By Sonali S. Sokhal March 1998 Music, especially New Age music, is fast being recognized as a useful therapeutic tool for physical and mental well being Choosing the Right MusicThe music you choose depends on the results you expect. If you have relaxation and meditation or just energizing in mind, the best choice would be something that is designed to take you into an altered state of consciousness and does not require intellectual analysis. It can range from a simple instrumental tune on the piano to Tibetan bowl music and chanting.Any music which relies heavily on technology (rock or pop) and originates in anger or revolt (R&B, jazz, blues) has unnatural and negative vibrations attached to it. Anand Avinash cautions that ‘all music is not soothing. Rhythm in any form induces anxiety or excitement.’ So, avoid percussion instruments. By now there are many audio tapes to choose from in India: BMG Crescendo has brought out four volumes composed by Pandit Raghunath Seth, with titles like Nidra for relaxation and Tanaav for releasing stress. Other include offerings from Osho’s world, Vedic chants, some fusion and classical pieces by noted Indian maestros. Tapes produced by Yogacharya Shri Anand include Music of Ecstasy, Music Beyond Silence and Sounds of Silence. Anand Avinash recommends music by Bach and Vivaldi, any works by Deuter or Kitaro, Forest Walk by Peter Bastian/Stig Moller, David Sun’s Tranquillity and Slow Ocean. How to get optimum results Recommended by Anand Avinash: Start by visualizing your ear canal expanding. Extend your consciousness inwards into the entire body and then reach outwards towards the entire cosmos. This awareness of the ear extends to the vastness of universe and to the celestial music of the spheres. To be effective in healing, music should have the following characteristics: Pulse:At or below heart rate (72 per minute) for calming or reducing tension. Rhythm:Smooth and flowing at all times for integrating internal body rhythms and energy flows. Melody:Slow and sustained for meditational purposes; pitch sequences primarily by step at pulse rate or slightly faster for energizing. Duration:Minimum 15 minutes of steady music; 20-45 minutes is optimum. Tone quality:Generally the softer quality instrument like the flute and organ. Resonance:Should be sustained for 4 to 8 seconds for calming. Music therapy can also be used for personal development in the following areas: • Memory and learning • Enhancing certain work skills • Peaking creative thinking • Calming down wild • Temperaments • Chaotic music for relieving negative emotions Shakespeare once wrote: ‘If music be the food of love, play on..’ Profound words, true, but the Bard failed to mention that music is not just nourishment for the heart, but also for the soul. Music surrounds our lives, we hear it on the radio, on television, from our car and home stereos. We come across it in the mellifluous tunes of a classical concert or in the devotional strains of a bhajan, the wedding band, or the reaper in the fields breaking into song to express the joy of life. Even warbling in the bathroom gives us a happy start to the day. Since time immemorial, music has infused a spark of the Divine in human beings. Stating the esoteric nature of music, Sufi saint and musician Hazrat Inayat Khan said: ‘The true harmony of music comes from the harmony of the soul. That music alone can be called real which comes from the harmony of the soul, its true source, and when it comes from there, it must appeal to all souls.’ Inevitably, then, music has a very powerful therapeutic effect on the human psyche. It has always been part of our association with specific emotions, and those emotions themselves have given rise to great music. Till now, no documented study has been conducted in India about the use of music in healing, or whether it can be used as therapy. Even though this has been a popular subject in the West where courses in music therapy are offered in many colleges, it has mostly been a personal search in India among a handful of healers. ORIGIN OF SOUND AND MUSIC In every culture, music arose from devotional chants and invocations. In India, schools such as yoga and tantra equate Nada Brahman, the primordial sound, with the Absolute. The origins of Indian music can be traced back to the chanting of the Sama Veda nearly 4,000 years ago. The primacy of the voice, and the association of musical sound with prayer, were thus established early in the history of Indian music. Perhaps the most important aspect of sound in the Indian context is the word ‘Aum’—considered the manifested sound of the Divine, and said to hold a powerful influence over the human mind. It is believed that vibrations created by the circular structure of the syllables define the entire cosmos. The primacy of music, and sound, was acknowledged even in the West. The Greeks revered