Listen up melody makers–you are healers! Yes, healers. New research shows that music not only calms the savage beast, it helps people heal. It can also diminish symptoms in dying people, and this new study shows that some are requesting just that–their favorite music as they prepare to pass on. Beautiful…and sensible. I love it.

Music as an art form uses sound as its medium. Although an integral part of every culture, there is no universal concept defining music other than “sound through time.” In our modern culture, though, music is being used in a therapeutic sense. Music therapy, a discipline being taught at major universities and professional schools, is helping sick people palliatively–that is, to reduce the severity of symptoms, so that patients can enjoy some improvements to their quality of life.

Music therapy helps people with Alzheimer’s remember; it helps autistic children calm down; it helps premature babies, children with disabilities, and seniors with dementia. It helps people improve their medical conditions as well as improve their lives. Whether life is just beginning, or whether it’s winding down, music therapy holds something for everyone, as we are all moved by the music we love.

In the study, approximately 200 people aged 24 to 87 with chronic or advanced illnesses, such as cancer, pain disorders, AIDS or sickle cell disease received music therapy, where they were allowed to choose the music they heard (Lady Gaga, anyone?). Physical and psychological tests were performed before and after the therapy sessions. The researchers found that music therapy decreased patient anxiety, pain and shortness of breath. Nice. And more than 80% of the patients said the music improved their mood, as well as that of their family members.

Certified music therapists not only play music (they must be well versed in several genres to accommodate a wide range of musical tastes) they must also study psychology, physiology and other health disciplines. Music therapists do indeed provide sounds, yet they also help with a vast array of physical, emotional, and social issues.

I find this practice of music therapy to be in perfect tempo, as more and more people are passing on without religiosity. My perspective is that for most people (those not going suddenly), moving on must be somewhat frightening. Without spiritual hope to lessen the fear, music might be able to help ease the transition. What better way to leave this plane than by being accompanied by one’s favorite music. Ice Cube, take me away.

Seriously, I believe that music is the divine sound of the universe. It does heal. Anybody who has listened to music to create or amplify a mood knows exactly what I’m talking about. Music accompanies me everywhere, and unless I’m blessed enough to go in a snap…it’ll follow me to the light, too.

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