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Healing Power of Music

Posted 2/16/2015

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  We use music in many different ways: to relax, to enjoy, to get us up and moving, to sooth battered spirits. Yesterday, for example, was a multi music use day in my house. As everyone in the Boston area knows all too well, we have mountains of snow (the piles by the walkway are literally above my head), and it is zero degrees. Like many others in Boston, we ice dam issues, and I don't feel that I have any right to complain as we were in warm, sunny Vietnam and missed two weeks of this arctic tundra.

  Yesterday, I shoveled to work-out type music (meaning mostly rock and roll), read the paper, drinking tea, to Beethoven, and cooked to jazz. As I obsessed each time over what to choose, I thought about the enormous value of music in our lives, and its' healing power. If you are a patient at BIDMC, you likely are aware that we have wonderful harpists who sit at various spots around the Medical Center to play for us. There is a whole field of music therapy; there are hospice choral groups who go into homes of very ill or even dying people. 

My support group for women with Stage IV breast cancer met a few days ago; it was a particularly close and poignant meeting as one woman spoke of her progressive disease and her loss of her former "sunny self." We talked about how we care for ourselves, ways to replenish our emotional bank accounts, how we manage on dark days. Thinking about our discussion, I remembered this list that another woman, also living with Stage IV breast cancer, sent to me some months ago. She and I maintain an intermittent conversation, and I am always moved by her thoughtfulness.
This list was stimulated by a talk we had about healing--specifically about the different between healing and curing. She reminded me of the power of music to soothe and comfort and later sent this list of her own favorites. There is powerful medicine in these notes, and I hope that some of you will also share the music you play to heal your heart. As overplayed as it has become (I was especially horrified when I heard it as background for a commercial), one of my favorites is Pachelbel's Canon. Twenty seven years ago, when I was pregnant, I played it daily while I relaxed and then did my Lamaze breathing exercises. When my daughter was 12 and the Canon came on the radio, she yawned and put her head down on the table, saying: "I don't understand it, but that music always makes me so relaxed and sleepy." Music in her soul. What sings in yours?
Shari's List
From my daughter's fiddle teacher (also 1st violinist in Boston Philharmonic)
-One of my favourite all-time works is Händel Water Music (the complete, not just a suite of it). Random others:
-any works of Chopin (I can immerse myself in Chopin, especially with eyes closed.); -Beethoven piano sonatas; -Beethoven quartets; -Bartok Concerto for Orchestra; -Debussy piano works; -Bach Brandenburg Concerti;
- Bach Orchestral Suites;
-Beethoven Symphonies Nos. 2 and 4, of course also Nos. 6 and 8; -Mendelssohn Italian Symphony;....
From a good friend from college:
k.d. lang, esp. Hymns of the 49th Parallel
>>Bach cello suites, esp. played by Matt Haimovitz Beethoven Piano
>>Sonatas Schubert, Trout Quintet Pat Metheny, esp. One Quiet Night Judy
>>Collins Crosby, Stills & Nash Phoebe Snow Yo-Yo Ma Sweet Honey in the
From my yoga teacher:
Joni Mitchell, Laura Nyro and maybe some early Miles Davis, Sarah Vaughn (her Brazilian iinspired album)....
And a cellist friend from yoga who introduced me to Hikare Oe, who I enjoy:
Lorraine Hunt Lieberson singing Bach or Leonard Cohen Songs or any number of Yo Yo Ma collections and selections.
This is a post that would especially benefit from your comments and additions to the list. To leave a comment: CLICK ON THE NUMBER NEXT TO THE WORD "COMMENTS"
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  • Liz said:
    2/20/2015 6:44 PM

    I have considered Haydn's Cello Concerto #1 the soundtrack to my cancer journey.
    Movement 1 is before; happiness, joy and in control.
    Movement 2 is during; grief, despair, sadness with very brief but unsustainable moments of optimism.
    Movement 3 is positive, uplifting and with a new energy.
    I can't wait to get there, to movement 3.