“If music be thy food of love
Play on, give me excess of it.”
Since time immemorial and in every culture and race, music has always had a very powerful influence on the body. The fascination with music is believed to start in the womb, where the fetus listens to the thumping of the heart of the mother. This regular beat is very soothing to the child. The effect of rhythm never leaves the child even as he/she grows up to adulthood. The cadence and speed of the rhythm affects physiology in many ways. Battle songs with their intense rapid rhythm stimulate the stress hormones like Adrenaline and Steroids, and prepares the body for fighting by raising blood pressure, heart rate, air passage dilatation, raised blood sugar and lipid levels, and stoppage of digestive processes and urination, etc. On the other hand, a slow lullaby can bring down blood pressure, lower blood sugar, lower levels of stress hormones and increase digestive tract activity. This technique is not merely psychology, as even cows subjected to music of different rhythm can be made to increase or decrease their milk output. The same physiological changes can be put to therapeutic use in our day to day life to relieve stress when it starts nagging the mind.
Music has been shown to improve psychomotor functions in patients with brain lesions, stimulate their intellectual amnestic activities, and balance their personality disharmonies.
Therapeutically, music has been divided into into music that provides rhythmic stimuli, that can enable a patient to attune himself to the cadence. This is then followed by melody, that starts to alter the state of mind to the level desired; and finally concluding with harmony. The whole approach can be likened to self hypnosis and self cure through gradual changes in mood and thought processes brought about by a carefully chosen sequence of changing musical tunes with changing rhythms.
This process is best illustrated by Indian Classical Music, which starts with Aalap, a preliminary section without much accompaniment that gradually creates the proper ambience for the main section that is to follow. When the proper mood of the listener has been created, only then does the main musical piece or Raga start to unfold itself in its myriad manifestations, finally ending in a a characteristic finale that leaves the listener in exactly the kind of mood and situation that the musician intended.