Perfect Sound Forever

Music Therapy

Articles and interviews By Jason Gross (Spring 1998)

After years of studying and working as a Registered Nurse, I found out that the medical profession had a long way to go with recognizing treatments that didn't involve expensive machines and manufactured pharmaceuticals. So-called 'alternative therapies' have been a pretty specialized subjected here in the Western World, with most insurance companies being pretty closed-minded about letting people have access to this. Still, I thought a lot about these 'altneratives' and how they might be able to help people nevertheless. One important fact I learned from the history of health care is that cures that once were unquestioned are pretty laughable today, considering what we know now (remember leeches?). However, there's no doubt that in twenty or so years, future generations will look back at our health care and laugh at how 'primitive' and ignorant we were in our approaches. You might know that a recent study found that the fourth largest cause of death in the States is adverse drug reactions- what does that say about how advanced traditional health care is?

This idea came up again after publishing a kind of tongue-in-cheeck article on Music As A Weapon- I was thinking about how music could actually have the exact opposite effect, used a means to heal and help people. I knew about Dr. Oliver Sacks' work (as popularized in AWAKENINGS) and had spent time myself working in a psychiatric ward where I saw counselors work with patients to get them respond with different kinds of art therapy. How exactly could music work its magic and actually 'heal' people though? What exactly is it about music that makes people respond so strongly and passionately? I know that when I'm feeling really uptight, I feel better after hearing Black Flag and when I'm depressed, Ray Charles always worked- all good and well but not something I'd prescribe necessarily. Music can have a very powerful effect on people ('calms the savage beast,' right?) but even more so when you're actually involved in the process. As entertainment and background, it's all good and well but there's a lot of potential about how music can effect us in very deep and meaningful ways.

To find out more about this, I talked to five experts whose life-work involved using music for medicinal purposes- for physical and psychological health.

Check out the rest of Perfect Sound Forever