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Music in the Operating Room

Nymph Kellerman

We trust that the magic of sound, scientifically applied, will contribute in ever greater measure to the relief of human suffering, to a higher development and a richer integration of the human personality, to the harmonious synthesis of all human notes of all group chords and melodies - until there will be the greater symphony of the One Humanity.

Roberto Assagioli M.D.

Music can be employed as assistance in obtaining physical, emotional and spiritual health. During the first half of the nineties, I investigated the therapeutic consequences of distinct types of music on patients under adequate anaesthesia. This investigation was done in Johannesburg at the Garden City Clinic, over a period of four years (1991-1995), with statistics done at the Witwatersrand university, Data available on investigations done to test the therapeutic benefits of music, would fill a library of its own. That was not what was done. The effect of music with a known therapeutic value, was investigated on patients under adequate anaesthesia - testing for reduction in pain levels and a shorter recovery period. It is an accepted dictum in psychology that people in a deep sleep, coma or under anaesthesia can hear (not remember). That the auditory pathways up to the auditory cortex actually remain open and untouched Music has powerful effects on people, whether they are educated in music or not. Wertheim (1961) states that muscle perception and performance is an inborn capacity of the human brain. This ability is common among human beings and is independent of education or culture .. This makes the application of music as a therapy, or music as an aid to any other therapy, very simple.

Science, Medicine and Anthropology have completed many years of investigation on the effect of music on the physical body. As early as 1830, articles were published During the first half of the previous century, many investigators throughout Europe agreed that music increases metabolism in a very adequate way, and that it changes muscular energy and enhances respiration.

The positive effects of music on physical and psychological health are truly widespread. In an article on music as cause of disease and healing agent, Assagioli (1965) states that through its influence upon the subconscious, music can have a still more definite and specific healing effect of a psychoanalytic character. If of an appropriate kind, it can help in eliminating repression and resistance and bring into the field of waking consciousness many drives, emotions and complexes which were creating difficulties in the subconscious .

It is known that certain kinds of music have the ability to reduce pain, whether it is physical or emotional. Scarantino (1987) states that Pythagoras of Samos taught his students that certain musical sequences, chords and melodies produced definite responses in the human organism, and could change behaviour patterns that accelerated healing processes

In a further discussion Scarantino states In the 1970`s, Bulgarian researchers, under the direction of Dr. Georgi Lazanov, discovered a holistic approach to learning, that allows the body and mind to work in harmony through the linking of music and verbal suggestions . While listening to largo movements from works of Baroque era composers, with tempos slower than the average heartbeat (sixty beats per minute or slower), the vital signs of test subjects slows down in rhythm with the music, relaxing them physically but leaving their minds alert for the assimilation of information. When the various educational data was presented to the students while the music played in the background, the students experienced significant increases in awareness and retention of information and a whole repertoire of health benefits, including relief from pain and headaches ..

Relief of physical pain and stress was also observed during the investigation at the Garden City Clinic, Johannesburg. A double blind experiment was performed to investigate the effect of four different genres of music on the pain, discomfort and recovery levels of patients undergoing total abdominal hysterectomies and laparotomies, and it was found that patients who received music had lower pain- and stress levels, specifically with the use of Mozart`s piano concertos.

Baroque Music (1600-1750) Music of this period is characterized Well known composers from this era are: Bach, H??ndel, Vivaldi, Teleman and Corelli.

Classical Music (1750-1825) During the 18th century a movement called The Age of Reason began amongst philosophers such as Voltaire, Locke and Jefferson, who believed that the world could be controlled through reason and science. During this period it was believed that there had to be a reason for everything, and an all-over simplicity was sought that was not known in earlier centuries. The Classical period in music tends to be associated with this movement, and composers perfected the forms of classical music such as the sonata, symphony and concerto. Music from this period tends to be easier listening for the musically unsophisticated.

Well known composers from this era are: Mozart and Haydn.

Romantic Music (1825-1900) Composers from this era wanted to overwhelm their listeners and wanted to melt their hearts . The main focus was on the melody and the romantic themes tended to be lyrical.

Well known composers from this era are: Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky.



The combination of breath- and music therapy provides a powerful tool in establishing the physical and emotional health of the individual.

Nymph completed her L.T.C.L. in music and drama, and obtained a B.A. Psychology and Philosophy a few years later. She trained as formal singer under various renowned vocal advisers and performed in numerous concerts, recitals, and oratorios. After a car accident that lead to a few neuro surgeries, she began investigating the benefits of deep relaxation and wrote a few books and numerous articles on the subject.

