The press has been reporting recently on the successful use of music during surgery in a couple of different hospitals.
Apparently it can ‘lessen fear’ and reduce the heart rate of patients who are played ‘easy listening’ and ‘chart classics’ while having surgery under local anaesthetic.
Although ‘easy listening’ is balm to some people’s ears, it won’t work for everyone. Whenever I’m having any kind of treatment with one of those ‘cosmic vibrations’ CDs burbling away in the background, trying to make me feel at one with the universe, I feel actively irritated. The other day I was subjected to a ‘soothing’ CD in which bits of Mendelssohn and Liszt (played by a computer program) were faded out now and then into the sound of waves breaking on the shore. After a while of listening to this I felt distinctly less peaceful. If I were forced to listen to ‘chart classics’ during an operation, I’d probably feel like biting the surgeon’s arm.
A recent study from Japan raised interesting questions. Mice were found to survive surgery for a longer period if during their recovery period they had been played excerpts from Verdi’s opera ‘La Traviata’, or from Mozart symphonies. Such music is far from ‘chill-out’ – it engages the emotions powerfully and probably raises the pulse rate. The Verdi-medicated mice evidently experienced beneficial changes to the functioning of their immune systems, but the effect was not the same with pop music. For me, that’s a more intriguing result than the ‘easy listening’ experiment. Could it be good to play surgery patients music which draws them in, works on different layers of their perception, and takes them on a long imaginative journey? It worked for mice, and they presumably didn’t have any preconceptions about whether or not they liked classical music.