Music is a universal language that has the power to move people in profound ways. It can evoke memories, emotions, and even physical sensations. But did you know that music can also be used as a form of therapy? Music therapy is a relatively new field that has gained recognition for its ability to improve the physical, emotional, and mental health of patients. Some music therapists have found that the dissonant and tense quality of the interval can be used to stimulate emotional responses in patients. By carefully selecting and using the augmented fourth in musical interventions, therapists can help patients process and work through difficult emotions and experiences. The augmented fourth is one of the most enigmatic and controversial intervals in Western music. In medieval times, it was known as the "diabolus in musica" or "devil in music" because of its dissonant and unsettling sound.
But in other cultures, the augmented fourth has a very different meaning and significance. In Indian classical music, for example, the augmented fourth is an essential part of the raga system. Ragas are melodic frameworks that use specific notes and intervals to create a particular mood or emotion. The augmented fourth, known as the tivra ma, is used in many ragas to add color and flavor to the music. It is considered a very important note and is often used in improvisation.
In Middle Eastern music, the augmented fourth is known as the "altered" or "Arabic" fourth. It is used extensively in maqam music, which is a system of melodic modes used in Arabic, Turkish, and Persian music. The augmented fourth is an essential part of the maqam system, and many maqams use it to create a sense of tension and release. It is often used in improvisation and is considered a very expressive interval.
In African music, the augmented fourth is also used in various traditional music styles. For example, in the music of the Aka pygmies of Central Africa, the augmented fourth is used in their complex vocal polyrhythms. The Aka pygmies use the interval to create a sense of dissonance and tension, which adds to the complexity and richness of their music.
In Western music, the augmented fourth has been used to create tension and dissonance. It was considered so dissonant that it was forbidden in church music during the Middle Ages. However, some composers such as Johann Sebastian Bach and Ludwig van Beethoven used it to great effect in their compositions. For example, in Beethoven's famous Fifth Symphony, the opening motif features an augmented fourth followed by a perfect fifth, creating a sense of tension and resolution.
There is hardly a culture in the world that does not recognise the healing power of music. In biblical times, it is said that David played the harp to rid King Saul of a bad spirit. As early as 400 B.C., Hippocrates, the ancient Greek father of medicine, played music for his patients. In the 13th century, hospitals in the Arab world contained music rooms for the benefit of the patients.
The first structured use of music therapy in the Western world was considered to be in the aftermath of World Wars I and II, when musicians would travel to hospitals, particularly in Britain, and play music for soldiers suffering from war-related emotional and physical trauma.
The ancient medical science of India, known as Ayurveda, has a branch that details how music can heal a variety of ailments of the body and mind. This process of specific application is called raga chikitsa or raga vidya. Though not used extensively in modern times, there have been a number of Indian classical musicians and scholars who have dedicated themselves to researching and practising this form of music therapy.
Evoking specific feelings and moods within the mind, body and soul of the listener is what Indian music is about, so it is hardly a surprise that the genre lends itself particularly well to therapeutic application. Raags are classified according to the most appropriate time of day to be played and to the predominant rasa or emotion that they evoke.
Each mode and musical note is deeply connected to corresponding subtle and gross frequencies in nature. The great medieval composer Tansen was said to have been able to light lamps by playing the fire Raag Deepak and invoke rainfall by playing Raag Miyan Ki Malhar and it is said that he created Raag Darbari Kanada to soothe Emperor Akbar’s stress in the evening.
The effect of a raga on the physical body is said by some to be due to the link between certain sounds and frequencies with the chakras, the seven energy centres of the body. Just as with ragas, each chakra has a specific associated colour and various attributes. For instance, the Nabhi chakra which governs the solar plexus and stomach area is said to be aided by Abhogi, Malkauns/Hindolam, and Bhimpalasi. It is said the chakra is cleansed by these ragas, aiding the physical body, for example, with digestion as well as bringing about a change of attitudes and inner transformation and helping to give up vices and compulsive habits.
Scientific research into the effects of certain instruments on the environment has produced some unusual findings. Jagadish Chandra Bose investigated the effect of the shankha (conch shell) blown during religious ceremonies. He claimed that it rendered disease causing bacteria dead or ineffective as far as the sound penetrated. Other researchers have concluded that blowing the shankha could potentially be recommended as a cheap and effective way of treating physical health complaints, as well as helpful for sufferers of hysteria, epilepsy and leprosy.
One remarkable example of the power of music therapy can be seen in the story of Gabrielle Giffords, a former U.S. Representative who was shot in the head during a political event in 2011. Following the shooting, Giffords struggled with speech and motor skills. However, she made significant improvements after undergoing music therapy. Her therapist used songs to help her regain her ability to speak and move. Giffords even went on to sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" at a public event just five months after the shooting.
Music therapy has also been used to help patients with dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Patients with these conditions often struggle with memory loss and communication difficulties. However, music has been shown to stimulate memories and improve communication. In one study, patients with Alzheimer's disease who participated in music therapy had improved mood, reduced anxiety, and better quality of life compared to those who did not participate.
But music therapy isn't just for patients with health conditions. It can also be used to help people who are experiencing everyday stress and anxiety. Listening to calming music has been shown to reduce stress and promote relaxation. In fact, one study found that listening to music before surgery reduced anxiety in patients more effectively than medication.
Music therapy can take many forms, from listening to music to playing instruments. In some cases, patients may even compose their own music as a form of therapy. This process can be empowering and help patients feel a sense of control over their health and well-being.
In conclusion, music therapy is a powerful tool that can improve the physical, emotional, and mental health of patients. Whether it's helping a patient regain speech after a traumatic brain injury or reducing anxiety before surgery, music has the ability to heal and transform. As the famous composer Ludwig van Beethoven once said, "Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy."