What Is Healing Music?
In 1993 Goldman & Gurin's work on psycho-immunology revealed that nerve fibers are contained in every organ of the immune system, which provide biological communication between the nerve endings and the immune system. They believe that there is a direct link between a person's thoughts, attitudes, perceptions, and emotions, and the health of the immune system. This being the case, we have the ability to be proactive in the health of our body, mind and spirit through music.
Music is a way to tap into the innate knowledge that resides deep in our cells. We live "in" music. Great music nourishes us in ways we don't even realize. It inspires us, relaxes us, energizes us--in short, it heals us and keeps us well. And music can be found everywhere in our world. While we may not always be listening to a Beethoven Symphony or a Mozart Sonata, the universe is a tonal symphony of many sounds interacting and vibrating together. Music is the pulse of the energy that courses in and through everything through vibrations.
Don Campbell, author of The Mozart Effect, says that music can be delicate and quiet, but never sedentary. Even a tone that extends for hours at a time, unvarying, carries a pulsing wave that affects our mind and body at many levels. What we bring to each sound is also of vital importance to our well-being. He goes on to say, "You, the listener, determine the final impact: You are an active conductor and participant in the process of orchestrating health through the listening process."
Felix Mendelssohn once said, "Music cannot be expressed in words, not because it is vague but because it is more precise than words."
Keyes recounts in her book the time when she first started to experiment with toning. She said that it was more than just a release of tension. When she allowed the tones to emerge without trying to control them, she experienced a cleansing of her whole body. "I was convinced that there had to be a relationship between this natural body-voice and the mind without conflict, and with benefit to both."
Toning and chant have been making their way into mainstream culture over the last twenty years. Chant, the popular recording from the early 1990 by the Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos, Spain, sold over 4 million copies in forty-two countries by the Spring of 1994. These monks have committed themselves to a lifestyle that is based on cycles. Others do not experience these cycles in the world in the same way. The cycles revolve around the sacred liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church, and include an intricate series of interlocking patterns within the organization. By submitting themselves to these cycles, the monks actually become part of this great tapestry of history and sound.
Katherine Lee Mee, producer of the CD, says about this recording, "Time seems to stop. The darting mind falls still and attentive, arrested from its worldly concerns and preoccupations...like fire, each line has its own brightness and energy, a force that is called forth, raised and then surrendered. Like water, the music rises and falls in a gentle wave of love that bathes, cleanses, and caresses our spirits, leaving us buoyed up and restored."
The San Francisco Examiner music critic had this to say about Chant, "What we're talking about is inner peace, transcendence, a serenity, beyond mortal care. For a generation that frowns on organized religious movements (or organized anything), this is, without a doubt, the new soul music."
Powerful affective responses to music can be witnessed in the lives of spiritual masters. Their physical health reflects their spiritual health as well. They experience this power through practicing the art of music and chant as a means of obtaining spiritual enlightenment. Where did the ancient chants originate? Were they evolved from logical thought processes that were later transferred to a musical format? Or rather, were they birthed from those who had learned to harness the healing powers of their spirit, and given expression through their spiritual practice to bring the ecstatic experience into vocal and instrumental form through music?
Jill Purce, pioneer in the field of healing with the voice and author of "The Mystic Spiral" says, "One of the effects of chanting is the dissolution of boundaries, and when this happens something new can take place in the psyche and body of a person. Chanting seems directly to stimulate the emission of certain chemicals in the brain, such as endorphins, which give rise to states of enhanced awareness, blissful calm, and other deep meditative states." Jill teaches the practice of overtone chanting throughout the world. This form of chant is has its origins in Eastern cultures. The Tibetan monks seem to reach into the heart of Mother Earth with their deep toning and lift the tones to heaven as the beautiful overtones rise naturally from the powerful bass notes.
Mongolian overtone chanting comes from the nomadic culture of Siberia. The throat singing, part of the Mongolian folk culture, reflects many of the sounds heard in the nature around them. Often this type of chant resembles the sounds of birds and crickets and other sounds that can be a little unfamiliar to Westerners. However, Purce, says that, "Enchantment really means to make magic through chant." And that she does in the workshops she teaches about chant throughout the world.
