The Healing Power of Music

July 22, 2019 - 1488 views

“Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.”

George Moran, 39, a music teacher in Long Valley, N.J had a cardiac valve repaired at Morristown Memorial Hospital requiring his heart to be stopped for 90 minutes, placing him on a heart-lung machine.  While in the recovery room, he heard the sound of a woman playing a beautiful harp, quietly and slowly.  The harpist’s gentle arpeggios, according to the researchers studying the effects of music in recovery, may have helped regulate Moran’s heart rate, breathing and blood pressure.  Although, at the time, the research had not yet been confirmed, when Moran came out of the surgery, filled with tubes that made it difficult for him to breathe, he said that the music had calmed his body and stopped him from thinking about was going on.  He felt more relaxed and rested.

Healing Music Therapy

Hospitals around the country are using music therapy as a way to ease a patient’s pain, lower blood pressure, and reduce anxiety and depression, allowing patients to heal faster. In a 2007 survey of U.S. health facilities by the Society for the Arts in Healthcare, along with the Joint Commission and Americans for the Arts, found that of 1,923 healthcare facilities, 35 percent offered music, of some type, to patients.  Hospitals are becoming more and more aware of the healing benefits of music therapy.  Below are various studies that were listed in a USA Today 2008 article showing the benefit of music therapy in particular cases.

  • Severe stroke patients admitted to a hospital in Helsinki, Finland listened to recorded music for at least an hour a day.  They recovered their verbal memory faster, and experienced less depression as compared to those who listened to audio books or nothing.  (Study published in the March 2008 issue of the journal Brain)

  • Premature babies listening to two hours of recorded Mozart each week had lowered their heart rate and helped induce sleep, according to researchers at New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York.

  • Terminally ill patients in Australia had less anxiety, pain and drowsiness after having a single music therapy session compared to those who did not listen to music. (Study published in the May 2008 Journal of Palliative Medicine.)

Other studies have shown music therapy beneficial in the treatment of autism, learning disabilities, dementia, and pain management during labor and birth.

Music and the Soul

When we listen to music we love, that certain melody resonates deep in our soul and can provide a space in time where all problems disappear.  Music, the right music to our liking, has a way of touching our souls in a deep and subtle way.  And the people who breathe life into their instruments and lyrics lift our spirits.  Music can bring us back to life from a depressed state.  We can be resuscitated by a single inspirational melody.

Take for example Miles Davis’ song Tutu, the epitome of jazz funk with a cool and moody melody (I’m a jazz lover).  The minute the trumpet starts to play you imagine that a multi-level story is being told.  As the song continues, the tempo remains unwavering – a Miles’ attribute, yet rises and falls while entering and exiting the:  saxophone, drums, congas, flute, and bass guitar.  The musical arrangement is one of fine complexity transparent to listeners’ yet so intense to hear that you know this tapestry of sounds forms a musical masterpiece.

John Coltrane’s My One and Only Love is a song where the sound of a single instrument sets the mood for the lyrics (Robert Mellin and Guy Wood) about to come  (Johnny Hartman sings).  As Coltrane begins to play the saxophone, the piano softly plays in the background; he is no longer a man with his instrument but a man whose extension of his being is his instrument.  Coltrane’s mesmerizing sax playing can awaken the most virginal ear.  As he hits the introductory note of the song, enraptured in the expression of love, in come the lyrics….“The very thought of you, makes my heart sing, like an April breeze on the winds of Spring, and you appear in all your splendor, my one and only love.”

Songs can stir up past love affairs, wonderful and sad memories and mark particular generations like John Lennon’s Imagine of 1971.  Many speak of universal truths. No other form of creativity has the lasting power of music because it speaks to us in so many different ways – healing us, inspiring us, moving us and uniting us.  Music can make us shout, dance with abandon and sing like stars.  It can make us cry and fill us up with joy.  We can rely on music, over and over again to take us down memory lane, fuel our creativity and ease our pain.  As French Poet Victor Hugo said, “Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.”



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