Tansen was said to have been able to light lamps by singing Raga Deepak and invoke rainfall by singing Raga Miyan Ki Malhar. It is also said that he created Raga Darbari Kanada to soothe Emperor Akbars stress in the evening. To this end, if your nerves are frayed and irritability sits on the tip of your nose thanks to the stress caused by the coronavirus pandemic, set at least 10 minutes of your daily schedule aside for listening to, playing or learning music, says Dr Regi Surendran, a vocal coach at a leading conservatory in Mumbai.
"There is hardly a culture in the world that does not recognize the healing power of music. 'Music gives wings to the mind,' proclaimed ancient Greek philosopher, Plato (428- 347 BC), as he expounded on how music played in different modes would arouse different emotions. However, the first structured use of music therapy in the Western world was only considered to be in the aftermath of World Wars I and II, when musicians would travel to hospitals, particularly in Britain, and play music for soldiers suffering from war-related emotional and physical trauma," Surendran, who teaches at the Furtados School of Music, told IANS in an email interview.
Even the ancient Indian medical science of Ayurveda has a branch that details how music can heal a variety of ailments of the body and mind. "This process of a specific application is called Raga chikitsa or Raga Vidya. Each mode and musical note is deeply connected to corresponding subtle and gross frequencies in nature," Surendran pointed out.
Research on different neuronal responses to pleasant and unpleasant music shows that, "the brain activity for pleasant music is predominantly present in frontal lobes and for unpleasant music in temporal lobes. Tonality analysis of ragas of Indian music reveals that ragas with positive valence (calm and happy) have a greater mean frequency of occurrence of major intervals (shudha svaras) whereas ragas with negative valence (sad or tense) are characterized by an increased frequency of minor intervals (Komal svaras), she explained.
In the present scenario, Surendran said, it is all the more necessary to realise the importance of music therapy and meditation.
"In subjects listening to pleasant music, dopamine is released from the ventral striatum and in the ventral tegmental area and thus postulated to be involved in the enjoyment of music. As a result of several qualitative and quantitative research studies based on music therapy, it is already proven that the unbeatable system and different shades of ragas in Indian classical music can successfully increase the positivity and improve the mental state," she added.
Evidence suggests that music therapy is beneficial for all individuals, both physically and mentally. Its benefits include improved heart rate, reduced anxiety, stimulation of the brain, and improved learning.
"Music therapists use their techniques to help their patients in many areas, ranging from stress relief before and after surgeries to neuropathology, such as combating Alzheimer's disease.
"One study found that children who listened to music while having an intravenous inserted into their arms showed less distress and felt less pain than the children who did not listen to music while having an intravenous inserted," Surendran said.
In this context, she pointed to the benefits of certain Ragas, many of which are confined to the Carnatic (C) or Hindustani (H) genres, while some are common to both styles:
Studies on this aspect of music are still going on as it is really deep and vast.
"But, considering the truth that till now music never ever failed to implement the positive energy and vibes, one can say without any doubt that till now it is successfully connecting with the emotions of person to person. Much research and evidence have proven that listening to music every day is good for physical and mental health," Surendran said.
Just remember: no matter how hard-pressed you are, it only takes 10 minutes of your time every day - extendable, of course, given the benefits you derive from classical music.