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Music Therapy

Dulcet notes       by - Soham Saha

Having proved that music has a calming effect on the mind, modern medical sciences are now rediscovering its curative powers.

We all love listening to music, irrespective of our age. Music plays an important part in our daily lives. It refreshes our mind and soul, thereby releasing us from stress, fatigue and exhaustion. Recently, scientific researches have assumed that the usage of music can be used as music therapy.

Since time immemorial, music was a universal language, acting as a medium of communication. Music is a pleasant and therapeutic experience. Modern medical sciences are now rediscovering the curative powers of music. Music has also been a part of the Ayurveda, the holistic science, which endorses a contented and healthy life. Music has been an integral part of the glorious, splendid and composite Indian Culture. Music therapy is useful for maintaining and improving the physical, psychological, and spiritual health and welfare of all. This therapy is one of the most beneficial therapies, undergoing a great resurgence, today. It is believed that music stimulates the pituitary gland, whose secretions affect the nervous system and the flow of blood.

In order to treat a person with music, it is necessary to vibrate the cells of the body, because through these vibrations the ailing person’s health can be improved successfully. The right kind of music helps one relax and get rejuvenated.

The idea of music, as a medicinal convention, dates back to the early Historical times. Some of the earliest notable facts about such practices are found in the writings of the ancient Greek Philosophers. Robert Burton wrote in the 16th Century in his classic work, The Anatomy of Melancholy that music and dance were critical in treating mental illness, especially melancholia.

Though music had been used as a therapeutic medium for centuries, music therapy did not emerge as an organised profession, until 1950, with the establishment of the National Association for Music Therapy. Subsequently The American Association for Music Therapy came up in 1971. These two associations merged in 1998 as AMTA (The American Music Therapy Association), with a mission 'To advance public awareness of the benefits of music therapy and increase access to quality music therapy services in a rapidly changing world'.

In music therapy, any style of music or instrumentation is used, depending on the preferences and needs of the client. No musical background or training is required. Music therapists are trained professionals who work with people having special needs. The education and training of a music therapist is extensive. Specific training in the areas of music, and psychology are essential. Not only a music therapist must have strong musical skills, but they must also be trained in the use of music in therapy.

The Raga Research Center in Chennai is currently making a comprehensive study of Indian ragas and evaluating their therapeutic potential with the help of musicians, doctors and psychiatrists. Music is capable of improving happiness, peace, health and concentration. It is however important to know the method and duration for which music therapy is to be administered.

Music plays an effective role in helping us lead better, fruitful lives. Listening to specific kinds of music at specific times of the day has been shown to be helpful in maintaining good health. Indian music, with its many ragas, is known to have a particularly therapeutic value. The curative power of music emanates from the resonance of certain ragas on hormonal and glandular functions, which produce secretions. This keeps the body balanced, and infection free.

Music was also found to reduce heart rates and to promote higher body temperature – an indication of the onset of relaxation. However, any single music is not always good for everyone. It is important that one likes the music being played. Here are some ways of enjoying one’s own preferences of music.

  • To de-stress, one can listen to music of one’s choice, sitting or lying down comfortably, with eyes gently shut.
  • One can relax if one listens to, concentrates on and focuses attention on a particular music.
  • A combination of music and work or exercise is a great stress reliever.
  • Listening to the sounds of nature, such as ocean waves or the calm of a deep forest, can also reduce stress.
  • Sometimes, playing music in the background while we are seemingly unaware of it has been found to reduce the stress to a considerable extent.
  • Thus, music is a significant mood-changer and reliever of stress, working on many levels at once. Listening to music does wonders to alleviate stress!

Soham Saha is a Coordinator,Mansur Habibullah Memorial School and This article is reprinted from The Statesman - Kolkata, India- 29 Nov. 07