Most of the time, when we write about 3D printed medical models here at 3DPrint.com, we talk about how they can help surgeons plan out complex surgeries ahead of time, as well as being a tool for educating both the patient and medical students. Today, I’m also talking about a 3D printed medical model, and it’s a patient-specific one at that: a 3D printed model of a man’s tumor. But instead of waxing poetic about the benefits of 3D printing in the medical sector, I’m going to introduce you to Swedish songwriter and singer Jens Lekman, who wrote a song about that 3D printed tumor model. But it wasn’t Lekman’s tumor: he wrote the song, called “Evening Prayer,” about one of his friends who was battling an illness.
According to a post on Lekman’s Facebook page, the song is about “being close to someone who’s seriously ill but not knowing exactly how close you are.” Lekman was just on NPR’s All Songs Considered, which plays new music, and is home to a wide community of fans who want to share both their music and their opinions on the music scene.
On All Songs Considered yesterday, Lekman discussed “Evening Prayer,” which is on his soon-to-be-released fourth album, titled Life Will See You Now. One of the hosts, Bob Boilen, said that Lekman’s songs are like a “stream of consciousness,” due to the many twists and turns of his music – but when the song is over and the conversation is complete, it all comes together in the end. You can listen to the song for yourself on the All Songs Considered page and see if you agree.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I listened to it, but it features a surprisingly upbeat tone, even though the subject matter is less than cheery, and the quirky music is a little like a disco song.
“[The music and the lyrics] both came at the same time, independently. I tend to work with music on one side and the story/lyrics on the other side – and this is where it sort of happens,” Lekman said, when discussing how he creates music that contrasts his lyrics. “I think I had the basis for the story finished and then I found this music that I was working on. A lot of time that creates contrast that I find really interesting. In this case, I really wanted to make a pop song out of it. I didn’t want to make some sort of country ballad out of it…I wanted it to have energy and color.”
The first verse goes like this:
At Babak’s school there is a 3D printer,
and he prints out a model of the tumor,
that was surgically removed from his back this winter,
in its rugged grey plastic it looks lunar.
He puts the tumor in his breastpocket,
as we head out for a beer.
I know it probably doesn’t sound that catchy, but I listened to the song about an hour ago and I’m still tapping my toes to the beat in my head. You can listen to “Evening Prayer” and Lekman’s nine other new songs when Life Will See You Now comes out next week, on February 17. His North American tour starts in Houston, Texas on February 23, and you’d better act fast if you want to go – three of the concerts are already sold out.
We’ve talked about 3D printed instruments before, like this 3D printed tubulum inspired by the famous Blue Man Group, and we’ve seen 3D printed stop motion music videos. 3D printing and virtual reality played a big part in Björk’s worldwide tour this summer, and UK-based electronic music group Feral Five even incorporated the sounds of 3D printers into some of their music. But I can honestly say that Lekman’s “Evening Prayer” song is the first time I’ve heard 3D printing mentioned in the lyrics of a song.
That actually makes a lot of sense, and goes back full circle to why 3D printed medical models are so important: if a patient is nervous about an upcoming surgery, it can really help for them to hold the model in their hands, to actually see what’s going to happen with their own eyes. Until recently, surgery wasn’t really something that a patient could get a firsthand look at themselves, other than X-rays and the dreaded Internet searching late at night that can convince you that you are, in fact, dying. So it can be therapeutic to be able to handle a realistic model of what’s actually going on inside your body. Speaking of therapy, Lekman says writing music is his own personal therapy.
When asked about the concept behind this song, Lekman said, “The idea of printing out something that’s as scary as a tumor into its concrete form was something that spoke to me – there is something very liberating about that idea. I think a lot of my anxieties and fears are things that are very abstract. Of the times that I’ve been able to overcome a fear, it’s been by making it something that I can understand, that I can hold on to – just something that’s more tangible.”
“I had a lot of friends going through illnesses and friends going through chemotherapy. It was something that was on my mind a lot around this time. [The song] started with those lines of someone printing out their tumor as a little plastic model – and then it went from there, just by association, into these thoughts I had about friends getting ill and how to deal with that… over the last couple of years, I’ve had my first experiences with being close to friends getting ill. And I didn’t really know what to do in the beginning, you know? It was kind of difficult.”