Stress has become, in modern society, the subject of many best-selling books and is often a lead story in the news. Non-invasive and easily accessible ways to deal with stress have now become sought after by the mainstream society especially with the highly controversial use of illegal and prescription drugs and the potential hazards they pose with long-term use. People need to be educated about the remedial effects of music as therapy. Unfortunately, many people still feel that music used as therapy is just another liberal health fad. This notion comes from their ignorance on the subject. Despite this belief, music therapy continues to be a growing occupation. There are more than 5,000 certified and licensed music therapists in the United States working in hospitals, rehabilitation units, health-care and educational settings. The American Music Therapy Association now recognizes 68 schools in the United States who offer programs of study in Music Therapy.
Music Therapy is a non-verbal type of therapy, as opposed to other types of therapy where the client talks about feelings and experiences of life. Music Therapy presents an alternative to traditional types of therapy, and provides the following benefits to patients:
||More direct access to thinking and feeling states.|
||Opportunity to "contain" feelings for periods of time so that these can be explored, examined, and worked through for the individual.|
||Non-verbal expression of thinking and feeling states that are not yet within the verbal domain for the individual.|
||Elicitation of imagery and associations that are not accessible through verbal means.|
||More direct physiological benefits for the individual than verbal methods.|
||Freedom to explore and try out various solutions to patient thinking and feeling problems through exploration and creativity.|
||There are many applications of Music therapy in our everyday lives and the fields of treatment are very broad, encompassing psychotherapeutic, educational, instructional, behavioral, pastoral, supervisory, healing, recreational, activity, and interrelated arts applications.|
Barbara Crowe, past president of the National Association of Music Therapy, suggests music and rhythm create their healing effects by calming the constant chatter of the left brain. "A loud repetitive sound sends a constant signal to the cortex, masking input from other senses like vision, touch, and smell," she explains. When sensory input is decreased, the normally noisy left brain with its internal conversations, analyses, and logical judgments subsides to a murmur, stimulating deeper parts of the brain that are throne-rooms of symbols, visualization, and emotions. "This is the seat of ritual in tribal societies," she observes. "There is a clear, distinct parallel between traditional shamanism and the practices we do in music therapy today."
Raymond Bahr, Director of Coronary Care at St. Agnes Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland contends, "Without a doubt, music therapy ranks high on the list of modern day management of critical care patients…Its relaxing properties enable patients to get well faster by allowing them to accept their condition and treatment without excessive anxiety."
1. Sound Healers use music and/or sound for self-healing, and sometimes in private-client or group settings, and are not necessarily certified.
2. Certified healthcare musicians (CHP's. ACCM's, CMP's) offer live music at the bedsides of inpatients in hospital, hospice, and nursing home settings, as an enhancement to the healing environment and an adjunct to medical care.
3. Music Therapists use goal-oriented therapy, with music as the main tool, for private, group, and/or inpatient clients.
Healthcare musicians are carefully instructed never to attempt to do verbally or physically interactive work involving music, as this is the realm of the Music Therapist. We absolutely respect the marvellous work of Music Therapists. Likewise, I feel strongly that sound healers should be
instructed that they may not call themselves Music Therapists, Music Practitioners, Harp Practitioners, Harp Therapists, or Clinical Musicians, and that certification is necessary to work in a clinical/medical setting.
For centuries shamans have used drums and vocal sounds as an integral part of healing practices in indigenous cultures. They often went into a trance themselves through the power of music, which they used as a tool in assisting the healing process.
When Music is used as medicine it is used in a way that directly affects the health of the patient. An example is the use of music in "audio-analgesia." Music is used in this way to alleviate or lessen pain, and can be used, at times, in lieu of pain medications. When music is used in this way, it is a necessary component in affecting the outcome of the treatment.
Vibrational therapy sessions can be used to affect physiological changes such as lowering of blood pressure, heart rate, and muscle tension. Studies have shown that music used as medicine can increase the immune function and decrease ACTH (stress) hormones. Music and sound has also been shown to kill cancer cells. As outrageous as this may seem, studies have shown this to be true. I have first-hand experience with this because of my own miraculous healing from breast cancer by the use of sound.
