The following excerpt is taken from
the new book The Harmony of Health, by Don Campbell. It is published by
Hay House (May 2006) and available at all stores or
online at www.hayhouse.com The Harmony
The Sphere of Harmony
Stories illustrating musics power to reduce stress have been told
and retold for thousands of years. For example, the Bible tells of David,
the giant-slayer, whose lovely harp playing soothed the anxieties of the
powerful King Saul.
From Greece to China, music was a bridge of magic for spiritual and physical
transformation. Pythagorass two-stringed monochord provided the
basis for all future tuning and mathematical correlations to sound. Plato
sensed the power of the musical interval for creating war, harmony, or
cures. In China, intervals and tones served identical purposes through
the use of bells, chimes, and gongs. Even Bach was commissioned to compose
The Goldberg Variations to help one of his wealthy patrons fall asleep.
A few years ago, I was giving a series of lectures on the healthful aspects
of music to the subscribers of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. During
one of the question-and-answer sessions, a lovely lady mentioned that
she and her husband had attended the Friday-evening concerts for more
than 30 years . . . and throughout every one of those events, her husband
had fallen asleep during the first half hour. She found it frustrating
and embarrassing, and she wanted to know what she could do to help him
pay attention and reap the benefits of the music.
The womans husband, who was sitting next to her, blushed, and simply
explained that after his workweek, he looked forward to the symphony because
it relaxed him. He was able to forget the stress of his job and became
renewed by the end of the evening. He felt that the second half of each
performance was the high point of his week. His wife then understood that
music was having a deeper impact on his life than she realized.
From my earliest days as a health-conscious musician, I began to experiment
with composing music to help others relax. By integrating low, prolonged
thematic phrases based on breathing patterns with higher, superimposed
rhythmic harmonies, I found that I could actually write music that spoke
to different parts of the mind and body. The higher sounds allowed beautiful
mental images to form, while the lower sounds set up long phrases that
affected breathing. A dynamic change in the depth or shallowness of breath
became apparent within three to seven minutes of listening.
The result was Crystal Meditations, an album that was used in many of
studies for relaxation at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical
Center in Dallas under the observation of Jeanne Achterberg, Ph.D. Most
of the patients in these studies suffered from stress, anxiety, high blood
pressure, and lack
However, the results of this multilayered music were easily observed in
the changes in patients brain waves, blood pressure, heartbeats,
and breathing patterns. Even I was surprised to see that it took only
seven minutes of listening for each patient to enter a measurably calmer
state of being.
For the first time in my career as a composer, I began to look at the
body as a
kind of instrument itselfone capable of achieving a resonant state
with the power of sound. By that time in my career, Id written scores
for modern-ballet companies and had seen how effectively music directed
the movement and expression of the dancers. I began to search for additional
compositional techniques that would bring alignment to nondancers. At
the same time, I started experimenting with combining imagery and music
in order to access the other senses potential for sparking the dramatic
physical responses that can lead to daily self-improvement.
I gave a cassette of what Id composed for the hospital studies to
80-year-old mother. Her response, although a little startling, displayed
some insight as well: "I cant believe that your father and
I sent you to the conservatory in Fontainebleau, and this is what youre
creating. It makes me want to fall asleep!"
For someone like my mother, who was high-strung and very physically tense,
this music was actually having a physical effect. She didnt consider
it art or entertainment; it was a sedative. Little did she know that that
effect was precisely what Id intended.
The past two decades have brought musics power into hospitals, rehabilitation
centers, assisted-living facilities, dental offices, massage rooms, spas,
and exercise classes. Highly clinical work on head injuries, strokes,
and autism is now performed by certified music therapists, and relaxation
techniques are commonly used by psychotherapists. Music provides an essential
tool to improve the effectiveness of these professionals.
Massage therapists are able to bring added value to their sessions by
using progressive-music-relaxation techniques during each massage. "With
many clients, the right music helps set the atmosphere and lets me do
my work more deeply and effectively. Not only does it help my clients
relax more quickly, the music at the end of the session helps them center
and become more grounded and integrated as I massage their feet,"
says Bev Sharette, a longtime massage therapist in Boulder, Colorado.
"Silence is also important. As I get to know each client, I can tune
in to their musical preferences."
Many of my students have used a three-phase
system of music for massage sessions:
1. Induction, comfort, and release for 20 minutes
2. Deep relaxation and surrender for 20 minutes
3. Centering, integration, and grounding for 5 to 10 minutes
A wide variety of music is used in each of the three phases, depending
on the clients physical and psychological needs. Classical selections,
New Age music, light jazz, inspirational hymns, and chant all fit into
the menu. There are even selections that help the therapist maintain stamina
and strength for the last clients of the day.
