From the times of the earliest civilisations music has always been an essential form of communication, expression, sharing, entertainment and a part of everyday life. Music is so prevalent in our every day life that we often consider it as a soundtrack to our lives. We listen to the radio while we are driving and as background while we work. At parties music sets the scene and every weekend there are music festivals and concerts taking place all around the world. As well as its everyday and entertainment value, music possesses a deeper, healing effect as it potential helps the human body heal from not just physical pain but emotional pain.

History of Sound Therapy and Healing

The use of sound as a method of healing the human body dates back to ancient times.  The first known person to use sound as a healing method was Pythagoras, an ancient Greek philosopher and mathematician.  In more recent times during World War II sound was used to help treat returning soldiers.  The music was originally thought merely as entertainment for the soldiers but the healing effects of the music soon became apparent.

Learning more

In order to learn more about the healing power of sound I spoke to West Australian Music and Sound healer Maryanne Butler. During my visit with Maryanne I was introduced to a whole new world where music is much more than entertainment.

Upon entering her house, Maryanne's passion for music and sound immediately became apparent.  There was a whole corner of her lounge room filled with musical instruments - from the guitar to crystal bowls.

Maryanne first started looking into music and sound as a form of healing in 1985.  As a sufferer of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, she found no relief from conventional treatments and refused to take the prescribed drugs.  She therefore began looking at alternative treatments.

Now over twenty years on Maryanne has traveled the world and written hundreds of pieces of music specifically for the purpose of helping people heal.

According to Maryanne music and sound are such powerful healing tools because it opens a high level on consciousness in human beings.  "[Music and sound] allows us to access the core of the illness or disease whether emotional or physical," she said.

Sound Healing

Music and sound therapy can include anything from listening to music played by the sound therapist or played from a CD; making music; writing songs; and even talking about lyrics.  Maryanne has used many different approaches over the years.  While working in a hospital in Melbourne she used music and sound to help a number of patients suffering from depression.  To help the patients she allowed them to get involved in the music making process by encouraging them to make sounds with various percussion instruments.  While they made their own music Maryanne added to the mix, her flute.  She described the sound as incredible which is the same way she described the change she saw in the patients over the time she spent at the hospital.  She told me that over the course of just three months many of them had overcome their illness and moved on with their lives.

Individuals respond differently to certain types of music and everyone has different musical capabilities.  Sound and music therapy sessions are designed to cater for each person's individual needs.

Chakras

Maryanne holds on to the belief that sound and music healing is one of the most direct ways of healing the human body because of the affect it has on the bodies Chakra system.  The body has even main chakras which are believed to be the seven energy centres of the body.  The chakras are described as being aligned in an ascending column from the base of the spine to the top of the head.  Energy flows smoothly from one part of the body to another through this system.  Illness occurs when we experience some kind of trauma, whether it be emotional or physical.  This trauma throws our chakras off balance and has a negative effect on the flow of energy through our bodies.

Maryanne believes that through the power of music and sound these disturbances can be fixed.  "If you use the right music or sound it will actually start to resonate with the imbalance and bring it back into balance" she said.  Music sends vibrations through every cell in the body correcting anything which may be wrong and clearing any blockages.

The Brain

Sound healing also has a profound effect on various part of the human brain.  In particular music and sound affect the limbic system, which supports a variety of functions including both emotion and long-term memory.

Maryanne believes that music and sound helps with the release of built up emotions.  "Sound healing allows you to feel the emotions and then release them easily out of your system.  You can still feel the emotions but you no longer feel the need to act irrationally upon them" she said.

Music and sound is also used in therapy with Alzheimer's patients because it helps with the memory function.  There are researchers who think that music memories may outlast other types of memories because music involves many parts of the brain.  Ms Butler herself has seen music used in nursing homes with Alzheimers patients and told me about how there is a transformation in each patient when they hear songs from their past.  She remembers how all of a sudden they became lively and animated as they sung along to each and every song.

Sound Therapy & Cancer

Music and sound tharapy is used as a tool of treatment for people dealing with cancer including patients, carers, family and friends.  A growing number of medical oncologists are using the music therapy as a big part of their treatment for cancer patients.  There is evidence that shows that music can help reduce the pain, anxiety and nausea induced by chemotherapy.  Sound therapy can also have a positive effect on the overall wellbeing and improve the patient's quality of life.

Negative Noise

Music and sound have a profound affect on the human body.  In the same way that beautiful music is used as a tool of healing, any negative noise can be considered a source of pain.  Noise can be described as unwanted sound and it has been proven that everyday noises can have an affect on our overall health and wellbeing.  Unhealthy noise that comes from machines, appliances and neighbours and the list goes on.

Many studies prove that community noise interferes with sleeping patterns, childrens learning and can also suppress our immune system.  This type of noise has also been linked to an increased risk of heart attack.

It is understandable the many community noises are unavoidable but if you invest in a pair of ear plugs and set aside a time in your day where you just block all outside noise, whether at rest, work or play you may find some ease.

When used in a postive way music and sound helps to improve your general health and well being.  Music therapy affects the body in many different ways to strengthen the immune system and help it to overcome trauma.  Whether the pain is physical, emotional, mental or spiritual, by utilising the positive power of music you will be able to deal with and even overcome your pain.

 

- article by Deanne Walker, Wellness Magazine