Healing Music Enterprises Blog

Tune Your Life with Music

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Patient or Surgeon: Who Needs the Music?

January 8th, 2016 · Music and Anxiety, Music and Surgery, Music Healing, Music in the Hospital

Who really needs the music in surgery:  patient or surgeon?  There is so much in the news today about music in the OR, and sometimes the focus is on the surgeon and staff, and sometime the news is about music for the patient.  Our music is entirely for the patient.  As a clinical musicologist, I have spent almost 60 years studying music and all the aspects that bring joy, healing, and hope to humans.

In the early ’90s, I was learning about the powerful phenomenon of rhythmic entrainment and realizing that entrainment happens, whether the patient is awake and conscious, or not!  I was already aware that having favorite, comforting music before surgery could be very calming and reassuring to the patient. But if the surgeon is playing fast, upbeat music, even after patient is “asleep,”  their body is responding to that music because

I was invited to the Cleveland Clinic Florida to give a presentation on Music with Surgery.

I was invited to the Cleveland Clinic Florida to give a presentation on Music with Surgery.

of entrainment, and not staying as relaxed as they would if they had their own separate, calming music, coming through headphones.

So, the bottom line is the both patient and surgeon need their own unique music, and the way to do this is with the patient having lightweight, cordless headphones with music already programmed onto headphones, and the surgeon having his preferred, upbeat music, coming through speakers or portable boombox in the OR.

If YOU or a loved one have surgery in your future, please save yourself a lot of frustration, more medication than necessary, and a longer recovery time, by purchasing the Surgical Serenity Solution, now!  They can even be overnighted to any place in the continental United States!  Check out our website at www.SurgicalSerenitySolutions.com and read some of the testimonials, and some of the research that has been done.  You’ll want to order them immediately!

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The Incredible Power of Christmas Music

December 25th, 2015 · Music and Emotion, Music and the Mind-Body

12294848_10153242468308133_6609112622653063297_nWhat do you get when you combine one the oldest, most-anticipated holiday celebrations of not just childhood, but throughout the life-span, and music??  Of course you get the most magical, powerful, and emotional music that has ever been written!

Now if you’ve been following my blog for any time at all, you know that the music that we love most, and that has the most healing effects for us, has some sort of powerful , emotional association.  Perhaps

  • the Christmas you got your first bike
  • the Christmas that your Mom gave you a baby brother or sister
  • the Christmas that the whole family went skiing or to Disney
  • OR, perhaps it’s a sad association
  • the Christmas your Grandpa died
  • the Christmas you didn’t get the present you really, really wanted
  • the Christmas a tornado, blizzard or flood struck

The idea is, though, that depending on your age, there was undoubtedly some holiday music that was popular that year that you still hear and get flooded with those memories.   So, if you want to benefits from the calming, soothing, energizing, invigorating, reassuring, or inspirational power of music, you want to go back to your childhood and start finding those songs that did that for you!

Today, with the power of You Tube, you actually search for something like “top Christmas songs of 1956.”  In my case, I was 8 years old, in the third grade, and hoping for a bicycle and a bride doll.  I also wanted many books, and maybe a few dresses or play clothes.  I had just started taking piano and probably would have loved some records of piano music or perhaps a  record player or radio of my own.  Of course, I remember “Up on the Rooftop,” “Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer,” “Frosty the Snowman,” and the songs I heard at church like “Silent Night,” “Joy to the World,” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.”  When I search for top Christmas songs of 1956, I also see “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” and “Mary’s Boy Child” with Harry Belafonte.

Just hearing those titles bring back visions of the house we lived in, my brother and sisters at that age, and what I liked to read and play with.  It’s almost like time travel, just to think of those songs!  How does that work ?  It’s all about the combination of brain chemicals, our amazing memories, and good song-writing.

If you’re feeling blue this Christmas and lonely or depressed, scared, or filled with grief, homesickness, or any sad feelings at all, I highly recommend going to YouTube and search for the top Christmas songs of the years when you were approximately 3-9, the years when you were still innocent and believed in Santa, flying reindeer, and magic of all kinds.  Ill just bet it will cheer you up for a little while, this Christmas Day!

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Healing Music and Anxiety

November 24th, 2015 · Music and Anxiety, Music Healing

Healing music is such an easy and effective way of coping with anxiety…at least temporarily!  Anxiety is a pervasive problem in everyday life today.   Music of all kinds can have the healing effect that is so desperately needed and it is so easy to use!  This is not exactly news!  Healing music is actually music that makes you feel better and that has a healing effect on YOU and your body and your life.  People get confused about healing and exactly what the term means.  Healing is not CURING!  Healing is the amelioration or improvement of symptoms.

