Music for Healing: An Ancient Art and Science

Music for Healing

Music for Healing

Do you believe that the use of music for healing is a recent, “New Age” phenomenon?  Of course not!  Music has been used for healing purposes, both physical and emotional since ancient times.  Historians know that music has soothed and comforted humans for thousands of years, and actually, music was routinely prescribed for the sick person in ancient Greece and Rome, along with whatever medicinal or herbal prescription was recommended.  There are treatises from many well-known Greek scholars, such as Pythagorous, that talk about healing aspects of music and how to use the powers of melody and rhythm.   In ancient time, before we had our current system of scales and Major/minor keys,  there existed an entirely different system known as modes.  Each mode was thought to have it’s own healing capabilities, depending on the symptoms of the suffering patient.  The ancient Greek modes are:

Aeolian  A-A on the piano

Locrian  B-B on the piano

Ionian C-C

Dorian  D-D

Phrygian E-E

Lydian  F-F

Mixolydian  G-g

Even before the Greeks and Romans, ancient men and women knew that chanting and drumming were powerful ways to deal with physical and emotional issues.  They also knew that the sounds of nature, such as bird songs, waves lapping the shore, and wind through the trees were soothing and comforting.  Many ethnomusicologists and anthropologists believe that the earliest human attempts at making music were actually attempts to re-create the music of nature.  Many and varied instruments were created from reeds, hollowed out tree trunks and other materials available.  Not too long ago an ancient flute was discovered in the ruins of what was Sumeria. It was fashioned from the bone of a bird!

Even through the Middle Ages, and into the Renaissance and Classical Era, music was accepted as a viable and logical method of healing, along with more traditional medicinal remedies.   When the Industrial Revolution started in about 1740, everything focused on technology.  As the world became more mechanized,  people began to be more and more skeptical of natural healing modalities and music fell into the realm of “superstition” and “old wives’tales.”   Music as a healing modality faded more and more into the past until about 1950.  At that time, soldiers were returning from World War II and being treated in the Veteran’s Hospitals.  When the “Big Band” groups would come and play for the men and woman, staff observed that for some of the patients, that was the only time during the day that the patients would “light up” and respond to their environment, because of the music.

After this, the profession of music therapy began and since then, music therapy, music healing, sound healing, Music medicine and other related fields have skyrocketed in recognition, acceptance and popularity.

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