Friday, August 12, 2011

The Residual Power of Music

In this blog post, AFA Teens Advisory Board member, Liz Pires speaks to the residual power of music, its ability to heal, and how we can help use music to improve quality of life for people with Alzheimer's disease. 
It is generally acknowledged that music elevates mood, soothes fear and tension, and solidifies relationships. So how can it heal as well?

Neurologist Frank R. Wilson, who is an internationally respected, Pulitzer Prize nominated-author, labels music one of the hallmarks of humanity (Hodges 17). While most people are neither bestowed with the gift of musical ability nor the ear to distinguish between sharp and flat tones, every human being has the capacity to appreciate and experience music.

People with all types of disabilities are able to understand and enjoy music in a way that fascinates many doctors and scientists – and why is this?

The residual power of music…

Several years ago, an article in Wall Street Journal included information about a 28-year-old man in the Bronx, NY whose recovery from a stroke was helped along by music. The reggae and rap that emanated from his borrowed iPod aided him in walking again (Beck), emphasizing that music has an incredible healing power that is, mostly, indescribable.

In an article in The Wall Street Journal, Concetta Tomaino, D.A, the executive director of the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function, in the Bronx, NY, describes  music as "engaging very basic mechanisms of emotions and listening…stimulating dormant areas of the brain that haven't been accessible due to degenerative disease."  The institute’s internationally recognized programs use music therapy to assist the "awakening and healing" of individuals with various neurological conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease.
I’ve found that music’s click of familiarity possesses a calming feeling, a sense of home for anyone and everyone. Just as our skin feels warm and our head begins to gently bob to the sound of a favorite song slowly making its entrance, an individual with Alzheimer’s disease may be able to do the same. The process of measuring an individual’s ability to react to familiar music can be unreliable; however, music still has a charming, undeniable force. The rush of music can call up distilled memories or just feel recognizable, like warm water trickling into a tired, dry plant. It’s nourishment.

I urge others to explore the magic of rhythm and beat in the face of the devastation of Alzheimer’s disease. One idea that I find to hold colossal potential and requires little effort is an organized music drive to benefit people with Alzheimer’s disease. In every way possible—from stopping by garage sales to asking storeowners, friends and neighbors, collect used and new iPods, CD players, CDs and cassettes to donate to organizations with programs for people with Alzheimer’s disease.  Or better yet, to make this drive even more impactful, find out what types of music the residents have enjoyed in the past and try to collect those songs. In addition, you can find individuals or groups to perform familiar music at senior centers or care facilities.

Easy. With those simple acts, you can make an immense impact on many peoples’ lives and simultaneously involve the community, which would also help raise awareness of the disease.   

Hodges, Donald A. "Implications of Music and Brain Research." Special Focus. Music     Educators Journal, Sept. 2000. Web.

Beck, Melinda. "IPod Therapy for Alzheimer's Patients -" Business News & Financial News - The Wall Street Journal - 16 Nov. 2009. Web.

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