BY BOB FRISBY, M.S.
Some music I listened too made me tap my feet on the floor or hit something nearby with a pencil or pen; it moved me to move! Some music was slow and perhaps had a depressive story line and I felt quiet. Sometimes the music was lively and the story line was sad. I've always noticed these differences. As I read more about the impact of music on our bodies and minds I decided to test it out a little at one of our group therapy sessions we had with folks moving into the community from the state hospital settings. We had around ten of us at that group session. We had purchased "temperature trainers" which are small thermometers and had everybody tape the small thermometer to the end of one of their fingers. We played a piece of country music and had everybody check what their temperature showed. We also played pieces of pop music and classical music and checked the temperature readings. The results were a bit shocking: some folks had temperature changes as high as twenty degrees. Everyone agreed that their temperature rose with music they liked and fell with music they disliked. While this isn't a valid research study, it makes you wonder a bit about what our bodies are going through if we turn on the radio and just have it running in the background while we're doing some other task. Is our temperature bouncing all over the place because it's reacting to the music? Could our blood pressure also be impacted by this music in the background? Maybe we each need to pay more attention to the impact on our bodies from sounds in our environment. Then again, some folks seem to concentrate better when they have noise / activity around them. You learn what works best for you.
It is now common knowledge that music is good for your health and most of us have heard that music is food for the soul. There are college degrees in music therapy. There are people employed as music therapists and I know they're being employed to assist in the area of hospice; those last days of life. I was brought up listening to music and my family had a phonograph that played the old 45's and 33's you see selling for .25 cents at the Salvation Army. I listened to the radio as a child and heard the latest country and pop songs. I'm not trained in music therapy but I think what follows is pretty good common sense and might be helpful for any human.
For my own "music as therapy" purposes, I chose to put together some cassette tapes that covered specific moods. I listened to the various songs and chose those that were positive in story line and made me tap my foot; I called this my "lively tape". On another tape I put songs that were somewhat mellow but had positive story lines and called this my "depressive tape". When I was having one of those times where I felt myself being a bit down, drained, or just plain tired; I could handle this for a while, but would then put in the lively tape and this would boost me up again. This music gave me energy and helped to lift my mood. If I was running a bit high and had to spend time with someone who was very depressed, I would put in the depressive tape and douse myself with that for awhile before the encounter. I always felt it was important to try and feel the energy of the person I was visiting; I didn't want there to be too much difference between my mood and theirs. If you go to any garage sales you can pick up cassette players and cassette tapes very cheaply. By putting tape over the open holes on the top of the cassette tape you will usually be able to use that tape for taping purposes. Or, if you're really into the computer world, you can download the music you choose.
I spent a couple years listening to lots of classical music; music encouraged by Edward Podolsky in his book "Music Therapy" that came out in 1954. He was probably a pioneer in trying to get specific music to assist clients with specific medical problem areas. As I listened to some of those pieces, the clash of cymbals and the beating of the kettledrums sometimes made me think the piece would contribute to a headache and therefore really didn't appeal to me. The Russian composers' pieces didn't impress me either. Sometimes it's a cultural difference and sometimes it's just the sounds involved that deter your interest. I picked out the classical pieces I could tolerate and enjoy, and put together tapes of them for myself. Periodically listening to these pieces were helpful to my being. I'm sure if you Google "Music Therapy" you will get more recent books on the subject and those would include the advancements in the store of knowledge regarding this subject.
I had taken "Introduction to Music" in college and prior to that time I really didn't get a proper introduction to classical music. During the course the teacher had us turn off the lights in the classroom and become totally quiet; then he would play a piece of classical music for us. It was during two of those experiences that I was able to develop a story to go with the specific piece of music. One was the Overture to the Poet and the Peasant. I wrote down the stories and have a goal someday to see them played out on a stage with the specific piece of music being played. I learned later that this would be considered a "closet drama". This all makes me think that if your going to listen to some classical music or instrumentals of popular songs, in an effort to help your own health, it's best to do so in a quiet and dark place with no distractions. If by chance you get a story to develop in your mind that jives with the specific piece, then write it down and get it copyrighted as a closet drama; maybe someday the drama will be played out on a stage. I've no doubt this ability to create closet dramas from wordless musical pieces probably increases as a person allows themselves to relax. I also believe that what you create for a story may well speak in some symbolic way with the experiences in your own life. Maybe by thinking about the emotion in the drama and how this might speak to something going on in your own life, you would get a little "self-actualization" or "self-awareness."
Sounds that feel good to each of us could be considered our "mantra" although this is a pretty loose use of the term. In the book "Toning: the Creative Power of the Voice" there are clearer instructions on how to make your sounds help your body and mind. I have caught myself humming a certain tune and believe that paying attention to this behavior broadens my life experience. I will, when I later get a chance, pull out that record or go to Google and listen to it. This will then spark other songs with similar sounds; or will locate other artists who sang that song. When I sit down and go through these options, it can take several hours. As an example: I heard the Elisabethan Serenade on the radio and wondered what words went with it. I googled it and got several options and all were enjoyable. When I checked out my own record collection I found Roger Whittaker had done the piece by whistling! And on U-tube I found a small orchestra that did their variation.
Roger whistling Elizabethan Serenade Violin Soloist - Elizabethan Serenade
Some folks are just gifted! When friends asked what I did that night I indicated I had a few hours of music therapy...my own version of course (continue reading...).