by - Dr. T V Sairam

Long before acoustics came to be known in Europe, the ancient Arab, Greek and Indians were familiar with the therapeutic effects of music. They were already familiar with some of the later day concepts pertaining to the phenomenon of sound.

While music as a whole is well recognized for its entertainment value throughout the globe, it was the Indian genius, which had discovered raga chikitsa, the raga-cure. Raga, we all know is the sequence of selected notes that lend 'color' or emotion. Depending on their nature, a raga could induce or intensify joy or sorrow, anger or peace and it is this quality which has to be carefully understood to induce a specific emotion in the minds of the listeners.

The Greek legend too confirms the remedial role of music, as it could heal a deadly wound of Ulysses. lbn Sina, the Arab writer had recorded the use of music as a remedy for ailments-both physical and psychological. In the Orphic school, healing by the power of music was a science As the impact of music could be easily gauged on emotions and thereby on mind, it can be used as a tool to control the physiological, psychological and even social activities of the patients.

Raga Chikitsa, an ancient text in Sanskrit, deals with therapeutic importance of melodies. It is a well-known fact that expressive music activities like singing or playing instruments improve coping mechanism and self-confidence. For the terminally ill, music provides greatest solace. Besides a comforting environment, it is found to be of great help in pain management. A combination of touch therapy, imagery and music provides an environment for a peaceful passage.

Soothing and organizational properties of music helps the mentally handicapped. Limitless creative opportunities available in singing or playing instruments provide avenues for their self-expression, which is, otherwise, unavailable to them.

Musical exercises aid in organizing one's thought processes and help in over-coming one's inhibitions and restrictions. The creative process of music takes over one's mind and emotion and leads to the feeling of wholeness and completeness with the Universe in all levels of existence; physical, moral or intellectual. It helps in overcoming all forms of inadequacies or frustrations in life.

Therapist can also prescribe, speech, movement, drama etc. to enhance the value of such methods, Familiar songs or tunes of the patients provide better effect than the unfamiliar ones. In the west" the therapist works usually with piano where the potentials of rhythm, melody and harmony is combined with a very wide range of fluctuations of pitch or loudness. A co-therapist may work with a therapist to help support the client if necessary and both therapists may use their voices or other instruments as appropriate.

Music, the Tailor-made
Often an individual-based music programme is customized, after studying the constitution of the patient and his or her problems. Once a programme is formulated, it is also necessary to review it periodically and incorporate changes so as to suit the changed conditions in the patient. Music is thus improvised uniquely for each patient and for each session. Audio recording allows the therapist to monitor the music process from session to session. Particular songs, bits, pieces or styles of music may become part of the therapy process where clinically appropriate, but these remain adaptable to the moment-by-moment process of therapist.

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