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According to William Congreve (1697), “music has charms to soothe the savage breast”. It has been extolled for its extraordinary healing powers since antiquity. The Egyptians called it “the word of the Gods”, while ancient Greeks thought “the music of the spheres” was basic to the workings of the universe. Apollo was the Greek God of both music and healing and his servant Orpheus was an exponent of the lute, using it therapeutically.
The relation between mood and the musical “mode” is no accident. Music has powerful influences on our emotions and many modern medical applications. It can calm people undergoing operations, alleviate pain in dentistry and in terminal care, bolster the immune system, motivate people with motor disorders, improve fluency in people with speech disorders, help in communication with the verbally challenged, revive happy memories in people with dementia and generally enhance quality of life in elderly and debilitated people.
Singing has additional benefits, including respiratory and cardiovascular enhancement similar to that provided by aerobic exercise, as well as improved self-concept and the social bonding provided by group activity, such as membership of a choir. The suggestion that listening to music (particularly Mozart) can enhance cognitive ability is more controversial but the latest research findings on this question will be discussed.
Dr Glenn Wilson has researched and taught psychology in relation to the performing arts as Visiting Professor at Gresham College, London and at the University of Nevada, Reno. He has written several books on the topic, including the standard text Psychology for Performing Artists that is widely used in Music and Performing Arts Colleges. He is a part-time operatic baritone and Founder/Treasurer of Connaught Opera, a charity delivering quality concerts to older people in care homes and heritage sites.Read Less
- Learn about the benefits and virtues of music and how it can affect the human brain.
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