The Healing Power of Music (original)
Marion M. Gough
Updated Mar 31, 2006
You may hear the applause when you sing, but do you really know the power of your voice on the people for whom you are singing? Does your audience even know what you just did for them? Do you know the power of your voice on your own body? Here are some new ideas to consider which may cause you—at the very least— to run to the practice room the next time you don’t feel well.
[Paper to be published in the Proceedings of the 17th International Conference on the Study of Shamanism and Alternative Modes of Healing, Santa Sabina Center, San Rafael, CA on September 2-4, 2000]
When music "speaks" our emotions "listen." We have bypassed the intellect and thus have a greater unique power to heal. In this paper we will explore what the characteristics of music are that can provide this power to heal. The effects of the elements of music upon our brain will be addressed. Our reactions to music can vary because of our different emotional makeup and cultural backgrounds. The effects of choice of music upon healing; and techniques to empower healee and healer will be discussed.
All the universe is vibration; Those vibrations that we `hear' are sounds. "Every sound has a physical effect upon your body. Sound is very important. It's the physical part of the spiritual" (Goldner, 1999). During any day there are many sounds, but all sounds, of course, are not music.
Difference Between Noise and Music
Figure 1 shows samples of typical noises. The top one is white noise, considered the most restful - such as waterfalls, the ocean, or other nature sounds. The second one is the 1/f noise where f stands for the frequency of vibration, a very easily found fluctuation in nature. The bottom one on the page, is Brownian motion or a random walk. (All these could be translated into musical tones) (Peitgen and Saupe, 1988, p.40).
One of the most exciting discoveries was that almost all 1/f melodies are very much like the 1/f noise. Music has about the same mix of randomness and predictability as 1/f noise. If a musical score is taken and lines drawn between successive notes of the melody, a graph appears that is very similar to the second sample, on Figure 1.
In Figure 2, "Noises Translated Into Music", three different types of noise as seen in Figure 1, are written in musical notation. Taking this kind of noise and using a random process in the computer, musical notations such as shown in Figure 2 are obtained. (These are samples of stochastically composed fractal music based on the different types of noises. ) "1/f" - music is the most pleasing and closest to actual music. The " 1/f0" white noise music, is too random, and the Brownian music "1/f2" is too correlated. (Peitgen and Saupe, 1988, p. 43)
In Figure 3, "Pitch Variations of Music Similar to 1/f Noise", it is seen that all the music we are used to hearing falls into a "1/f" pattern. There is little to distinguish the measurements on widely different types of music from each other or the "1/f" noise. The pitch fluctuations of traditional Japanese, Indian ragas, European classical, to the Beatles and American blues, are amazingly similar. (Peitgen and Saupe, 1988, p.41).
Music and Mathematics
The foundation of modern science is based upon mathematics. Yet we do not know why mathematics can map the physical world so accurately. Interestingly, there is a common link between music and mathematics that goes back to the time of Pythagoras. Also, Joseph Fourier showed that all sounds, vocal and instrumental, simple and complex, can be described in mathematical terms. (Kline, 1952).
Many mathematicians are also great musicians, such as Ramanujan of India. A possible reason why mathematics and music have such power is that both Pure Mathematics, "sacred" music and other "secular" music with spiritual effects, are intuited from the Absolute, the Generative Ground - the Source. This is what both great mathematicians and musicians are tapping into. (Gough, W.C. & Shacklett, Subtle Energies, 1993, pp.68-70).
Ramanujan, never trained and with limited education, is recognized today as one of the greatest mathematicians. He discovered formulas and theories with not a hint of where they came from. (Peterson 1990). Mozart was a musician who could "intuit" his music, writing a whole symphony in just a few days. (Jourdain 1997). Paul Hindemith, a German musician, calls a composer a "seer", someone who may see the whole composition at once. Just as we all can see a landscape so clearly when a flash of lightning bolts into a storm. (Hindemith, 1952).
Music is mind's direct connection to the vibrations of the Source, since the whole universe is made up of vibrations. This is why music has the power to heal. "The way music heals is that it brings the body and its cells into coherence." Music sets up a resonance between the parts of the body and the whole universe. (Brown, 2000).
Sound, Color and Symbols
Sound, color, and symbols though usually considered different, are all identical because all are the same at the absolute. Our brain sorts them out for our benefit. But there are a group of people who don't sort or separate sounds from colors and symbols or patterns so easily. They experience the phenomenon known as synesthesia, seeing colors when music is played, and hearing music when colors or a beautiful painting is seen! Taste, also, produces colors and sounds for some people.
For example, French composer, Oliver Messiaen, attributes his success to synesthesia, saying: "Whenever I hear music or read music, I see colors.... the piece I composed about Bryce Canyon is red and orange... the color of the cliffs." Alexander Scriabin, the Russian composer, wrote a piece called Mysterium in which he wanted to combine an orchestra, dance, light, and scents. He also cataloged his color-note associations, saying that C# was violet, while the note E was "pearly white." David Hockney, British painter, says his sets for the New York Opera, were inspired by synesthesia. "When it came time to paint the tree for Ravel, I put on the tree music from the opera, and it had a certain weight and color..." (Lemley, 1999).
