Sound has a dramatic effect on our health and wellbeing. Why is this? Sound contains myriad ingredients, working together to form music, speech, and the rest of our everyday sonic landscape. The different sound ingredients are not treated uniformly by the brain. Pitches and timbres and timings are vulnerable to misperception in the brain and there are signatures of sound processing characteristic of different populations such as people with autism or with reading difficulty or people suffering from traumatic brain injury. The unique way each of us, whether healthy or hurting, reacts to sound is due to our unique “sound minds.”
Music is powerful because it is rich in all the ingredients of sound. The use of music in healing is now established and accepted in mainstream medicine. It has been pressed into service in the treatment of traumatic brain injury, for mitigating stress, and for restoring memory loss in dementia. Music can strengthen language skills in children with autism, language delays, or reading difficulties. Music is an effective therapy for movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and stroke. (After all, sound is movement, the vibrations of air.) Music can help people with difficulty breathing, swallowing, and speaking.
The reason that music is effective in so many ways is that the sound mind is vast. It has privileged connections to the parts of the brain responsible for moving, thinking, sensing, and feeling. Through these connections, music is able to bring about healing.