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THE HEALING POWER OF MUSIC – PART 3
By M. P. RAVINDRA NATHAN, MD, FACC, FACP, FRCP
A few weeks ago, on CBS 60 Minutes, Leslie Stahl interviewed a young man who is severely disabled and blind. He could not speak, interact or understand, but was attracted to a keyboard; so his father bought him a piano, and from then on it was music, music, music. Today, he is 18 years old, travels all over the world and gives concerts so impressive, he brings the audiences down. Clearly, music was therapy in his case.
Can music make your child smarter and more productive? For answers, I invite you to read an excellent book on the subject, “Music Makes Your Child Smarter,” by Philip Sheppard. The author says, “Music can have profound positive effect on your child’s mental and physical development. Every child is musical. Listening to music is beneficial, but making music is better still.” The book gives you plenty of ideas on how music can stimulate the mental faculties and creativity in children and inspire them to perform better in life.
Music also can help you express yourself in one form or another; it is like a catharsis. It provides insight and self-reflection about oneself and can be soothing. Singing, not just listening to music, is certainly in that category. Ask Ryan Christman, who has lived with bipolar disorder for almost a decade, and is employed as a teacher in creative writing. He wrote in WebMD magazine recently, “Singing is a pure release of emotion for me. It’s a very therapeutic way to get in touch with whatever it is that’s going on inside me.”
Music therapy has gone main stream now. In Beth Israel Hospital, N.Y., Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine has been treating children and adults with asthma and chronic pulmonary disease (COPD), helping them to improve their lung capacity with music. If you can play especially wind instruments such as flute, trumpets, shehnai, etc., you could improve your pulmonary function and breathe better.
Interestingly, music transcends language barriers and has great powers to bring people together and create new friendships. A case in point is that of Mitch Album, best-selling author, journalist and musician, who recently visited Haiti after the earthquake with a group of volunteers to help out with an orphanage. “The moment we arrived, we were mobbed by dozens of barefoot children but the older boys, 16 -22, stayed back; there was an obvious disconnect,” he wrote in Parade magazine. Then they asked, “Do you have music?” That was when he “grabbed his computer and opened the screen to an iTunes display of Four Tops song, ‘Reach out (I will be there).’ ” It was instant bonding and a smooth sail afterwards.
A. R. Rahman, the Oscar-winning Indian music maestro, said recently in London prior to his concert, “At my concerts, you will see people of all colors and religions coming together. That is what music can do. A song is more powerful than a thousand rallies.” How true!
Music is all pervasive. Almost everywhere you go, there is some music being played. I was in the dentist’s office the other day to get a cavity fixed. In between the drilling and other acrobatics by the dentist, I tried to concentrate on the soft music wafting from the ceiling speakers. That made the visit tolerable. One of my patients, a bad claustrophobic, underwent MRI for his chest through that colossal round magnet without any problem. “They gave me the ear phones through which some nice music was channeled. I closed my eyes and the loud banging of the magnet didn’t bother me at all.”
To a great extent, we are all prisoners of our own emotions and thoughts. Music will be one way to assuage these unhealthy fluctuations in our psyche and regain self-control. While in New York, my wife and I went to Lincoln Center one day for a concerto by the legendary French flutist Pierre Rampal. Nearly 50 musicians were playing violin and other instruments on the stage and Rampal was conducting Mozart’s Concerto No. 1. The tender melodies slowly climbed in an undulating fashion with violin and flute intermixed to higher octaves reaching a cadenza and suddenly a pause and then slowly down. It was a memorable moment as the audience went into rapture. When the show ended, there was a smile on everybody’s lips. Clearly, we had forgotten the troubles of the day and the effect lasted for many more days.
Music has always been a great healer, from the Biblical times onward. It relieves your stress, relaxes your mind, improves your mood and brings out the best in you.
*This concludes this mini series.
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