Another benefit of "healing" music is to stir our emotions and feelings, to help us deal with grief, sadness, anger or other feelings. By allowing us to really experience our feelings, the intensity will eventually lessen and even dissipate, resulting in healing. When we avoid our feelings (consciously or unconsciously) they tend to build up inside. They don't just go away. Music and sound are wonderful tools for helping us to deal with feelings within us, whether we're aware of them or not.
"The powers that be can be communicated to earth by means of music are as yet scarcely suspected by the average individual. But the time is fast approaching when people will select their music with the same intelligent care and knowledge that they use to select their food. When that times comes, music will become a principal source of healing for many individual and social ills, and human evolution will be tremendously accelerated." --Corrine Heline, Esoteric Music
Rhythm: The rhythm of music is determined by the length and accent of the sounds. A good rule of thumb is that the more complex the rhythms in the music, the more stimulating affect the music will have on the listener. On the other hand, slower rhythms or constant beats will produce a hypnotic affect on the listener causing them to become more relaxed. You certainly have heard the loud booming base sounds coming from vehicles. This type of beat can be very over-stimulating to the nervous system. This booming beat coupled with the volume with which it is most often played, is not only not healing, it can actually be detrimental to your health.
Instrumentation: Instrumentation is an important part of the affect that music has on your physiology, your emotions, and your spirit. However, it is a very personal choice. All instrumentation can be healing in specific situations. And, the affect of the instruments is combined with the other factors we are listing here.
Volume: Sound waves are energy and they impact your brain with electrical pulse or pressure in the ears. The higher the volume, the more pulse/pressure, the lower the volume, the less pulse/pressure. Simply said, loud music will stimulate, soft music will relax. How soft should the music be? That will be determined by the activity or the outcome associated with the listening. If the idea of the music is for entertainment and the mental focus is on nothing else, the music can be louder. However, if the music is for relaxation, or pain relief, the music should be played softer.
Complexity: Have you been to a symphony where the orchestra is warming up. Each instrument may be playing a short piece of beautiful music, but each member may be playing a different piece. It sounds wild and frenetic and very stimulating. Your brain doesn't know what to focus on. The brain's job is to find order, and that is why it is so uncomfortable. The brain is reeling, trying to discern all the different sounds or instruments. Now think of a classic trio playing a guitar, flute, and cello. This is easier to listen to; you can follow one instrument or the other, or you can just take in the harmonies of all three together.
Remember this rule—the simpler the complexity of the music, the more relaxing it will be; the more complex the music is the more stimulating it will be.
Harmony: Harmony comes from two or more musical notes being played together, which sound like they go together and complement each other. A beautiful chord played on a piano or guitar is examples of harmony.
Complementary sounds or harmonies create consonance, while notes that sound like they don't go together create dissonance. Lots of music is made of up consonance and dissonance dancing together creating tension and resolution. Another consideration is whether the music is played in either a major key or a minor key. Music that is played in a minor key is said to feel more poignant, moving or emotional. This type of music can be used for meditation or emotional healing. Remember that music from other world cultures will reflect their own scales, keys and harmonies, which may be very different that of western music.
Melody: Melody is the line in music that we find ourselves humming or singing along with. We know the tune from listening to it previously, or by hearing something similar in the past. A simple melody can be quite relaxing; however, a complex melody can be quite simulating. Music that has no definable melody known as anxiolytic music and is used in medical situations for deep relaxation and pain management. The reason that this type of music is so effective in these situations is that the brain can't think ahead and anticipate what notes will come next in a melody that isn't there--instead the brain tends to just disconnect it's desire to consciously listen and it relaxes into the experience.
Pitch and Tone: The pitch and tone of instruments and voices are what distinguish a flute from a trumpet or a bass from a soprano. Music that has many variations of pitch and tone are more stimulating, while music that has a narrow range of pitch and tone will be more soothing. Music that uses a drone instrument or instruments will be very relaxing. A drone is a continuous tone that serves as a foundation for the rest of the music. Many cultures around the world use a done as an important base to their music.
