Music has an important role in all human cultures and has been found to have direct and indirect effects on physiologic functions and clinical symptoms. Music can improve performance of reasoning tasks, reduce stress, enhance feelings of comfort and relaxation, provide a distraction from pain, and improve the results of clinical therapy.
Since World War II, the use of music therapy, which is defined as prescribed exposure to music to aid in preventing or ameliorating physical and psychological problems, has become established internationally in a variety of health care fields. These include psychiatry, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, developmental disability therapy, geriatrics, palliative care, general surgery, and oncology.
Could it work for transplants too?
Finding the answer to that question earned a team of medical researchers from Tokyo the Ig Nobel prize in medicine.
They transplanted hearts from one strain of mice to another, which normally leads to rejection, and experimented with music therapy to see if music could reduce the immune response that leads to transplant rejection.
Recipients of cardiac allografts were randomly assigned to one of five groups, which were either not exposed to music, were exposed to opera (the 1995 Solti La Traviata with Angela Gheorghiu), symphonic music ((The Ultimate All Mozart with the Berlin Philharmonic); New Age music (Paint the Sky with Stars: The Best of Enya), or one of six different sound frequencies: This happened from the day of transplantation until 6 days afterward.
According to the report in the Journal of Cardiothoracic Surgery, the mice with mismatched hearts who listened to Gheorghiu’s La Traviata for seven days lived two to three times longer than those that listened to pure tones or “new age” music.
The effect of Katherine Jenkins’ voice on ailing mice has not yet been tested.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.