Singer-songwriter Moby speaks about music as therapy

Singer-songwriter Moby spoke at Kresge Theatre last weekend on how music can be used as therapy. (credit: Wikimedia Commons) Singer-songwriter Moby spoke at Kresge Theatre last weekend on how music can be used as therapy. (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

American singer-songwriter Moby visited Kresge Theatre while passing through Pittsburgh to perform a DJ set at the 2nd annual Thrival music festival on Sept. 14. However, instead of playing his popular electronic music, the singer-songwriter and DJ spoke about his experience with music as therapy.

Moby said that, as a young musician, he fought to find purpose with his work. He knew that he loved to create music and was happy with his career, but there was always an underlying feeling that it was not substantial enough. This all changed when Moby discovered the Institute for Music and Neurological Functioning (IMNF), a non-profit organization that is part of the CenterLight Health System. The New York-based company is dedicated to studying and developing effective musical treatment for neurological damage and disorder. IMNF was founded in 1995 by Dr. Concetta Tomaino with help from therapist Oliver Sacks. The IMNF is a worldwide leader in the research of music-based therapy.

Neurogenesis is the natural process through which stem cells generate new neurons. A healthy, active lifestyle is known to be conducive to neurogenesis, but Tomaino and Sacks found that music is actually one of the most effective stimulants of neurogenesis. During his lecture, Moby recalled instances of Tomaino’s and Sacks’s research that revealed just how effective music therapy could be. For example, he explained that he witnessed a mute woman sing and a crippled man tap his feet when one of their favorite songs were playing. Playing music has also proved to be extraordinarily beneficial in reducing stress and increasing endorphin output. Current research projects of the IMNF include seeing if music therapy improves the health of those in home care and reduces emergency room trips and how making music can treat depression.

Moby pointed out that the only way for music therapy to be effective is for the patient to have emotional ties to the music. Listening to music that is meaningless does not stimulate one’s brain. However, it is not difficult to create emotional ties to music. Whether it brings tears to your eyes or reminds you of that amazing summer three years ago, music prompts profound emotions. “Imagine a wedding with no music, or a funeral with no music,” Moby said. It is natural for people to tie music to a variety of emotional situations.

Moby takes this to heart in the creation of his own music. He said he strives to create music that elicits emotions within himself with the hopes that others have similar reactions. Moby urges people to use music as therapy in their own lives, as it has proven to be a cheap and effective way to stimulate neurogenesis and reduce stress hormones. As it turns out, listening to and creating music is just another aspect of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.