On the heels of President Barack Obama receiving huge applause for his singing (in great voice, I might add) a few lines from Al Green’s classic “Let’s Stay Together” at a campaign event held this past Thursday at the Apollo Theatre in New York, I thought this would be the perfect foray into discussing some of the compelling (and very cool) scientific evidence concerning the powers of music.
For example, apparently music really does trigger an attitude adjustment: According to a 2008 study titled, “Effects of music listening on adult patients' pre-procedural state anxiety in hospital,” listening to music has a “consistently positive and statistically significant effect” on reducing anxiety. In other words – and as beautifully stated by the playwright and poet William Congreve, back in 1697, “Music [really does] hath charms to soothe the savage breast.”
Arguably more impressive, a 2011 Cochrane Review study (which are massive studies of studies), titled, “Music interventions for improving psychological and physical outcomes in cancer patients” suggests that “music interventions may have beneficial effects on anxiety, pain, mood, and QoL [Quality of Life] in people with cancer.” And generally speaking, listening to music has been found “to reduce heart rate, respiratory rate and blood pressure.”
There are also studies that suggest music can help people suffering with Alzheimer’s disease (as well as their caretakers), such as a 2009 feasibility study titled, “Impact of music therapy on anxiety and depression for patients with Alzheimer's disease and on the burden felt by the main caregiver.”
Further, ongoing clinical studies on the effects of music have shown “beyond any doubt that music improves the precision of fine movements, walking, posture control …[and as well]…The positive effects of music on the motor parameters in patients affected by Parkinson or Alzheimer disease, multiple sclerosis, ataxia, or spasticity have been amply demonstrated.” How amazing is that?
So what types of music are best? Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t have to be Mozart or Bach.
Here’s the thing: Not unlike wine (i.e., people’s tastes vary), what types of music speaks to you or your loved one is a matter of personal preference. My personal favorites include Bonnie Raitt – who’s releasing her first new CD in 7 years come April, titled "Slipstream"; the Patty Reese Band – who’s sultry, smoky voice is out of this world; and an amazing up and comer (that you probably never heard of), called the Cousin John Band who just released their debut CD, titled "Jellyfish" – whose bluesy, honkey tonk vibe makes it veritably impossible for me not to dance.
So, the next time you or a loved one is need of some soothing or a pick-me-up (along with following your doctor’s orders, of course!), try cranking up the volume of your favorite musical artists. It may strike just the right chord.