by Alex Cosper (9/11/13)
The song "American Pie" by Don McLean asks: can music save your mortal soul? When the song came out in 1971 it sounded like a rhetorical poetic question that fit the prevailing mood of the world that music has healing properies. Now several decades later, that concept is being taken more seriously, not just by musicians and music fans, but health professionals as well.
What if it turned out that the high cost of medicine could be replaced by music? Of course, music may not be the solution to every illness but a growing body of evidence from even the medical industry indicates that music is more powerful than health professionals have imagined in the past. Music therapy has actually been a legitimate medical practice in the United States since the 1940s and has been used to treat Alzheimer's, Autism and various other medical conditions. Today there are about 5,000 certified medical therapists in the United States, according to the American Music Therapy Association.
Here are some findings in recent years about music having medicinal value:
- Research from McGill University in Montreal indicated that music can enhance the immune system and reduce anxiety.
- Dr. Oliver Sack at the New York School of Medicine says that music therapy helps treat Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.
- A University of Nis, Serbia studio found that music, along with exercise, can strengthen the heart.
- Dr. Terry Harville at the University of Arkansas has found that listening to slow music can slow down the heart rate.
- The University of West London has found that children who learn a musical instrument can improve their social behavior and problem solving abilities.
Sometimes songs themselves have linked music and medicine. The Beatles' song "Doctor Robert" is a feel good experience for anyone who deeply explores their music. It's a song about national health care, although it does not imply that music should be a part of national health care, but why not? Ringo Starr's song "Oh My My" is a whimsical song about how dancing can help relieve pain. Perhaps the song has more insight than humor, even if it's accidental. According to "The Doctor," a song by the Doobie Brothers, "music is the doctor."
Grammy winning recording artist Erykah Badu considers herself to be a music healer. She believes that memorization of melody is a key to healing. Part of her healing research is based on studying vibrations and breathing, which she believes can correct illness.
The metaphysical world has always embraced music as a gateway to healing. Whether it's the more artistic or scientific people in the field, they both understand that music helps both sides of the brain because music is a mix of mathematics and emotion. Mood can be communicated though the components of music such as tempo, lyrics and texture. That's why music can help people relax or get excited.
Relaxation is one of the conditions that makes people feel better when they experience anxiety or trauma. Soft music has been proven to help people relax or meditate. It can even slow down the heart rate and help the respiratory system function better. One of the forms of music that helps people meditate is called binaural beats, which is based on combining three frequencies.
An organization in the UK that promotes music as a healing took is Right Key Body. This organization has found that people can improve their well being by singing positive lyrics in a group setting. In this sense, music feeds the brain with good vibrations. Not only can music relieve stress, it can be used to overcome addiction.
Music may even help non-humans, as both animals and plants respond to melodies. Whales, dolphins and birds actually communicate by singing. A lot more research needs to be done on music to learn about its amazing healing powers. Even though some people have known about music therapy for centuries, it's refreshing that music is finally to have importance beyond recreation. Music can certainly be used for education. It may even be important for survival.
See also How Music Therapy Careers are Evolving
Disclaimer: This article is intended to share collected research on the topic of music therapy. It is not meant to offer medical advice. Consult your medical doctor to discuss this information if you have questions or concerns about music's effects on health.
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