haunting, and on the one hand, I am so sad that the Nazis wrote their lyrics to that haunting, wonderful melody. I come out of Nazi Germany, I became an orphan at the age of ten, so anything that has to do with that background is, of course, problematic for me. On the other hand, I decided, and I don’t know where it comes from, that I don’t permit the horrible happening of World War II, even though it made me be an orphan, to take away that magnificent kind of heritage that I got in terms of Haydn, in terms of Goethe, Schiller, other very important German big thinkers and artists. So it’s complicated for me, I recognize that, but on the other hand, making that decision was an important one for me.
Kaplan: Very interesting, the way you put it. I think the best way to experience this musically is to play the opening of the second movement of the quartet, the source of the German anthem, and then without stopping, transition right into the German national anthem itself.
Kaplan: An excerpt From the second movement of Haydn’s String Quartet No. 3 called the “Emporer Quartet” or “Kaiser” in German, performed by the Emerson String Quartet. Afterwards, we heard the way it appears in Das Lied der Deutschen, the German National Anthem, played by the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra led by Peter Breiner, music chosen by my guest on “Mad About Music” today, by the sex therapist, Dr. Ruth, Dr. Ruth Westheimer. Well, your next selection, the Israeli National Anthem, Hatikvah (The Hope) might appear to just be an attempt on your part to provide equal time, so to speak. But I suspect this music has played a significant and special role in your life.
Dr. Ruth: Absolutely. In 1945, I was seventeen years old, and I was and still am an ardent believer in Israel. That was the only country that permitted me to move there after my parents and everybody had been killed, and I was in Switzerland. Switzerland suddenly wanted me to go on – not just me, all of us – I do believe that that song of Hatikvah, of The Hope, carried me also a good way through my life. That there is a country that is available hopefully soon with peace, for anybody who lives there. But that melody was an important one to give me hope, and to give me sustenance during very difficult times on the Kibbutz, during my time in the Haganah in the underground of the IDF, the Israel Defense Forces, and when I was wounded. I do remember I was badly wounded on both legs from a shrapnel – from a cannonball – during the 1948 fighting, and I do remember that that song, after the state was declared a state, and while we, a couple of us, already were in the hospital, in the Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem, we did sing that song over and over. And I even now, when I am any place where first the American hymn is sung, and then the Hatikvah, The Hope hymn is sung, I am grateful not only to be alive, but I am grateful that there were people who knew how to make these songs. You see, my son’s book is coming out this week. Look how fortunate I’m sitting here, it’s called “Pledging Allegiance,” and it’s the politics of patriotism in America’s schools. And he has one sentence he writes: “My mother (me) came to the United States two decades after she left Germany alone at the age of ten on a Kinder transport. Patriotism is palpable in my mother’s gratitude for U.S. soldiers’ heroic liberation of concentration camps in World War II. She has taught me a great deal about loyalty, gratitude, and joie de vivre,” and what I am doing here with you, is really that chapter, combining it and talking about the joie de vivre.
Kaplan: Sounds like a very proud son. Let’s return to Hatikvah for a moment before we play it, because when the former Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, was on this show, we talked about the origin of Hatikvah, and because he had selected the slow movement from the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, I asked him if he thought maybe it was that. He said it certainly sounds like that, but in Israel, it is generally assumed that Smetana’s Ma Vlast is the music that provided the inspiration. Well, recently, I’ve discovered an earlier source, and it’s Mozart. So, if Haydn provided the German national anthem, Mozart, I think you will agree in a moment, provides the music for the Israeli national anthem. It appears in his Twelve Variations on “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” believe it or not. So, to set this up, let’s listen to the opening, which is Twinkle, Twinkle, itself, and then the Eighth Variation, which is in a minor key, and I’m sure you will agree, is almost note for note, the beginning of Hatikvah.
Kaplan: Hatikvah, (The Hope), the Israeli National Anthem, in an arrangement by John Williams from the soundtrack of the film “Munich.” We preceded that by what may be the first appearance of the Hatikvah melody in Mozart’s Twelve Variations on “Ah vous dirai-je maman’,” or “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” This melody for Hatikvah is found in the eight variation. Hatikvah itself is a selection of my guest on today’s edition of “Mad About Music,” the sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer.
