| MUSIC MEDICINE for the Mind, Body, and Soul
by David Schleich, PhD
“Music has charms to soothe the savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.”
—William Congreve, 17th century English dramatist
There are all kinds of music therapy techniques which touch the mind, body, brain, and behaviour. Music therapists work with clients on health issues such as grief, anxiety, and depression. Instead of popping a wobble of acetaminophen (as ubiquitous as Coca-Cola in the retail world) to deal with a headache, or some pervasive malaise in your body and your soul, a growing body of research suggests that music affects the brain in ways that may help promote health and manage disease symptoms. There are music-based interventions to confront anxiety, depression, and pain coming from a number of health issues. These interventions can help reduce depressive symptoms and improve emotional well-being. More music, please.
Here are some possibilities:
- Drumming. My favourite. I have a full kit in my living room, along with a couple of djembe and conga drums, and even a wood stick and gourd xylophone.
- Get that recorded music on in your home. And, when you can, listen to live music, too; especially the offerings in local parks and in small bistros. Sing your heart out along with the live, or recorded, stuff. Who cares if you’re off-key at the beginning. You’ll find the groove.
- Drill down into music-assisted relaxation techniques. Find out how.
- Play instruments, such as hand percussion, or ukulele, or guitar, or piano. If you don’t know how, join the crowd; everybody started at some point. Just let the clutch out routinely. You’ll retain not only muscle memory but cell memory of the effect on your spirit. And improvise every chance you get when singing or playing your favourite instrument.
- Write song lyrics; they don’t always have to rhyme, you know. Shucks, copy out lyrics of your favourite tunes and watch what happens.
- Write the music for new songs.
- Create art with music. Crank up the volume while you paint, or felt, or carve.
- Dance, dance; move, move to live or recorded music.
- Write down choreography for music…use stick drawings if you like; again, muscle and cell memory will be there when you need them.
- Talk to yourself or a trusted other about your emotional reaction, or about what a particular song, improvisation, or orchestral piece means to you.
Music-based therapy boils down to two fundamental methods: “receptive” listening and “active” listening; in the latter, you “do” something in addition to the hearing part, such as playing an instrument, or singing along, or moving in rhythm. There are two receptive methods, the first of which is receptive “relaxation” music therapy. The receptive-relaxation is known to help with anxiety, depression, and even cognitive disorders (Guetin et al., 2009). Then there’s the receptive “analytical” music therapy approach, often used in “analytic” psychotherapy (Guetin et al., 2009).
Then there’s guided imagery alongside music (e.g. The Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music, Helen Lindquist Bonny Smith, 2018). Music acts like a kind of co-therapist in this approach. Dalcroze Eurythmics is a method used to teach music to students, which can also be used as a form of therapy (Smith, 2018). Or there’s Èmile Jaques-Dalcroze’s method which blends rhythm, structure, and expression of movement into the mix. One other such powerful method is called the “Kodaly philosophy of music therapy,” where you get the whole enchilada going: rhythm, notation, sequence, and movement. Bottom line, these kinds of “music medicine” (and there are many) are known to improve the interaction between and among people.
There are all kinds of music therapy apps to check out: Anytune, Drum Kit, Freestyle, Garage Band, Guitarist’s Reference, Magic Piano, Melodica Free, Real Guitar Free, just to name a few. Oh yes, and books too, of course: Music Therapy Handbook (Barbara Wheeler), The New Music Therapist’s Handbook (Suzanne Hanser), Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain (Oliver Sacks), also just to name a few.
Here at Manitou Waters, Tara Semple recently offered her amazing “Sound Bath” event from the Regina Shunyata Sound Studio. Also, Manitou Waters opened Mercredi’s, an open-air sound stage and small amphitheatre at the back of Skye House. Every Wednesday evening from May long-weekend to September long-weekend there are free mini-concerts featuring Louie and the Beach Cats, Manitou Beach’s home grown rock and blues band.
David Schleich, PhD, is vice-president of the Saskatchewan Writers Guild, president emeritus of National University of Natural Medicine (NUNM), and former president of the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto. He is an expert in medical curriculum and professional formation. He was the editor for many years of Quarry Magazine/Quarry Press. His doctoral studies at the University of Toronto focused on regulatory and public policy frameworks that affect medical education. He has published extensively and lectures internationally. His most recent publication is The Terms of His Surrender (Crusoe House Press, Portland, 2021), a collection of poetry. He was contributing editor to the Naturopathic Doctor News and Review (NDNR) from 2005–2020. For more details of upcoming events at Manitou Waters Healing Arts, located at Manitou Beach, SK, see the display ad on page 11 of the 28.4 November/December issue of the WHOLifE Journal.