Music and illnesses which it helps

I recently read a very good article:  which discussed the benefits of music and health in detail. The article explores ways in which music helps patients suffering from numerous diseases and pain. I found it extremely fascinating as it covered many areas of health and the impact of music on it, outlining which illnesses it helps and also which parts of the brain it affects.  From this article I demarcated that music:

  • Helps patients drop in their scale of pain, in addition to anxiety and this relief was equivalent to the patient taking a high dosage of pain killers
  • Increases the number of bacteria-fighting cells and has an impact on antibodies linked to immunity
  • Improves the health of premature babies with respiratory distress/ sepsis and when babies were sung to it impacted on their heart rates, sucking behaviour and parents’ stress levels
  • Has a higher impact on reducing cortisol levels than anti-anxiety drugs for patients about to undergo surgery
  • Triggers the nucleus accumbens a part of the brain releasing dopamine, and the amygdala which is involved in processing emotion and the prefrontal cortex
  • Helps people suffering Alzheimers, enabling them to overcome neurolinguistic limitations: There was a case study whereby Alzheimer patients told their life story in a room filled with music, and in this situation they contained more meaningful words than when the room was silent.
  • Boosts cognitive levels and verbal fluency skills for people who have coronary artery disease.


The artist Max Richter composed an eight hour music piece intended to soothe the brain whilst someone is sleeping, enabling them to wake up feeling “sharp” and “refreshed” in addition to helping the brain to “take out the neural trash” which is a process which takes place while the individual is asleep. According to Richter, everytime we sleep all of the information which our brain takes in during the day is “sorted through and compressed” at night. “8 Hour Lullaby” is supposed to help this process, to lull the listener into sleep and improve their quality of sleep through the music.  According to some studies, many Britons suffer insomnia or other sleep-related problems which can impact negatively on our cognitive functions and or lead to obesity. Richter describes this piece as being: “A manifesto for a slower pace of existence.”

The work is composed of piano, strings, electronics and vocals. It was performed at the Wellcome Collection  and also aired on BBC Radio 3 on the 27th September.

Below is an extract of the track:


The piece, to me, is extremely calm. It is melancholy and tranquil owing to the violin strings and the low piano notes which meld to create a sumptuous, dreamy and mysterious atmosphere.It reminds me of the film “Moon” with Sam Rockwell as it has a spacey ambience and a feeling of bleakness and beauty.







77 million paintings

Due to the fact that I am exploring music and health I decided to look at artists who have promoted and or worked on the same theme. After talking to one of my colleagues, Matthew, I was led to look at the works of Brian Eno, a musician  composer, record producer, singer, and visual artist.

After searching for him online, I came across one of his projects called “77 million paintings.” This is a sound installation which was placed in a hospital in Hove but was also aired at the Venice Bienalle, Milan Triennale, Tokyo, London and South Africa. It was created in 2006.

The work consists of high definition plasma screens projecting different images in different colours  which Brian Eno drew (which was influenced by the artist Mondrian)  accompanied by ambient music.  The objective of the piece is to make patients relax and be soothed.


The work can be viewed in this video

I found this project extremely innovative and beautiful owing to its simplistic idea and its  visuals which are both hypnotic and aesthetically pleasing.  It seems like an ideal installation to place at a hospital to brighten up the environment and also offer patients a distraction while they are ill.

Music and its effect on food


I recently read a guardian article discussing how the taste of food can be influenced by music, amongst other things such as the weight of cutlery and colours.  It was entitled: Melody on the menu: how a sprinkle of Mozart might give your meal zing”.   I found this fascinating and was also very pleased to have found the article since it links to one of my major projects. The information for this article can be found on this URL:

The following are some excerpts from the article which I found interesting.

As Charles Spence, a behavioural psychologist states within this article:
“Play the right music to diners and the pleasure they derive from drinking and eating can be greatly enhanced” and, in relation to wine, he states that ” Combine Tchaikovsky or Bryan Ferry with the right bottle and you will have a much better night out.”

“Humans tend to match the same sounds to the same tastes. Sourness is high-pitched, while sweetness is associated with richer, more rounded sounds. Bitterness is expressed in deeper, more mordant tones. Salty, however, is tricky. Spence and his team think it’s something like a throbbing sound, but the version they use in tests doesn’t convince.”

“To demonstrate how musical tones influences taste, Spence stages a test in Berlin. People are given chocolate to eat and two pieces of classical music are played – one sombre, one lighter. Most of those tested reported that the chocolate eaten during the sombre music was more bitter, while that consumed during the lighter music tasted sweeter.”

“Music cannot create tastes or flavours that are not there in your mouth, but it can draw attention to certain notes in a wine or food that are competing in your mind.”

Spence also gives a list of certain foods which pair up to certain music in order to be enjoyed:

“Fish and chips:

Shanghai restaurant Ultraviolet serves its version against a backdrop of Beatles music as a union flag is projected on to the surface of the table.

With a pismo clam cocktail, the fast tempo and high pitch of Maroon 5’s One More Night brings out the bright citrus flavours.

Scented meringue

El Celler de Can Roca, the fabled three Michelin stars restaurant in Girona, Spain, serves its version of the dessert together with a commentary of Barcelona’s Lionel Messi weaving past Real Madrid players (known as ‘Meringues’) to score a goal. Brings out the bright citrus flavours.

Dark chocolate mousse, or coffee with a little sugar

Nessun Dorma, performed by Luciano Pavarotti, brings out the intensity/bitterness in the coffee.

