Music As Medicine

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Music therapy helps the patient to recover much faster than otherwise, says A SAMPATH KUMAR

The human body from the time of conception incorporates music into its function. There is harmony, synchrony, melody, beat and rests. It is a pity we do not have the score to reproduce it in an orchestra. What would be the result?
The brain is the conductor. The muscles and tendons would be the strings. The heart would be the rhythmic percussion. The lung and circulation would be gentle wind instruments like the flute, oboe and piccolo and the clarinet. The liver, intestines, kidneys would be the base and the tuba. The vocal cords, nose, lips and tongue would be the brass band; the trumpet, trombone and horn. The unrecognised daily, lifelong activities performed timely and with the least fuss would be the symphonic melody played continuously with rhythmic regularity for the entire life of man. It is interspersed and arranged as a slow andante during fetal growth, the adagio of early infancy, a fast paced presto in childhood, allegro vivace in adolescence and allegro in adulthood and the adagio in old age.
So why is music so important? The baby in the womb grows better with music. It is music that moulds character, since primary education in music is known to improve creativity, tranquillity and promote health. There’s music for walking, jogging, aerobics and yoga. There is evidence that musicians and conductors of orchestras live longer and are more contented.

Soul Language
Music is the language of the soul and crosses all barriers of nations, religion, ethnicity, language, culture and tradition. No wonder music unites all living organisms. One has to cultivate the art of listening to music in nature. The song of the birds, the music of insects, amphibians, whales, elephants, thunder and lighting, creating melodious sounds from Aeolian harps, the sound of rain, winds and hurricanes are all the familiar examples of music in nature. Some composers and musicians have gone out the way to create soothing sounds reproduced from nature especially from the flow of water and sea waves. An evening musical concert is a most peaceful and enjoyable form of entertainment.
I know many surgeons, who use western classical music, operas and contemporary rock, during surgical procedures. Their personal preferences vary a lot. I have witnessed the change of music to suit their age and choice. However, one thing that was common to all these locations was the profound effect it has on the staff present in the room. There was little or no anxiety, no frayed tempers and no lack of concentration. One could discern an atmosphere of friendliness and happiness, the beneficial effects were many. Ignorance of music was slowly and surely removed. Everyone became aware of and learnt different types of music, appreciated or acquired gadgets to listen at other times as well.

No More Anxiety
One area where music has been shown to have profound beneficial effects is in the neurology and neurosurgery intensive care units (ICU). Many of these patients are paralysed, comatose or semi-comatose. Many would have lost their speech. When they hear music, especially what they are used to hearing at home, or familiar voices and even prayers, which is recited regularly, they recover much faster. Doctors permit and prescribe music therapy for such patients. Music allays anxiety and fear. Patients exposed to music believe they are in their own environment and tend to recover faster.
It is neither fantasy nor imagination to believe that music is the very basis of life itself; life is defined as organised function. Disturb it and life goes out. Being aware of our own rhythm and melody is essential for a healthy life. n
The writer is (retd) professor and head, cardiothoracic surgery, AIIMS

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