Elements of Music
Just as Mathematics has been powerful in mapping the physical world, so Music maps the inner world of mind and soul. As was stated not all sound is music. To be called music, sound has to have these four elements: (1) rhythm, (2) melody, (3) harmony and (4) tone color (timbre). These could be divided into ten or more other elements or dimensions, but for clarity these basic ones will be discussed.
RHYTHM is the first of the musical elements. Music probably started with the beating of a drum. Savage tribes today often have a music of rhythm alone. Rhythm has such a powerful and direct effect upon us that its primal origins are felt. There is a close relationship between physical work patterns, bodily movements and basic rhythms. Rhythm expresses physical motion.
(Copland, 1952, pp.34-35).
MELODY, the second element, is a variety of musical tones in succession. It may be long and flowing, with low and high points of interest, and of satisfying proportions. But most important, it's expressive quality arouses an emotional response within the listener. (Copland, 1952, pp.50-51). Melody expresses mental and heart motion.
HARMONY is the third element and evolved gradually, coming in around the 9th century. When several musical tones or notes are played together, they are called chords. Playing several musical tones together can create harmony. Harmony is the study of chords and their relationship to one another. It is one of the most amazing inventions of man. The history of harmonic development shows a continually changing picture. Daring new harmonies and techniques came in during the "harmonic revolution" of the first part of the 20th century; but our ears are gradually enabled to assimilate chords of greater complexity and dissonance. (Copland, 1952, pp.62, 71-77).
TONE COLOR (TIMBRE), the fourth element, is the quality of sound of certain instruments or the voice -- the difference between a clarinet and cello or soprano and bass. For example, if a screen were put over the stage, it would be easy to recognize the difference between the string section and the wind section of an orchestra; or between a xylophone and a gong in a Gamelan orchestra of Indonesian music. These examples make it quite clear that recognizing tone color is an innate sense most people are born with. Today there are huge resources and unlimited possibilities for variations in tone color because of newly invented instruments, electronic instruments, and computers. (Copland, 1952, pp.78-79).
These elements - rhythm, melody, harmony and tone color - are mixed together to create the many facets or dimensions of different kinds of music. Some of that music will be healing music.
Music's Psychological Effects
An experiment conducted by The Institute of HeartMath is illustrated by Figure 4: "Music's Effects On Psychological States." It shows clearly how different types of music affect a person's body and psychological/emotional states. Two groups participated, an adult group and a teenage group. The four types of music used were Classical, New Age, Designer Music, and Grunge Rock.
Listed at the bottom of Figure 4 are the positive qualities of Caring, Mental Clarity, Relaxation, and Vigor. Then the last four qualities are negative: Hostility, Fatigue, Sadness and Tension. The numbers on the abscissa show the percent of change the music has on the emotions.
It can be clearly seen that Grunge Rock increases the negative qualities of hostility and tension up to almost sixty per cent; whereas with Classical and New Age music those feelings are shown below the zero per cent line, i.e. are reduced. Designer music is written specifically to bring up and enhance positive emotional states. The chart clearly shows the highest readings for these states of caring, mental clarity, relaxation, and vigor; New Age is also almost up to the 20% line in relaxation and leads to a decrease in tension. Classical also produces relaxation and is used in hospitals. (McCraty, R., 1998, pp.75-81)
This study shows how music - and designer music in particular - can reduce stress, fatigue, and negativity. Since there is a connection between attitudes, emotions and health, these results indicate that music can be an inexpensive, easy and enjoyable way of facilitating stress reduction. (McCraty, R., 1998, p.84).
Music's Physiological Effects
Music affects not only the psychological state, but also the autonomic nervous system (A.N.S.) and the immune system. It's known that negative states such as grief or anger can suppress the immune system. The Institute of HeartMath did another experiment on these effects of music on immunity. They measured levels of IgA using saliva samples. Saliva was used as a diagnostic fluid. (McCraty, 1996). (IgA is defined as an indicator for the strength of the immune system) (Malamud, 1993).
Figure 5, Music's Effect on S-IgA, shows the IgA concentration and the per cent of change in the bottom row of numbers. The three types of music used were Rock, Designer, (using Heart Zones CD), and New Age. Then the bottom two lines of the graph show the Heart Lock-In and the Heart Lock-In combined with the Heart Zones CD. It's clear that using the Heart Lock-In technique of focusing one's thoughts on appreciation and love with the Heart Zones Designer music gives the highest concentration of IgA. In fact, IgA increases 50 to 55%. This shows how sincere, positive thoughts and intentions combine together with music to create a significant healing effect.
Music has effects on our body chemistry, and then the body produces its chemicals. The proteins in our bodies are the information substances. Within the proteins are peptides; they are the messenger molecules, or "molecules of emotion." The receptors are the cell's receivers.
