Does Music Help Dementia Patients?

Uncategorized Mar 28, 2019

Does Music Help Dementia Patients?

What happens when dementia patients hear music? Not a day goes by without a story on my news feed about someone playing music for dementia patients and raving about their success at engaging with the patient.

When asked by caregivers what music to use with their patients I recommend that they make a file with recordings of music that was popular when the patient was a youth or young adult – say from the ages of 14 – 26.

The results have been compelling. In one case after listening to the music (and singing along), the father recognized his son for the first time in 6 months and they conversed!

Often a musician plays music live for the patients, and within moments of starting, some of the patients become alert and are mouthing the words to the songs. Afterward, they’re more responsive and even-tempered, and the benefits can last for hours.

A more active approach is to engage the patients in music-making activities that are usually...

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Can Music Make You More Productive?

Uncategorized Mar 06, 2019

Can Music Make You More Productive?

It’s difficult to go anywhere today and NOT hear the music. It’s in our homes and on computers, on TV shows and movies, at the restaurant, in the shopping mall, church, and temple, and unless your Amish and plow your fields with mules, music is probably in YOUR workplace.

Does music at work help you be more creative and productive, or does music make a tedious task bearable? I think most of us would agree that a dumb, repetitive task can become easier when we listen to music. And it’s here that familiar, up-tempo music can get our juices going and help us get the job done. Research reports that substantial economic benefits can result from the use of music on the factory floor.

Inserting tab A into slot B on the assembly line is more accurately completed by workers who are in a good mood. Studies prove that playing mid-tempo music in a Major key tends to bring workers into their happy place, where they are more productive.

In my...

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What's a Gong Bath?

Uncategorized Feb 19, 2019

What's a Gong Bath?

When’s the last time you took a Gong bath? I’m a musician, and I was a bit skeptical. As with many healing modalities, there were a lot of claims made of ‘vibrations to bring about healing’, ‘being bathed in meditation gong sound waves’, ‘in use since 16,000 B.C’ (how do we know that?), ‘helps with pain management’, ‘destroys cancer cells’!  This sounds (pun intended) exciting and not to be missed.

I arrived at the yoga studio with my mat and the recommended bolster or cushion as participants take a gong bath fully clothed while lying prostrate on a yoga mat. The cushion is for your head and the idea is to get comfortable for the hour-long experience.

I’ve played with a lot of percussionists and seen some unique drum kits. But this setup was inspirational – if you like cymbals and gongs. There was a 3-sided drum cage made of PVC that was about 7 feet high. And suspended from...

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Can Favorite Music Heal?

Uncategorized Jan 03, 2019

What’s your favorite music?  Is it a genre, classical, jazz, urban, soul, spiritual, rock or pop?  Or is your favorite music more defined as by artist, or album or even a song?

For me I tend to change favorite genres over time.  Right now my favorites are trans-underground EDM laced with ethnic rhythms and instruments from across the middle east. Also known as ‘that weird music that dad listens to.’

Can your favorite music heal? 

What is healing?  The root word of healing is an Anglo-Saxon word HAL which means to be ‘made whole’.  To be made whole can be a physical, emotional or spiritual experience.  So in one sense yes, if your favorite music makes you happy, energized, peaceful, or pleasantly sleepy, some part of you is coming into balance and yes, experiencing healing.

I once played bedside for an elderly patient who had most of her family gathered together as she was in her very last days. While I’d been...

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Can Music Heal The Brain?

Uncategorized Dec 14, 2018

What if 100,00 years ago our species learned to take two biological traits  - say blinking, and release of dopamine. And then through technology (maybe simulated bright lights), we learned to stimulate blinking much more than needed to simply keep our eyes lubricated. 

We could call this practice….winking. Over thousands of generations humanity would create a cult of pleasure across all cultures that would indulge in ‘winking’. Books would be written, religion would co-opt, genders would develop accepted norms for winking…and of course there would be ‘the disruptors’.

Well that’s one theory advanced about how the practice of music had no specific biological need or trigger, but co-opted various parts of our brain that became stimulated in the process of making or listening to music.  And humans found this pleasurable!  (The why and how of music even left Darwin scratching his head.)

