By David Sitges-Sardà
The vibration of a musical instrument reaches the bottom of our body: it is a medicine for the body and a balm for the spirit.
Health is not only a physical or biological issue, but also a psychological, social and spiritual one.
From a holistic point of view, we may have migraines and be sad, we may have difficulty and stress when dealing with a particular person, and we may feel that our life has no meaning.
Necessarily our health depends on the care of all these dimensions. And only when we consider this definition of health as an integral thing, does the idea of a “healing music” make sense, as it affects us on all levels:
- Music is sound, that is, energy, and it has a direct impact on our biological system.
- Music is “the language of emotions,” as Kant put it. It directly affects the limbic system, the part of the brain where emotions are managed.
- Music is a “universal language,” it allows us to communicate non verbally with others.
- Through music we can reach modified, contemplative states of consciousness.
MUSIC THERAPY, A TOOL THAT BALANCES US
For music to be therapeutic it is not enough to turn on the radio while driving. A song we didn’t expect may snatch a smile from us, but it won’t cure us.
To extract the full potential of music you need to think of it as a surgeon thinks of his/her scalpel. It is a useful tool.
As Anthony Storr points out in “Music and the Mind” (Paidós, 2008), until modernity music did not emancipate itself from its function and became something “pure”, something of which we can enjoy in yourself.
From time immemorial it has been used as a means for innumerable purposes: a common thread of religious rituals, a sign of identity of the tribes, a means of facilitating ecstatic states or as a stimulant before the battle… Music goes to have, above all, a predominantly practical function.
And music therapy, as a “complementary” therapy that enjoys great recognition today, is nothing but a recovery of this conception of music as a means, specifically to cure, alleviate or accompany the disease.
A MUSIC FOR EVERY IMBALANCE
Music therapy is not about putting someone on a CD to relax. Music therapy makes use of a multitude of techniques to achieve specific results with people suffering from specific diseases.
It is applied in virtually all health specialties as well as in personal growth.
The patient can play an instrument in a group as a way of socializing (in special education); can write lyrics to express what he feels (in depression); you can synchronize your pace with the rhythm of a drum to maintain or minimize the decline in your ability to walk (in Parkinson’s).
He/she can recite mantras to calm his inner dialogue (personal growth); you can get excited and come to your senses by listening to music you haven’t listened to in 60 years but remember perfectly (in Alzheimer’s).
Long notes can be sang, known as “toning,” to remember your ability to breathe abdominally and playfully learn resources to manage stress (in generalized anxiety disorder); you can do certain singing exercises to regain speech through melody (in aphasia caused by a stroke), and a long and so on.
TOMATIS METHOD, re-learning to LISTEN
Dr. Alfred Tomatis (1920-2001) discovered that a person who cannot hear a certain frequency is not able to reproduce it with his voice. Therefore, the singers who came to his consultation (he was a physicist and otolaryngologist) were out of tune in a specific record.
The problem was not with the auditory system, but with the organ that decodes the messages it sends, the brain.
He found that with repeated listening to music that amplified the frequency the person did not hear, the neural connections that inhibited listening were restored.
But in addition, patients improved psychologically! Which led Tomatis to infer that traumas or psychological conflicts inhibited listening to certain frequencies and that, with listening to properly treated music, the symptoms of these conflicts could be alleviated.
The method enhances memory, attention, coordination, verbal fluency and rhythm. It is indicated in mental and emotional disorders.
THE “NEW SACRED MUSIC”
With the perspective of the years we will realize that we are currently experiencing a resurgence of spirituality. We will no longer see it as a passing fad, but as a real sociological phenomenon.
People are thirsty for significance, but to a large extent they no longer look for it in religion. Spirituality is secularizing in the Western world.
Interest in yoga, meditation, or ceremonies with sacred plants, which was unleashed in the 1960s, has returned, and probably for to stay.
This phenomenon or movement has a soundtrack that we have called the “new sacred music”, which encompasses those artists who understand music as a means to facilitate in the listener a specific state, whether contemplative or ecstatic.
This “thirst for transcendence” is recognized and music is offered as a vehicle to approach it, to “cure.”
There are renowned musicians of the “new sacred music” such as Krishna Das, Deva Premal or Snatam Kaur, who have collected the Kirtan, the devotional music of India, and passed it through the Western sieve to bring it to the ears today.
