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Tango Or Techno - Music Therapy Is A Matter Of Taste

By Rudolf Grimm, dpa     Mar 8, 2002 in Lifestyle
Tango or techno, a symphony or gospel - the right music gets under the skin and has a much stronger impact than words or images. But what really counts is the individual musical taste.

Only the right choice of music can make itself felt in the legs, heart and circulatory system and influence the depth and pace of the breath and tautening of the muscles.

It is this property of music that can be exploited in medicine and psychotherapy. Rhythm and melody have the ability to open avenues to mental and physical wellbeing.

They can be applied to allay stress, fear and pain or to promote activity for stroke victims, in elderly people, for autistic children as well as for people who cannot speak and for people with psychological problems.

Music therapy is a "a small, secretly booming field", says Hamburg based Professor Hans-Helmut Decker-Voigt. "The curiosity the counselling professions show in the methods of music therapy is huge," Decker-Voigt explains.

Despite savings in the German health system, new courses of study are still being established. Meanwhile, there are seven state academic training establishments and five larger private ones.

Decker-Voigt has compiled a new collection of works entitled "School of Music Therapy" published by the Reinhardt Verlag. He tells of his experiences and knowledge of the subject of which there are 11 schools, including one oriented in psychoanalysis, anthroposophy and developmental psychology.

"Music therapy as an artistic form of psychotherapy and music medicine as a conventional form of medical treatment in all medical fields complement each other to form a holistic approach. This is in keeping with the holistic view of the patient and his ailment," says Professor Herman Rauhe, president of the College of Music and Theatre in Hamburg.

He spent 20 years researching musical perception and effects in an attempt to find out which rhythmic, melodic, harmonious and formal elements of sound stimulate or help someone relax.

There is evidence of the close relationship between music and the art of healing going back more than a thousand years. The oldest proof is a mammoth skull found in the Ukraine which had been used as a drum at healing ceremonies. All advanced civilizations have provided similar proof and documents.

Nowadays the practice is characterised by scientific validation and an individual approach. Meanwhile, the effect can be explained to a large extent in physiological terms. In a medical context, rhythm has had the greatest influence. That music can relieve stress and pain can, for example, be explained by the rhythms of motor control processes in the central nerve system.

Professor Ralf Spintge from Luedenscheid in western Germany reports in his collected work on his experience of music therapy: "Stress hormone levels in the blood, perception of pain, central nervous control of vital physical functions and motor behaviour as well as the medicine required for anaesthesia and fighting pain show the superiority of the musical-medical approach unlike those patients who do not receive music therapy."

Spintge points out the economic aspect of music therapy: nowadays only half of the previously required amount of sedatives is used before an operation.

Professor Rauhe cites as an example a stroke patient to show how important a person's life history and the selection of music can be in therapy. The patient, an old general, was paralysed and almost unable to speak after suffering a stroke. He had not "moved" to any kind of music - not even to military marching music.

Then his wife said that she had met him when dancing tango. "When I played tango music to the paralysed man, his face glowed and he became a changed person", Rauhe says. "That tango literally got theold man going again. His legs started moving on hearing the refrain. The story ended amazingly: after three months training, the general could walk almost perfectly - and talk!"
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