‘Music is the Universal language of mankind’ – H.W. Longfellow
Centuries ago the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle said; ‘Music has a power of forming the character and should therefore be introduced in the education system’. Now latest scientific studies also reveal the miraculous power of music. A California university research showed that children who studied piano and sang daily in chorus were much better in solving puzzles. They scored 80 percent higher in spatial intelligence. The modern medical science has accepted the powerful healing powers of music. The specialized use of music in treating persons with mental and physical problems has become popular. The use of music in rehabilitations and special education is gradually gaining ground. In several countries, music therapy is used in the treatment of different diseases, even in well known hospitals.
According to the famous philosopher, poet, and painter, Kahlil Gibran; ‘Music is the language of spirit. It opens the secret of life, bringing, peace and abolishing strife’
Music and its healing powers
Music, basically involves the creation of emotionally pleasing effects by means of sound. At its broadest, music can be regarded as a medium for expressing thought and feeling through tone and time. The basic elements of music that combine to achieve this effect are melody, rhythm, and harmony. Their combination gives rise to musical form, According to the famous Greek philosopher Plato; ‘Rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul’. Music is a part of our whole life. It’s in our body, mind and soul.
The study of ancient holy texts and Vedas has revealed that music has the capacity to heal. In Vedas, the use of music for controlling the doshas; vata, pitha, kapha, is mentioned. If music is used in a systematic manner it makes our body, mind, and soul healthy.
Music has been a part of Indian culture from very ancient times. Music remained a key part of the Brahmanic educational system until modern times. The most important text on music in the ancient canon is Bharata’s Natya Shastra. Music also finds mention in Buddhist and Jain texts from the earliest periods of the Christian era. It is a popular belief that the great Indian musician Thyagaraja brought a dead person back to life with his classical music composition. The famous south Indian classical singer Chembai Vydyanath Iyer could even influence the nature with his special ragas. It is well known that he could even bring the shower of rain with his powerful raga, ‘amruthavarshini’. Indian classical music with its many different ragas is found to be highly therapeutic. Scientific studies are going on at the Raga Research Centre in Chennai with the support of doctors and psychiatrists. These studies show that music can help a lot in the treatment of different diseases from blood pressure to epilepsy and mental problems.
Albert Einstein and Music
Albert Einstein, arguably the greatest scientist of all times, started to talk very late in childhood. Young Albert had very poor grades in school. His teachers considered him as a foolish boy, incapable of learning. Albert was very much interested in music. So his parents purchased a violin for him. His mother was a musician and he learned to play violin and piano from her. He loved Mozart’s violin Sonatas and started to play violin regularly. Albert gradually improved in his studies and got better grades in the class to the surprise of his teachers. His parents believed that it was his regular practice of music which helped him enhance his creatively and mental abilities. Einstein once stated: ‘I know that the most joy in my life has come to me from my violin’.
As a scientist, when he was faced with complicated problems in his research, he turned to Mozart’s music for inspiration. His elder son Ham Albert once recalled: ‘Whenever he felt that he had come to the end of the road or into a difficult situation in his work, he would take refuge in music. That would usually resolve all his difficulties’. Anyway, it is an undisputed fact that music helped Einstein a lot for stimulating his creativity and resolving scientific puzzles in his research.
Other historical examples
It is a popularly known fact that when the great Indian Mughal emperor, Akbar experienced acute stress, he used to listen to music in ‘darbari’ raga created by the famous Hindustani classical musician and composer, Tansen and got relieved of his tension and stress.
Thomas Jefferson, the third American president, was a great lover of music. When he met with a shortage of ideas or words while writing the ‘Declaration of Independence’, he used to play his violin for some time and he confessed that this would help him write better.
The Italian dictator Mussolini was terribly afflicted by insomnia in 1933. He desperately tried a lot of medicines and therapies to get sleep but failed. The great Indian classical musician Pandit Omkarnath Thakur, who was visiting Europe during that time agreed to help him by his musical programme. His musical performance in ‘puriya’ raga worked wonders and Mussolini went to deep sleep within half an hour.
The King of England, George 1, who was under unbearable mental stress and was extremely worried about his declining memory, sought the help of the famous musician, George Frederick Handel. He composed a special form of music called ‘Water Music’ and played for the King. The king who listened to the music was miraculously relieved of his difficulties.
Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine had successfully used music for treatment of different diseases. The famous ancient Greek mathematician Pythagoras and the Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle had accepted the healing powers of music and advocated the effective use of it. Plato once remarked; ‘I would teach children music, physics, and philosophy, but most importantly music, for, the patterns in music and all other arts are the keys to learning.’
