Inner Power Of Music And Music Therapy

Music remains part and parcel of human life. It has close affinity with man’s happiness and sorrow. There is no man on earth who has never moved by the sweetness of music. Even the cruelest one also not alienated from it. In this regard I remember a story about the infamous Mussolini who was suffering from insomnia or sleeping disorder due to tension. By the same time Indian classical singer and the representative of Gwalior Gharana Pt. Omkarnath Thakur happened to visit Italy as a part of his Europe tour. Hearing his presence in Rome Mussolini invited him to his court where he presented Indian classical music. The music had a deep effect on Mussolini and led him to sleep and thus he was cured of his sleeplessness. The same singer also calmed down a roaring angry lion in the Kabul zoo by his rendition of Kaphi raga. Similar stories are found in ancient India where in the court of Akbar, Mia Tansen produced fire by Deepak raga and brought rain to extinct the fire by the perfect rendition of Mallar raga.

Today we will discuss about a new and emerging field – Music Therapy. Music therapy has already gained popularity in the western world and even very recently penetrated the Indian subcontinent. Music has a promising role in the field of medical science. Music has the inner healing power which is unique. Today the use of music in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, schools, hospices, wellness centres and even in fitness centres has gained momentum. The relationship between music and medicine has become even sweeter than before and more systematic and research oriented. This relationship can rather be compared with the length and breadth of threads in the loom.

In the modern world music therapy was implemented for the first time for the benefit of the wounded soldiers in the World War II. The system of use of music to heal body and mind with a fixed target can be termed as Music Therapy.

In India people knew about the power of music from the days immemorial. In Samaveda the rules of raga rendition are available for treatment of diseases. In Ramdas Goud’s ‘Hindutva’ (1985, pp.85) there is mention of a book named ‘Sabdkoutuhal’. The one thousand slokas consist in that book were divided into three chapters. The first chapter describes about the treatment of different diseases with the use of sound and mentioned about ‘word medicine’. The uses of different instruments were recommended for different diseases. In the third chapter, there is a description about the removal of sickness by ‘shravan’, ‘manan’ and ‘kirtan’. Another book ‘Deval Sutra’ also enlightens about the rendition of ragas to cure diseases. It has been already proved that Indian raga music has enough healing power in treating diseases. Each raga has its own healing capacity. If the singer or player has deep knowledge about the rules of raga and expertise in performing the same can have impact on the health of the receiver whether it is mental or physical. A particular raga may act differently on different persons. Therefore, it is the prime duty of a music therapist to carefully select a raga taking into account the mental state of the receiver. Narad said in the fourth chapter of ‘Sangit Makarand’----

Ayurdharmayasobuddhi dhanadhanya phalam labhet |
Ragabhivriddhi santanam purnaragah pragiyate ||
Sangramarupalavanyam viraham guna kirtanam |
Sharavena pragatavyam lakshyanam gaditam yatha ||
Vyadhinashe, shatrunashe bhaya shoka vinashane |
Vyadhi daridrya santape, vishamgraha mochane ||
Kayadambaranashe cha mangala vishasamhrite |
Audavena pragatavyam gramashantyarthakarmani ||

-means Purna Raga should be rendered for longevity, faith, fame, intelligence, wealth, prosperity and fertility. Shadav Raga should be rendered in case of struggle, beauty, sorrow and other appraisal. Audab Raga should be rendered to remove unhappiness as a result of poverty, sickness and grahadosha.

The earliest written evidence about the effect of music on human body was found in the ‘Medical Papyri’ of 1500BC where there was mention about the increase of women fertility rate with the healing effect of music. Same kind of evidences are also found in some Greek stories.(Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 1995, p.417-418).

Today music therapy is equipped with more rules to be able to prove it as an emerging scientific area. Russian scientist Dr. Dosiel has given the following postulates on the anatomical effect of music -----
  • Music effects on the blood circulation.
  • Music can maximize or minimize blood pressure.
  • Frequency of heart beat may vary through the application of music.
  • Amplitude, magnitude and tonal structures may effect on the blood pressure and frequency rate.
Today many music therapists follow Dosiel’s Theorem.

Indian or other Oriental music has better healing power in comparison to Western music. To justify the same two music therapists Charles Keele and Angeliki did an experiment. They divided some psychiatric patients into two groups. One group was exposed to Western music like the symphonies of Bach, Motzart, etc. and the other group was exposed to different ragas of Indian Classical Music. After the experiment it was found that the group exposed to Indian music responded more positively than the other group which helped in repairing of motor skills.

Western music is more systematic based on harmony and runs on fixed notes whereas Indian music is based on melody and more liberal. Improvisation is the basic characteristic of Indian music. Though notation systems are followed adherence to the notes are not fixed like western music. Musicians have enough freedom and their area of expression is much broader. Therefore, same raga may be rendered differently by different singers despite adhering to the rules of the raga. In Western music the role of improvisation is limited. Of course, Jazz is an exception to some extent. Russian scientist and musician Dr. Bokhaniski suggests the use of musical piece of Chopin to treat insomnia. While supporting the view Dr. Yung Hunter says that it also reduces physical pain. Dr. Herbert Spencer proved that fast music helps the patients with low blood pressure and the slow music with high blood pressure. Music has also positive effect on serious and last stage patients. Music is highly useful for the children with mental retardation.

Music therapists have a broad and diverse working ground. Music therapists have connection with everyone include children, adolescents, aged or old. Further, they have a challenging job with mentally retarded, visually impaired, deaf and dumb, criminals, addicted as well as normal ones. Even music has a great role to play in the world of sports.

Music therapy is a homogeneous combination of music, psychology, anatomy, audiology, computer and mathematics. Physiotherapy and Occupational therapy will be more effective if music therapy is associated with them. Sometime art, dance, drama and poetry are also taken as medium. By now in the west dance has emerged as a separate branch of therapy called ‘Dance Movement therapy’.

Other than classical music folk and traditional music has an inbuilt therapeutic element known to man since time immemorial. Man has been expressing his mind and feeling through music. He has the expertise in using music and traditional instruments in different occasions, be it birth, death, marriage, war, production of crops or to please the rain, thunder, sun and many other lesser gods.

Today there are dearth of researchers in the field of Music in true sense which, despite its being part and parcel of human life, is left neglected, undiscovered and unresearched due to lack of recognition as a field of higher scholastic achievement rather than a mere tool of entertainment. Therefore, I would like to invite scholars from different knowledge areas to come forward and use in depth potential and power of music to strengthen human knowledge so as to enable them to use the outcome result for the greater benefit of the human population.

Today music therapy is taught up to doctoral and post doctoral level in many universities and institutions around the world. Even in India, though lately, music therapy has been given place in Apollo Hospitals, AIIMS, etc. Even Apollo Chennai has introduced a one year post graduate diploma programme in Medical Music Therapy. Some other private trusts are also simultaneously working in this field including prestigious Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Centres, London who has a branch in India. Among the universities Madras University experimented with some music therapy projects with positive outcomes. Today Music Therapy can rightfully be considered as a branch of alternative medicine.

-by Ankur Deka