Pumpkin crème brûlée

Autumn in New York sung by Billie Holiday, with its high-pitched piano notes and Holiday’s lower-pitched, plaintive voice, emphasises the autumn flavour of cinnamon and pumpkin in the dish.

And with your wine, try …

Château Margaux 2004: Tchaikovsky’s String Quartet No 1 in D Major.

Pouilly-Fumé: Mozart’s Flute Quartet in D Major, K285.

Cabernet Sauvignon: 60% more robust when consumed to the sound of Orff’s Carmina Burana.

Chardonnay: 40% more zingy and refreshing when accompanied by Just Can’t Get Enough by Nouvelle Vague.

Dessert wine: Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells.”

— This article is intriguing and is something which I had never come across before. I had already understood that food is a powerful topic as the action of cooking can become an  art, sometimes in an unusual way such as the methods of Hesten Blumental which conceive ways of cooking in a scientific manner, yet before reading this article I had never thought that tastes could be manipulated. Moreover, this article also ties in heavily with music and health since, of course, “we are what we eat” and thus, ascertaining to this article, music has a direct impact on our health and can perhaps improve our enjoyment and standard of living.

A similar article which provides equal insight into how music can affect food is one found in the FT Weekend magazine, following the activities of the artist Judith Wang who is one of Charles Spence’s students at Oxford. (

In this article she states:

” As well as taste, I’m interested in how sound can change the mouth-feel: does it make the food feel more creamy or the drink feel more astringent?”

” I always come back to my real fascination: wine. It has complex tastes and aromas that change over time, which is also characteristic of music. I really want to compose music which expresses how a wine might unfold in a glass.”

Music and Health

I have been listening to a radio show “Music matters” which discusses the affect music has on health. I find it a fascinating subject to consider the fact that music can reduce a patient’s pain and anxiety levels. The following points are notes which I made from listening to the radio series:

  • Music acts as pain relief – before and after hospital
  • Music helps reduce pain pre and post surgeries such as: endoscopic procedure, women undergoing caesarean sections.
  •  Reduces the number of pain killers needed, and reduces anxieties and distractions
  • Music can reduce people’s biological stress  (found through looking at hormonal levels.)
  • Music making can distract people in a positive way from negative thoughts/physical pain.

Furthermore,  John Wynne is another artist who explores music and health- he investigates metastatic breast cancer and its relationship with music in his piece ‘I Am Not the Cancer’ , a  video and sound installation base which discusses the emotions and troubles of three women suffering from cancer, which he did in collaboration with photographer Tim Wainwright. The intention of the piece was to enable people suffering from metastatic breast cancer to tell their stories. It involves six plasma screens, six super directional speakers and two subwoofers.  I watched a short video describing it  which I found on

I decided to study John Wynne’s piece in further detail and found an article outlining what it is about and also discussing the disease from this URL:

In this article, the writer Judith Potts describes the work and how she felt emotionally from viewing it. The following is two extracts from the article depicting what the piece entailed:
“I entered the huge, darkened room and saw six armchairs set opposite six screens. On each screen was, either, a woman’s face or the back of her head. Sitting in the first armchair, I realised that the “head” was not doing the talking – the sound of the woman’s voice came from a speaker above the armchair. As each woman described how she coped with the diagnosis, with trying to lead a normal life and with the knowledge that, medically, no more could be done, I was struck by the matter-of-fact quality of each woman’s voice – very little emotion came through and this made for an even greater impact on the audience.”

“The three faces barely smiled but, as you watched and listened, it was impossible to draw your eyes from the screen – even when you were looking at the back of the head. As each script came to its end, you moved to the next armchair until you had heard each woman speaking twice, once while watching her face and once with purely the back of her head on view.”


Maureen Paley gallery, Liam Gillick

Post Mark Peter Wright, I found myself going to the Maureen Paley gallery where Liam Gillick’s work ” The thought style meets the thought collective” surprised me and compelled me. I found the work to be political and abstract. I saw a teepee upstairs as well, made of shattered wood stood next to comments about Soviet propaganda. Aesthetica magazine declared that the exhibition ” explores the way groups develop their ideas in cohesion and tension with the individual.”  The sculpture in one corner of the room resembled a teepee next to communist slogans, which, funnily enough were not in red but were in black, whilst the American brand names were in red. This may have been a statement on realpolitik.

Major Project

My name is Min Chua-Lee. I am a final year student at London College of Communications, London university of arts, studying Sound Art and Design. This blog encapsulates my preliminary work needed for the execution of two projects which relate to the concepts of silence, and the effect of music on health. My passion for the subject stems from my working alongside a professional sound designer regularly doing music production,  which enhanced and developed my interest in the aesthetics of sound, such as its history and culture.

The first project, which is related to the notions of silence and purity  is inspired by John Cage’s “4’33′”.  It explores the idea of how emptiness and or purity, just like absolute silence can never exist owing to environmental factors. My film also portrays this idea: For props in the video I am using mirrors. Mirrors, just like Cage’s 4’33” cannot be absolute in their emptiness – similar to  4’33” which could not be completely silent- because of external elements. Mirrors are objective and truthful but are constantly affected by what is going on around them (i.e. outside of them.)

The second project is about music’s impact on physiology ; I am interested in how music can affect the mind and has effects on pain. My initial ideas for this project came from the viewing of “Patch Adams” , a film about how laughter can cure sick people.  I then became drawn to the idea of how sound can affect people’s recovery, relieving stress and  be a therapeutic tool towards wellbeing and positive thinking.

This blog acts as the nucleus for these two project, detailing my creative journey towards their execution.