Music, especially by
Bach, helps reduce stress
Music, particularly classical compositions by Bach, relieves stress, says a University of Hawaii music professor.
"Of all the music we tested in medical school with patients, colleagues and others, Bach's music consistently made the brain work in a balanced way better than any other genre," said Arthur Harvey, who is also an internationally known neuromusicologist.
Loudness, speed or tempo of music, the degree of dissonance and tone quality are primary elements of music that can affect health, behavior and emotions, Harvey said.
He created a recording called "Bach for the Morning," intended for nursing home and hospital patients who "didn't wake up very nicely. ... Each piece gets a teeny bit faster, so it is a very helpful way to wake people up."
He also has created a "Handel for Sleeping" recording and softly played Handel's music during a recent interview in his office at Calvary-by-the-Sea Lutheran Church, where he is musical director.
Harvey has taught for 45 years and studied music as a force in education, religion and health. For the past 20 years, he has been interested in learning more about "why and what happens" when music is played.
Therapeutically, he said, music "can be a tremendous intervention." It can relieve pain and stress, calm the heart rate and blood pressure, affect physical responses for healing and growth, and stimulate creative thinking, he said.
Hawaiian music, for example, has orderly and predictable patterns that tend to be calming, he said. "Someone like brother Iz (the late Israel Kamakawiwo'ole), besides the emotional content of singing and beauty of his voice, the majority of his songs are near resting heart rate (62 beats a minute), in the lower frequency."
Harvey created a recording of Hawaiian songs with a heartbeat tempo, "Island Sounds Healing Heart," to help care for senior Hawaiians with Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. It was done for Alu Like's Kumu Kahi Department.
Cadences in the recording stimulate "feel-good chemicals" and physical systems that reduce effects of stress, he said.
"If we utilize music that slows down the stress hormone, we then can help with things such as development of ulcers, diarrhea, even Crohn's (chronic inflammatory) disease and irritable bowel syndrome."
Last year, Harvey tested the effects of Hawaiian, Japanese and Chinese music with a heartbeat on 37 volunteer patients, 50 and older, of cardiologist Dr. Pon-Sang Chan.
He compared cardiac responses to recordings with heartbeat only, with heartbeat and keyboard performance, with heartbeat and vocal performance and heartbeat with both keyboard and vocal performances.
The object was to see if music could be used as a relatively inexpensive technique to regulate the heart rate of cardiac patients, who tend to be highly stressed, Harvey said.
All recordings helped, he said, but selections combining heartbeat, instrumental and vocal performances were most effective, calming and regulating the heart rate from 62 to 72 beats a minute.
Joseph Ruszkowski, UH-Manoa music professor; Michelle Wong, of the Integrative Health Care Consortium; and Kathleen Cramer Baker assisted with the project.
Harvey presented the results in June at a symposium of the International Society on Music in Medicine, founded by two anesthesiologists in Hamburg, Germany.
He annually discusses how music can enhance health and learning at the Hawaii Medical Service Association's Akamai Living program, scheduled from 8:30 a.m. to noon May 22 at the Hawaii Prince Hotel.
Harvey sings and plays 35 instruments, develops recordings and videos for therapeutic use and is a popular speaker at workshops and seminars. He is also a prolific author, writing about "Music and the Brain" and related topics.
"He is so multitalented," Ruszkowski said. "He has a wealth of knowledge in so many areas and is an unbelievably good piano player. A lot of people around here (at UH) say he was a musical prodigy."
Harvey said UH-Manoa offers music courses and workshops but not music therapy and training, which he would like to see integrated into the medical school's complementary and alternative medicine department.
He was involved in establishing Sounding Joy Music Therapy Inc., a nonprofit organization, to educate the public about music therapy, provide clinical services and encourage research in therapeutic music.
Among his new projects, the neuromusicologist is creating a recording of spirituals with a heartbeat for hospice patients and caregivers and a recording of Japanese lullabies with a heartbeat.
Although he makes all kinds of music, he said he probably likes classical the best. "Sacred is second and I love old-time music, the '20s and '30s. I play it in hospitals regularly."
But some music should be avoided, he said, pointing out excessively dissonant, loud and repetitive music can affect thinking, behavior and hearing. "And if you're impacted by emotional pulses, you tend to behave in a way that's not always rational."
Music has been his "passport to the world," Harvey said, taking him to every state and 36 countries and places like the White House and Morocco's palace.
BACK TO TOP
"Baby Go to Sleep," a recording of heartbeat music, works as well on rambunctious young chimpanzees as on infants, Joseph Ruszkowski has found.
The University of Hawaii-Manoa music professor played Terry Woodford's recording in a recent pilot study to try to reduce aggression among young male chimpanzees at Honolulu Zoo.
The heartbeat music has "proven statistically significant in helping very, very small infants fall asleep," including his own 15-month-old child, Ruszkowski said.
The zoo has 10 chimpanzees -- four females and six males, four of whom are infants or juveniles, he said.
"Since the males are entering adolescence, they are causing bodily injury and smashing glass," both of which are costly, he said. One broke a window that will cost about $50,000 to replace, he said.
Brainstorming with Arthur Harvey, UH-Manoa music education coordinator, Ruszkowski said he developed a study for the chimpanzees similar to one Harvey conducted for cardiac patients.
But Harvey was able to hook the patients up to monitoring devices, which he could not do with aggressive male chimpanzees and "keep all my fingers intact," he said.
Ruszkowski said he played music about 30 minutes every morning for a week during the chimpanzees' most aggressive period. He played none in a trial period the next week.
He has not finished analyzing preliminary data, involving 75 variables, but his general observation was the music had a calming effect on the animals within 10 to 15 minutes, he said.
"They were so relaxed, some chimpanzees were falling asleep. That is something that never happened before."
Greg Hamilton, primary chimpanzee keeper, said he is continuing to play Woodford's heartbeat recording or Harvey's "Hawaiian Music with a Heartbeat" if he feels the animals are riled up in the morning.
Videotapes of Disney movies also are popular, particularly with 8-year-old Nalu, he said.
After the chimps are taken from separate pens and put together in a group, there "definitely is increased aggression and excitement," Hamilton said.
"It's all about troop dynamics, the socialization of these guys. We have 8-, 9- and 10- and 13-year-olds. They all have way too much testosterone. They're aggressive to prove themselves."
He said 10-year-old Kona Kona broke the window, "just feeling like he's macho man and needs to prove himself."
Using music to mitigate the aggression is a "win-win situation," he said. "If something happens, great. If it has no effect, we're still in the same situation."
Based on preliminary results, Ruszkowski said he probably will do an expanded study in the summer.