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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Conference at UA focuses on music’s healing power

    Doctors usually prescribe medication to heal people. Allen Smith uses a didgeridoo.

    Smith, a local musician and sound healer, was one of the participants at the Symposium on Music and Medicine Friday and Saturday at Crowder Hall.

    Music – not just sound, but music – is such an amazingly complex, information-laden thing.

    Barbara Crowe, ASU music therapy program director

    Health professionals, scientists and musicians were among attendees who learned the ways music is being used to benefit health, with lecture topics ranging from language recovery to music therapy.

    Rustum Roy, a visiting professor in the College of Medicine and the former director of the materials science and engineering department at Pennsylvania State University, spoke about his research on the structures of water. Sound can affect the structure of water and further exploration of its effects could influence health care, because about 60 percent of the human body is made up of water, he said.

    Barbara Crowe, director of the Music Therapy program at Arizona State University, said there are misconceptions about music therapy.

    Music therapy is used in schools, hospitals and other settings to help people with physical and psychological disabilities and illnesses, she said, but music therapists don’t prescribe music.

    “”You can’t say, ‘Take two Mozarts and your heart will be better tomorrow,'”” Crowe said.

    Instead, music therapists help their clients reach goals by engaging with music, she said, and part of that is learning clients’ taste in music.

    “”If I’m going to a nursing home, I’m not taking in Britney Spears,”” Crowe said.

    Although the effects of music on health are evident, Crowe said the reasons for it remain unknown.

    “”If we waited for the research to prove that music therapy is an incredibly effective intervention, say for autistic children, there would be generations of autistic children that would not have benefited from what music therapy can do,”” she said.

    Music therapists don’t claim to have a “”direct, predictive physiological impact,”” she said, but instead look at the psychosocial effects of the therapy. The physiological impact is being researched as well.

    “”Music – not just sound, but music – is such an amazingly complex, information-laden thing,”” Crowe said.

    Although music can impact people physiologically, it does so in imprecise and unpredictable ways, she said.

    “”This becomes a problem if you are using it in some prescriptive way,”” Crowe said. “”Music is a complex system that interacts with the complex system of human functioning to create what we call healing and health, but we can’t really pinpoint what it is.””

    Gene Jones, founder of Opening Minds through the Arts, a national program that interweaves arts with education, said the UA has the opportunity to research how music affects the minds of children by working with OMA.

    “”If we can get them to show that, yes, there is a change that takes in the brain, and it is affected by music, then we can fine tune what were doing,”” Jones said. “”We know we’re doing good things. … We don’t know how it’s happening.””

    OMA works with Tucson Unified School District and places musicians and other artists in classrooms to teach through art.

    Six graduate students from the UA School of Music are teachers for the program, said Peter McAllister, director of the School of Music.

    McAllister said the symposium was an example of the collaborations taking place across fields of study.

    “”We’re learning how our students and faculty can connect with what’s happening in this field,”” McAllister said. “”Our best is connecting with the world’s best.””

    McAllister said the symposium was also about music’s psychological and physiological effects.

    “”A great deal of surgeons are amateur musicians. …Is it his music that made him a great surgeon? We don’t know and it’s OK, but we’re exploring how we can know more,”” he said.

    Smith said that’s why he attended the symposium, adding that he uses music to facilitate “”mental, spiritual and deep body healing.””

    “”We already know all of the things they’re now investigating,”” Smith said.

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