Safe In Sound
This is a huge passion of mine.
I have been sitting on the draft of this blog post for the last 3 months because there is literally too much to say on this subject.
Music is everywhere and in everything; It can be the tunes you hear on the radio, birds singing in the trees, the rhythmic beat the train makes as it goes along the track, wind chimes, crickets or frogs chirping, rain gently pattering on your roof, the sound of waves, and music can even be found in speech and news stories, as the Gregory Brothers have shown us, by exaggerating the inflections and intonations in someone's voice using auto-tune.
Music plays a prominent role in spiritual literature, as there are several verses in the Bible about making music and singing, including:
“Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!”
“Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart"
We are all familiar with the idea of choirs of angels and associate angels with playing the harp. In many countries, the Muslim call to prayer can be heard at various times of the day, which is sung over a loud speaker from the local mosque, and is hauntingly beautiful. The title of the Hindu spiritual text, The Baghavad Gita, literally means "The Song of God" in Sanskrit. In The Chronicles of Narnia, CS Lewis wrote that Aslan, his allegory for Jesus, sang creation into existence:
“In the darkness something was happening at last. A voice had begun to sing. It was very far away and Digory found it hard to decide from what direction it was coming. Sometimes it seemed to come from all directions at once. Sometimes he almost thought it was coming out of the earth beneath them. Its lower notes were deep enough to be the voice of the earth herself. There were no words. It was hardly a tune. But it was beyond comparison, the most beautiful sound he had ever heard. It was so beautiful he could hardly bear it…”
Music can be found in mathematical sequences:
Music can be heard in trees and plants:
Music is foundational in every human culture and is a universal language that connects us all, regardless of what language we speak. It also connects humans and animals, as animals seem to have the same appreciation for music as we do. Some gorillas are known to sing or hum happy songs as they eat their food. Whales make incredible music that can be heard for miles under water, and their family/pod members will recognize them for their songs. There is a woman who works at an Elephant Sanctuary in Thailand, and sings to all the elephants there, which is quite therapeutic for them, especially since many of them have experienced trauma or starvation. The video below is of her singing a lullaby to one of her closest elephant friends, who promptly falls asleep after:
Music is so crucial to our wellbeing, we sometimes describe a state of pure balance as being "in harmony with ourselves" or "in harmony with others". For music to be so prominent, so encoded in everything we see and feel and experience, it comes as no surprise that there are therapeutic and health benefits to music. Here are just a few fascinating examples of the power and importance of music:
Music and Memory: An Alzheimer patient can forget everything about who they are, their family, most of their memories, even their own name, but statistically the last thing to go in that person's memory is music. When I worked in nursing homes and sang oldies and hymns to these patients, they often would start humming and singing along. Once I was cautioned by a nurse to "not even bother" working with a particular elderly woman, because she was "too far gone". But this same nurse was floored when she heard this same elderly woman sing along with me, word for word, one of her old favorites. Petr Janata, a cognitive neuroscientist at University of California, stated that music also serves to bring memories back, as our brains have linked faces, or memories, or places to particular songs, and the more powerful the memory, the stronger the music-tracking ability of the brain was. Other research has concluded that the effect of music could potentially prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia altogether.
Music and Stillpoint: In Craniosacral therapy, which is hands-on therapy that primarily focuses on the spine, there is something called a "stillpoint", which is a state of relaxation that can be reached once the fight-or-flight responses have dissipated, as a result of the therapy. For an energy healer who is sensitive to the vibrations emitting from their client's body, the stillpoint is when the body suddenly becomes "silent". If a stillpoint occurred at the moment their client was talking about something, such as their feelings about an issue or a trigger, that is an indication to pay attention. If you added music therapy to the mix, and a certain note (such as an A or a C) played by an instrument created a stillpoint, that would be a helpful note to continue playing throughout the rest of the healing session, to continue the healing process.
Music and Death: It is a common practice to play music while someone is on their deathbed, to usher them into their final sleep. Listening to soothing and familiar music releases dopamine, and other neurotransmitters, which would definitely put that person in a calm and relaxed state in their final moments. Research has shown that, while someone may seem unresponsive, such as when they are near death or in a coma, there is actually heightened activity in the brain, particular the areas that process auditory information, which means they would still be able to hear music.
Music and Recovery: Research has shown that if someone has a stroke on the left side of the brain, but their right side remains intact, which is where music is processed, some patients can sing as a way of communicating, which is called "melodic intonation therapy". Dr. Gottfried Schlaug, who conducted research on stroke patients, concluded that it would actually be possible for some patients to regain their speech as a result of this therapy. Similarly, patients who are partially paralyzed can speed up their ability to re-learn to walk if they move to the beat of music. It has also been found that premature babies who are having trouble gaining weight and having latching issues will learn to suck better and gain weight quicker if they are listening to lullabies. Some people are writing music specifically for premie babies, and are finding that their development is much better. Studies have shown music can actually decrease pain, and that patients listening to their favorite music sometimes have less need for sedative drugs during medical procedures. Even among cancer patients, music therapy improved the immune responses in the children who played music and sang.
Music and Vibration: Everything has a vibration, a wave form and a frequency. From solid matter to energy fields, even thoughts and feelings. In the 60s, people talked about "good vibes" and "bad vibes". While we sometimes make fun of that sentiment now, there is very much something to that concept. A state of pain, discomfort or sickness can alter our vibration and make us unbalanced, while music and sound can restore our balanced vibration and consequently our state of wellness. There is a reason people like to stand near the amps at a concert; there is an exhilarating and uplifting feeling that comes with feeling the vibrations through the floor, or resonating through your body. One of the reasons people love harps so much is because they are so resonant, particularly with the lower notes. There is nothing like the feeling of strumming the lowest notes on a harp and then resting your head on the sound board.
Music and the Body: We can get goosebumps on our arms or chills in our spine from listening to a piece of music we love. Our heart rate will speed up when listening to an upbeat song, or slow down when listening to a lullaby. There is much research to show that music triggers the same chemical responses we get from eating our favorite food or having sex, which suggests that our body values music just as highly as those other needs. When people sing together in a group, or in a choir, everyone's hearts will eventually beat at the same time. Music creates unity and balance, not only within an individual's body, but in an entire group of people! Studies have shown that certain areas of the brain in musicians are larger than those who are not, because musical training causes the same growth in the brain that exercise causes for muscles. It is a known fact that children who grow up with music and theory training have better motor skills, cognitive abilities, and generally have a better understanding of mathematics.
Music and Culture: Aside from healing the body, music can heal a culture, particularly when that culture has been repressed, and almost forgotten. Jeremy Dutcher is a musician who is classically trained in opera, and he has Wolastoq roots. He found long lost recordings that an ancestor had done on an old record player, and he took that music and blended it with his own style and made it something new, while honouring the traditional music of his people and essentially bringing it back. His music is a source of memory and history, but also a source of pride and honour for his people, and hopefully is an inspiration for others to do the same.
Hopefully after all this overwhelming evidence, I have successfully made the point that music is as crucial to our everyday well being as much as food and water is. Music is Life. With this in mind, let us be mindful of how much we should support music therapy programs, sound healing practices, music classes in schools, music lessons for children and adults alike, and how important it is to expose anyone and everyone to music. My prescription to you is to find a way to incorporate music in your life every day, whether it's listening to your top playlist while driving, or a soothing chant while meditating, singing in the shower, joining a choir, whistling as you walk down the street, attending a concert, making music or even writing music! I can assure you, you will feel the benefits physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.