Since the beginning of humankind, there has been music-making. The first instrument was the human voice. Second came things to beat on and things to shake or rattle to produce sounds. For centuries, it has been known that music has the power to soothe and calm or to incite into action.
As a Board Certified Music Therapist and a presenter on the therapeutic and healing powers of sound and music, I had the wonderful opportunity to study for a number of years with Don Campbell. A world renowned author and speaker, Don has written many books, such as The Mozart Effect, from which I’d like to share the following:
“What is this magical medium that moves, enchants, energizes, and heals us? In an instant, music can uplift our soul. It awakens within us the spirit of prayer, compassion, and love. It clears our minds and has been known to make us smarter.
Music can dance and sing our blues away. It conjures up memories of lost loved ones. It lets the child in us play, the monk in us pray, the cowgirl in us line dance, the hero in us surmount all obstacles. It helps the stroke patient find language and expression.
Music helps plants grow, lulls children to sleep, and marches men to war.”
Part I of this blog on our relationship with sound and music touched on vibrations, sound, and making sounds and music with our own voices.
Part II deals with recorded music and suggested applications with primarily instrumental music. For a nurturing “sound bath” that can be taken in 3 – 5 minutes at your desk, select a piece from the Baroque period, such as the popular, Pachelbel Canon in D. This style of music is at 60 – 65 beats per minute, repetitive, predictable, no extreme changes in volume, and always resolves to the awaited home in the key structure.
Move your chair back from your computer and desk, sit with both feet on the floor, hands resting in lap, and close your eyes. Allow the music to flow over and through you, as though you were sitting in a natural hot spring. Music has the ability to entrain our biorhythms, so with this piece of music, our breathing becomes deeper to better oxygenate all our cells. Our heart rate slows, and so does our frantic mind. One or two such sound baths each day can also lower blood pressure, just as excessive noise can raise it.
Since we are bombarded with noise and chaotic frequencies sometimes 24 hours a day, our bodies are constantly subjected to the release of adrenalin and norepinephrine, which raise the heart rate and ready us for “fight or flight”. Sound baths are the perfect antidote.
In caring for elders, Part I dealt with humming to create a more soothing presence. Part II suggests allowing the elders the same opportunity for “sound” baths. While helping someone dress or bathe, this genre of music lessens the anxiety and discomfort they feel from having another person doing these things for them.
Another suggested application for this music is in the dining room at care centers. The entire dining experience is enhanced, because the music creates a calm spaciousness. People can chew, swallow, savor and enjoy eating. The music is also a nice background for table conversation.
Time to read, concentrate, to memorize, to learn—–the suggestion is playing instrumental music from the Classical period, such as compositions by Mozart. Music fires more neurons than any other single stimulus, and with the structure and theory throughout this style of music, the brain is awake and alert.
Crossword puzzles and other mentally stimulating games can be nicely paired with this music. In using this musical stimulation with stroke patients, it is a good background for re-establishing language patterns.
Mozart’s compositions are also suggested for individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease in completing various tasks, and for those with Cerebral Palsy, Parkinson’s Disease, stroke, and other neurophysiological disorders, the music has assisted in regaining control over neuromusculoskeletal functioning, such as gait in walking.
Of course, marches are also excellent for regaining this type of control. For individuals in rehab or at home with a physical therapy regimen, marches assist in leg strengthening and endurance exercises.
Exercising and working to the rhythm of instrumental “big band” music and to other eras’ popular music pieces that have a steady beat, not erratic, and that is not too loud or too fast also create a pleasurable sound environment.
Singing along to favorite musical selections is advantageous for everyone, when it is time to relax, unwind, oxygenate our bodies, walk, etc. However, we do need to be mindful when involving lyrics in our musical experience that the brain can only focus or concentrate on one thought or task execution at a time. Recalling and singing lyrics while simultaneously entering data into a computer will most probably result in misspelled words and miscalculations of numbers.
This is a wonderful tool to use when working with individuals to train or retrain task execution, such as adding melody to “this is the way I tie my shoes, tie my shoes, etc”. Singing lyrics in this mode assists in accomplishment.
Time to create, or just be—–use again the spacious Baroque music or meditation music. In caring for others, or just caring for ourselves, we need to give our beta self a rest and spend time with our alpha self. In caregiving, facilitating activities with someone, or ones, this type of musical background allows space to paint, sew, do crafts, cook, bake, etc.
Recorded music can be used to enhance our daily lives and to share positive, inspired frequencies and energy with our world. Our bodies are soaking up the music on a molecular level—so nourishment or hazardous? — A question to ask individuals who drive up beside us or behind us, polluting the environment with a mixture of discordant sounds, erratic beats, and negative, disrespectful words—-
Linda Holloway, Board Certified Music Therapist