Cells are biochemical factories that produce behavioral chemicals. Those chemicals can produce peaceful, restful, calm behavior or angry destructive behavior (Pert, 1997). For instance, after a summer RAVE concert using heavy metal music, police had to be called when most of the audience, later began destroying stores in the local Sunnyvale, CA shopping mall. (San Jose Mercury News, 2000). The chemicals and mind drugs enter the body, are worked on by the receptors, communicate over a wide range and affect the emotional state of the person.
Music changes the peptides produced that change emotions, and thus the immune system. Another study by HeartMath Institute has shown if Grunge Rock music is played, cortisol and adrenalin are produced. These are stress hormones for the immune system. Whereas if a person listens to Designer music (in this case the CD, Speed of Balance was used) for one month, the DHEA will go up 100%. DHEA is a hormone necessary for the proper functioning of the immune system. (McCraty, 1998, p.76).
Path of Music in the Body
Figure 6 shows the vagus nerve and its connection to the internal organs. Sound/music enters the eighth and tenth cranial nerves. These carry sound impulses through the ear to the brain. Motor and sensory impulses are then sent along the vagus nerve to the throat, larynx, heart and diaphragm. The vagus nerve and the emotional responses to the limbic system (part of the brain) are the link between the ear, the brain, and the autonomic nervous system (A.N.S). This may be an important factor in how and why music works in treating physical and emotional disorders. (Goldberg Group, 1997). This illustrates how the body signals its organs - by the fast process of electrical signaling.
Enhancing the Healing Power of Music
For a Healee:
Music can be enhanced for a healee in the following ways:
(1) The person needing to be healed can use the power of their own inner music, i.e., their own natural voice in toning, singing, and chanting. The human voice is the most expressive instrument, even surpassing any one of the instruments in the orchestra. The voice is the physical aspect of spirit. The story of the melancholy monks illustrates the power of chanting. Because a group of monks had become listless, fatigued, and mildly depressed, Dr. Alfred Tomatis, was summoned to their Benedictine monastery in France. (Tomatis is a French physician who has had a revolutionary impact on understanding of the ear, listening, and music.) The monks physical symptoms had no clear cause, but Tomatis felt the symptoms resulted from eliminating Gregorian Chant from the daily routine. He believed the chanting had slowed down breathing, lowered blood pressure, and upped their mood and productivity. Therefore, Tomatis returned the monks to several hours a day of chanting. The effect was dramatic. Within six months, they were again vigorous and healthy. (Campbell 1997). Using one's voice in chanting or singing sacred music is a way to be in touch with the Source, the Absolute, God.
(2) The whole body can be used by the healee. Exercise or dance movements can be done with music. I improvised graceful modern dance movements to the harp music of Georgia Kelly. This was done to help myself heal from the disease of hyperthyroidism. When my thyroid problem was healed in February, 1999, friends commented that my voice had changed, and that it had more energy in it.
(3) Adding Frequencies back into the body or voice is a new technique. Sherry Edwards, Mona Oyos, and others have done experiments based on the theory that your body will absorb the frequencies it needs. They do Spectral Analysis to determine which frequencies a person might need. They are measuring the sound of the voice. By using certain specific musical tones, you can replace the missing frequencies in your voice!
(4) Besides use of the voice and body, there are group effects that can enhance the healing power of music for a healee. Groups have non-local linkages. For example, a jazz combo playing together - they know if they do it right, they've done something well, and it's exciting. The "Grateful Dead" Band created an environment where a broad range of emotions could be expressed. When they played, the transformational power of the music was felt. As Mickey Hart, the famous leader and drummer of the band said, "You get in touch with something else." (Hart, 1999). What they are in touch with is the Absolute - they've all got the same goal, they're not thinking. They are just getting it all together as a unit. And it's very exhilarating.
For a Healer:
A healer can enhance the healing power of music. Evoking a person's cellular memory should be considered when choosing the music to be played. This is also discussed in a paper given by me at the 12th International Conference on Shamanism and Alternative Medicine; it concerns a music class for older adults at DeAnza College, of popular songs from the 30's, 40's and 50's. (Gough, M. M., 1995).
For example, if I play "The Anniversary Waltz", "Amazing Grace", or "When You Walk Through A Storm", at least four to six people probably years ago had experienced a very moving day with those songs. They are going to have deep emotional reactions to the music because of their cellular memories. The melodies are bringing back vivid images of meaning to them. As William Gough has discussed, this is "qualia" or subjective experience which they are tapping into. (Gough, W., 2000, p.? ?).
In conclusion, music is a "carrier wave" for healing thoughts, emotional feelings, and intentions. It's important that the healer think no negative thoughts, but have a positive attitude with the intention to heal. (Weir, 1985).
Just playing the music will be healing, but as shown in the Figure 5, if you add the positive thoughts, emotions and intentions, the healer/healee will have an even greater possibility of success.
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