Music as therapy

My morning routine usually involves clicking around to a lot of newspapers and news sites to assess the state of things. I’m pretty good at understanding that typical daily news coverage is going to emphasize conflicts, challenges, and problems. But today’s flyover underscored my feeling that our chances to get things right are dwindling on so many levels.

In search of a positive mood fix, I went to YouTube in search of my favorite music video, that of the incomparable British pianist Jack Gibbons playing his singularly brilliant rendition of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” (link here). It’s fourteen sublime minutes. I have played this video — or favorite parts of it — countless dozens of times, and it never fails to bring my spirit into a different, better space.

I am hardly alone in recognizing the therapeutic gifts of music. As explained on one health care site (link here):

“Across the history of time, music has been used in all cultures for healing and medicine,” explains health psychologist Shilagh Mirgain, PhD. “Every culture has found the importance of creating and listening to music. Even Hippocrates believed music was deeply intertwined with the medical arts.”

Scientific evidence suggests that music can have a profound effect on individuals – from helping improve the recovery of motor and cognitive function in stroke patients, reducing symptoms of depression in patients suffering from dementia, even helping patients undergoing surgery to experience less pain and heal faster. And of course, it can be therapeutic.

So, if you find your spirits flagging for any reason, then you might try listening to — or even singing or performing — some of your favorite music. It may not change the extant circumstances that sent you into a bluer state, but it might help to lift you out of it.

***

P.S. Oh, and a story about Jack Gibbons. For years I had said that one of my time travel fantasies would be to find myself in the New York City concert hall where Gershwin first performed “Rhapsody in Blue” in 1924. In 1998, I was attending a continuing legal education program in Oxford, England, and saw a poster promoting a Gibbons concert featuring Gershwin music. I was unfamiliar with Gibbons at the time, but I bought myself a ticket. Was I in for a treat?! His finishing number at the end of this glorious concert was “Rhapsody in Blue.” I told friends that I now know what it felt like to hear Gershwin perform it back in 1924.

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