Music Heals

We know this, right? If you have your doubts and would like some proof, here's a nice healthy helping; "How Music Can Help Patients Recover From Surgery And Strokes". This link, which reader CG shared, will bring you to a web page that includes an excerpt from Waking The Spirit: A Musician's Journey Healing Body, Mind, and Soul by Andrew Schulman as well a 40+ minute discussion among several authorities on this subject.
"Music is a noninvasive, safe, and inexpensive intervention that can be delivered easily and successfully in a hospital setting. We believe that sufficient research has been done to show that music should be available to all patients undergoing operative procedures.

"These studies— and others like them— provide the scientific underpinning to explain why a guitarist playing for patients in a SICU [Surgical Intensive Care Unit] can have an important and positive role in such key areas as anxiety reduction, pain management, and the prevention of delirium."

While we've spoken about this general topic before, here and here and here, the speakers in the above discussion remind us that the field of music therapy, the clinical and evidence-based use of music intervention by a board certified music therapist, has been established in the United States since 1950. Today, cognitive neuroscientists have come a long way in understanding how and why music effects the brain and they've applied this research to help treat patients suffering from a number of neurological disorders including Alzheimer's disease, stroke victims, and Parkinson's disease.

Speakers include:

Dr. Marvin McMillen trauma surgeon, Berkshire Medical Center in Massachusetts; Clinical Professor of Surgery, University of Massachusetts; former director of the Intensive Care Unit, Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital in New York
Connie Tomaino board certified music therapist; executive director and co-founder, Institute for Music and Neurologic Function
Andrew Schulman professional classical guitarist; author, "Waking The Spirit;" medical musician; Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, Massachusetts; resident musician, Surgical Intensive Care Unit, Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital in New York City
Aniruddh Patel psychology professor, Tufts University; senior fellow, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research; author, "Music and the Brain," part of "The Great Courses" lecture series
John Powell physicist and musician; author, "Why You Love Music," and "How Music Works"

Here's an interesting excerpt from Connie Tomaino:

"...when we're using music we're not just using the song, but we're using elements of music--rhythm and associations and emotions that are attached to that piece of music that are being processed in many areas of the brain. When somebody has a stroke, usually the stroke is localized to a specific region but there are so many neural networks and pathways that get excited through that listening to music that experience of that music, that we can actually stimulate preserved pathways and preserved networks into action; action that that patient may not be able produce on their own. But through a very prescriptive directive use of sound and music, we can jump their brain back into action again."
I'd also like add the work of jazz drummer, percussionist, professor, and researcher Milford Graves to the discussion. Milford has been studying and teaching holistic healing for decades and he received a grant from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation in 2000 to continue his research into treating heart disorders with music. You can read about Milford's research in this NY Times article, "Finding Healing Music in the Heart", and in the NY Magazine article, "The Jazz Scientist" that includes an interesting discussion of yara, the fighting style Milford developed which he describes as "...an elevated street thing, physical jazz" based on "anatomy, because we're not into any of that posturing. We hit hard, and do it fast, man."

Milford taught at Bennington College during my time there and I had the very good fortune of hearing him perform a number of times. Let me share a Milford story, which I'll preface with a quote from Milford:

"People with ailments would attend my performances and tell me they felt better afterward."
Milford Graves performing with John Zorn and Bill Laswell at La Poisson Rouge in 2013

The first time I saw Milford Graves perform solo at Bennington College, he came out speaking and chanting as he circled his drum kit. A few minutes in he started to hit the cymbals with his hands as he circled and spoke and chanted, eventually sitting down and starting to play. I don't recall exactly how long into this performance it started to happen, but at some point I had the very distinct sensation of tingling in both of my ankles.

As Milford's playing intensified, this tingling began to travel up my legs and eventually washed over my entire body like a warm wave, leaving me completely relaxed, physically and emotionally.

A few days later I was in my philosophy professor's office and I brought up this experience. His response was, "You too? Let's sit next to each other at Milford's next concert." So we did.

This time, with Paul M. sitting next to me, Milford came out much the same way as he had the last time, easing into his seat behind the drums only after some circling and sounds. After a few minutes of Milford playing his kit, it started to happen again. This time the point of origin of the sensation was about an inch or so below my navel.

With my left hand, I pointed to that spot on my body while I tapped Paul on the shoulder. As he turned to me, he pointed to the same spot on his body as he nodded his head "yes".

What to make of all of this? Here's my main takeaway; here at AudioStream we are most concerned with the quality of the experience of listening to music. While this may sound like a trivial pursuit, it is, imo, far from it. Music heals.

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