Half of the time I talk to musicians, they say their craft gives them an outlet, allowing them to vent frustrations or deal with difficult emotions. (The other half, they’re still recovering from the show they played the night before.)
But music can be more than a venue for one person’s woes; it can actually provide respite for patients suffering from serious illnesses.
The idea of music therapy may sound too much like new age nonsense to some, but some physicians have documented how music has done what medication can’t.
In “Musicophilia,” celebrated neurologist Oliver Sacks explores the connection between music and the brain, and devotes several chapters to the ways in which music is used for patients with neurologic disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease and dementia.
A particularly touching chapter discusses how music can restore a sense of identity to patients with Alzheimer’s disease. In some cases, patients who can’t recall their names or properly dress themselves can accurately remember and perform songs from their pasts.
And they don’t just hum along, either.
In the cases Sacks cites, patients are able to give their performances all the emotional inflections of someone without the illness.
These case studies offer compelling evidence that whether or not they are musicians, human beings have a deep connection with music that time and disease can’t erase.
Unfortunately, this only offers temporary relief for Alzheimer’s patients. Still, I think many people would agree that seeing a loved one return to her “old self” for three minutes is preferable to feeling as if you’ve lost her forever.
Call Laurel Black, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8641.