Dr. Mike Miller of Baltimore studied the physiological effects of music on cardiovascular system and found that the blood vessels of patients relaxed and opened upon hearing the music they liked. A Stanford University study revealed that music lifts mood, reduces anxiety and helps combat insomnia and depression. Depressed patients gained self-esteem and improved their mood after music therapy.
The famous musician and acupuncturist, Fabien Maman conducted extensive research and showed that human blood cells would respond to sound frequencies by changing colour and shape. Sick cells can be healed and harmonized with sound.
Brain and music
According to modern scientific studies, music mostly influences and stimulates brain cells. Lorence O’Donnel in his famous book ‘Music and Brain’ explains his findings and experiences in this field. Music of Mozart and Bach stimulates right and left hemispheres of brain simultaneously. When the logical left brain and the emotional and creative right brain are stimulated, the total brain capabilities and powers are tremendously enhanced. A California university study showed that the students scored much higher in mental tests after hearing the Mozart music.
John M. Ortiz, the founder director of the Institute of Applied Psycho-musicology, conducted extensive researches and found that music can be effectively used for curing diseases like depression, anxiety, stress and many other mental and physical ailments. In his bestselling book ‘The Tao of Music’, he explains how music can be used for changing your life and destiny.
The well known American neurologist, author, researcher and professor at the University of California, Dr. Kenneth Kosik found that listening to or playing music can activate the motor cortex, the auditory cortex, and the emotional centre or limbic system of the brain and this will help keep brain healthy and active.
The famous British neurologist and author, Oliver Wolf Sacks, who had wide experience with music therapy reveals; ‘I regard music therapy as a tool of great power in many neurological disorders – parkinsonism and Alzheimer’s – because of its unique capacity to organize or reorganize cerebral functions when it has been damaged.
Mysterious Mozart effect
The healing powers of the music compositions of Ludwig Beethoven, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Johann Sebastian Bach are popularly known. But researchers have discovered that the power of Mozart’s music is mysteriously higher than any other forms of music. This is called ‘Mozart effect’ by Dr. Alfred Tomatis, a well known French physician, who spent several years studying the healing powers of sound and music, particularly of Mozart. He cured the famous French film actor Gerard Depardieu’s stammer using the Mozart music. Tomatis proved that listening starts with the fetus in the Womb, which was unknown till that time. He introduced his own methods for tapping the power of music to heal the body, mind, and spirit. He gave the strong message to the world that music is a powerful medicine for all.
In monasteries of Brittany in France, the monks used to play Mozart music to the animals in their care and it was seen that the cows gave more milk consequently.
The University of California conducted extensive research in Mozart effect and discovered that the students who listened to Mozart music for ten minutes scored eight to nine points higher on spatial IQ tests. In effect, Mozart music can improve concentration and enhance creativity. After these studies, a good number of public schools started playing Mozart music during classes and reported improvements in their pupil’s concentration and performance.
Heal yourself with your own voice
Don Campbell, the founder of the Institute of Music, Health and Education and author of the bestselling book, ‘The Mozart Effect’, suggested that you can use your own voice to boost your mood and sharpen your brain. In addition to singing and humming, he proposes toning, whereby we make sounds using elongated vowels for 5 to 7 minutes. Campbell showed that this could release fear, anger, depression, anxiety and other emotions.
Campbell Suggests the following sounds for daily practice for dealing with depression, fear, anger etc.
Sounds to produce: Effect
Ahhh… : Immediate relaxation, reduces depression, anger & fear
Ee, Ay… : Improves concentration, reduces pain and anger
Oh, Om.. : Relax muscles, releases anxiety, depression
Ou (As in soup): Calms mind, releases tension, depression, anxiety etc.
You can sit comfortably and do this regularly for 5 to 7 minutes, one or two times a day or when needed.
Music stimulates growth
A team of Canadian researchers found that playing the Mozart music to premature infants would stimulate growth and help them gain weight soon.
Dorothy Retallack who experimented on the effect of music on plants proved that music helps plants to grow. Her book ‘The Sound of Music and Plants’ was an eye-opener and a practical guide in this subject. It has been found that Indian classical music is the most powerful form of music to stimulate plant growth. T.C Singh, Head of Department of Botany at Annamalai University proved by his experiments that harmonic sound waves affected the growth, flowering, fruiting and seed yields of plants.
