Music has a great advantage; without mentioning anything, it can say everything (Ehrenberg). This statement gives, in a nutshell, what this essay contains. The elements of music; its power, influence and affects on both the modern world and the past one alike. Music is a combination of rhetoric and emotion.
Just as the “I have A Dream” speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. empowered a people to envision positive days ahead music inspires the moment in an unforgettable way. This essay explores the different facets of music and its use with special focus given to its healing and wellness qualities.
Dr. Alice Cash has a master’s degree in Social Work and combines that with a PhD in Musicology and has devoted her life to helping people through the avenue of healing music.
An accomplished musician herself, she is wonderfully skilled in both the demonstration and application of the most current musicology and music therapy concepts and principles. Her warm and dynamic nature helps make her workshops informative, timely and enjoyable for participants at large (healingmusicenterprises.com).
In order for the understanding to accept something like this can actually be done, it helps to know the qualities of music and the many uses for it. From the dawn of time some form of music has existed.
Whether it is the beating of the drums in the deep jungles of a tropical nation, or the melodic memories of the music you grew up with, music has always had a significant role to play. When thinking about the uses of music it behooves the scholar to understand the message that particular types of music hold within themselves.
It is commonplace to see people jogging down the street with iPod’s strapped to their arms listening to what has to be understood as ‘running music.’
When the exercise programs on the television start their shows they usually begin with some slow music to aid the athlete in a proper stretching exercise before beginning the rigorous exercise that will leave them breathless, yet feeling great. In an interview by a female classmate with a twenty-three year old heavy truck salesman she learned:
Music is just a part of life. You live with it all the time so it’s tough to judge what it means to you. For some people it’s a deep emotional thing, for some people it’s casual. I turn on the radio and it’s there in the morning; it’s there when I drive in; it’s there when I drive out (Crafts, 109).
Reasons for listening to music has as many variances as there are genres of it, but one thing is clear: it is rhetorical in nature and it has a message. There are certain recognizable melodies that hold special meaning to different people, but then there are those melodies that have the same meaning to a very large group of people like states or even nations.
This fact alone is enough to explore the hidden qualities of music and see what might be possible with the directed use of it for a specific purpose. For example, when your football team scores a touchdown, the band is not going to play a waltz, they are going to play something upbeat and exciting.
Just as this is true, it is also true that music has wellness properties to it. The first one to explore is rhythm. A very simple, but effective illustration of this is the song we learn as small children. Read the following lyrics and see how it makes you feel: ‘If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands.’
This is usually followed by two claps of the hands and gets children excited. In more sophisticated terms: it activates their minds and causes them to move around. My point is this: without the use of any musical instrument, the song will still get children excited.
Why? Rhythm. You put your right foot in, you take your right foot out, you put your right foot in and you shake it all about. These words also activate the energy in the little children. It is healthy for them to be active and if the songs make them move about they are getting exercise and thus the rhythm of the music is used for wellness. People are currently using in-the-moment music-making with rhythm instruments for the following types of events:
· Childbirth…Birthdays…Weddings…Funerals and Memorials
· Private Parties… Fundraisers…Corporate Trainings
· Children’s Day Camps…Youth-at-Risk Programs
· School & University Programs…Professional Conferences
· Wellness Fairs…Healing Circles…Men’s and Women’s Retreats
· Well-Elderly Programs…Assisted Living Centers
· Retirement Communities…Senior Community Centers
· Spiritual Gatherings & Celebrations…Meditation Services
· Community Festivals of all types (circles4drumming.com).
Musical traditions were founded upon the principles of rhythm and have added many ‘flavors’ to the music tradition. Funk is one of those flavors. This is a good example because a term used by Mayor Nagin of New Orleans to encourage its people to get back to what the city was known for before Katrina, namely a particular type of music called ‘Funk.”
With most listeners not knowing the reference he gave to the music genre, he found himself apologizing to those who took it as a racial remark. The term he used was ’Chocolate City.’ This is actually a song performed by a band called Parliament. It was purely a genre of music that was popular in the seventies and found a home away from home in New Orleans (amazon.com).
The American Music Therapy Association, founded in 1998, boasts of 3800 memberships to present date. Their sole purpose for existing is the development of the therapeutic use of music in rehabilitation, special education, and community settings (AMA website). When study is devoted to this unique quality of music, scholars are finding many different ways to use it to help medicine in its fight against fatigue, stress, and even muscle tension.
The media has played on the subject of music and what it means to people in everyday life, but in their action movies you expect some sort of high-powered music to enthrall you into their entertainment. Love songs are called love songs because of the interpretation of love in direct correlation to the song.
