Music Archives - Health Smart Epiphany

Music Archives - Health Smart Epiphany

Medical Pearls: The Healing Power of Music

Since the beginning of recorded history, music has played a significant role in the healing of our world. Music and healing were communal activities that were natural to everyone. In ancient Greece, Apollo was both the god of music and medicine. Pythagoras knew how to work with sound, and he taught his students how certain chords and melodies produce definite responses in the human organism, and how the right sequence of sounds, played musically on an instrument, could actually change behavior patterns and accelerate the healing process.

When asked what type of music they usually prefer to listen to, most people say that it depends on their mood. If they are sad or depressed, they prefer classical music, or a slow ballad, and when they are feeling good, they prefer stimulating music. In fact, the opposite should be true: when you’re “down in the dumps,” you need music that has a fast beat or a distinctive rhythm, whether classical or jazz music. Let me explain:

Tempo, rhythm, volume, complexity, harmony, major or minor key, melody, and pitch and tone of the music can create different physiologic effects and healing.

Tempo: Music played at 80-90 beats per minute (bpm) increase the flow of adrenaline in the blood which can raise the heart rate and the blood pressure, also raising levels of ACTH, a hormone produced by the brain which in turn causes the release of the stress hormone cortisone from the adrenal glands. On the other hand, music played at a tempo of 40-60 bpm decreases adrenaline and stress hormones. Also, when you’re relaxed, and especially when you meditate, you release “feel-good” hormones such as oxytocin, dopamine, serotonin and endorphins.

Some of the “New Age” meditative music does not have a beat, but you can be sure it has less than 80bpm. This type of un-metered music produces delta-brainwave states which indicate deep relaxation.

Volume: Sound waves are energy, and they impact your brain with electric pulses—the higher the volume, the more pulse/pressure, and the lower the volume the less the pulse/pressure.

Louder music will stimulate: good for entertainment, and when your mood is low

Soft music will relax: good when you have a high degree of stress (also causes pain relief).

Complexity: The simpler the complexity of the music (ex. A classic trio playing a guitar, a flute, and a cello), the more relaxing it is—The more the complexity, the less relaxing.

Harmony: When two or more musical notes played together complement each other. Complementary sounds or harmonies create consonance, while notes that sound like they don’t go together create dissonance. Lots of music is made up of consonance and dissonance dancing together, creating tension and resolution.

Major or minor key: Music that is played in a minor key is said to be more poignant, moving or emotional, and more conducive to meditation or healing.

Melody: A simple melody causes relaxation, while a complex melody causes stimulation. Where there is no definable melody, music becomes anxiety-reducing, and is used in medical situations for deep relaxation and pain management. (The brain can’t think ahead and can’t anticipate what notes will come next in a melody that isn’t there—instead, the brain just disconnects its desire to consciously listen, and shifts into the relaxing experience mode.)

There are various ways that the brain can respond to music: It can analyze the structure of the music, (i.e. the melody, harmony, rhythm, tone or form), or it can process the music in the frontal lobe of the dominant hemisphere, called “BA 47,” which will feel the music with our emotions.

Another way that the brain can perceive music is by placing itself in a state of “suspended animation” or self-hypnosis. Some people can achieve this state with any type of music, whether drone music,* high energy symphony, or jazz music.

The self-hypnosis that can occur with drone music especially (but also with other types of music), can lead to successful induction of meditation, which has been proven to be one of the best tools for stress management on a day-to-day basis.

Evidence-based music therapy: Music, when used as therapy, improves pain control, mental health, sleep apnea, the immune system, and memory in patients with Alzheimer’s disease and decreases blood pressure.

*Dronology, also known as “drone music,” “dronescape,” and sometimes simply as “drone,” is a musical style that emphasizes the use of sustained sounds, notes, or tone-clusters, called drones. It is typically characterized by the lengthy compositions with relatively slightly harmonic variations throughout each piece, compared to other music. Many cultures around the world use “drone” as an important foundations in their music.

Drone music has been present on the globe since recorded history. For example, music which contains drones, and has a very slow rhythm can be found in many parts of the world, including the Japanese “gagaku” classical tradition, Scottish “pibroch piping,” “digeridoo” music in Australia, Hindustani classical music (which is accompanies almost invariably by the tambura, a four-string instrument which is only capable of playing a drone), and pre-polyphonic vocal music of the late medieval Europe Renaissance. Repetition of tones, as in Appalachian banjo music (supposed to be in imitation of bagpipes) is found in a wide variety of genres and musical forms.

The modern genre of modern music is often applied to artists who have allied themselves closely with the underground music and the post-rock or experimental music. Most often they utilize electronic instruments which typically create dense and motionless harmonies, as well as a stilled or “hovering” sense of time.

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drone_music.

2. “What is healing music? A close look” by Amrita Cottrell; Dec. 2001; www.healingmusic.org