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Music and Healing from Alzheimer’s to Surgery


One certainty that mankind has known throughout the ages is that music is healing. It makes people feel energized or calmer, it is soothing and comforting, and it just plain helps people to feel better. Even researchers in the medical field have begun to do studies of how music and sound affects healing and health in general. Everyone acknowledges the old adage “music soothes the savage beast” and it has been found to soothe everything from stress to recovery from surgery. It doesn’t mean that music cures the individual, but it certainly improves both chronic and acute symptoms of many issues, helps with pain and increases quality of life.

A great breakthrough that has had huge success with music and healing is being used in the study of music and Alzheimer’s. In several studies it’s showing that music tends to help relieve the anxiety and frustration associated with Alzheimer’s patients, and helps calm and soothe them. It’s even been found that some with severe Alzheimer’s who have not spoken in many months began to hum or sing with the music; some even singing the words from a song played from their youth. When music can help lower blood pressure, reduce agitation, and relieve anxiety, it has great promise in the medical field for patients with Alzheimer’s and various forms of Dementia.

Music therapy has also been studied with autistic patients who have difficulties interacting with others. Oftentimes, they are agitated when their environment is changed, but researchers are finding that these autistic patients respond extremely well to music therapy to help relieve the stress, induce calmness, and help the younger ones become more socialized. One surprising aspect to the research is that many younger autistic patients are quite skilled in playing musical instruments.

With so many people diagnosed with cancer, one very promising study is being researched with music therapy and cancer patients. When the music is soothing and relaxing the patients seem to have improvement in mood, anxiety, quality of life, and a great way to manage pain. It tends to have an effect on their heart rate, respirations, blood pressure, but even more encouraging is the rate at which it helped ease pain.

Another fascinating study that is ongoing (and quite exciting in the field of music and medicine) is the use of music during surgery. Some studies show that patients who listen to comforting, calming, and relaxing types of music through headphones while the anesthesia is being administered prior to surgery, as well as during the surgery, require up to 50 percent less anesthesia. This is particularly encouraging when piano, harp, orchestra, and slow jazz music is played for surgical patients. It is primarily exciting because most patients have worse side effects from the anesthesia than they do from the actual surgery. This has been a great breakthrough for patients undergoing heart bypass surgery, back surgery, and surgery for broken bones, hysterectomies, and out-patient day surgeries. A great side note is that the surgeon benefits from a different type of music that is energized and uplifting to keep their energy going and help them focus.

Certainly, there are more studies to be done on the effects of music and healing, but maybe the ancient people understood how much music has an effect on life that today’s researchers have yet to rediscover.

Music and Instruments Around the World


Most people don’t typically stop and think about music and the instruments that it takes to create the sounds, much less the different types of instruments that are found around the world. Musical instruments date back thousands of years ago, and it’s believed that the oldest instrument that has ever been discovered dates back at least 67,000 years ago; however, it’s disputed as to whether it was an actual instrument for music or not. One that seems to be in little dispute was discovered in Slovenia in 1995 and is a flute from approximately 37,000 years ago that features four holes carved in the bone from the wing of a bird, and it’s been named the Divje Babe flute.

There is no one definitive answer on exactly how many instruments there are throughout the various countries across the globe. There are musical instruments that can be identified as woodwinds, brasses, percussions, strings, and drums; and generally must instruments fall into one of the categories. Some inventive composers have even crafted combinations of these categories to become a sort of “one man band”.

Some of the more common instruments are well known from the light and airy sounds of the flute and piccolo to the deep mournful sounds of the bass cello and the tuba. From all the instruments in the orchestra that includes the clarinets and harps, the drums and the trumpets and the bassoons, they all come together to make music that stirs the soul and lifts the spirits.

Millions of people across the globe have taken piano or guitar lesson in their youth, or played some instrument in the school band, but there are many more exotic instruments that are played in different areas of the planet that produce striking sounds of melodious notes that have never been heard outside that region.

For anyone who has ever been to the regions around India, the Sitar and Santoor produce beautiful stirring music that makes feel uplifted and lighthearted. Travel further to the west and the Turkish Oud provides sounds that make one think of oasis and dancers around a table full of wonderful foods; add a Greek Bouzouki to the mix and the table is surely overflowing.

Travel further south of the equator and the sounds of the Australian Didgeridoo (which is considered to be the oldest wind instrument in the world) pulls one right into the outback country filled with Koalas, Kangaroos, and the Aborigine people. Add the beat of the Bodhrán from Scotland and the wailing sounds of the Bagpipes and the band is off and running across fields of imagination not yet explored.

The Chipendani from the areas of Zimbabwe and South Africa produces rich full sounds that are almost unimaginable when produced from one thin string tied from tip to tip on a bow with a smaller string dividing the sections to allow pitches to be tuned up to an octave apart. Add to that the sounds of the Siku from South America and the exotic sounds abound from this panpipe instrument.

From around the world throughout the ages, music has been a part of the lives of humanity, and mankind has been rich in creating instruments to produce a variety of sounds that fill the imagination and bring music to family and friends.

Music Through the Ages of Humanity

When humans first began to communicate about 50,000 years ago, some used pictures, some tapped on trees or bones, and other produced sounds. Those sounds became universal in all tribal groups and evolved into communication and music which became a fundamental component of humanity.

The earliest tribes communicated by sounds, which eventually had a rhythm to it that evolved into tunes and melodies and enhanced communication. It was greatly influenced by everything in the village from emotions to social status, from the weather to the celebration of a successful hunt for food. People began to remember the songs and sing them again and again to their children; some songs which have no recorded origins have been passed down through the ages.

It’s thought that prehistoric music began long before humans became literate, their history, travels, and stories being taught to their children through the ages via song. Put a beat to the worlds and it’s much more easily remembered. Music evolved throughout the ages and became known as indigenous, folk, or traditional melodies. It’s much more related to sounds that occur in nature as well as rhythms of patterns and tone, as well as repetition. In fact, many believe that the first instrument was actually the human voice when they began clicking, humming, or even whistling, which eventually led to singing.

As these patterns and tones were passed through the ages, during the Biblical times, it is said that Jubal was actually the first person to invent a musical instrument, and music was rich throughout Hebrew history. From the story of Moses parting the Red Sea to the Songs of Solomon and the Psalms of David, music has been an important aspect of the Abrahamic faiths.

From there, leading into the medieval times, music compositions, instruments, and songs flourished and even led to be a mainstay of the early Roman Catholic Church with their Gregorian chants and liturgies. Stories of historical events and military feats are composed into songs and portrayed in numerous plays and stories throughout the ages.

From this time on, music became far more diverse in that it encompassed a far broader geographic region and by the 1500s and the Renaissance, musicians became more and more prevalent throughout Europe and the Oriental music of the times had a great impact on the composers. The invention of printing presses had an enormous influence on the musicians and composers because now the music could be copied and dispersed in a much quicker fashion to the far reaches of the globe. Classical composers such as Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven became even more in demand than ever and their music of the time is still popular 400 years later.

Music from around the globe has become a mainstay of human existence. People listen to music as they travel to work and back home. Just as many people are awakened to music as there are those who cannot fall asleep without the notes bouncing off the walls. Music through the ages continues to lift spirits, bring about emotions, calm frustrations, and it continues to tell the stories of humanity.