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The Power of Music on Health, Well-Being and Ageing

“According to Arnold Steinhardt, a founding member and first violinist of the Guarneri String Quartet, chamber music audiences nearly always include many health care practitioners, everything from podiatrists to psychiatrists, since there seems to be a mysterious and powerful underground railroad linking medicine and music. Perhaps music is an equally effective agent of healing, and doctors and musicians are part of a larger order serving the needs of mankind. Perhaps they recognize each other as brothers and sisters.” This excerpt is from a longer and interesting article on Music and Health from Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School.

As so often happens, I am looking for one thing and stumble across the unexpected. I have been interested in music my entire life and in recent years fascinated by the research on the brain and the advances in neuroscience. On a personal level, much like you, I have  experienced the rejuvenating and life affirming aspects of music. Music Therapists and those who play or actively listen to music know the importance of music to soothe and enliven the soul.

Similarly, music can also, reduce pain, give us goosebumps, conjure up a memory and bring on unadulterated bouts of joy. Just a few of the anecdotal effects  being  examined using Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). Next up is the possibility of a prescription for music, in lieu of, or in conjunction with a pill. Obviously not a panacea.

Currently, there is a fascinating 10 year study being carried out by the National Institute for Health.

It includes the healing effects of music on the brain and the body.  I found an engaging and brilliant interview with Renee Fleming, Frances Collins, director of NIH and Vivek Murty, the 19th and former Surgeon General of the US.  It is 45 minutes long but don’t let that scare you off. It is worth the time to settle down and watch/listen to these three  experts discuss the links and the promise between science and music. Their discussion of the research, and it’s pivotal role in our health, is fascinating.

I loved it so much that I will book another appointment with myself to listen again. The link I include here takes you to the NIH page with a few different videos from a conference on the subject. I chose that in case you wanted to see more.  However, the one I am recommending is Music and the Mind with Fleming, and Collins. Renee Fleming is as skillful a moderator as she is an outstanding opera singer.

National Institute of Health Not to be missed  There is no need for me to add a another word. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.


Note 1:) To read the full text of  Music and Health from Harvard, I find the simplest way is to type Music and Health  into your search engine and then select. It is awkward but give it a try.

Note 2:) Tonight, I am attending a musical performance at the National Arts Centre, thanks to a friend. This is bound to fill up my heart, stimulate my brain and may well boost my immune system, Zukerman Plays Bruch. And I have the good fortune of listening in a grand hall filled with others equally enthralled. Apparently, this is also an important part of music’s properties – listening and playing in community.

Note 3:) I hope you take the time to listen to a little music everyday – music that you love. I once had a student who decried the spiritual and meditative music sometimes associated with illness. “Finally,” she told me, ” I sat down at my piano and banged out Heavy Metal, with a glass of red wine, and felt better than I had in weeks.” Go and make some music or enjoy the music made by others. See you next week. Thank you for showing up here week after week. I appreciate you. Trudy

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