THE MUSIC THAT UNITES
In the crowded concerts of this sacred music, the listener is invited to sing mantras (syllables or sacred words that are repeated over and over again), often in a question-and-answer format, thus being generated among the audience, a sense of communion and unity much closer to the religious than to the spectacle or culture.
Within this trend, and without going any further, in our country -specifically in Barcelona-, there is a very important movement of artists who, although they are stylistically different from each other, can be said to understand the music of the same way. They often play in churches and gather hundreds of people at their concerts.
Among them we have Ravi Ramoneda as one of the greatest exponents of Kirtan. We have Mark Pulido and his Bilas, the “flat bells of high vibratory frequency,” an instrument with unusual power.
And we have MuOM, the chamber choir of harmonic singing in Barcelona, one of the few groups in the world that uses techniques of diphonic singing or harmonic singing (a single singer emits two sounds at the same time) in a group.
AGAINST THE RISK OF EXCLUSION
Music touches the soul and also serves to bring together and bring out the best in people.
The concept of community music (and “community arts”) deserves special mention. Projects that use music as a tool to work with groups at risk of exclusion are proliferating around the world.
In South America, we find the pioneering National System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras and Choirs of Venezuela (Simón Bolívar Musical Foundation), a program that implements values through orchestras.
In Colombia, the Ayara Family Foundation carries out artistic and pedagogical activities based on the culture of hip-hop to improve the opportunities of young people.
In the UK, Streetwise Opera gives people who have lived on the street the opportunity to take to the stage.
And in Barcelona, the Basket Beat project teaches music and values through basketball, and has a professional orchestra made up of musicians, social educators and young people, the Big Band Basket Beat Barcelona.
Music is not just fun, but much more: it is a balm for the spirit, a caress for the body and a hinge for our relationships.
We can all access experiences from home, via the internet:
- aliveinside.us Documentary about the ability of music to re-awaken the flame of life. The camera shows the incredible reactions of people whose memory or sense of self seems to have faded from neuro-degenerative diseases when listening to specifically chosen songs.
- mantramovie.com Project underway through crowdfunding on the power of mantras and sacred singing in which major national and international artists appear. to listen.
- snatamkaur.com Ambassador of Peace and one of the most popular Kirtan singers.
- krishnadas.com ‘The rockstar of yoga!
- muom.net Barcelona’s harmonics singing choir, the only choir in the world that creates polyphony with harmonics.
- markpulido.net Listen to the flat bells of high vibratory frequency.
- raviramoneda.blogspot.com.es Blog of one of the Kirtan artists with the most international projection.
SOUND THERAPY, HEALING FREQUENCIES
Although it can be understood as a branch of music therapy, sound therapy or sonotherapy is considered a different therapy.
The reason is that sonotherapy uses the purely physical aspect as a therapeutic agent: sound, sound waves. Although various techniques are used, the most common is for the patient to receive a bath of sound frequencies emitted by instruments such as Tibetan bowls, quartz bowls, gongs, didgeridoo, monochord…
CONNECT WITH THE RHYTHM OF LIFE
The fundamental idea on which sonotherapy rests is that our body, like all matter, emits a set of vibrations that form the fundamental frequency of the body. A healthy body emits a harmonic frequency, like a well-tuned instrument. But it can be “out of tune” for various reasons (stress, trauma, accident…).
Sound therapy understands disease as a loss of body harmony, and sound as the agent that can help restore balance through pure frequencies or harmonic-rich sounds.
Sound is physical energy. At first glance it may seem that they are teasing us. In fact, this is one of the therapies where there is more intrusion, for anyone can buy some bowls and hang the title of therapist. But this is not why we should underestimate the therapeutic potential of sound.
JOINING BRAIN AND HEART, WHO MAKES THE DECISIONS?
Not only do we feel it because the brain decodes the pressure it receives in the eardrums, but we also feel it physically, with the whole body. Several musicians and doctors have shown that sound affects us in an incredible way.
Mitchell L. Gaynor, a former director of oncology medicine at Weill Cornell Medical Center for Complementary and Integrative Medicine in New York City, used sonotherapy as complementary therapy for the treatment of cancer patients (integrative oncology). And just three years ago, a team led by researcher Anthony Holland filmed live for the first time cancer cells exploding when subjected to frequencies (modeled through a plasma