Hopefully we look forward, once again, to a most welcome event, a conference on a subject that had been considered vital to life since the dawn of human awareness— the healing effect of music— for prescribing the necessary panacea. From July 19, the Centre for Music Therapy, a unit of the university known as Sri Balaji Vidyapith, Puducherry, will host the International Health Research Convention, 2019, to discuss the issue. As announced by its Vice-Chancellor, Dr S C Parija, the collaborators in the event are Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, and IMC University of Applied Sciences, Austria.
During the past one and half century, numerous experiments have been carried out on this subject in several countries and practically each endeavour had presented positive messages asserting the almost magically beneficent therapeutic role of music on a vast range of illnesses—from Alzheimer’s to cancer. The concept can no longer be considered a mere hypothesis. One wonders why no concrete steps are taken by health services all over the world for applying the findings in a planned manner. We hope the forthcoming conference will advise the WHO to take the necessary steps.
Hundreds of reports on the subject are published in journals and books and one interested can find them without much difficulty. This author’s purpose is to alert the champions of the cause about the adverse conditions they must fight out to ensure the success of this semi-occult aid to the process of recovery. It is semi-occult because it is based on the subtle law of harmony that governs the creation and our life. From the rhythms of our heartbeat to the cycle of day and night and the phenomena that are the universe, time and space, all are attuned to rhythmic patterns of various magnitudes. All sorts of disharmony and discordance, individual, global or universal, are transient disorientations which the fundamental and irresistible law of rhythm strives to set right sooner or later.
According to occult knowledge the reorientation is achieved by the release of a fresh wave from the inexhaustible source of harmony. One of the most ancient myths on the divine role of music in healing runs like this: Once while the god-sage Narada, after one of his trips to the earth was returning to his heaven-abode through the Himalayas, he met with a tribe of radiant Gundharvas, demi-gods, the presiding spirits of different Ragas (the mystic modes of music). He found that each one of those charming beings looked rather deformed or even mutilated. On inquiry they revealed to the sage that every now and then when a musician distorts a Raga, its presiding spirit receives a blow.
Thousands of blows had reduced them to that pitiable state. An embarrassed Narada—himself a musician—wished to know what could heal them. “Only if we could listen to the perfect singer, Lord Siva,” they informed. Narada went and persuaded the great God for a demonstration, but He could sing only if there was at least one perfect listener in His audience. And there were only two perfect listeners, Vishnu and Brahma. Both happily came over for the rare feast along with the Gundharvas. Siva sang out of his celestial silence and the vibrations of his voice achieved the expected. (Not relevant in this context though, the later part of the myth says that identified with the flowing music, a layer of the entranced Vishnu’s aura melted and Brahma captured the flow in His Kamandalu. That was the origin of Ganga, later to become a river and descend to earth.)
Now to our purpose: today the formidable dangers to this subtle power of harmony that is music are two. First, the bizarre noise surpassing the absorbing capacity of our senses. In India we have not made any tangible estimate of the damage it causes, but according to a report by a French NGO, extracts from which were published in some papers, residents of Paris lose three healthy life-years “to some combination of ailments caused by the din of cars, trucks, airplanes and trains”. In India where we have people who love to drive bikes with gadgets added to produce the loudest possible sound, the situation must be worse.
The second menace is the anti-music passing as music. It has been trying to invade the Indian milieu for years now, though sporadically. Beware of the invasion nevertheless, because of what it had done somewhere else. I quote only a little from Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom:
“The rock music has one appeal only, a barbaric appeal, to sexual desire undeveloped and untutored. It acknowledges the first emanation of children’s emerging sensuality and addresses them seriously, eliciting them and legitimating them, not as little sprouts that must be carefully tended in order to grow into gorgeous flowers, but as the real thing. Rock gives children, on a silver platter, with all the public authority of the entertainment industry, everything their parents used to tell them they had to wait for until they grew up and would understand later…
“Ministering to and according with the arousing and cathartic music, the lyrics celebrate puppy love and fortify them against traditional ridicule and shame…This has a much more powerful effect than pornography.”Success of music therapy will depend to a great extent on the society realising the do’s and don’ts for it. That could be possible through education at the primary stage, among other cautions.
Author and recipient of several awards, including the Sahitya Akademi Fellowship