Do you use music in your therapy room? If so, what is your preference – classical, new age, traditional, contemporary? Something else? Have you ever wondered how and why certain tracks or sounds are better at relaxation than others? Have you ever struggled to find the ‘right’ music for your style of treatment?
I have been working with therapeutic sound and music since 1994 and have developed different techniques based on how our brains have evolved to respond to sound and music due to the way our brains have evolved over millions of years. Different sounds (whether they be music or nature sounds) can elicit different responses, so high pitched sudden and short sounds will stimulate the mind and body and low pitches will relax”.
These days more research is being done to find out how we react to different instruments. For example, people will use words such as ‘warm, rich and cuddly’ to describe the sound of the Himalayan singing bowls whereas the crystal singing bowls were found to be ‘cleansing, clear and cool’. A BAST Sound Therapist will use this ‘sound psychology’ as well as other techniques based on research to help improve health and wellbeing.
Therapeutic sound and music can be applied in your therapy room and I’d love to share my latest project ‘LifeSonics RelaxÒ’ with you. LifeSonics RelaxÒ is a ‘music medicine’ programme that will mainly be delivered in group relaxation sessions. Participants will be taken on a musical journey designed to improve health and wellbeing. As well as group sessions, you can download separate tracks to use in your therapy room or at home and/or work. This ‘Consciously Designed Music’ (CDM) draws on research in the fields of sound and music psychology, sound therapy, sound cognition and neuroscience together with creativity to create music for a therapeutic effect. Great composers such as Mozart used sounds to elicit different emotions and many great artists use music to tell a story – especially in film. Most composers use intuition and experience to create their music and there is nothing wrong with that – a lot of great music is created in exactly this way.
I also feel that reducing music just to a specific formula could take away its soul, which is something that I definitely don’t want to do! I see my compositions rather baking a cake. The cake could end up being chocolate, carrot or lemon. The basic ingredients you need will always be roughly the same (eggs, flour, butter) but you can add extra ingredients until you get the exact flavour, size and shape you want. When I set out to create a piece for relaxation or creativity – just like baking two different cakes, once I have the basic ingredients in place I will then add different ingredients (instruments, musical intervals and ‘motives’, tempo, shape and time). I also try to use as many natural sounds as possible. A study by Ratcliffe et.al, (2013) found that ‘bird songs and calls were….the type of natural sound most commonly associated with perceived stress recovery and attention restoration.’
I will sit with a piece for weeks and weeks sometimes. Listening to it and feeling the effect, tweaking one or two sounds, re-listening, re-tweaking – it can be a real ‘fine tuning’ process. In my last piece, ‘Glow’, I knew the last track needed something and yet I just couldn’t find the sound I needed. It took months! One day I thought popped into my head – I need Gibbons! I found a lovely sample of some Gibbons in the rainforest and it has brought the piece to life.
Take a look at my compositions on my Soundcloud account – you can also go on to www.lifesonics.com and in exchange for signing up you can get a sample of ‘Cosmic’ one of the LifeSonics RelaxÒ sessions. When you are next considering what music to accompany your therapy session, think about how the tracks make you feel. Stop for a moment, take in what you are hearing and feeling – let your mind go and see what happens. If the music supports you, relaxes you and helps you feel refreshed it is perfect. If it distracts you, the tempo is too fast or there are too many high pitches, you may want to try something else.
By Lyz Cooper of The British Academy of Sound Therapy –
BCMA Independent School