24 April, 2010

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!