Author: Rajendar Menen
Publisher: Pustak Mahal
ISBN/UPC (if available): 97881-223-0806-8
Music! It marks every event of our life, from birth, marriage and death to the phases in-between.
Man has long known about the ability of music to calm, cajole and rejuvenate people. But it is only recently that science has begun to understand, study and document the effects of music in methodology, which leaves little room for doubt.
It is now an established fact that music helps all living creatures – from plants to birds and animals and man —to grow and rejuvenate. Music permeates the cells of all living beings, alters mood swings, cell division, heals the ailing, induces sleep, creates wakefulness, and dances with the mood, the mind and the soul.
While the rishis of ancient India and the Vedas first documented the effects of music on the human being and all life, it was left to the western world to fashion the more modern concepts of healing through music. There are now serious music therapy courses in the world’s best universities and remunerative openings abroad for music therapists.
This book dwells heavily on the findings from ancient India and the masters of today who have made music therapy a viable healing alternative. It is the most comprehensive guide on the healing powers of sound & music.
Ever since I can remember, I have been fascinated by music. I use the word ‘fascinated’ with some deliberation and care because I am far from the regular music buff you see strolling into or out of a music shop with a tune on his or her lips. I am tone deaf, can’t sing to stop the shower, don’t see films of any kind especially those ransacked by cheap, lilting music and can live for days on a diet of silence broken probably by the exaggerated noise of a falling twig against the hush of soundlessness.
But give me the grand opera, music festivals in any city in the world, jazz in Temple Bar or New Orleans, the deep-throated resonance of Osho and the spiritualists in India, Tibet, Japan or any part of the world, the tinker of the instrumentalists, or even the grand festivity of pop and rock, and you have my life on a platter.
It doesn’t matter if you can’t sing. It doesn’t matter if you can’t hear. But if you can grasp the magic that music brings to all life, you are there. Where it matters.
Music makes you happy. Simply put.
But it also takes you to a platform far removed from the mundane theatre of our lives. From there we conduct the opera of our choice. >From there we laugh, we cry, we reminisce, we choose our emotion and escape to an extraordinary passion handpicked from our dreams. From there we drop all mortal sin and the weariness of ordinary life. From there we stake claims to immortality. From there we harness the sunset. Our hopes soar, and we begin to believe in life once more... the roses are in bloom and the dew glistens on the green... Yes, music is all this and much, much more.
Writing this book has been exciting. I have learnt a lot and met and spoken to scores of people whose lives have changed after music discovered it. The scope of the book is endless and so I had to pick and choose areas for the larger interest of the reader. We have deliberately kept out cults and religious organisations though their music is undoubtedly exhilarating and therapeutic. We simply wanted to give music therapy the neutral stance it deserves.
There are millions and zillions of musical scores available. In every genre. Take your pick. And rejoice in the fact that if you are elevated by the music of your choice from the weariness of earthly existence, even if it is only for a fleeting moment, what could be a better definition of heaven?
Chap. 1. The Specialised Use of Music
Music is a universal language. It influences all levels of human existence. It is a medium for communication, which can be both a pleasant and healing experience. Modern science and medicine are now rediscovering the healing powers of music. And music therapy – the specialised use of music in treating persons with special needs in mental and physical health, rehabilitation and special education – is gaining ground. In the West it is now an accepted form of treatment even within orthodox medical practice.
Music is an age-old part of Ayurveda, the holistic Indian science that promotes a happy and healthy lifestyle. From time immemorial, music has been a part of Indian culture. In the Vedas too, music has an important place. The Samveda is full of music. Doshas like Vata, Pitta and Kapha can be controlled effectively through music therapy. Great composers of Indian classical music have attempted music therapy down the years. Legend has it that classical music maestro Thyagaraja brought a dead person back to life with a composition of his.
It is believed that music stimulates the pituitary gland, whose secretions affect the nervous system and the flow of blood. To be healed by music, it is necessary to vibrate the cells of the body, for it is through these vibrations that the diseased person’s consciousness can be changed effectively to promote health. The right kind of music helps one relax and refresh. Even during the course of working, light music improves efficiency.
Listening to music helps control negative aspects of our personality like worry, bias and anger. In addition, it can help cure headache, abdominal pain and tension. Music therapy is one of the most effective ways of controlling emotions, blood pressure and restoring the functioning of the liver.
Music therapy is an efficacious and valid treatment for persons who have psychosocial, affective, cognitive and communicative needs. Research results and clinical experiences attest to the viability of music therapy even in those who are resistive to other treatment approaches. Music is a form of sensory stimulation that provokes responses due to the familiarity, predictability and feelings of security associated with it.
