The year 2020 was a tough one for the entire world, and my family was no exception. In June of that year, my father, an eminent CTVS surgeon, contracted COVID-19 and passed away within a week of being admitted to the ICU. It all happened quickly, and we had no idea how to deal with it. To make matters worse, the lockdown norms were strict, and we couldn’t have anyone come over to console us during this challenging time.

The shock of my father’s sudden demise was so intense that I couldn’t even cry. I felt like I was in a daze, and my mind couldn’t comprehend what had happened. That’s when I decided to retreat to my studio, lock myself in, and put on my headphones. I stumbled upon a song called Dheivangal from the movie Kedi Billa Killadi Ranga, and within ten seconds of listening to it, I found myself crying like a baby.

It’s hard to explain, but that song became my outlet for grief when I was all alone. It helped me process my emotions and come to terms with the loss of my father. Even though it’s been months since his passing, I still find myself listening to that song, and it brings me comfort and peace in my moments of missing him.

Since its advent on this planet, music has always played a part in expressing happiness and anger, even in civil wars or our freedom struggles.

But is music an alternative to evidence-based drug therapies?
Music is a waveform. When it hits the eardrums, it translates the vibrations felt by it into electrical waveforms and sends it to the brain via a neuronal cell network to decipher the melody using a complex electrical wave algorithm in both sides of the temporal lobe

This, in turn, stimulates the hormonal glands to secrete hormones like dopamine from the pituitary gland, which is considered a happy hormone. Or adrenaline from the pituitary gland to evoke anger or sadness caused by a drop in the secretion of serotonin.

So, there are many such complex neuronal and hormonal activities that music can evoke.

Epilepsy results from abnormal electrical activity in the brain, leading to a state resembling a computer freeze. While many cases can be effectively managed with medication or surgery, those that are resistant to treatment are known as refractory focal epileptics. A study involving exposure to Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos at 40 Hertz revealed that 84% of participants experienced reduced epilepsy episodes, as indicated by a meta-analysis.

Another study by Rauscher et al. in 1993 revealed that listening to the same sonata helped the subject solve complex problems and improved their reasoning

Alzheimer‘s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease is when the person can progressively lose his memory. It’s the most common type of dementia.

Medication is of little value. Researchers have found that a custom playlist of the affected patients improved their memory recall. But it’s only supportive and medication needs to be still taken. Family members can create a playlist of the patient’s favourite songs to help the doctors initiate this supportive therapy.

In the movie Rain Man, Tom Cruise’s girlfriend plays a Frank Sinatra song and teaches Dustin Hoffman, an autistic character, to waltz. The romantic number gets him moving and expresses his love for the opposite sex. Music therapy for autistic individuals has been utilised since the 1950s, improving their social interaction skills

The other side
Music therapy is also known to have a significant impact on cardiovascular disease, COPD, depression, anxiety and learning disabilities.

But what’s the other side of the coin?
The human hearing spectrum is between
20 Hertz to 20,000 Hertz

Consistently listening to 40Hertz is very uncomfortable, leading to hearing fatigue, and can reduce the efficacy of the treatment.

The accessibility of music is widespread, but its holistic value can only be fully harnessed by a select group of music therapists worldwide.

Mangalam – Outro
Mangalam is a style of song in Carnatic music that is used to depict the end of the concert. But this is not the end.

The story of music therapy is ongoing. my friend Dr Mohan David, an accomplished pianist, did his music therapy at Berklee College of Music Boston. He used to play the piano to alleviate his therapy sessions and became a piano virtuoso by the age of 5, much before the time of Lydian Nadhaswaram. Dr Mohan had enormous grasping power and could solve complex mathematics. Lydian’s protege may be because he was surrounded by music while in his mother’s womb.

A study states that music increases the number of grey cells when an individual is exposed to music early in life. That’s why it is imperative to have a child learn music during the early stages of their life.

Listening to music can add value and positivity to your life, whether you’re feeling unwell or not. Creating playlists tailored to your moods can be a great way to bring comfort and joy to your day.

Happy listening!