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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Holistic on the Cheap?

The much-abused word "holism" appears in a story on the BBC News website about the health benefits of music. Opera 'is music for the heart' (22 June 2009)
"Music is already used holistically at the bedside in many hospitals. Not only is it cheap and easy to administer, music has discernable physical effects on the body as well as mood."
My guess is that the cheapest and easiest way to deliver music to patients would be to relay a standard set of scientifically tested pieces to the entire hospital, perhaps on a continuous random shuffle. The research suggests that music can be reduced to a set of physiological effects, perhaps suitable for all patients in any state. But that certainly isn't what I call holistic.

I think maybe Diana Greenman, chief executive of the Music in Hospitals charity ("Creating Joy through Live Music"), agrees with me.
"Music is holistic, but I hear time and again of stroke patients who suddenly are able to move in time to the music after previously being paralysed."
I interpret the critical word "but" as signifying a contrast for Greenman between the holistic quality of music and the production of specific effects in specific patients. Greenman also said it was important to tailor the performance to the individual, since not all people appreciate the same music. Live music may not be cheap or easy, but it may be a really good way to bring joy to recuperating patients.

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