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Perspective on performances for elementary-Level piano students

American Music Teacher , June-July, 2003 by Ruth Burnham

Like all the arts, music is a source of pleasure for many people, not only musicians. Unlike the other arts, however, it generally must be performed to be enjoyed by its audience. Thus, public performance has become an unquestioned and highly prominent aspect of music study at every level. Kindergarteners are taught to sing songs for their parents; elementary school bands perform at school functions; high school orchestras give public concerts featuring solos by their most accomplished players. And, every spring, countless piano teachers present recitals, marching their students out on stage, one by one, to play from memory in front of an audience. The piano recital is, in fact, a long-standing tradition. Yet many students find the prospect of performing alone, on stage, before a crowd filled with unfamiliar faces intimidating, to say the least. The nervousness that can result from such intimidation often negatively affects the performances of those new to the stage. Sadly, one bad experience frequently is enough to deter many children from further piano study, thus robbing them and others of musical enjoyment.

One might legitimately question the necessity of public performance for elementary-level students. To most children, the typical recital setting--a large stage, empty except for a piano--is unfamiliar, unnatural and, thus, confusing. Stephen Zolper, a piano teacher, recalls an elementary student, in dress rehearsal, who was quite taken aback by the unfamiliar instrument on which he was to perform. "This piano is different from mine," he said. "Where do I put my hands?" (1) Zolper also addresses the precarious position in which children are placed when they are put on stage He likens public performance to driving down a narrow, winding road. "The process of publicly navigating a musical roadway places enormous pressure on students . The event often becomes a trauma rather than a celebration of achievements." (2)

Because public performance is just that--public--students, at their teachers" urging, may devote so much energy to polishing their performances that the rest of their musical education suffers. Keith Swanwick, in Teaching Music Musically, cites a study undertaken in 1997 at a private music school in Brazil. Twenty students, ages 11 through 13, recorded three of their musical activities: individual verbal responses to and discussions of three pieces of music; performance of three of their own musical compositions; and performance on piano of three memorized pieces by other composers. The judges assessing these recordings found, in every case, that students scored much higher when playing their own compositions or discussing music than when performing from memory. Swanwick reasons that, after practicing a set program for so long, the students may have become bored with the music, they may simply have ceased really listening to their playing or they may have focused principally on technical issues. He concl udes, "Music decision-making often seemed to go underground when they played their prepared piano pieces from memory." (3) This same phenomenon was observed as early as the sixth century. Apparently tired of mechanical performances by virtuosi, the scholar Boethius made a distinction between performers and those who were truly musically astute. "But the type which buries itself in instruments is separated from the understanding of musical knowledge. Representatives of this type devote their total effort to exhibiting their skill on instruments. Thus, they act as slaves, as has been said: For they use no reason but are totally lacking in thought." (4) The observations of Zolper, Swanwick and Boethius all suggest that public performance can have a negative effect on young musicians, both psychologically and musically.

Nonetheless, many psychological and musical arguments can be made in favor of public performance. Some piano teachers cite increased poise, confidence and motivation as benefits to students, (5) while others assert that successfully dealing with the rigors of recital preparation and performance equips children with skills they will need as adults, when they may be faced with equally intimidating situations, such as making speeches or interviewing for jobs. (6) Moreover, many musicians and psychologists contend that anxiety is not necessarily a bad thing. At certain levels, it serves in some individuals to increase attentiveness and enhance performance. Finally, students who are destined to pursue piano professionally will benefit from public performance, as it can serve to prepare them for future contests and auditions.

In a broader sense, performance is seen by many as the ultimate manifestation of musicality. David Elliot values performance because he believes that "our musical thinking and knowing are in our musical doing and making. (7) He adds that when a performer`s musical abilities are matched by the music he or she performs, the self is completely engaged and drawn toward the next level of complexity. In other words, performance can lead to personal growth. (8) Bennett Reimer, too, underscores the value of performance by equating it with creativity, that is, bringing music to life through one`s individuality. He also notes numerous "secondary benefits" that performance accords young people. Among these are discipline, responsibility, the feeling of belonging to a community and, again, personal growth, which Reimer describes as "experiences of unified, deepened, refined, extended, organized inner feelings." (9) Finally, all elementary music teachers should feel compelled to offer their students public performanc e opportunities, for in its Content Standards for Grades K-4, the Music Educators National Conference includes, "Performing on instruments, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music." (10)


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