You can rev your day with rhythm, shift your mood with melody. Just press the "on" button on the healing machine known as your CD player. Music's medicinal effects aren't trivial: it improves immune function, lowers stress hormones, produces shifts in breathing, heart rate and blood pressure and stimulates digestion.
Music is good for your mind, too. It can aid memory and learning, increase your subconscious receptivity to symbolism or generate feelings of safety and relaxation.
Sonic rebalancing is a matter of a little know-how and a lot of self-observation, since responses to music are personal. Individual ears draw the lines between relaxing and irritating, energizing and maddening, focusing and boring.
Generally, though, high frequencies energize brain and body. To stay in top form, spend a few minutes a day, say the experts, listening with your right ear to music on which you've turned down the bass and middle frequencies and turned up the treble. Violins provide the most potent raw material.
Again generally, Gregorian chants will keep you relaxed and functioning well when you're studying or putting in long hours. To access your creativity, try 15 minutes of daydreaming to the impressionists (Debussy, Fauré, Ravel), followed by a few minutes of stretching. Haydn and Mozart can improve concentration, memory and spatial perception. Slower Baroque and New Age music can even soothe insomnia.
Release tension by bopping to some Rolling Stones or Michael Jackson. Rap's rhyming ways set up greater communication between the logical left brain and the body's instincts.
Like any potent remedy, sound can be overdone. Twenty-two minutes an hour of aural stimulation is considered ideal, all at once or in chunks. And don't forget your own voice. Humming gives internal massage and shifts you toward relaxation and greater mental clarity. For more ideas on self-balancing through music, check out Don Campbell's The Mozart Effect."Humming produces bone-conducted sounds dense in the highly energizing high-frequency range. If you set your head too high or low you'll get a nasal or throaty voice. If you put your hand on the back of your neck, you feel that vibration. Hum 15 to 30 minutes a day, in the car, in the bus or in spaces that enhance and reverberate high frequencies, such as the shower. Sacred chants across cultures have all developed vocal techniques that emphasize the higher frequencies present in vocal tones."
MORANA PETROFSKI, assistant director, the Listening Centre
"I do designer music. I design the scientific parameters, and composers implement those to achieve the health effect. Brain-wave frequencies are related to different states. When we're sleeping, our dominant wave is delta, one to four pulsations per second. When we're active, alert and problem-solving, we're in beta, 12 to 20. When we're stressed, we get into high beta, 20 to 30. Alpha is very relaxed, 8 to 12 vibrations per second. Theta is between 4 and 7 or 8. That's where you're almost asleep; it's a deep, trancelike state. We can bring on delta and sleep with two hits per second, and for concentration we give an impulse between 12 and 18."
LEE BARTEL, professor of music education, University of Toronto, associate of the Centre for Health Promotion (U of T), research staff, Bloorview MacMillan Children's Centre
"Like food, sound can settle, stimulate, combine contrasting elements, heighten pleasure or rejuvenate the soul. Be mindful about what you put in your ears. One person's sonic tonic may be another's aural pollutant. Sonic play, as the shamans know, is a powerful tool for altering consciousness or promoting well-being. The human voice is a great starting place for intentional and improvisational soundmaking. Sighing and wailing can release grief. Impromptu chanting or deep breathing can relieve stress. Impressionistic or imitative language (vocables) can liberate the imagination and stuck emotions. Forget singing songs. Make up your own rants, chants and growls.'
GARY DIGGINS, director, Soundwork As Soulwork program, Transformational Arts College
"If you're driving and become tired, take three or four breaths and let out a high "eeee' sound four or five times and you will be awake instantly. After a very stressful day, driving home give yourself four or five breaths of a lower "ah' sound to relax. When people are tired, they need focused high-frequency music and should listen in a relaxed way for five to seven minutes. People who are scattered need a little slower music that has clear rhythmic and melodic patterns. After surgery, slow Mozart and slow baroque without words gives a time-space reference for coming back to this world."
DON CAMPBELL, musician, author, The Mozart Effect
"People should pay attention to the music they really respond to and shouldn't assume that because something says it's a relaxation tape that they'll respond that way. We're very individual. If we want to work through some issues for ourselves, it's very useful to choose music from those periods of time you know have memory meaning for you; music is very evocative. Everyone can benefit from closing their eyes and listening to calming music (no changing tempos and dynamics, no text) and imagining themselves where they'd like to be, away from where it's stressful."
WANDA GASCHO-WHITE, accredited music therapist (MTA)