Lyrics: The lyrics in music can make all the difference in whether music is healing or not. You might have a piece of music that has a slow melodic and simple melody, with the steady and gentle beat, that contains words full of hate. This music is not healing. Hateful or disrespectful lyrics are not healing. In order for a piece of music to contain healing qualities, the lyrics must be uplifting and loving words. Words can heal or they can destroy. Dr. Masaru Emoto, an alternative medicine physician in Japan, has conducted years of research on the affect of words and music on the quality of water. The implications of his research create a new awareness of how we can positively impact the earth and our own personal health by the words that we speak.
This new type of music is like that; it is created with a 'healing intention." Many of these musicians and composers will actually go into a meditative state when they compose or perform this music and hold a thought and vision of healing coming from the music. While this may not be able to be scientifically measured on a daily basis like Dr. Emoto's work, the feedback from many people is clear. This type of music has a tremendously healing affect.
We referred to the ISO principle earlier, and that's what you will apply when selecting music in these instances. You can think of the ISO principle of music selection like a train or a bus (leaving from one location, taking a journey, and arriving at another destination.) With the ISO principle you match music at the beginning of the process to the current emotional/physical state, and then gradually change the music to faster or slower, or music that is more complex or more simple, or music that is in a minor key or a major key as a way of changing mood to a more desired mood.
As an example, when you are feeling anxious, if you just put on some dreamy New Age music, your mind and emotions will probably resist, which can actually amplify the undesired mood. But, if begin the music selection with music that reflects the undesired mood (so you can identify with it) and then gently change the music, song-by-song, you will gradually find that your mood changes. Try it and see if works for you. With a little practice you will find that you can actually make music compilations that you can use therapeutically for yourself and others.
With music all around us, in our lives at work or home, try to pay more attention to what you hear and what you play. Use music as a tool to balance and manage the mind and body. Think of music as a wonderful therapeutic tool that can be very enjoyable. Music has many qualities; learn to use them to your advantage.
Music used in the appropriate way can be healing. The key is to use wisdom and listen to what our inner healer tells us about how music makes us feel. There is no one type of music that is healing music in every situation. Listen to a wide variety of musics and pay attention to how you respond with your whole being (mind, body, and spirit). The Healing Music Organization has compiled a large listing of music that can be used in various situations. You can find these listings in the discography section of their website.
By no means are these the only pieces of music that are healing, and the lists may change dramatically over time as more and more people become involved in this exciting field of health and healing. We also would like to take this opportunity to say that music should not take the place of seeking sound medical and spiritual advice about your health. On the other hand, some type of music can always be beneficial whatever the situation. Happy listening.
Music that stimulates our brain
Music that awakens our feelings
Music that ignites our soul
Music that relaxes our body
Music that calms our mind
Music that unwinds our emotions
Music that restores our soul
Music that motivates our actions
Music that helps us unwind
Music that wakes us up
Music that helps us sleep
Music that expands our thinking
Music that helps us not to think
Campbell, Don, The Mozart Effect: Tapping the Power of Music to Heal the Body, Strengthen the Mind, and Unlock the Creative Spirit, (New York, NY: Avon Books, 1997) 81.
Chopra, Deepak, M.D., Quantum Healing: Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine, (Bantam Books, New York, 1989) 21.
Emoto, Masaru, The Hidden Messages of Water, (Hillsboro, Oregon: Beyond Words Publishing, 2004)
Goleman, D., & Gruin, J., Mind Body Medicine, (Yonkers, New York: Consumer Reports Books, 1993)
Keyes, Laurel E., Toning: The Creative Power of the Voice, (Marina delRey, California: Devorss and Co., 1973) 12-13.
Krippner, S., The Highest State of Consciousness, (New York: Doubleday & Co.,1972) 1-5.
Le Mee, Katherine, Chant: The Origins, Form, Practice, and Healing Power of Gregorian Chant, (New York, New York: Bell Tower, 1994)
|What is Healing Music? A Closer Look|
|by Amrita Cottrell|
|Date Released: December, 2001|
|Copyright, 2001-2006 Amrita Cottrell, All Rights Reserved.|