Dr. Ruth: You are brilliant! I’ve never heard that in my whole life, and it makes me smile. So in addition to my “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik,” now I can say, look at that Mozart, maybe he knew that one day there would be a Dr. Ruth Westheimer sitting here with you. But I’ve never heard, I can hear it now, and I like also when you say, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” because that’s a song I sang two thousand times to my children and grandchildren!
Kaplan: You know, Mozart’s variation on “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” may have launched Hatikvah, but your deep roots in religion continue to show up I think in your musical selections. In your regular visits to the synagogue, you mention in your book you found a significant source of musical discovery, at least that is what you did write there, I believe.
Dr. Ruth: True. Whatever I said in that book is true. I don’t tell stories. Very important, since I came from a very Orthodox Jewish home, in Frankfurt am Main, went with my father to the synagogue every Friday night. Fortunately for me, I was an only child. If there had been a boy, he would have taken the boy and not me. So the music of Levandowski and some of the synagogue music is very deep in my soul. And Cantor Malovany has the ability to really make me soar with him when he sings, especially when he sings songs about Jerusalem.
Kaplan: “Rejoice Ye with Jerusalem” sung by Cantor Joseph Malovany with the Hungarian State Orchestra under the baton of Noam Sheriff, music chosen by my guest on “Mad About Music” today, the sex therapist Dr. Ruth, Dr. Ruth Westheimer. When we return, we’ll discover Dr. Ruth’s wildcard. No hints except to assure you, it’s not Boléro!
This is Gilbert Kaplan: with my guest on “Mad About Music,” the sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer. Well, we now come to that part of the show we call the wildcard, where you have an opportunity to select any genre you like. It can be rock jazz, anything. And often during the history of “Mad About Music” I should tell you, there have been some wonderful stories behind these selections. So I’m counting on you to tell us something wonderful.
Dr. Ruth: All right. First of all, I almost want to dance when I hear the melody of “The Music of the Night,” by Andrew Lloyd Webber, and I have to admit something that I’m a little embarrassed about. Not really, not embarrassed enough not to talk about it. I must have seen that “Music of the Night,” The Phantom of the Opera, with that, listening to that song, maybe twenty times. Every time somebody says, I want to go, I said, I’m not going again, and then, somehow, when I order the tickets, I’m ordering another one for me. And there is some reason for that. First of all, the theatricality, the haunting melodies, and the sheer sentimentality. And I tell you something else, there is a happy ending. I like happy endings. She gets the man that she wants, and he gets her. And also there is a very close relationship between sexuality and love. Listen to that very carefully. And I don’t mind to tell you something. Not many people know that. On my seventieth birthday, Pierre Lehu, who is my minister of communications, secretly arranged for Rick Hilsabeck, one of the stars of The Phantom of the Opera to appear at the surprise party and not only did he serenade me with this song, guess what? He held me in his arms as he sang, as if I was Christine, and I still can feel that touch of this Phantom of the Opera musical, of that whole show, that is just wonderful. And I think it’s one of the highlights of my life as Dr. Ruth that this Phantom of the Opera…
Kaplan: Chose you.
Dr. Ruth: Caressed me. He didn’t just choose me; he caressed me!
Kaplan: Now, I must tell you something about your Phantom of the Opera, because curiously, as we discussed with the National Anthem, there is an earlier source of the music for that song, and in this case, it comes from Puccini. La Fanciulla del West, The Girl of the Golden West, and I well recall my first time hearing it in the opera house (sings), and when I heard it, a lady sitting behind me turned to her partner and said, “He stole that from Andrew Lloyd Webber!”
Kaplan: Well then let’s continue the pattern we established earlier with the National Anthems comparing the Phantom music with what could have been the source of that melody. So first we’ll hear a short passage from “The Music of the Night” sung by Broadway star Michael Crawford.