It can be the lyrics, but it doe not have to be; it can simply be the basic rhythm that soothes or pumps the individual up. John A. Carpente, MA, NRMT, CMT at the Rebecca Center for Music Therapy published a case study involving a boy with multiple impairments and how he was able to help him communicate through music therapy.
Music played a key role in rehabilitating this boy into a person who could communicate on a level that previously was impossible. The testimony of his mother:
“… His father and I were always looking for a key to tap into Mikey’s abilities. And with music therapy, I think we found a way to approach my son’s abilities. It is actually one of the few therapies that we think reaches Mikey. He started working with John last September. Mikey recognizes John and plays musical games with him. That is a big step since he does not acknowledge many people.
“The naked eye may not see any changes in Mikey, but his Dad and I do. Instead of spinning around in circles, he actually dances to music. And just the other day, he took a can and played with it as a drum. It was so typical, just like other kids. All I could do was cry because instead of seeing a temper tantrum or a bizarre play skill, I saw a typical kid…my typical kid.
“Music therapy is one of the things that create an equal playing field forMikey, and for that I am very grateful (http://www.therebeccacenter.org/ library/casestudy1.html).
Music is an art, so this brings a new gambit of thoughts concerning art in general. People have been known to stand in front of a painting or sculpture for hours. Could they be contemplating life’s ordeals, meditating, allowing some power the art has on them to do what is needed while they are there?
Was there a real medicinal property to Shakespeare’s comedies? The only thing that will ascertain these answers, and quite possibly create more, is to get involved in the study of some particular art that affects you.
It is quite possible that the true depth of healing in the arts is just beginning to be realized by more than just a crazy few. What is just as interesting is the level we understand other aspects of life and how far we have missed the medicinal properties of the arts in general.
People tend to behave strangely when they are deriving some medicinal answers through the medium of art. For example, chick flicks is a genre of movies that helps to build relationships simply because the male partner in a relationship is more likely to watch one with his partner. While experiencing the ups and downs of the movie the relationships on screen get compared and contrasted to the real relationship of the couple watching the movie.
One reason that nightclubs fair well on the weekend is because relationships are in need of a place to let off the stress of a busy week in the office and this is really a constructive way to do it.
This is not to say that nightclubs will solve all relational problems, but they do offer the dancer a way to release pent-up emotions. Just as people find themselves hooked on drugs or alcohol and need to replenish what the body craves, so does the body crave natural ways to relieve the pressures of life.
Think about the elements involved. Music, this means rhythms are going to be bouncing around the room and that will be accompanied by musical notes to add to the flavor, and before one realizes what is happening their bodies are in the process of ‘letting go.’ This is healthy; especially for the couple realizing the benefits of ‘clubbing.’ This is just one aspect of the arts doing something constructive in society.
Human interaction is becoming more difficult in America as our nation becomes more intercultural. This can be viewed as a problem or an opportunity. Because it is impossible to separate the man and his native culture, America now has many cultures within its own culture.
For example, Asians that have moved here have a dream of a better life or education or have some personal reason for moving to America, and they recognize their limitations caused by the lack of understanding English as opposed to their native language, but they come anyway. They come because of the benefits we, as Americans, can offer them. However, they also offer some benefits to us. One of these is music.
The use of sound as a healing tool dates back thousands of years. Now, the field of sound healing is gaining considerable attention, as sound pioneers promote the healing benefits of music, tones and instruments. Jonathan Goldman, director of the Sound Healers Association, is one of the leading experts in the field (Dykeman).
It is no secret that music can soothe, excite, incite, and even assist in hypnosis, so to say that music can be used as a healing tool is not as far a jump as one would think. Given the right atmosphere, almost always provided by music, you can move people to do things they would not do otherwise.If eno
ugh thought is given to the subject and how it plays in our everyday lives we discover that we use it to announce a birth, to celebrate a birthday, New Year, Christmas, and almost every other holiday that can be thought of; we use it in church, at weddings, and funerals and of course, lest we forget, graduation.
To think of life without it would be like going into the forest and not hearing the birds singing or the wind blowing through the trees. We are so inundated with music that trying to view life without it is nearly impossible.
To ask what life would be like without music would be to try to describe a bird without a chirp. When Goldman was asked by Dykeman to describe sound healing he explained something that was a unique description of life.
First, let me point out that modern science is now in agreement with what the ancient mystics have told us—that everything is in a state of vibration, from the electrons moving around the nucleus of an atom, to planets and distant galaxies moving around stars.
As they’re creating movement, they are creating vibration, and this vibration can be perceived of as sound. So everything is creating a sound, including the sofa that we’re sitting on, or this table, or our bodies. Every organ, every bone, every tissue, every system of the body is creating a sound. When we are in a state of health, we’re like an extraordinary orchestra that’s playing a wonderful symphony of the self.
