Music in Medicine in Early Modern Thought

During the early 1940`s and mid 1950`s experiments in music therapy on wounded World War I and II soldiers suffering from mental and emotional conditions, nerve damage, and severe pain led to unexpectedly fruitful results. As a result of this numerous research projects began to appear, not only in America, but around the world. In the 1980`s a report revealed that subjects who receive music as a means of medical treatment generally score about one standard deviation above the mean (Standley, 1986). Treatment goals in music therapy are classified into the following categories:

Pain is related to illness and medical intervention. What is more, pain is more than a mere sensation; it is defined by a withdrawal reaction, or in the case of human beings, a verbal response. Each individual has a unique pain threshold that is different, from say your neighbor or family members. However, pain is highly subjective in nature and results in an increased autonomic activity. As I was saying before, if we can reduce pain and distract ourselves long enough so that we can fully recuperate from some type of medical treatment we will be able to recover faster and possibly even live a better quality life as a result.

From your personal experience you may very well know that any medical procedures that we undergo lead to feelings of stress and helplessness. Such feelings manifest themselves in increased autonomic responsivity which may interfere, in a negative way, to the medical treatment itself. Reduction of these factors may expedite the healing process.

From a common cold to triple bypass heart surgery, a healthy immune system is quintessential to recovery. Recent research in music therapy has demonstrated that even relatively short periods of music listening may significantly increase at least one measure of immune functioning in saliva (Maranto 1993).