Melodic First Aid

susumu2Having had my fair share of crazy back problems throughout my chaotic youth, I’ve spent a number of hours lying face down in acupuncturist and physical therapist offices, listening to repetitive New Age “healing” music. And wouldn’t you know it, this stuff has spawned a whole academic field of studies in musical therapy or “music for healing.” Fine, I can dig it. Music does a lot to relieve tension and pain, it’s true.

It’s funny, this “healing music” is such minimalist, repetitive synth stuff. It actually starts to drive a patient insane after a while (especially since they never change the CD!). But to break it down, I figure the healing properties of music are to: (A) take your mind off the pain or stress or whatever or (B) drone in the background to hypnotize you into a sleepy or subconscious state of mind. Similar things, but not exactly the same.

Healing music has a couple of specific properties, as far as I can tell (though I really don’t have any training or study in the field). It uses specific mellow synth sounds (triangle waves — yay!!), which I am usually a fan of. In other words, there is no distorted guitar, white noise, caustic percussive sounds, etc. So why isn’t healing music just old Vangelis, Kitaro and R. Carlos Nakai albums? Because healing music never really builds up to a serious melodic climax. This was always the old joke about grocery-store music — the muzak the stores would play, it specifically never built up to a climax or hook you could wrap your mind around. And this is the kind of music that people with migraines or the flu or back pain should be able to listen to without flinching.

Of course, what if your disease is caused by an overdose on shitty consumer-culture music? What if I’ve been overexposed to modern indie-rock/post-punk, tepid hardcore and new-school black/death metal, smooth jazz, gogo/r&b, classic rock, trance, New Age muzak, iPod commercials, Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers and so forth? What kind of musical therapy will they use to cure a chronic migraine caused by all that? I really wonder what the test results on me would be in such circumstances…

In the end, I think the best music for “healing”, or whatever label you want to put on music that energizes and improves your psyche, is that of Susumu Hirasawa and Shawn Lane. Listening to those guys’ work is like downing a handful of opiate painkillers. And as I’ve pointed out before, if everyone is susceptible to the effects of consuming opiate drugs, why is everyone not susceptible to the healing properties of the aforementioned artists?

Oh well, not my problem.


~ by chaosrexmachinae on November 29, 2008.

2 Responses to “Melodic First Aid”

  1. […] corner: the Jonas Brothers will fix your pinched lumbar! I knew it all along. But more seriously, as I’ve axed before: why is scientific research not interested in whether crappy music causes rapid onset of […]

  2. […] rotation in my car the past few weeks. Michael Kiske – best metal singer of all time?) And what was it specifically I said about music and health all those posts ago? Something about how, if people are almost all equally receptive to the sensation of painkillers […]

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