While the first healers were musicians who relied on rhythm and song to help cure the sick, over time Western thinkers and doctors lost touch with these traditions. In the West, for almost two millennia, the roles of the healer and the musician have been strictly separated.
Until recently, that is. Over the past few decades there has been a resurgence of interest in healing music. In the midst of this nascent revival, Ted Gioia, a musician, composer, and widely praised author, offers the first detailed exploration of the uses of music for curative purposes from ancient times to the present. Gioia’s inquiry into the restorative powers of sound moves effortlessly from the history of shamanism to the role of Orpheus as a mythical figure linking Eastern and Western ideas about therapeutic music, and from Native American healing ceremonies to what clinical studies can reveal about the efficacy of contemporary methods of sonic healing.
Gioia considers a broad range of therapies, providing a thoughtful, impartial guide to their histories and claims, their successes and failures. He examines a host of New Age practices, including toning, Cymatics, drumming circles, and the Tomatis method. And he explores how the medical establishment has begun to recognize and incorporate the therapeutic power of song. Acknowledging that the drumming circle will not—and should not—replace the emergency room, nor the shaman the cardiologist, Gioia suggests that the most promising path is one in which both the latest medical science and music—with its capacity to transform attitudes and bring people together—are brought to bear on the multifaceted healing process.
In Healing Songs, as in its companion volume Work Songs, Gioia moves beyond studies of music centered on specific performers, time periods, or genres to illuminate how music enters into and transforms the experiences of everyday life.