I’m a self-confessed music fanatic. One of my favorite stories is when I was between my third and fourth grade years, and my family were moving from the country to a house in town, just a few doors down from my elementary school. Uncle Aaron and I were waiting on Dad and Grandpa to deliver another load of furniture, and quickly got bored.
Suddenly Aaron remembered he’d brought a new album Grandma had just bought him, so I got my little, brown, suitcase-record player out and carefully placed the needle on the first song of KISS’s “Alive II” album.
For the entirety of the record, I sat transfixed by the music, and my world has never been the same.
I listen to music off and on all day, from driving to work to sitting at my desk to when I go to sleep. It just helps the hours pass by quicker, and makes me feel better.
I also love going to live shows, and my son and I attend as many concerts as we can. This year has been AWFUL in that regard, what with all the COVID nonsense, but we’re praying things get back to normal soon.
Music is therapy to my spirit, honestly. It helps me fight the demons of depression and chronic pain, but can be traced all the way back to the Old Testament.
King Saul (David’s predecessor) was tormented by a demon of depression and fear. Those in service to the King, though, came up with an interesting plan to try and combat this dark spirit. We read in 1 Samuel 16:15-16, “Some of Saul’s aides suggested a cure. ‘We’ll find a good harpist to play for you whenever the tormenting spirit is bothering you,’ they said. ‘The harp music will quiet you and you’ll soon be well again.’”
Did it work? Apparently so, as detailed in verse 23: “And whenever the tormenting spirit from God troubled Saul, David would play the harp. Then Saul would feel better, and the tormenting spirit would go away.”
During World War II, Dr. Ira Altshuler (1893-1968) stated, “Words and their meanings do not only affect thought processes, ideologies and emotion, but provoke action…Music has an even stronger power than the spoken word. In addition to affecting thinking and emotion it also affects the spirit.” (Gilliland 1944)
In 1944, Esther Goetz Gilliland (1895-1962) said, “The greatest strides in music-therapy were made during and after World War I when music was prescribed for war neurosis, aphasia, temporary insanity and paralyzed muscles. As a sedative in place of drugs and as a cure for insomnia it certainly proved its value.” (Gilliland 1944)
“Music in itself is healing.”Billy Joel
What’s exciting is that, according to studies the last few years, music can lessen pain and anxiety, act as a stress-reliever, help recover from brain injuries, treat seizure patients and even improve memory (Medical News Today 2015)
According to a 2013 article called Music as Medicine, from the American Psychological Association, “Music therapy can improve health outcomes among a variety of patient populations, including premature infants and people with depression and Parkinson’s disease.”
Crazy, isn’t it? Many of us have known for years that listening to music makes us feel better, but who knew it could actually help fight off depression, pain and disease?
Quoting from the article Progress in Palliative Care (2013), “Researchers at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital in Singapore found that patients in palliative care (Author’s Note: specialized medical care for people living with a serious illness) who took part in live music therapy sessions reported relief from persistent pain.”
Music Therapist Melanie Kwan, co-author of the study and president of the Association for Music Therapy, Singapore, states, “Active music engagement allowed the patients to reconnect with the healthy parts of themselves, even in the face of a debilitating condition or disease-related suffering,” says. “When their acute pain symptoms were relieved, patients were finally able to rest.” (2013)
Virtues for Life addressed the topic in The Healing Power of Music (2020):
“Hospitals around the country are using music therapy to ease a patient’s pain, lower blood pressure, and reduce anxiety and depression. Music also helps patients heal faster. A 2007 survey of (nearly 2000) U.S. health facilities found that 35 percent offered music, of some type, to patients. Hospitals are becoming more aware of the healing benefits of music therapy, as outlined in a USA Today 2008 article:
- Severe stroke patients admitted to a hospital in Helsinki, Finland listened to recorded music for at least an hour a day. They recovered their verbal memory faster and experienced less depression. This compared to those who listened to audiobooks or nothing (Journal Brain, March 2008).
- Premature babies who listened to two hours of Mozart each week had a lower heart rate and slept better, according to researchers at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York.
- Terminally ill patients in Australia had less anxiety, pain, and drowsiness after having a single music therapy session compared to those who did not listen to music (Journal of Palliative Medicine, May 2008).
“Other studies have shown music therapy beneficial for autism, learning disabilities, dementia, and pain management during labor and birth.”
To wrap up our fascinating trip into music therapy, I’d like to offer the following quotes:
“Music can heal the wounds which medicine cannot touch.”Dr. Debasish Mridha, American physician, philosopher, poet and author
“Music brings us pleasure and releases our suffering. It can calm us down and pump us up. It helps us manage pain, run faster, sleep better and be more productive.”Alex Doman, Entrepreneur & music producer
“Music brings a warm glow to my vision, thawing mind and muscle from their endless wintering.”Haruki Murakami, Japanese author
“My heart, which is so full to overflowing, has often been solaced and refreshed by music when sick and weary.”Martin Luther
“Music is one of the longest standing self prescribed therapy in history.”Erin Seibert, Music Therapist
So rock on! Or, ya know, whatever your preferred style may be.
The Healing Power of Music, Esther Goetz Gilliland, 1944 (https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.2307/3386692)
The Power of Music – How it can Benefit Health, Medical News Today, 2015
The Healing Power of Music, Virtues for Life, 2020