Apollo, the god of music and art as well as healing. Even the Pythagorean school of philosophy had discovered mathematical laws of created what is called the ‘music of the spheres’, and had the developed music therapy to bring mankind in harmony with the celestial spheres. The similarity between this and the Indian belief in anahata nada (the unmanifest sound of the divine which exists within our own consciousness) is only too obvious. In Chinese silk-weaving exercises, the only sound that should be heard is that of the body inhaling and exhaling. Similarly, the polyphonic quality in many strains of western classical music originated from the Gregorian and other chants used in the 9th century for ritualized religious purposes. Chanting, even today, is an important part of many meditation and healing workshops, though now it has a more secular outlook. THE ACT OF HEARING Music therapy is based on the associative and cognitive powers of the mind. Sound creates certain vibrations which are picked up and amplified by the human ear. These waves are then picked up by the sensory nerve going into the middle of the brain and redistributed throughout the neuron network to other parts of the brain to distinguish the pitch, tone, and frequency of that sound. Research has shown that it is the right side of the brain which responds to the creative arts, including music. Different genres of music thus have different effects on the mind. Rock music, which has a series of repetitive notes, many high and low pitches and dense tone figures, requires an immediate adjustment from the mind to understand the different frequencies. Orchestral music, on the other hand, has an opposite effect. Music critic, Raghava Menon, points out that the latter transports the listener to a different plane of thought or emotion, whether it is anger, fear or happiness. He cites orchestral music in western cinema as an example of this. He says: ‘The best music is so profound that you will not even realize that you are hearing it, it will affect you and arouse the emotions in you that it is supposed to, and yet its hallmark is that you may not remember the exact tones and notes that have been struck.’ This is because every sound that goes into the brain will be carried through a series of electrochemical impulses through different pathways of the brain. Each sound not only registers in the primary and secondary auditory sections, but is also stored up as a part of memory. Hypnotherapist Dr Vanit Nalwa says: ‘Every sound, every tone is associated with a previous memory. An experiment conducted on schizophrenics showed that their hearing imaginary sounds is a result of some impulses triggering off the memory of sound and words in the brain.’ Yoga believes that the heart and other organs of the body vibrate at particular sound frequencies. Each chakra has its corresponding syllable. Therapist Jon Monroe has recorded 12 musical tones whose vibratory levels stimulate certain organs of the body. Thus, certain vibrations and frequencies can soothe or disturb the mind and the body. This fact has been amply demonstrated by psychologist Dr. Sanjay Chugh, consultant at Delhi’s Apollo Hospital who uses music as part of his therapy. HEALING WITH MUSIC ‘Music therapy,’ he says, ‘has helped me in treating many people with problems like dementia, dyslexia and trauma.’ He further points out that many children with learning disability and poor coordination have been able to learn respond to set pieces of music. Dr Chugh recommended a mini-synthesiser to play on for a five-year-old child who was withdrawn and unsociable with his peers because of a slight retardation. Soon, he noted a marked improvement in the child’s social and interpersonal skills. That the human mind is affected by music is no longer a vague notion. Dance critic Ashish Khokar cites an experiment as proof: ‘Music is produced from sound, and sound affects our sense perception in many ways. Even fish in an aquarium were once made to listen to different kinds of music and it was found that their movements corresponded with the beat of the music. Mind you, fish do not hear, they only felt the vibrations of the sound through water. So you can imagine what a profound effect sound and music might have on the human mind.’ The neural synapses pick up the electrical impulses from the brain, and then send them to every part of the body. The brain reacts to the music by releasing certain endorphins, which are said to be the natural opiates and palliatives of the body. This is substantiated by Shruti, who uses music for her healing workshops at the Gnostic Center in Gurgaon near New Delhi, India. She reveals: ‘I have often found chanting or music to have a definitely positive effect on me when I have some pain or stress. It seems to soothe both the mind and the body.’
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