Musopathy

The Background

I have always been fascinated by the power of sound. Even as a child, I used to wonder how my own stress, depression or even physical head ache etc could vanish when I sang, played my instrument or heard good music. Later, I wondered how some kinds of music makes the opposite happen as well! It took me years to realise that it is not so much the individual who is singing or playing, it is not even so much about the style of music (classical, pop, jazz etc) that is being heard/rendered but much more fundamental laws of physics and nature that are involved in this. The scientific study and development of this area, which I termed as Musopathy (a la allopathy, homeopathy etc), can have an enormous positive impact on humanity. It is distinct from the fairly subjective Music Therapy that is offered by several Universities across the planet today.

Music Therapy in recent times

As most of us know, music is increasingly being used by scientists and doctors all over the world as complementary or alternate therapy for dealing with hypertension, depression, physio therapy for paralysis victims and so forth. Leading medical names keen about music include Virginia Apgar, (the obstetrician famous for Apgar score), Rene Leannec, (inventor of the stethoscope), Dr Richard Bing and Dr Eugene Braunwald (renowned cardiologist), to mention a few.

Music-medicine relationship in earlier times

Musical associations of medical professionals dates back as far as the Greek era and can be traced to modern times as well. Apollo, the god of healing in the Greek mythology is seen with a lyre and Aesculapius who was Apollo’s son has been associated with flute. Indians have believed that ragas like Amrtavarshini or Meghmalhar could bring rain, Deepakam could light up lamps and those like Neelambari could combat insomnia. We also have stories of composers such as Oottukkadu Venkata Kavi, Tyagaraja and Muttuswami DIkshitar being called upon to cure patients with their music.


Experiments in modern times

Studies were conducted on the effect of music on plant growth by leading Universities such as Harvard in 1970s that noted that Indian Classical Music was the best catalyst for plant growth. (For more information on this, read Sidney Sheldon's Stars Shine Down!!). In the late 1990s, a San Diego based University claimed that students performed better in exams after listening to Mozart.

In the beginning of the new millennium, Jane Hanson, on behalf of BBC, looked at the cutting-edge research and application of music in clinical medicine which included the University of North Texas, USA, Beth Abraham hospital in New York and select doctors and musicians in Mysore, India. An audio of her experiences is available at:
In Chennai, India, the Raga Research Center led by violinist Kunnakkudi Vaidyanathan claimed that cattle that heard the raga Anandabhairavi produced more milk.

Limitations and scope

However, all the above examples are subjective approaches by various people or institutions – however distinguished - from different parts of the world. The scientific validity of all these claims is impossible to prove beyond reasonable doubt. But their limitations notwithstanding, the fundamental truth cannot be disputed – the power of sound.

Sound has immense power and potency. But how well has it been tapped in the area of medicine? How well has its power been studied? Has enough been done to take it along scientific lines? How much of organized research has been conducted with systematic exactitude? Mere sentimental or culture-centric musical ideas, with intentions however sound (pun intended), can never replace the rigour os science. That is why, Music Therapy (the way it is approached now) hovers somewhere between quack medicine and quasi-science.

Musopathy

Ruminating over all these, I came up with Musopathy to de-culturalise and de-regionise music and take it to its fundamental roots, based on laws of physics using standard, measurable and repeatable factors like combination of frequencies and decibel levels. For obvious reasons, I will not bore you with all the details here. I will just give some highlights and advantages below:

· Musopathy is the first quantifiable approach that combines music and medicine in absolute terms.


· It eliminates region, religion, culture, language etc and the subjectivity associated with these, which dominate the subject of Music Therapy. In other words, it will convert the quasi-scientific music-therapy into a serious study as sound as bio-chemical medicine.


· Musopathy promises empirical auro-neuro-solutions and opens up newer areas of studies such as neuro-physics.


· Musopathy has great potential to offer viable alternatives with far lesser side effects for several ailments where chemical cures dominate today.

To summarise, this is an area that has not been fully explored but if extensive work is carried out with a combination of vision, experience and scientific precision, it can blaze a trail of its own for the benefit of mankind. I am glad that several leading lights of the scientific and academic world with whom I have discussed this have told me that this is the cutting edge approach to the subject. I have promised myself that I will get to this as soon as time permits!

Comments

Vasundhara Kikkeri said…
The intent to study the power of sound in diverse frequencies (which may be considered musical and non musical) and its impact is a great idea. Your innovative and powerful thinking takes this idea to new hitherto undiscovered heights of music and its impact on society. The new term is as brilliant as the idea itself. As mentioned rightly, it elevates the whole idea of music therapy to a brand new field in ailment healing.

When faced with the limitations of chemical healing for certain ailments, Musopathy may be one of the best solutions in the field of complementary and alternative medicine. I see great possibilities for Musopathy in treating various biological and developmental disorders such as ADHD/ADD, Autism etc. I hope that Musopathy will soon be one of the best approaches to cure certain ailments where chemicals may fall short of expectation.
Looking forward to more such inspirational ideas.
Anoop said…
This is a "sound" article on a "sound" concept. I can begin to attest that when correctly combined, sound sharpens sight.
Shikha said…
Sir,
Adding to the article there is a very live example to what you have said. We have to curry leaf- trees in our backyard which have grown about 20 feet high (still growing). This has drawn the attention of many. This could be one of the effects of Carnatic music we play all day.

Thanks for sharing.
KSS said…
I have read that, music as a therapy has been in existence since music itself. One story that comes to my mind that my father-in-law Prof. Mysore V. Ramarathnam told me many years ago.

Shri Bidaram Krishnappa dedicated almost all of his meagerly earnings from music towards one dream "to build The Prasanna Seetha Rama Mandira, in Narayana Sastry Road, Mysore". He spent every penny he could towards this goal. At that time there was a rich Chettiar in Chennai who was ardent fan of Shri Bidaram Krishnappa. One time Sri Chettiar fell really ill and was bed-ridden, and some of the relatives suggested that he might recover if Shri Bidaram Krishnappa sang for him. So, they sent word to Mysore and few days after that Bidaram Krishnappa arived in Chennai and spent nearly 10-15 days with Chettiar and sang for him every day, specifically the keerthanas that were near and dear to Chettiar. The story goes that Chettiar made full recovery. The family asked Bidaram Krishnappa, what can they do or how can they pay. Shri Bidaram Krishnappa requested nothing for himself but requested the family to donate few girder beams to put a roof for the Rama Mandira. Chettiar's family did that, and those of you who have seen the Rama Mandira in Mysore, can still see the same girders and the Rama Mandiram that provides an ambience for the aritst and the rasikas like no other place. I strongly urge those of you who have not seen the Rama Mandiram to visit Mysore and ask any autowala to take you to Bidaram Krishnappa Rama Mandira on Narayana Sastry Road. For more on this refer to the following article in Sruthi Magazine:
http://www.sruti.com/2008/sruti_magazine_apr_2008.php#hr

Srinivasan
San Jose, CA

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