Now what is the definition of “anxiety?”  Webster’s Dictionary says that anxiety is “an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physiological signs (as sweating, tension, and increased pulse), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it.”

Now how might music be able to help with that sort of feeling?  How might music make a difference when you’re experiencing a sense of “impending doom?”  This is a very individual choice and there are several questions to ask yourself:

  • How has music helped to calm me in the recent past and what music was it?
    • Many people like movie themes from favorite movies with happy endings!
  • If I stop fidgeting and pacing and begin taking deep, rhythmic breaths, what music comes into my mind?
    • For me, Dvorak’s ‘Going Home’ from the New World Symphony comes to mind!
  • What are some of the pieces from my childhood that I sang at home or at school or at church, that I find comforting
    • Many people have told me that “Silent Night,” “Jesus Loves Me,” and even “Hush Little Baby,” have calmed them down when they are worrying about something over which they have no control.”

The ideal thing is to make a list of favorite calming music, when you’re NOT feeling anxious or worrying.  Then your brain is relaxed and freer to search around and come up with a dozen or so calming pieces.

Notice that these pieces or songs will likely have a slow to moderate tempo, be not very loud, have just one instrument or perhaps voice and one instrument, and likely have quite a bit of repetition.  Choosing to music to help calm emotions is both an art and a science, but when you’ve made yourself a great list, it will be absolutely invaluable to get you through tough times when you’d rather not take a pill or medication!

I really hope you’ll try this!

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Music stirs emotion: but how?

October 19th, 2015 · Emotional Pull of Music, Music and Emotion

Music stirs emotion, but do scientists really know how or why?  Does music make you feel emotional?  Of course it does!  But why does this happen and how can music stir up so many different emotions?  This is a question that we all ask ourselves from time to time.  We can innocently turn on the car radio, simply looking for distraction on our drive to or from work, and suddenly, there we are sobbing or tearing up, perhaps even laughing or smiling.

I had this experience, yet again, just a few weeks ago, driving home from watching a movie in the theater.  I had gone to see a decidedly un-sentimental movie and was rushing home to get back to work.  I absentmindedly turned up my car radio to hear some news.  I unexpectedly hit upon “The Prairie Home Companion,” which was almost over.  I really wasn’t paying a lot of attention to his words, when a piece of music started playing that instantly engaged me!  It was a simple piano piece to start with.  But something about the twists and turns of the melody and harmonies starting pulling powerfully at my emotions.  It released strong feelings of sadness and sorrow and deep regret.  I was so surprised because this was not a piece by a Master like Beethoven, Brahms or Chopin?  It was a very simple folk-like piece that drew on two things that I know that I respond to:  hymn-like chord progressions and modal melodies and harmonies.  There was an unmistakable wistfulness to it that made me just want to seriously boo-hoo, but also an immediate, accompanying feeling that I had to find out what this piece was and try to get either a recoding, or even better, the sheet music to it!!!

Later that night I went to the website for Prairie Home Companion and found a link to email the host.  I wrote to him, asking, imploring him to tell me what it was and where I might get a copy?  Honestly I didn’t much think I would hear back from him, but the following Tuesday, to my delight and amazement, there was an email from www.phc.com.  The lady said very nicely that they don’t sell recordings or sheet music, but directed me to the link on YouTube where I could find this!

Below is this treasured little waltz, “A Waltz for Caroline,” by the show’s pianist, Rich Dworsky.  Needless to say, I’ve become a huge fan of Rich Dworsky and am working my way through his other compositions on YouTube.  I’d love to know how YOU like and if it affects you as powerfully as it did me!!

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Healing Music with Depression and Anxiety

October 15th, 2015 · Healing Music, Music and Anxiety, Music and Emotion

Healing music is so easy to incorporate into your day, especially if you suffer from anxiety and depression!  Do you give yourself the recommended daily allowance of the music you love??  Most people listen to music on their car radios, their iPods, and their iPhones, but is it the music you really love the most?  Scientists, musicologists, music therapists, and performing musicians know that music is one of the easiest and most powerful ways to raise energy levels and increase all of those feel-good hormones that can change our moods in minutes!!  It is also very valuable with healing with depression and anxiety

Intention is everything!!  If you know the type of music that lifts your spirits and honestly makes you feel hopeful when you otherwise feel hopeless and glum, why not consciously choose to have that specific music at your fingertips 24/7?  That’s the beauty of our iPhones and iPods.  We can create 100’s of playlists of our favorite songs, pieces, show tunes, or Chopin etudes!!

