Music Therapy A form of complementary medicine - part 2

by - Dr. T V Sairam

Music Therapy: Down the Ages
In the human history, music has played a significant role in both individual as well as social development. It has been a very powerful tool for expression, thanks to the range and depth of sound frequencies which could touch the heart of a listener with feelings which cannot adversely affect him or her.

Even the painful emotions expressed in music turn out invariably to be pleasant. This quality in music has made Shelley, the English poet remark: “The sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thoughts.”

This quality is the reason why many a musician feel a pleasant sensation even while rendering a melancholic number.

The application of music for its healing influence is not a new concept, although the expression 'music therapy' has been in vogue since the World War days.

Archaeological evidences point out that almost all the human settlements and cultures in the past have invariably used music – mostly in the form of song and rhythm (Merriam, 1964). Over 9000-year old playable flutes have been unearthed in China (Zhang et al., 1999), and a piece of bone discovered at a Neanderthal site had holes drilled into the hollow part, suggesting that even they made flutes (Turk et al., 1997).

Long before acoustics came to be studied in Europe, the ancient civilizations of the Arabs, Greeks, Chinese and Indians were already fully conversant with the prophylactic and therapeutic role of musical sounds and their vibrations. While the Greek legends glorified the type of music that healed Ulysses' deadly wounds, the Arabian writer Ibn Sina had also recorded the therapeutic role of music in his various treatises on medicine

Ancient Chinese civilization perceived a harmonic balance between Heaven and Earth. It considered the rites and music as the instruments of this harmony. This ancient concept is still workable in the context of the current lifestyle and culture. The cathartic power of music, its healing aspects and its inherent educative capacity is relevant even today.

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