The Healing Power of Music

By The Columbia Chronicle

The long-awaited hour finally arrived and a woman’s voice sounded loudly over the speakers: “The store will be closing in five minutes.” Last-minute shoppers raced to the cosmetic counters pleading to make one final purchase before the exhausted sales associates closed the register. Avoiding the eyes of a potential nightmare (excuse me, customer), I grabbed my belongings in a mad rush to make it to the subway before the el, a.k.a. “soul train,” crawled along the tracks to slowly take me to my usual destination, 95th St., the end of the line.

I was in no mood to give another person advice about which lipstick matched best with their complexion, and if one more woman asked me to give her a make over, while I stood there in my coat, I would have lost my sanity. My feet were screaming for relief, my lower back ached endlessly — my nerves were shot. I felt beat down and disgusted with retail, people, and the cute black shoes I chose to wear despite the excruciating pain they always cause.

To make matters worse the train was packed with no empty seat in sight. Whenever I board, I’m reminded that chivalry is dead. All the men are sitting down, leaving the women to fight for standing room. By the time I made it home all I could think about was passing out. When I entered my living room I plopped down on the sofa, grabbed the stereo remote, and used the tiny amount of strength I had left to press the small red button labeled “power.” The soulful sounds of Branford and Ellis Marsalis, two remarkable jazz artists, filled the room.

Instantly, I began to feel renewed. The memories of the hectic day at work soon faded away. My body was relaxed, my mind at ease. Music is a powerful entity. This art form has known to evoke emotional and physical responses in people. The use of music as therapy is what interests me the most. Just recently, I read an article in Upscale that discussed the spiritual, healing effects of it.

The article said that music has been used to treat patients with developmental and learning disabilities, Alzheimer’s disease, substance abuse problems, and people who suffer from chronic pain, including women in labor. Wow, I always knew music was magical, based on my personal experiences, but I was ignorant to the extent of its abilities. The article also said that music is used in hospitals in conjunction with anesthesia to elevate patient’s moods or induce calmness.

In her article, “Tuning in to the power of music,” Janalea Hoffman, a registered music therapist, said, “Several researches have demonstrated that the right hemisphere of the brain, which has to do with feelings, imagery, dreams, and even the unconscious, is activated by music.” She said that through music people are often able to recall lost or suppressed experiences. Ladies, remember the time your boyfriend made a careless comment that was offensive or just downright insensitive?

You might have given him a piece of your mind, then told him to go you-know-where. Later you heard the song that was playing the first time you met. It brought back memories of how much you enjoyed each other’s company and it wasn’t long before you decided that what he said wasn’t so bad after all. Music has the same emotional impact on children.

My little friend Mia is three years old. From the time she was in her mother’s womb she responded to the sound of music by forming her body into a tight ball or kicking. Mia was a year old when the theme song, “Mama,” from the movie “Soul Food” was released. Every time the song was played on the radio she’d cry. I was bewildered; she had never seen the movie. She’s a baby; surely she couldn’t understand the lyrics. As time passed, Mia began speaking a little more clearly. I asked her why the song makes her cry. Her voice was a soft whisper when she responded, “That song makes me sad.”

In the evening when I come home, the first thing I do is turn the radio on. This helps me unwind and relieve the pressures of a long day. Life is the ultimate challenge (especially when you’re in school), and there are obstacles that we must overcome every day. Music may not be able to solve all the issues at hand, but it can aid in clearing our minds so that we can see things in a better perspective. Many of us listen to it but don’t realize how much it affects the way we think. Music can give us hope when things go wrong.

It understands you when no one else does. It’s happy when you are and is always there when you need it. So the next time you feel restless, fed up with society or your professor (whichever comes first), or life is grand and you’re in the mood to celebrate, don’t go to the nearest liquor store; simply turn on your favorite tune and enjoy.