When Lightning Strikes

Oliver Sax opens his book, Musicophilia, with a fascinating story about Tony Cicoria. In 1994, Mr. Ciroria was struck by lightning while standing next to a public telephone. Before being struck, he had no more than an average interest in music and no experience composing or playing it. Within a few months of his recovery, he felt overwhelmed with the desire to learn piano and then found himself waking up at all hours of the night with intense urges to compose as his mind had become flooded with music. Practically overnight, Mr. Cicoria had transformed into a fully engaged musician who is now an accomplished pianist and composer.

What an incredibly intriguing story that highlights a magic of the skies – of the awesome power of pure energy almost killing a man and then filling his life thereafter with music. Though this is likely a rare occurrence, it makes perfect sense to me. Why wouldn’t one of the purest forms of energy fill us with a pure relationship with possibly the most emotive of art forms? It suggests that the atmosphere is rife with song – melodies, rhythms, and unexpected transitions are all the time soaring around us like sonorous spirits. When the moment is right, they take hold of whomever is open and available to such awakenings. This certainly rings true in the case of my recent compositional experiences.

This is not to suggest that we should be seeking a mighty bolt to enhance our musical efforts. Maybe it’s simply a reminder that we can’t always force something to take shape and to remain free to the forces that charge our lives and allow them a pathway through us into the world. Music is always there – in the wind, in the forests, in the spaces between things – we only need to stop and listen. Even through the quiet, we can hear ethereal symphonies and secret songs of the universe.

More info about Tony Cicoria:

An excerpt from, Musicophila, detailing Tony Cicoria’s experience plus an interview with Oliver Sax on NPR’s Fresh Air:

“Lightning-Sonata” written & performed by Tony Cicoria at Mozart House in Vienna, Austria


  1. I love knowing this story about Tony Cicoria. It fits with my notion of mystic reception of knowledge. I have for a very long time thought that musicians are the lucky vessels for receiving different aspects of the sounds of the Earth and the universe. How else to explain Mozart starting to compose music at the age of five? Similarly, I think of writers as receiving some of their best lines and thoughts from Outer Space. They just come tumbling in unannounced and a person takes dictation. Isaac Newton never left planet Earth (or Europe?) but mapped the universe. So did Einstein. They had mystic reception of knowledge, visions you might say, the music of the spheres.

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  2. Thanks Mom : ) It’s pretty impressive how much and how well he was able to learn since this all first started at age 42. Something to aspire to.

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  3. Love the music and your beautiful writing about it!

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