Music has absolutely no negative side effects!  Although I feel that I may have had mild addictions to certain pieces of music, they usually resolve themselves after a couple of weeks.  There are certain songs/pieces that, if they come on the radio as I pull into my driveway, I simply cannot turn the car off until the entire piece is over!  Have you experienced that?  Music is as powerful as any drug, without the negative side-effects.  Before taking drugs for anxiety or depression, trying creating a new playlist of your favorite upbeat, energizing music.  There’s nothing wrong with taking anti-anxiety or depression medications, but the less, the better!

Here is one of my favorite upbeat songs:

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Healing Music comes in many forms

September 30th, 2015 · Healing Music, Music Healing, Music in the Hospital, Music Medicine, Surgery with Music

Alice and Heidi

Dr. Cash and colleague conduct a drumming and chanting workshop at the University of Louisville Alumni Center

Have you experienced the healing power of music?  Since the beginning of time, humans have been powerfully drawn to rhythm, to harmony and to melody.  The original “music” consisted of the sounds of nature:  waves lapping the shore, the wind through the pines and palms, the babbling brook and the gentle rain.

Today, every country has their own unique styles of music and some of it is likely to be healing for those people who grew up hearing it.  In order for music to be truly healing for someone, it must be soothing and comforting, and that usually means that it has some familiarity to it.

Music from far-away places on the globe can sometimes be very foreign to our ears.  For example, much much in India is written for instruments and voices that can produce quarter tones.  Our ears are not used to that sound and to me, it sounds kind of like “whining.”  For those that grew up with that tuning system, however, it is very beautiful and very emotional.

When I am putting together playlists for my Surgical Serenity Solutions, I try to choose music that is soothing and calming, but that also represents other cultures around the world, and other styles of music.  Our original playlist is classical piano music, but the pieces that I chose are mostly unfamiliar, because when one is going into surgery, one does not want to hear something that might possibly be connected to an unpleasant memory.

When I am asked to meet with a patient who is in pain or suffering emotionally, I need to know in advance, if possible, what kind of music they are drawn to and what kind of music they have enjoyed throughout their lives.  The music that I prefer is irrelevant, unless they just happen to like the same kinds of music that I do.  Many people tell me “No rap music, ” or “No country music,” or “No opera!”  I always think it’s interesting when people tell me first, which music they do NOT want to hear!  I think that’s because music is so powerful and so personal, we just don’t want to take a chance at having our ears bombarded with something we know we don’t like!!

What kind of music would YOU want to hear played in your hospital room, if you were feeling ill, in pain or emotionally distraught?  I”m hoping to make some new CDs soon and would love to make something that YOU like!

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NPR story on Music with Surgery documents the benefits!

August 13th, 2015 · Dangers of anesthesia, joint replacement surgery, Music and Dental Surgery, Music and Eye Surgery, Music and Surgery, out-patient surgery with music, Surgery with Music

Surgery with music is a topic that I’ve spent that last 25 years writing and speaking about.  It is such an easy yet powerful intervention for the patient who is filled with anxiety and dread

Now this wonderful meta-analysis has been published in the “Lancet,” a prestigious and highly respected British medical journal.  I would love for people to share this study on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or any other social media that you might use!  Thanks so much.  Our goal is to have the Surgical Serenity Solution in every operating room in the US by 2018, and every OR in the world by 2020!!  Help us achieve that goal!!  Thanks so much!

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Children and Pain: Study looks at Power of Music

July 30th, 2015 · Anesthesia Waking up, Music and Cancer, Music and Pain

Have you ever had a child in the hospital?  That alone is a painful and frightening experience for parent and child, but imagine if your child has to have surgery, and after surgery, is in pain.  As a mother of three and grandmother of four, I can’t imagine anything more frustrating for a parent.  No one wants to see their child in pain; but no one wants to see their child on heavy pain medicine either.

Researchers, who had a personal motive, (because of a previous positive experience with a hospitalized loved one) decided to do a specific study with hospitalized children.   They divided the children into three groups and allowed one group to choose their favorites from Miley Cyrus, etc.  Another group got to choose a favorite story being read through headphones.  The third group listened to silence through comfy, noise-cancelling headphones.

What do you think they found?  Let’s let NPR tell the story!!


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