“The oldest example of the contextual use of music for healing may be the depiction of harp-playing priests and musicians in frescos from 4000 BCE. During this era, a Codex haburami (hallelujah to the healer), was performed as sonorous reimbursement for medicinal services rendered. … Religious overtones in musical expression continued to hold importance into the Middle Ages, when the necessity of music for compounding and sustaining wellness was so highly regarded that law mandated those aspiring to study medicine to also appreciate music.” ~ The Lancet. Music for healing: from magic to medicine.
Such a good choice of music, I thought. I had a couple of long haul flights ahead of me and I really appreciated the airline’s choice during the slow boarding process. You could still think whilst listening to these – they weren’t those annoying, repetitive types of instrumental sounds which some meditation compilations are. And it was no co-incidence that the uplifting notes continued to meander through the cabin upon our descent. I took a deep breath and gave thanks for the uneventful flight – I’m not afraid of flying, but some are. Several industries take their clients, workers and patients’ needs seriously; including surgeons and dentists who play comforting music for their patients and themselves. Apparently, surgeons were doing this in the early 1900’s too.
“Music… brought me back from the dead.”
Just a few days prior, I was travelling on the London underground, and a free copy of the London Evening Standard was thrust under my arm, along with every other passerby. I found an inspiring story, ‘Music from Mack and Mabel brought me back from the dead’, about a man who woke from a coma recently. His family played him some Mozart and then songs from the Broadway musical Mack & Mabel. His feet started moving and then his hand. He woke up six days later and was out of hospital after three weeks.
There are many stories where people have found that music helps them. The question is: does the music itself have healing power, or is something else going on?
Music therapy has certainly improved people’s lives, ranging from stroke recovery to helping mood and memory. Think of your own time. It sounds like a no-brainer – because the proof is in the pudding so-to-speak - but today’s thinkers also want to know more about how and why.
“Playing the didgeridoo is good medicine”.
Latest research reveals that one in four indigenous children in Australia suffers from asthma. The Australian Music Therapy Association (AMTA) recently reported a Government-funded pilot program for Aboriginal children, to prove that playing the didgeridoo and singing is good medicine.
Thinking beyond music’s mechanisms.
We live in a scientific age, where partaking in the current systems of healthcare, means rigorous testing, safeguards and being responsible. At the same time individuals have always thought outside the box, especially when they’ve experienced health through other means. I’ve read scads of testimonies about people having spiritual experiences listening to music – as expressions of sound being metaphysical – including healings of mental and physical ailments. Reflecting on some of my own experiences, I’ve listened to hymns (with and without lyrics) whilst unwell. Instead of thinking about feeling sick, my thoughts were uplifted and the fear dissolved. At the same time I realised that something much greater than this temporary situation was in charge of my wellbeing. It may be worth mentioning that I wasn’t taking any other medicine simultaneously.
Continued from the essay in The Lancet (2010)
… the Pythagoreans … were fascinated by concepts that would help to define the infinite: to understand space, they developed astronomy; to understand numbers, they introduced mathematics; and to understand music, they created harmony theory.
Music may well be a potentially powerful tool for improving clinical outcomes with little known risk when applied appropriately and judiciously. Whether music in medicine will grow to be widely accepted as an adjunctive therapy will depend on a better understanding of its role through clinical and scientific experimentation.”.
There is much to be said on this subject. My interest began with reading the man’s testimony about recovering from a coma. One can’t help reasoning that perhaps the music tackled symptoms that medication could not reach. I, for one, definitely think there’s something more going on when music makes us healthy.
Food for thought on music from some great thinkers:
Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent. ~ Victor Hugo
Rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul. ~ Plato
Do you know that our soul is composed of harmony? ~ Leonardo da Vinci
Music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life. ~ Ludwig van Beethoven
If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music. ~ Einstein
Through astronomy, natural history, chemistry, music, mathematics, thought passes naturally from effect back to cause. Academics of the right sort are requisite. Observation, invention, study, and original thought are expansive and should promote the growth of mortal mind out of itself, out of all that is mortal. ~ Mary Baker Eddy.