'Musicophilia - Tales of Music And The Brain' - Oliver Sacks
Hopefully, one of the side-effects of this new book, with all the media attention it deserves, will be to flush out a long-lost titbit of information which has evaded the powers of the internet up until now, as far as I can see.
Some ten years ago, BBC's Newsnight, hosted by Jeremy Paxman, ran a report about the therapeutic uses of music, in particular, Mozart.
Two behavioural studies showed evidence that playing Mozart to over-active or inattentive children helped to calm them down and concentrate. One report explained this by analysing the frequencies preferred by Mozart and found that they matched a corresponding preference in the human brain. Roughly.
The second study involved boys with Tourette's Syndrome, or similar disorders. The director of this study concluded that it was not the frequencies of the music which was pacifying the subjects, but music itself. And the reason why Mozart should be particularly effective may have been because he was also subject to uncontrollable, anti-social outbursts, and that he used music as a pacifier for his inner eccentricities, or genius, as we call it. This attempt to direct this energy is still encoded in Mozart's compositions, and that when 'downloaded' or 'installed' into the listener, have the same effect which Mozart was trying to achieve for himself - peace.
The implications of this simple way of looking at music are, as Paxman said at the time, "Absolutely fascinating." The trouble is, no-one now seems to know what became of that research, or who conducted it.
And in the meantime, the power of music is being harnessed by the kind of people who always end up creating barbarisms, and is used as a torture machine. The exact opposite of what god intended. An obscene crime against humanity for which the guilty should fry in hell as long as any in diabolic history. This is probably a recent perversion, music is more usually famous for being able to relieve pain, which I can testify to from recent personal experience. Long story.
William Burroughs accounts how he once kicked heroin using marijuana and Louis Armstrong records. The assumption being that music can work as an analgesic. Like a chemical which matches the pharmokinesis of a headache. Or even that the music might not be merely blocking a neurological action, but that it might be conveying something more specific, as in the theory of Mozart and Tourettes sufferers. That music is a form of encryption as potentially powerful as computer code.
Experience has taught me that heroin-sodden jazz by Charlie Parker and John Coltrane has a predictable effect on my dentist's drill, and that it can ease the pain of a spinal tap during a recent hospital stay for Guillaime Barre syndrome. I was only allowed minimal doses of hospital morphine, so had to get it some other way, namely via the encoded form of those who encoded it in their music.
'Imagine' Oliver Sacks. BBC1.