‘Weightless’ is a piece composed by the band Marconi Union, and it was devised purely with the purpose of reducing stress. It has been analysed by prominent neuroscientists and is now regarded as the ‘most relaxing song’ on Earth. In comparison with other songs, this one piece of music has been proven to reduce stress levels by as much as 65%. The song works through a complex arrangement of meticulously planned bass lines, rhythms and harmonies, that intertwine effortlessly to create a state of ambiance. This works by not only affecting the heart rate and blood pressure, but notably, the levels of Cortisol that are produced too. Cortisol is the hormone produced with stress, and if the body continuously produces excess levels of it, it can lead to insomnia, migraines and a weakened immune system, among other things. Therefore, it appears that this song could be an important tool for assisting those suffering from high stress levels, or anxiety for example. With such high levels of Depression and Anxiety in the UK, this is a notable breakthrough, and hopefully can help us construct more music for therapeutic purposes.
Music and Mental Illness:
There are a number of different ways in which music is used in a medical and ‘curative’ context within the mentally ill; patients are ‘presented with musical opportunity to play out emotional expressions of anxiety and anger… using music to express grief and sense of loss...using music to explore feelings of emotional transference,’ (Odell- Miller, 2005; Robarts, 2006). Schizophrenics perhaps, may well respond particularly well to branches of musical treatment, as their illness leaves them entrenched with paranoia, anger, and a loss of sense-of-self, but music can provide a sense of grounding for them, triggering memories through synaptic signalling, and activating specific regions of the brain, and can have a calming effect upon their heightened levels of anger.
Specifically, research suggests that arts programmes in particular, have the most efficacy with treating those with mental illness; ‘programmes engage people, eliciting immediate responses that can subsequently lead to positive “knock-on effects” for longer-term psychological wellbeing,’ (Greaves and Farbus, 2006). Singing has been the focus of most research within this area, as it is a form of ‘immediate’ engagement. Essentially, people can participate instantly and see positive results from it, thus boosting their confidence and overall wellbeing.
Joining a choir is a prime example of this; ‘older people with mood disorders who engaged in choral participation, in contrast with a comparison group who undertook different activities, reported improved general health and morale, reduced loneliness, and had fewer visits to doctors, and reported a reduction in the number of over-the-counter medications taken,’ (Cohen, Perlstein, Chapline, Kelly, Firth and Simmens, 2006). This evidence demonstrates a remarkable improvement of those suffering from varying mental disorders affecting their moods, in multiple aspects of their lives, which I feel strongly illustrates the propensity for medical value that music possesses. ‘Fewer visits to the doctors,’ not only aids the patient, but helps to relieve the immense strain that is upon the NHS, and thus could have the potential to provide a significant positive impact for not only the local area, but for the whole country, if this treatment were to be applied to a larger number of patients successfully. Equally, a ‘reduction’ in medication consumption is vital; we are now facing problems with bacterial resistance and drug-addiction to simple ‘over-the-counter medicines, henceforth, fewer prescriptions and purchases could reduce these issues significantly.