But what happens if the second violin player loses her sheet music? She begins to play out of tune, and pretty soon the entire string section sounds bad. Pretty soon, in fact, the entire orchestra is off. This is a metaphor for disease (Dykeman).
If this is true, and from all scientific proof it is, then healing can take a much less invasive approach to the process. Obviously, there are medical procedures that cannot be replaced by sound, or music healing, but the recovery process can be a lot less stressful and painful if applied properly.
It should be stated that music can and is being used in a negative sense, as the interview with Goldman reveals, and since that has been proven to be true, all that is left is for people in the medical field to tap into the resources they have at their disposal and prove the opposite can also be true of music.
Some surgeons like to have music played while their in surgery for various reasons, so in a directly connected way, music is already playing a bit-part in the healing process of the human body. From a purely medicinal viewpoint, nurses in hospitals are the more authoritative voice. Many of them will tell you that the healing process is the hardest facet to having surgery.
The doctors did their part, but as far as the patient is concerned, the nurses that tend to them while healing are the ones who should really get applause. The doctor had a captive audience; the nurses have to interact with us while we are in pain for what the doctor did to us in the operating room. Many patients, when telling of their hospital experience, will invariably say something about the nurses who tended to their needs while healing.
Florence Nightingale described the major responsibility of nursing as that of putting the patient in the best place for nature to work upon him or her for healing (Nightingale.1859/1946, p. 6).
Music can be used to positively manipulate the hospital environment to foster spiritual, psychological and physical healing. Sound is an integral part of any environment and may have an impact on health and well being. Florence Nightingale provided music as part of the healing process for injured soldiers in the Crimea, and described how her nurses used voice and flute melodies to provide a beneficial effect on soldiers in pain (McCaffery).
The nurse, who is the really the unsung hero in the healing process, should be the focus of energy to the development of every possible avenue that can be placed at their disposal to help alleviate some of the inevitable tension that will be felt as there are usually too few nurses available in ratio to the patients as they come to recover in a hospital room. Everybody listens to music.
The argument could be made that what is music to one could be nothing more than noise to someone else, given all we know about the arts; the time that every college student has to endure in fine arts classes as general education classes needed to obtain any type of degree; given the fact that colleges pay fine art teachers real money to teach something that is most thought of as “a class I have to take,” music should be given way more attention than it has from the medical field in the past.
The argument holds merit only as the teachers, doctors and nurses allow.
People may not understand languages because they are separated by large bodies of water, but music can cause them to have common ground. Just because the language is different there does not have to be a barrier with music. Again, facing ambivalence from the skeptic, the nurse has to be the one who walks into the patient’s room when they are cranky due to the pain of healing.
Why not make their job easier by providing some training, as part of the regular curriculum, in music and its various uses in the field of medicine. With all they face, this could cause the barrier to be removed. Maybe it is not the universal language, but it is ranks right up there with the top ones. Music is the wind beneath the nurse’s wings that leaves the patient’s room filled with healing sounds.
Ehrenberg, Ilya. (1943). A comment on the premiere of Shostakovich’s Eighth Symphony. Music as Propaganda, 1985. inside cover.
Cash, Alice Dr. (2007). About Dr. Alice Cash. Healing Music Enterprises. Retrieved 24 April 2007 from, http://healingmusicenterprises.com/Alice_Cash.html
Crafts, Susan D., Cavicchi, Daniel, & Keil, Charles. (1993). Music is Just Part of Life, Like Air. My Music. Middletown, CT: Weselyan University Press.
Vivian, Giselle Felicia. (2007). One Heartbeat Rhythm Circles. Project Heartbeat. Retrieved 24 April 2007 from, http://www.circles4drumming.com/
Parliament. (2003). Chocolate City. Parliament. 24 April 2007 from, http://www.amazon.com/Chocolate-City-Parliament/dp/B00008RV18
AMTA Website. (1999). Music Therapy Makes a Difference. American Music Therapy Association. Retrieved 24 April 2007 from, http://www.musictherapy.org/about_ind.html
Carpente, John, A. (n.d.). Creative Music Therapy With a Boy With Multiple Impairments: Stepping Out of Isolation into new Experiences. Retrieved 24 April 2007 from, http://www.therebeccacenter.org/ library/casestudy1.html
Dykeman, Ravi. (2007). The Sound of Healing: an Interview with Jonathan Goldman. Jonathan Goldman’s Healing Sound. Retrieved 24 April 2007 from, http://www.healingsounds.com/articles/nexus.asp
McCaffery, Ruth, Dr. (September 2001). The Healing Environment and Music. Nurse to Nurse. Retrieved on 24 April 2007 from, http://www.msnnurse.com/templateSubmit.asp?SEC=NurseToNurseDetails&Id=12