Music therapists use music activities, both instrumental and vocal, which are designed to facilitate changes that are non-musical in nature. Music therapy programmes are based on individual assessment, treatment lanning, and ongoing programme evaluation. Frequently functioning as members of an interdisciplinary team, music therapists implement programmes with groups or individuals that display a vast continuum of needs, from reduction of anxiety to deeper self-understanding.
Music therapists work with the interdisciplinary team to assess emotional well-being, physical health, social functioning, communication abilities, and cognitive skills through musical responses. When individualised music experiences are designed by the music therapist to fit functional abilities and needs, responses may be immediate and readily apparent. Clients need not have a music background to benefit from music therapy.
The Raga Research Centre in Chennai, India is currently making a comprehensive study of Indian ragas and evaluating their therapeutic potential with the help of musicians, doctors and psychiatrists. It is believed that classical Indian ragas can benefit a host of conditions ranging from insomnia, high and low blood pressure to schizophrenia and epilepsy. Research is also underway to understand how it can fight ageing and pain.
Music is capable of improving happiness, peace, health and concentration. It is, however, important to know the method and duration for which music therapy is to be administered. This knowledge can be obtained through regular experiments and experience. The first step towards this is the correct diagnosis of the disease and then the selection of the precise raga that will be helpful. Procedure, discipline and a systematic method will help achieve this goal.
Music can play an effective role in helping us lead better, fruitful lives. Listening to specific kinds of music at specific times of the day has been shown to be helpful in maintaining good health.
Indian music, with its many ragas, is known to be particularly therapeutic in value. The curative power of music emanates from the resonance of certain ragas on hormonal and glandular functions, which produce secretions that keep the body balanced and infection free.
For example, Ahir Bhairav helps indigestion, Asavari helps build confidence, Bageshri is good for insomnia, Basant Bahar for gall-stones, Bhairavi for rheumatic arthritis, Bhim Palas for anxiety, Chandrakauns for anorexia and so on… The list is long and quite comprehensive with detailed ragas for specific disorders.
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Chap. 2. Facilitating communication
Music therapy is special in its use of music to encourage communication and expression by playing an instrument, singing or listening, usually through improvised music. The therapist does not teach the client to play an instrument; the instruments offered can all be played intuitively.
Within the therapeutic relationship, there is a safe setting in which difficult or repressed feelings can be expressed and contained. Where words are inadequate (or even impossible), music can often make sense. In the restricted world of a seriously ill child, music therapy focuses on what she can do, gives choices and control, and raises self-esteem.
A music therapist at one children’s hospice talks about one session: \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\"J suffers from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy at quite an advanced stage, can no longer eat or drink by himself, and is totally dependent for all his care. During a recent session he played on drum and cymbal. After ten minutes J said he had had enough, adding apologetically ‘My hand is weak, as is my arm, as am I.’ The music, however, had been vigorous, energetic and full of exciting accelerandi. No sign of weakness there. J had been involved in an experience which transcended his bodily limitations.\"
At another hospice: \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\"A small child had spent the morning distressed and crying, very tense and jerky physically. At first I held his hands or feet and sang back to him, responding to his rather chaotic sounds and movements and then introducing more order and rhythm. Leaving silences led to his increased awareness of his contact with me, and the realisation that he could initiate the music and movement. This led to a vocal interaction, many times over, and he also played a hand-held wind chime positioned just where he could play it. He began to smile and became calm, relaxed and communicative by the end of the session.\"
Part I: Ancient Healing Rediscovered:
1. The Specialised Use of Music 2. Facilitating Communication 3. Rediscovering an Ancient Healing Technique 4. Sound suggestions 5. Why Music Therapy? 6. The Multiple Benefits 7. Treating Alzheimer’s Disease
Part II: An Esoteric Science:
1. Emotions and the Brain 2. Music as Therapy 3. Music as Medicine 4. Riddle of the Mozart Effect 5. How Does Music Heal? 6. What’s So Special About Mozart? 7. More on Healing Music 8. The Power of Chant and Toning 9. How Music Affects Us 10. Sound, Rhythm and Music 11. Harmonic Resonance 12. Different Music Therapy Methods 13. Six Tips for Using Music in Therapy & Education
Part III: The Indian Influence:
1. The Indian Way of Healing Sounds 2. The Perception of Sound 3. Indian Music Therapy Practitioners 4. Aum – The Unstruck Sound 5. Audible Prana: The Power of Vibrating Breath 6. Applying Self-Generated Sound in Yoga 7. Nada Yoga – The Yoga of Sound 8. Absorption in Sound 9. Toning 10. The Healing Aspects of Toning 11. Music, the Foetus and Vedic Chanting 12. Music in Auroville – The City of Dawn 13. Plants and Music Treatment
Part IV: Queries and Case Studies:
1. Some Important Questions 2. The Miracle of a Brother’s Song 3. A Health Report on the Healing Powers of Music 4. Divine Melodies