Music Therapy – Healing through rhythm and melodies

Posted by Kaahon Desk On June 21, 2019

In an interview, Bob Marley had said that music had not made him rich but life. But the audience is always large in numbers preferring entertainment to art, thus encouraging music more like a commercial product than something meaningful to life.

Music is an inseparable and crucial part of our everyday living. The humdrum of our daily routine would have become unbearable if music is not there. Though it is pretty difficult to decipher the exact origin of music, it might be said that, in all probability, during the prehistoric times, the human species used certain sets of sounds to communicate different sets of emotions or messages. It was used to persuade people to identify with a clan. Music has been present since the beginning of time as a form of connecting people. Most historians believe music to have grown out of naturally occurring rhythms of particular sounds existing within humans. It is also believed that human voice was the first musical instrument that would create a tune if made to work together with rhythm.

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Music helps us in expressing our emotions – anger, sadness, happiness, regret – that unfolds at every turn of the tune.  As it is widely known, farmers and laborers sing, sometimes impromptu, rhythmic songs while working to make the job easier and faster while the work, too, has a rhythm and sound of its own, be it threshing corn or sawing wood. It helps them cope with the straining job and acts as a form of recreation as well. Today’s world is full of stress leaving people with no time to concentrate on their own mental, emotional and physical health. Many surveys have come to the conclusion that when people listen to music they feel relaxed and calm, and it allows them to explore each emotion safely. Different people respond differently to different kinds of music. Some people react positively to the genre of metal while some find it disturbing to their ears. Several studies have shown that music eases pain, provides comfort, lessens anxiety and even improves cognition.

But can music be so shallow an art that has ultimately become an agent of the only relaxation? Capitalism has created such a situation in the lives of people that music has lost all its significant values. The immense commercialization of art and culture in the post-colonial capitalist world has led to complete destruction of the sensibility of the people. As an effect of colonialism, what persists till today is the fractured sensibility and absolute rejection of one’s own culture and tradition, and its music. Very few people could be found in today’s time who are aware of and proud of their own musical culture. This decolonization needs to be practiced in the minds of people to bring them out of their mental and emotional distress. Not only does one’s native music help one connect to one’s own land and history but it also helps in forming an identity, a personality and a perspective connected to one’s own place of origin.

In the medical world, music plays an important role in curing people. Just like clinical counseling, music therapy too is forming a concrete place for itself in the medical world where patients are getting positive results out of it. All kinds of music might have therapeutic effects but the music of one’s own culture could be the most effective. According to Chinese medical theory, the five internal organ and meridian systems are assumed to have corresponding musical tones, which encourage healing. Each type of music differs in the kinds of neurological stimulation they evoke. Classical music has mostly caused relaxation while rock music may lead to distress. Music might achieve its therapeutic goal by increasing the pain threshold.

Patients suffering from Alzheimer’s, depression, autism, cerebral palsy, or other mental and physical disabilities have responded to music therapy and seen to have benefitted from it. Music therapy helps discover hidden psychological trauma, heal them and stimulate creative insights. It helps in dealing with personal issues and in self-expression leading to a sense of increased self-respect and acceptance. It also helps in normal developmental processes in cases of autism. In many cases of patients suffering from cancer, the ones attending music therapy sessions were found to have a better quality of life than those were not. The human body is a mystery in itself and it getting results through music is even more of a miracle. How or why certain kinds of music have cured ailments, that even medicine couldn’t, still remains a mystery.

Music therapy is uniquely culture-specific as well as cross-cultural in nature. With the help of music therapy, even people with physical disabilities have refined their motor skills by singing and playing instruments. This has paved the way for the development of skillfully adequate muscle control needed for vocal or signed speech. Norway has contributed in this field by the introduction of community music therapy that concentrates on social work as well as individual psychotherapy. One of the very first groups to heal through sound was the indigenous people of Australia. Their healing tool was the instrument named ‘didgeridoo’, originally called ‘yidaki’, that produced sounds similar to the sound healing methods used today. For centuries, the didgeridoo was believed to have assisted in healing broken bones and other illnesses. We can very well say that music is embedded within us and cannot be separated from our being.

Although music therapy is still in its initial stages in the medical world, it is gradually forming a base for itself providing positive health benefits to suffering patients. But it still has a long way to go. In conclusion, it could be said that we, as the music listener, need to shift our interests from the realm of music produced for entertainment purposes only. We must focus more on the other factors regarding music, in this case, especially the healing factor. Music therapy isn’t a topic that is well known among people but the awareness about it must be spread to each and every person. While some do not even take the subject into consideration or believe in its methods and consequences, it is our duty to make them aware of it and believe in its mechanism. Only then could it be inferred that music, as Michael Jackson had wanted, would be healing the world and making it a better place.

Writer: Kankabati Banerjee


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