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What is Music Therapy? - part 3

by - Dr. T V Sairam

The great thinkers of the past like Aristotle and Plato were fully convinced of the role of music in alleviating human ailments. Al Farabi,(also known as Alpharabius) the Turko-Persian musicologist and psychologist who lived in the 9th century AD elaborately dealt with the therapeutic role of music in his treatise Meanings of the Intellect. Here, he discussed the therapeutic effects of music on the soul. Robert Burton who lived in the 17th century in his work The Anatomy of Melancholy pointed out that music and dance were critical in treating all kinds of mental problems – and more particularly melancholia. Charles Darwin happened to examine how music could evolve along with the human civilization.

Systematic, daily or regular application of rhythmic or tonal vibrations for healing has been part and parcel of all ancient cultures and traditions. Systems such as tantrism, shamanism, nada yoga etc have contributed towards evolving similar goals particularly in the context of religions, notably in Buddhism, Hindusim, Islam, Sikhism, Sufism etc. These religions had in their daily rituals included the repetition of powerful tones, rhythms, pitches and other sound vibrations through voice or /and instruments. They were primarily aimed at reaching the higher (or deeper) levels of one's consciousness. According to Hazrat Inayat Khan, a Sufi, who practiced and taught classical music in the early 1920's, the entire body mechanism, the muscles, the blood circulation and the nerves are all moved by the power of vibration. 'As there's resonance for every sound', Khan said, 'so the human body is the living resonance of the sound'. He felt that sound has an effect on each cell of the body, on all glands, on the circulation of blood and on pulsation. It is interesting that in recent times, a number of therapists have come to endorse this particular observation of Inayat Khan.

Tibetan monks use the singing bowl with its significant harmonics which are overtones

In the process of music development, it is clear that the primitive music all over the world had relied upon the melodies and only when the human mind was brought in with sophisticated musical instruments such as piano the musical scale of just intonation changed its form in to the scale of equal temperament, bringing in an altogether new experience of sounds.

The primitive societies have used music to the maximum extent. All human and social activities have employed rhythms and music, as part of living. Agricultural and hunting activities such as sowing, ploughing, hunting, re-planting, community dining etc has all been done with music in the lips and throats, if not in drums and strings. Simple household works such as pounding the grain, making the baby sleep etc also trace their roots to those primitive societies.

In primitive societies music is employed not only for celebrations, but also in moaning. In many parts of south India, especially in Tamil Nadu, oppari is a form of music which is sung during funeral days. While adding sorrow to the occasion, it helps in overcoming the personal loss and curing the wounded mind. Thus qualities such as anger, pain, aggression, fear etc felt in music no doubt, touches the heart of the listeners, but at the same time ensure that no wound is caused. Rather it helps in healing the deeply hurt heart by infusing confidence and courage.

For the primitive person fearing the nature and the modern man fearing his own species, music alone could work wonders. It is essential that music culture of the primitive societies get re-introduced in all modern day activities too: e.g., computer work, in workshops and offices so as to make the activities more meaningful. No doubt mixing music in workplace has found to enhance fellow-feelings and camaraderie, by lessening tension and anxiety.


Dr T V Sairam, is from F/48B, Hari Nagar New Delhi 110064
For any doubts you can contact him at - tvsairam@gmail.com

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