Its probably fairly well understood to most people today that music is strong therapeutic. The writer Oliver Sacks has composed and contributed to many novels on the topic of how music effects the mind. Its been used in mental health facilities, senior citizens homes and even to empower those with developmental delays of many types. Most of this type of music is either instrumental European classical or folk songs specifically designed for the occasion. Over the years however,the music on our record players and the radio can be just as easily therapeutic on the more personal level. Interestingly enough, there is an element of society that has rejected music as a source of at least personal therapy outside the clinical setting. The perception on that level is that music on the popular level is exploitative and a mere symptom of rampant consumer culture. This is a media created impression that have given many,sometimes including myself,that some of the difficult problems we face have no song sung to fit to them. This has an almost universally negative effect. I have my own feelings as to why that I am sure will be shared by other’s who are concerned for similar reasons.
One of the names one will find me mentioning consistently in my writings is Dr. Helen Caldicott. She made many self sacrifices to herself in order to use her knowledge of medicine and human nature to describe the dangerous of atomic power in medical terminology. And I will use a term that that coined herself in one of her stirring lectures. We live in a terminally ill society at the moment. All one has to do is go into the periodical section of their local Wallgreens as I did today and find a front page newspaper or magazine article that is either insulting or degrading to you. It seems as if too much is expected of everyone,contradictions once avoided have become mainstream and the entire definition of friendship has changed for the worse. Most of the time people are hearing an endless barrage of bad news. And signals that their input doesn’t matter,and they should just take care of themselves. There are many reasons for this. But when a patient is terminally ill, a doctor doesn’t say “well this patient is dying and we’ll take them straight to the mortuary “. They will put the patient in the intensive care unit. And they will delicately balance the electrolytes and body functions,and try to eradicate the infecting organism. And sometimes the patient survives.
On the day after my birthday today, I felt so discouraged and depressed. I thought of all the music I loved. All the soul and “people music” that speaks directly to dealing with humanity. Sadly my level of sadness is often so heavy when I experience that emotion that I too feel as if no music,no melody,no lyric tells the story I seek. So I decided to take a walk around where I lived. Without my camera so I would be able to better listen to the world surrounding me rather than just see it through the third eye of my camera that has bought me so much joy and understanding. I saw the blue sky,spring flowers in bloom,grass as green as it could be. It was very very beautiful. And I heard the light wind rustling,birds singing. Even the rhythms of my footfalls upon the ground. Nature seemed to provide the melodies and the rhythms,as well as the visual beauty all at once. Than I heard the loud shriek of a child crying. I walked past this area and saw a woman near the child yelling at what sounded like someone at her job. She looked furious. And the child was hers,and the child was crying as she screamed at someone else. To extend the metaphor,I had reached the middle of society’s intensive care unit.
A few years ago I heard an album that changed my life. It was Healing by Todd Rundgren. Apparently after John Lennon’s assassination, a man held up Todd and his pregnant wife hostage in his own home-taunting him with his own songs and blaming Todd for John’s murder. This inspired Todd to write a concept album about the possibility of a supremely powerful being born to a human family and his desire to help others. Sadly most people in their half sighted ignorance only made a biblical connection to this-equating Todd’s characterization with Jesus Christ and believing that this musical work touted the viewpoints of an overly revised, often hate mongering text. What Todd was saying on this music went beyond mere organized religion. On the opening song he stated this manifesto very clearly: “It’s time to make the world a little wiser/there are enough destroyers and criticizers/what we need is a healer”. It makes sense to me that if the humanistic elements of music,especially those found in soul/funk and albums such as Todd’s Healing, could bring people to be more loving and accepting of differences-to genuinely appreciate and even enjoy them without the dogma of a hate filled person with an economically based agenda? Perhaps musical therapy would indeed make the people of this physically beautiful world a little more mentally and emotionally wiser.