Consciously or unconsciously, everybody responds to music. The lilt, rhythm, gait or speed in music has the power to waft away our sorrows, disappointments or depressions. Hegel, the German philosopher had once observed that music alone is capable of expressing many nuances of emotion, and hence it is more useful than any language invented so far by the mankind. Yet another German philosopher, Arthur Schoppenhauer found music stronger, quicker and infallible than any language invented by man, as it restores all emotions of our innermost nature far removed from their pain.
Be it folk or classical, eastern or western it is a plain fact that music affects our moods. It also promises an unfailing companionship to those among us greying, and getting marginalized with age. It can work as an anodyne for those who have undergone trauma and emotional upheavals in life by way of accidents, ageing, losses of near and dear ones etc. Music helps them to get rid of their miseries and surrounds and hugs them very much like a mother, caring for her new-born.
Music and Biology
All biological activities involve patterns of rhythms similar to what we find in music. Breathing, snoring, walking, jumping, jogging, eating, nay, all the body processes such as metabolism, respiration, circulation etc. follow a definite pattern of timing and cycle. When this pattern or cycle gets badly affected, we term it as an ailment and seek for its restoration. Perceiving its importance in restoration and renewal of life-rhythms, the ancient communities across the globe had incorporated music and rhythm in their every-day living. Rhythms and tunes have been used in acknowledging the power of Nature eg. prayer and iterative chants in celebrating the change of seasons, in expressing the joy or sorrow and in expressing the inexpressible. Very ordinary human activities such as pounding the grains, putting the babies to sleep, rowing a boat, doing the manual labour, cooking the game etc., – all assumed a touch of glory or grandeur, thanks to the addition of certain rhythms and tunes in them.
Music Eliminates Negative Emotion
Not only physiologically, but also emotionally, music works wonders. In a recent lecture/demonstration (August 2003) of Indian ragas affecting the moods, conducted before the senior citizens of Visakhapatnam it was demonstrated by this author how a musical form representing certain emotion could help to remove the very same emotion. Thus, a raga known for its melancholy – Subhapantuvarali – could per se act in melting the trauma of a listener. Are you short tempered and prone to bouts of anger? Then try, any of these ragas: , Deepak, Gauri Manohari, Hamsadhwani, Hari Khamboji and many others., A fiery composition of Vivaldi and the Carnatic raga Atana both forms of music equally representing the moods of anger or rage, were demonstrated to explain how the accumulation of anger and frustration over the years in an individual could be melted away again with their very inclusion! Sensual elements found in music also came up for review during the demo and the ragas Behag and Khamas were found to exude shringara rasa in abundance! There are many other erotic ragas.
Music Enhances Positive Emotion
It was quite interesting to watch the participants – smiling naturally and unconsciously as the ragas depicting joy (Kathana Kuthoohalam), wonder (Suddha Saveri), compassion (Natta Kurinji) and peace (Sama) were demonstrated in veena. The same was the case, when a selection in Western classical compositions of Bach, Mozart and Strauss, played in audio cassettes were played.
In the Wonderland of Juniors
We all know that it is the freshness of the child’s mind that wonders at every thing around. It is a pity that as the child grows into adulthood, the freshness of the mind along with its capacity to wonder get slowly replaced by indifference, sloth or cynicism. As we grow older and older, it is necessary that we retained the mind of a child so that we could watch with wonder the roller-coaster path that our life may take as a witness, without getting seeped in to them. Here melodies and rhythms can come handy, as they are capable of re-injecting in us the patterns of freshness that can keep us child like once again as we age. The participants during demo wondered how the raga Suddha Saveri enabled them wonder as it meandered in Veena!
On Compassion: The Ultimate Virtue.
There is an ancient saying in the Sanskrit language that there is no dharma (virtue) in heaven or earth, which can equal karuna or compassion, shown to one’s fellow-beings. The great saints and savants such as Gautama Buddha, Manimekalai, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Theresa and others have all demonstrated by their life-styles, how compassion could erase human miseries and sufferings. The participants of the lec-dem could feel the pulsation of compassion hidden in the raga Natta Kurinji, a nascent raga, born out of an ancient melakarta (parent) scale, Hari Khamboji. The wide-ranging movements of the raga (it is a non-standardized raga), played in slow tempo enhanced the feelings of compassion.
Shanti or peace is the ultimate goal sought by all religious groups. According to Saint Thyagaraja, no well-being could be possible, without peace! The participants found peace and harmony in the vibrations emanating form the raga Sama, when played in veena. A piece from Blue Danube composed by Strauss also sounded peace and majesty. Do you want to immerse yourself in harmony and peace? Try any of these ragas that can impart them in abundance: Desh, Hamsamanjari, Kaanada, Nilambari Sri, or Yadukula Khamboji. Observe how your anger and inner frustrations melt away over a period of time, leading you toward a state of bliss, causeless but conducive to universal harmony.
T. V. Sairam is a former civil servant, who is also a bestselling author of a number of books and dictionaries on music therapy, alternative medicine etc. He has done pioneering research on Indian therapeutic music. He is the course director for a popular distance learning programme in music therapy. He heads a small non-profit organization, Nada Centre for Music Therapy (www.nada.in) and lives in New Delhi, India.