Kaplan: Now let’s compare that with how the music appeared earlier in Puccini’s Girl of the Golden West, here sung by Met star tenor Placido Domingo.
Dr. Ruth: But you see, again, I did not know that. Look what I’m learning here today.
Kaplan: Okay, well beyond the analysis, it’s time to really listen to the music in full, your wildcard, “The Music of the Night,” by Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Kaplan: “The Music of the Night” from Phantom of the Opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber, sung here by Michael Crawford from the original cast recording, a selection of my guest on “Mad About Music” today, sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer. Well, you’ve certainly spoken eloquently of your love affair with the The Phantom of the Opera.
Dr. Ruth: I wish it was a love affair. It was just in my imagination.
Kaplan: But one aspect of your love of music we haven’t talked about is your own background in music. You said you can’t sing very well, but did you ever study an instrument as a child?
Dr. Ruth: Yes, I did study in Switzerland and then in Israel, because I was a Kindergarten teacher – and you needed an instrument – the recorder. But I could not play the recorder without the notes. So I did learn the notes, and I could play simple songs on the recorder. But my son plays the piano, my late husband played the piano very well. I paid for his music lessons, for my late husband – we made an agreement. I said, if I don’t have to be home when you practice, I pay for the music lessons. And my daughter, I got her a few years ago a harp, an Irish Harp, that sits on a table. So the whole family is really very musical, and my son plays the guitar beautifully. I just bought them for their tenth anniversary, a piano, an upright Steinway, 100 years old they found in Ottawa with a beautiful, beautiful wood carving. And my son-in-law listens to music all the time. My grandson has a little band. He is fortunate because he has a grandmother who can pay for a guitar, also for my granddaughter. So there is music really in the house.
Kaplan: Well, your next work, your final work, Beethoven’s Ninth, combines it all. There is a conductor, there are soloists, there’s a chorus. Tell us about why you’ve selected that piece.
Dr. Ruth: I think that particularly, it must have come from many, many years ago. The words of that chorus, that people should be brothers, that there should be no more bloodshed, that people should help each other, that Schiller’s words of saying, “rejoice in being alive,” because that’s really what it is. It’s a song, an ode to joy, but in my way of thinking, it’s really an ode to being alive. And I thought fortunately that these people knew how to work with each other, these old Germans, and fortunately that even today, there are many, many people who still rejoice in that ode of joy. And I want them to learn the words, not just the melody, because it talks about peace among people.
Kaplan: The glorious conclusion of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, performed by the New York Philharmonic with soloists Margaret Price, Marilyn Horne, Jon Vickers, and Matti Salminen, all under the baton of Zubin Mehta, the final selection of my guest on “Mad About Music” today, sex therapist extraordinaire, Dr. Ruth Now as we approach the close of the show, I’d like to make one last attempt to link your work in sex counseling to music. Earlier you mentioned how important fantasies are in sexual experiences, so I assume you’re not immune to fantasies yourself. But here I speak of musical fantasies. If you could have been a musician, what would your fantasy have been? To be a singer, play an instrument, or to be a conductor? And I have a strange feeling I know what your answer is going to be.
Dr. Ruth: I think I would want to be a conductor. Not to play an instrument; that’s a lot of work. And singer? I can’t, even in my fantasies, think that this accent of mine could sing. However, like you talked about before, in terms of the power, if I could be a conductor, I’m four foot seven, stand on that box and conduct a hundred people of the New York Philharmonic or the Israeli Philharmonic, that would be very nice for me. Anyhow, since I’m very Jewish, I talk with my hands. So that would not be difficult.
Kaplan: And I suppose you would fulfill what you think Zubin Mehta does, you would conduct and so people would think you were making love to the orchestra.
Dr. Ruth: Absolutely!
Kaplan: Well Dr. Ruth, it is you who have been absolutely a fascinating guest. Those moving and often funny stories you’ve told are testimony to the power of music in our lives. Thank you for appearing today and until April 1st, when we return, this is Gilbert Kaplan for “Mad About Music.”