And the Beat Goes "Om"
Western medicine is catching on. Music has struck a chord with conventional practitioners and found a place in hospitals, clinics and rehabilitation centers. Modern-day music therapists slinging guitars and pounding pianos are bringing the notion of notation as therapy to a healing-starved Western world — this about five thousand years after music was first described as an essential accompanist to health and healing.
The message of music and health was written long ago. Gandharva veda is an ancient form of Indian raga music that recognizes the patterns of energy flow we experience based on the time of day and year. There are morning, afternoon and evening ragas.. These forms are described in written Vedic texts dating to 3000 B.C.
Around 600 B.C., Greek academician Pythagoras taught more than geometry. He explored the time and space of music. In his search for personal harmony he taught that music and diet were the key ingredients for maintaining a healthy and long life.
If we want, we can even go back to the Big Bang. Literally or not, Western scientists refer to that moment as the inception of the entire physical universe and describe the beginning of things as a sound.
Some energy theorists maintain that the basic energy of life, the truly elusive Unified Field that Einstein sought to find, is actually a universal sound. The subtle energy that weaves through the fabric of all substance is believed to be a tone that is both audible and experiential. That tone could be called the resonant echo of the Big Bang, the primordial drum beat, in some cultures known as the sound “om.”
If sound is such a pervasive energy, then the application of it in structured or semi-structured organizations of pitch, rhythm, amplitude and harmonic content would indeed have a resonance that can be in synchronization with our perfect health.
“Music hath charm to soothe the savage breast,
To soften rocks or bend a knotted oak.” - William Congreve
We know the power of music, the power of sound. Sound affects the body, just as all energies do. Coherent, aligned tones in a pattern that can be discerned by the intellect are often called music. Random, unpredictable square waves are often called noise. Usually music is considered to have a pleasing effect and noise to have an annoying effect.
Music is just part of a bigger picture called sound. Sound is everywhere. Sound can be palpable. Military experiments using low frequencies at high amplitude have been used to kill test animals. Subsonics can turn internal organs to mush. (Judging by cars pulling up to stoplights with subwoofers blaring, the first organ to go is the brain.)
The Mozart Effect
Studies show that music really does have qualities that “soothe the savage breast.” One of the foremost researchers was French physician Alfred Tomatis of the French Academy of Science and Medicine. His research and that of others shows what all reasonable people already had accepted as fact. Music can relax you. It can lower blood pressure. It can decrease heart rate. It can help with insomnia. And some music has been shown to increase IQ. Author Don Campbell has written a book called The Mozart Effect that highlights some of the effects of the sound we call music.
Researchers at the University of California, Irvine found that listening to Mozart prior to taking scholastic exams improved test scores significantly. A current trend in hospital neo-natal wards is playing classical music for newborn infants. Tennessee, Georgia and Florida are among states that provide classical music CD’s with the other freebies each new mother receives when she leaves the hospital.
Campbell found the preferred style of music to enhance intelligence is Baroque. Baroque music is a form popularized in the 17th and 18th centuries. If you’re not a music scholar, the best way to associate it is to think of Johann Sebastian Bach. As composers go, he is considered the primary force behind the form. Others are Handel, Haydn and Mendelssohn. Mozart’s music is from that period and was often found to be the most effective.
The June 16, 1999 Journal of the American Medical Association published research from Case Western University showing that relaxation therapy, like hypnosis, and classical music played through earphones, used independently or together, reduced pain symptoms in 500 patients after major abdominal surgery. Studies at St. Agnes Hospital in Baltimore show that critical care patients require lower amounts of sedatives after listening to 30 minutes of classical music. Another JAMA article supports the use of classical music and the principles of feng shui in the health care environment.
Not just the notes
Pure sound heals too. The energy that is a human being is complex and operates at different frequencies. They change and modulate. When the Omaha group Crystal Hearts leads a meditation, they use seven over-sized, perfectly tuned crystal bowls to generate a coherent and pure tone, the sonic equivalent of a laser. Those sound waves resonate with the frequencies of our own bodies. In an esoteric sense, the tone can re-align the energy that interfaces with our bodies, at the points known as chakras. If modern science can evaluate that music does have a healing affect, it is no stretch to consider that the pure tones of a resonating frequency would do anything less.
There are over 250 therapy centers worldwide that use Tomatis’ methods to help children with autism and learning disabilities. Tomatis also researched the effect that toning or chanting has on the body. He found, and other research has supported, that the actual performance of sound-making chants has a therapeutic affect on the body. Frequencies produced by a person’s vocalizations are perfectly tuned to have an effect on their own body. My chant of “om” for example, is frequency-specific in the perfect amounts to affect my body. Different chants have different effects. High frequencies can energize and other characteristics can soothe. One form of sound therapy involves toning with our own name. When we sing or chant our own name, we are working on many energy levels at once. The sonic envelope resonates from our vocalization throughout our body on a physical level. And the naming can work on an attachment on the emotional one.
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