Music: Fiddling while Rome burns..

Music – Fiddling While Rome Burns!!


Vivek Hande                         

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Music, I daresay, is not mere sound, strung by notes. It is a sentiment. It is an emotion, a feeling, an appeal to the highest senses. Music has the power to unite. It has the power to heal, communicate and provide a sense of hope. Music is pure and real. It is perhaps, the world’s most famous and popular language. A medium which slashes through preconceived boundaries of ethnicity and language. Music truly does wash away the soul – the grime, grit and dust of everyday life…

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There are hundreds of genres of music. What appeals to your senses is music for you. There is nothing, in my mind, that you need to call trendy, current or contemporary- when it comes to music. My boys enjoy Beatles as much as I do. I enjoy listening to MS Subbalakshmi or Harry Belafonte as much as my Dad does. And that is the beauty of music. I can enjoy ten different genres though the day; my choice can change with my mood – the music and the musician will not begrudge me!



I do believe music is therapeutic and cathartic. On a busy OPD, I attend to a hundred plus patients at times. What helps me get through is Beethoven or Strauss or Dire Straits or maybe Pink Floyd. That would depend on the mood of the day. But it does add to a sense of congeniality and it does allay the fears or anxieties of the patient as well. It does make the physician a normal person after all. Likewise, I see a great benefit in playing music in my Endoscopy Theatre as well. It is a different thing that many patients actually tell me to switch to something gentler than Metallica or Iron Maiden when I am about to put in the scope- it is then a quick switch to Jagjit Singh or Handel’s Water Music!! I have had patients getting into a discussion on the finer points of the music being played rather than focus on the ailment at hand. I have also had patients coming with CDs and asking me to try listening to a different genre and my music collection grows..

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Music has a role to play in several facets of our life. Take Religion, for instance. Christianity has a strong tradition of the use of music in the church. Whether it is the entire congregation joining in or the choral group alone, singing is central to the religion. Contemporary Church Music encompasses virtually every genre from Gospel, Rock, Pop, Metal , Hip Hop- the idea being to reach out to a greater segment of the community. Sama Veda , in Hindu tradition is devoted to a great extent to music. Kirtans , Bhajans and Raagas are pivotal in Hinduism. Sufi music based on works of Rumi, Hafiz and many others gives a sense of great tranquility, even to those who don’t follow the religion. While music is an integral part of religion, there are many who do consider music itself, to be a religious experience..



Take Medicine. Apollo was the Greek God of Music and Medicine. Aesucalpius used music and song to cure diseases of the mind.  There are enough studies to demonstrate the Medical benefits of music. Joane Loewy of Beth Israel Medical Center believes,” There is just something about music-that excites and activates the body.” There is a growing use of music therapy by psychologists and clinicians in dealing with patients of pain, depression, Parkinson’s disease and even cases of Alzheimer. At the core of music is sound and sound is rooted in vibration and this is the basis for Vibroacoustic therapy that does contribute in enhancing the quality of life and perhaps promoting recovery. Work is focused on evaluation of  “dosable” and “prescribable” music as treatment..


Military and music are deeply connected. Music has always served to inspire courage and valor. Beethoven’s Battle Symphony has some of the greatest descriptive and inspirational music for military bands to celebrate victories. Military Bands are an integral component of militaries worldwide. Marches and Anthems instill courage and conformity and permits an individual to feel a part of a unified whole. The Reveille and the Retreat are important components of military tradition and use trumpets, bugles or pipes. The Tattoo has evolved into an elaborate Military ceremony but started as ‘Doe Den Tap Toe’ which was Dutch for ‘Turn off the Tap”. It got corrupted to Tap-Too and then Taptoo before it became Tattoo- primarily the band going into town and playing to ask the inn owners to stop serving Beer, so that the troops could return to the Barracks!!

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Music helps improve our attention skills.  It does enhance learning – one learned ones ABCs through song and music. It taps into our memories and emotions like nothing else can. Music is important for creativity-it helps you enter what is called, ‘a mind wandering mode’. Music is linked to every important event – weddings, birthdays, graduation ceremonies and funerals. It creates strong memories and very strong feelings. I do believe that music is something out of the ordinary. It is woven into our lives and it is perhaps what makes humans human…


Freidrich Nietzche wrote,” Without music, life would be a mistake.” Music can trigger memories – it can transport you decades; it can make you travel thousands of kilometers to another place. Different music means different things to different people. Jazz to me is smooth and cool; it is a conversation which never begins or ends. It flows like water. To someone who is not fond of Jazz, it may be something highly avoidable. But that is the sheer magic of music; the absolute wonder of music- you don’t have to understand it; you don’t have to recognize it – but if it appeals to your senses- you just feel it. As Bob Marley famously remarked , “The one good thing about music. When it hits you, you feel no pain!”


Author: vivekhande

A gastroenterologist who writes from the gut. an observer ; a learner ..

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