Music is Medicine... Music is Sanity???

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Another TED Video. Love This Site!

Music is medicine, music is sanity. This statement is just part of Robert Gupta's talk about Nathaniel Ayers, a schizophrenic American musician, who has been the subject of many newspaper articles written by Steve Lopez along with a 2009 film adaptation based on these columns called The Soloist which starred Jamie Fox and Robert Downey Jr. Though I have not seen the film, this lecture as a musician interested me and was very inspiring. The story has two very interesting points from a psychological perspective, the Ayers and his relationship with schizophrenia, along with his relationship to music.

Gupta talks about his first encounter with Ayers, who upon first meeting him definitely recognized his symptoms of schizophrenia he referred to it as jumbled, but in a gregarious, jovial way, relating baseball to Beethoven's 4th symphony. He then had a normal civil conversation about music. Gupta points out that Ayers has refused treatment because of his previous experience with shock therapy, thorazine and handcuffs. These methods have left a lasting terrible impression on Ayers mind. Ayer's is prone to many schizophrenic episodes, wandering the streets while his own mind torments him. After accepting the request for lessons from Ayer's, upon arrival Gupta felt very threatened. Reeve attributes this fear Gupta felt was a result of him anticipating a harmful event like Ayer's schizophrenia taking over and him exploding. Yet he still was motivated to maintain this relationship. Why would Gupta be motivated to do such a thing, even under adverse conditions? I believe it was a combination of a genuinely high expectancy and outcome expectations along with a need for intimacy and achievement, especially when these needs can be met in the field of his passion.

Not having seen the movie, and being a musician myself I am perplexed and in awe at the amazing level of change the music makes in his cognitive processes. When giving the lesson, instead of talking scales and theory, Gupta just began playing. The more he played, the more Ayer's manic rage transformed into an advanced understanding, curiosity and grace, the music being the catalyst of this incredible almost invisible pharmaceutical. His mind changed and he spoke about music with a transformed sense of insight. He was then again the brilliant Juliard student who related on a personal level, playing many of his favorite pieces by ear. Reeve says that emotions energize and direct behavior, this sea of emotions that musicians feel may have a very large role in this transformation. Gupta says through the artistic lens that is a musician's creativity, that music changes us. For Ayer's specifically music is medicine, it is his sanity, it also helped Ayers feel affiliation again, the deficit of no social-relationships could not have contributed positively to his condition in any way.

The emotional level of Ayer's love and appreciation for music helped him find his mind. While I do not know how his story ends, I am certainly inspired and reminded of why I play myself. It truly reaches down to a person's core. This brings so many questions about the emotional significance of music. Does it directly satisfy a need? What is its purpose? Why does it make people feel such intense emotions? There are many theories out there, but none of them have quite explained the creativity aspect. Why is it that when a musician writes a song  or plays a song that is significant to them it makes them feel complete? It is a feeling like no other feeling in the world. This is definitely something I will be looking into further, especially the relationship between music, emotion and moods.

1 Comment

This looks really interesting. I want to come back to this later when I would have more time to really think about it. Woo TED!!

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