Indian classical music and chakras
Indian classical music has seven notes or swaras as Sa, Ri, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, Ni. Each swara activates each of the seven chakras and the related endocrine glands of the human body as shown below:
Swara Chakra Glands
Shadjam (Sa) Root(Mooladhara) Adrenal
Rishabham (Ri) Sacral(Swadhisthana) Gonads
Gandharam (Ga) Solar plexus (Manipura) Pancreas
Madhyamam (Ma) Heart(Anahata) Thymus
Panchamam (Pa) Throat (Vishuddha) Thyroid
Dhaivatam (Dha) Third eye(Ajna) Pituitary
Nishadam (Ni) Crown(Sahasrara) Pineal
A Raga is a combination of swaras or notes. Swaras in a raga stimulate the corresponding chakras and glands of the body which will help to balance the energy flow. The concept of activation of the seven chakras and connected glands with seven swaras in a raga or music is the basis of Indian music therapy or raga chikitsa. According to the ancient Indian text ‘Swara Sastra’ 72 parent ragas control 72 important nerves of the body.
Ragas used for some diseases:
The ragas that can be used for certain diseases or problems are given below.
Disease/problems Ragas used
Mental tension Darbarikanhada, Khamaj, Puriya
Anger, Violence Punnagavarali, Sahana
Hypertension Ahirbhairav, Pooriya, Todi
Stomach problems Deepak, Gunkali, Janupuri, Hindolan, Malkauns
Headache Darbari, Jaijaiwanti, Shohini
Memory problems Shivaranjani
Heart ailments/Diabetics Chandrakauns
Low B.P Malkauns, Asavari
Sleep problems Bihag, Bahar, Puriya
By Chanting the swara of a particular chakra repeatedly, you can activate and strengthen that chakra and related glands. For example, those who are having thyroid problems can chant ‘pa’ repeatedly concentrating on throat chakra.
Bono, the famous Irish Singer and Songwriter enthusiastically stated; ‘Music can change the world because it can change people’.
As the famous German novelist, Jean Paul Friedrich Ritchen said; ‘Music is the moonlight in the gloomy night of life’. Music therapy is a powerful tool that can heal and strengthen your body mind and soul. There are two types of intervention methods in music therapy 1) active techniques 2) receptive techniques.
1)Active techniques include making music, by singing, chanting, playing musical instruments, composing music or writing songs etc.
2)Receptive techniques involve listening to and responding to music through dance, tapping, clapping, analysis of lyrics etc. Both techniques are usually used in therapy. Music therapy can be conducted individually or in groups. The music can be chosen by the therapist or the client. The music well matched with the mood and psychological condition of the client is to be selected.
In music therapy, knowing how to play a musical instrument or sing is not essential. Simply listening to the music is enough. It is possible to download different types of music from a number of sites or u-tube as per your requirement. Ganapathy Sachidananda Swamiji from Karnataka, who conducts ‘Nada chikitsa’, terms music as a ‘melodious medicine’ and he advises how to listen to music’; ‘Listen with your heart and not with your intellect’.
The famous English poet and play write, William Congrave expressed the mysterious power of music by these words; ‘ Music hath charms to soothe a savage beast, to soften rocks or bend a knotted oak.’
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About the Author:
Dr. JOHN MUZHUTHETTU is a Human Resource Consultant, National Trainer, and Counselor. Formerly he was the Deputy Chief Engineer, Kerala State Electricity Board and is still working as an external faculty of HRD Programmes of KSEB. He is also a faculty of Department of Management Studies, Mar Augusthinose College, Ramapuram, under M.G.University, Kerala. He is the PG course co-ordinator of MHRM.
He is a columnist in several Magazines, like ‘Business Deepika’, ‘Creative Business’, ‘Donbosco’ etc. His articles have been published in many magazines and journals. His several speeches have been aired by All India Radio. His interviews on various subjects have been telecasted by Power Vision TV. He is the author of five best-selling books:
- ‘Stress-Manassasthra- Aathmeeya Pariharangel’. (Current Books, Thrissur) 4th Edition
- Vijayiyude Vyakthithwam (Current Books, Thrissur)
- Jeevitham Santhushtamakan, Nithya Yauvanam Nedan.(css, Thiruvalla)2ndEdition
- Emotional Intelligence-Jeevithavijayathinu (CSS, Thiruvalla)
- Vijayarahsyangal (Current Books, Thrissur)
As a trainer, he has conducted more than a thousand seminars and workshops for teachers, parents, students, executives and others, on several subjects like Stress Management, Time Management, Personality Development, Emotional Intelligence and Spiritual intelligence for Excellence, Communicative Skills, Assertiveness, Motivation, Study Skills, Effective Parenting, Counselling Skills etc. He is an external training faculty of Power Engineers Training and Research Centre of KSEB. He is an external faculty of IMG Cochin. He is also the Secretary of Upasana Cultural Centre, Thodupuzha.