To answer the question ‘can...

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Can Music Heal Physical Pain?

Uncategorized Dec 02, 2018

Chronic pain plagues millions across our society. Young and old, no matter what the economic strata, there are countless people who suffer, and all too often in desperation reach for drugs that can turn deadly.

In my clinical work pain and anxiety are often the prime targets that I seek to resolve with therapeutic music. In hospice, patients are often under various medications and a key benefit of therapeutic music is that it has no contraindications.  It can be used with a variety of other treatments and won’t have negative effects.

When asked about my work delivering prescriptive music at the bedside I often say that I’ve seen miracles when it comes to the reduction of pain and the increase of comfort.  Music can have powerful effects.

There is considerable research available on the use of music to reduce pain and anxiety.  Some researchers believe that music stimulates neural paths that carry pain messages.  It’s called the ‘gate...

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Can Music Cure A Disease?

Uncategorized Nov 25, 2018

Can Music Cure a Disease?

What if you could listen to a specific melody and the tissue in your lungs would begin to repair. What if there is a specific drum rhythm played by an indigenous people in remote Africa that could trigger your body’s repair of its immune system? What if Mozart could heal your cat?

I’m not here to say any of the above examples are impossible. I’d like to share my experience as a clinical musician.

First we have to consider the placebo effect, because that amazing mind ability can assign healing to any treatment modality in which we believe healing will occur. Medical science has no idea of how it works, just that it does sometimes occur. So if your mind fervently believes that listening to a specific type of music will heal you, then it just might.  But as with the placebo effect, we can’t predict who will be affected ….or why!

When a cure happens, a part of our body is restored to the condition that existed before...

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The Mystery of Noise

Uncategorized Jan 08, 2018

Music is in the ear of the beholder.  Some of you would be very annoyed if I turned up a Death Metal track while you’re reading this blog.  Others would feel; “Yea, that’s it!”

Some of you would wax rapturous over Bach’s Air on a G String. While I’m afraid that music would drive away our Death Metal lovers.  What’s noise for one person is exciting, emotive, familiar music to another.  These types of preferences result from cultural experience, peer group pressures, the relation of positive life experience to a piece of music, resonance with the music’s performance energy, emotional content and other cultural experiences around the music.  But both of these pieces qualify as a ‘musical’ experience for some group of listeners.

Noise is well……just noise.  If you walk into a coffee shop and the sound of the food refrigerator prevents you from hearing the counter person, you are...

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Music is a Drug

Uncategorized Dec 18, 2017

Have you ever been ‘high’ on music, just the music no other recreational ‘stimulants’?  I have, and I continue to experience transformative moments as I listen to music, and they come unbidden at the most surprising times.

What other legal ‘drug’ can bring you back immediately to a wonderful experience of adolescence, or maybe even to a cherished childhood memory.  The music induced memory often is all-encompassing and more effective than any virtual experience because often we recall the smells, the temperature and emotional feeling of the moment – and it comes in a non-linear experience.

Spiritual mystics refer to this immediate, all-encompassing, fully-engaged encounter with the Divine as a high-order experience on their way to Nirvana, Union or Unicorn. In their descriptions one common theme is that the experience is non-linear.  They did not recall a thought, that led to a ‘bigger’ thought that opened to a...

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Sound and Our Senses

Uncategorized Nov 27, 2017

Humans are primarily visual creatures with large amounts of brain resources assigned to processing visual data.  And rightly so, how else would we have found our way down from those trees in Africa long, long ago…in a galaxy far away? (But that’s another story.)

Human embryos hear long before they see – months before.  The first sense to develop in the womb is our ability to hear.  Why? Early in our womb experience we hear and bond with our mother’s voice.  That’s because when we jump out of the womb, we can’t see very well, but we can hear and we immediately locate and focus on the re-assuring presence of that voice we’ve heard for months.  That voice represents nurturing care and is our refuge in a very strange new world.

We then immediately begin to learn language. And our prodigious language-learning skills would make any polyglot supremely envious.  Again our sense of hearing and our ability to discern and...

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