The Pillow That Heals
Last year I became aware of research being done in Europe with a pillow
that heals. As the director of music and acoustic services with Aesthetic
Audio Systems, my interest in bringing music to health-service environments
has greatly increased as the medical community has come to accept the
arts as a more vital part of treatment. It had long been clear to me that
not only would
a better acoustic environment benefit patients; but that the medical staff,
visitors, and families required a healthier and safer acoustical environment
During my research into this topic, my associate Annette Ridenour brought
to my attention a curative pillow designed in Denmark by the composer
Niels Eje and physician Per Thorgaard. These collaborators belief
in the positive effect of music in a clinical setting is so strong that
theyve created one of the worlds largest foundations to study
its benefits. The pillow they designed, already thoroughly studied in
Europe and now employed in pilot programs throughout the United States,
is used to supplement traditional treatments for patients during the high-stress
periods immediately preceding and following surgery. Speakers imbedded
in the comfortable cushion play recorded natural sounds and soft improvised
music, delivering healing melodies directly to the patient without the
need for long cords, bulky equipment, or headphones. Patients find the
music comforting, but beyond that, studies have shown that using the device
reduces their need for preoperative sedation and shortens their postoperative
The pillow is just one of many emerging ways that music can assist patients
and allow health professionals to do their jobs efficiently. From emergency
waiting rooms to maternity wards and operating rooms, stress is an unavoidable
part of the health-care experience. Calming the mind and spirit can go
a long way toward relaxing and even healing the body. By bringing harmony
and accord to the environmentwith carefully selected sounds that
clarify without overstimulatingall our sensory abilities can be
brought together to improve our emotional outlook, resolve, and physical
Optimizing the Power of Relaxation
Studies have shown that prolonged periods of stress create wear and tear
on the body. The immune system is suppressed, increasing the chances of
hypertension, headaches, stroke, coronary artery disease, and high blood
pressure. Simple techniques can be used daily, however, to lessen the
tension that can lead to
these and other complications. For nearly three decades, psychologists
and mind-body therapists have made use of these progressive-relaxation
techniques to heal their patients.
This simplified version is designed to consume a minimal amount of time
can be accomplished easily in a comfortable chair, lying in bed, or even
at work. Take some time to observe its effects, and experiment with adapting
it to your
Progressive Relaxation in Five Minutes
Find a comfortable position in a chair, on the floor, or in bed.
Close your eyes and become aware of your breath. Exhale deeply
and slowly three or four times.
As you continue to breathe, release all the tension in your feet
Let them feel light.
Then release any tightness from your thighs, hips, and pelvis .
. . let go of the muscle constriction in the lower parts of the body.
Imagine all stress leaving your torso, from the depths of your
stomach up through your chest.
Feel a lightness in your shoulders, arms, and hands. Stretch slightly
then let go, sensing greater relaxation coming to your body.
Release the muscles in your neck, throat, and jaw. Feel the inhaling
breath bringing a soothing sensation to these areas.
Exhale all stress out from your face and the top of your head,
allowing your mind to become clear . . . let the breath take away all
Remain quiet for another minute or two and allow your body to bring
itself into balance.
Exhale with a long breath and begin to stretch, letting your voice
Become aware of the room around you, take your time standing up,
then continue your day.
There are many variations on this technique. If you use it at night, it
can increase the restfulness of your sleep. It can help you in preparations
for meditation or tasks that make you feel stressed. You may even find
it useful to perform these exercises before going for a run or starting
some other workout.
Music can be used to assist in this process. As you become familiar with
the exercises in this book, you can create your own musical style for
morning, afternoon, and evening routines. No matter how many times you
use this exercise, youll find that it always provides benefits.
Once you begin to experiment with the progressive-relaxation technique,
you may notice more sounds in your environment. Air conditioners, heaters,
refrigerators, lights, computers, and traffic all produce noise that we
become so accustomed to that we may not realize how much stress its
creating. If you begin picking up on these disturbances, especially those
of low frequency, you may be pinpointing one of the invisible causes of
Some sounds are negatively charged, bringing fatigue and stress to the
body. Others can actually charge the brain and body, and create energy
and refreshment. Sounds and music are like our diets: We need a balance
of silence, stimulation, and relaxation throughout the day; otherwise
our bodies begin to tire.