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Posts Tagged ‘Oliver Sacks’

The Creator wants us to Drum. (God) wants us to corrupt the world with drums, dance, and chants. We’ve already corrupted the world with power and greed, which has gotten us nowhere. Now’s the time to corrupt the world with drum, dance, and chants.—-Babatunde Olatungi, Nigerian master drummer

Although the refrain “Feckin’ musicians” has been running through my head and out my mouth more than a little bit lately, I fully admit to having a soft spot … yes, in my head as well as in my heart … for those who create and perform amazing feats of sostenuto virtuosity. The brilliance of a maestro appeals on all levels, and the passion it takes to make music attracts in ways powdered rhino horn can only fake (much to the detriment of a population of wonderful creatures).

Musicians are gifted in a language I don’t speak and construct worlds from far different materials than those I have at my fingertips. The mystery of those worlds can catch my imagination and have me drifting for a very long time on a sea of contented wonder. They also understand my drives and passions, encouraging exploration of my own depths and applauding my less-melodic results, never to question a need to shut myself up within my head and live for a while in realms of my making or a demand to cough up a paycheck to prove my creations have merit. They can also take me out of my orbit and show me other ways a planet spins.

Contributions from the musical world are legion, and there’s no need here to wax lyrical on the rich layers music adds to life and to love. Thanks, however, to new lessons learned from a wonderful teacher who takes the time to show me parts of the world I don’t normally get to see, I have learned some about how music heals.

Of course, I’ve long known that music has charms to soothe the savage breast, as Congreve so succinctly summed a couple of hundred years ago, and have used lilting strains and building crescendos to get myself through traumas both emotional and physical. What I have missed until now, though is the healing powers of drums.

Experts believe that rhythmic drumming can aid health by inducing a deep sense of relaxation, reducing stress, and lowering blood pressure.

Mickey Hart, drummer for The Dead spent a lifetime studying not only the history of drumming, but the effects on the human condition, as well.

In 2000, Mickey Hart became a member of the Board of Directors of the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function, a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to seek to establish new knowledge and develop more effective therapies which awaken, stimulate and heal through the extraordinary power of music — continuing his investigation into the connection between healing and rhythm, and the neural basis of rhythm.

The Institute for Music and Neurologic Function in New York understands the benefits:

Its aim is to restore, maintain and improve the physical, emotional and neurologic functioning in people who have been debilitated through stroke, trauma, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s and other processes through the systematic use of music.

Oliver Sacks, famed neurologist and author of many works on the wonders of the mind, provides the scientific guiding hand for the institute. His discovery that drumming interrupts the chaos that is Tourette’s syndrome led to studies of the impact of rhythms on other disorders of the brain.

To hear drumming is to feel it in our bones … I like when it rattles my teeth, too … and the sensation resonates. It’s our heartbeat and our history.

The drum family is considered the most representative of African instruments, found in societies and tribes across the continent. The drums speak in codes the language of the tribes, and are frequently used to communicate news and messages between towns.

The talking drums of West Africa are renowned for their ability to closely imitate the rhythms and intonations of the spoken word, the more skilled players can reproduce dialogue understood by a knowledgeable audience. By sending the messages along, they can be carried for miles.

It is said that the djembe dates from as far back as 500AD, made from a curved tree trunk and goatskin. … Dubbed the ‘magic drum’ for its ability to move people and the ‘healing drum’ for its history as a fundamental tool in healing traditions.

Yes, Koestier did grasp one aspect of the drum when he wrote, “The most persistent sound which reverberates through men’s history is the beating of war drums”, but magic and healing are also the legacy.

And talking, thankfully.

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