Recently I published an article talking about the effects of music on all of us. There is so much to get out there about this. If this will lead one person to find peace and tranquelity for even five minutes, it is worth it. Here are a few stories of how music can be healing: A tiny premature infant lies in a neonatal ward. Every breath is a struggle. The infant has not yet been ablt to feel the warmth of their mother’s arms.
There are so many tubes, monitors (which are constantly beeping) and with every beep your heart jumps. Fear is on the faces of the stressed parents as they watch as close as possible. There is so much commotion. Nurses hurry to deal with crises every moment. There is no more peace and warmth as the infant had in their mother’s womb. All there is now is just noise, parent’s crying, nurses and doctors doing their thing. The infants are still conscious of their surroundings and it helps them relax and sleep. Sleep is very important to help them gain strength and live. Later on that day, a harpists comes into the ward. She plays an lullaby.
All of a sudden the monitors go steady. The infants are breathing more easily. The heartbeats steady and they fall into a deep sleep. The nurses relax and are stunned. The nurses have smiles of gratitude. Smiles and tears of relief come across the faces of the parents when they see the tiny souls absorbing the healing power of this beautiful music. At that moment there is a realization of everyone being one through music. A nursing home that has many alzheimers and dementia patients gather the patients around in the activity room.
The activities director introduces a young couple carrying a guitar. None of the patients pay attention. The young couple start by playing a rendition of “Oh, Susannah”. This has several of the residents looking up – flickers of recognition cross their faces. A few choruses of “How Great Thou Art” inspires many of them to stand and walk or wheel their chairs toward the piano. Soon several are singing along to “Amazing Grace”. One tiny, frail woman sits off to the side in her wheelchair. Her mind is somewhere else, far from what is going on in the room. She looks so distant. Everyone seems to be participating except for this woman in the wheelchair in the corner. T
he guitarist notices this and is concerned. He speaks with the nurse and she says the woman is German and does not know most American songs. She also has lost the ability to speak English, but can speak German. The young man smiles and signals to his wife. The next tune is the “Blue Danube.” He watches closely, and sees that the frail old woman’s eyes begin to focus. She watches as several of the residents begin to waltz together. The young couple decides to play “The Beer Barrel Polka.” When this starts, this tiny woman, who hasn’t smiled or connected in any way with anyone for months, wheels her chair toward the piano singing along. The other residents clap, and sing along with her, all of them excited to recognize her and each other. It was only for a short while, but the music gave these lonely patients a few moments of connection, happiness, and memory. Gabby Gifford, a Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives, represented Arizona’s 8th congressional district from 2007 to her resignation on January 25, 2012. She was on a platform and was shot in an assassination attempt on January 8, 2011.
She was critically injured by a gunshot wound to the head. Giffords went to a rehabilitation facility in Houston, Texas, where she recovered some of her ability to walk, speak, read and write. Mark Kelly, Giffords husband, knew she would one day ask what she went through during her early recovery so he filmed it. In that footage Giffords, who still requires hours of daily therapy helping her recall words, sings along to Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’” and Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” In 10 months after Giffords was shot she has relearned how to talk and this is partly credited to music therapy.
Giffords therapists explains of survivors of brain injuries, “Music is accessed in many different areas of the brain that aren’t designated for language, and they can retrieve the lyrics through another side of the brain to get words back.” Giffords went to watch the launch of STS-134 at the Kennedy Space Center on May 16, 2011. This was the final flight of the Space Shuttle Endeavour and Mark Kelly, her husband, was commander. In the past decade, music’s ability to access language in the brain has been explored in great detail, and exploited as a means of recovering speech after brain injury. So what’s really going on between us and music?
There is something going on here besides listening to sound waves. Apparently, music and mood are intimately connected in some non-physical way. Everyone from tiny infants to elderly people experience big and little miracles like this every day. Some are healed, some are given a few moments of relief from pain, still others are comforted in their passage in the music. American medical establishment had refused to believe and acknowledge the amazing benefits of music. It is only used regularly in only about fifteen percent of American hospitals.
The medical establishment argues that there is no “proof” of the effects of music. This is an undeniable fact of situations that have happened. Sometimes you do not have to have science behind everything. Healing is about people. Real people are experiencing such powerful healing spiritualy and physically from music. This often comes through the efforts of senior centers, volunteers in hospice, children’s ward, cancer wards and many other places. So keep listening to music and heal emotionally and physically.