It’s one of the impressions from that nursing home that I’ve never been able to forget: a 65-year-old daughter playing her 90-year-old mother—who was suffering from dementia—a few measures of Mozart on an old cassette player every afternoon. From hand-labelled cassette tapes that her mother had once recorded herself. “That comforts her,” said the devoted daughter. Truth be told, it had this effect on all the residents of that floor. Scientists agree that music can heal. Countless studies have looked at the reactions of the body and psyche to certain frequencies—and some of them have produced astonishing results. Stroke victims, for example, enjoy better prospects of recovery if they listen to music on a daily basis. People with cardiac arrhythmia, as well, benefit from various pieces of music capable of calming the activity of their hearts. And findings such as these have long since been implemented by modern music therapy.
But despite their ability to produce healing sounds on their instruments, musicians themselves—much like other creative professionals—are frequently not in the best physical and mental health. Long workdays, irregular employment or single-season contracts, extensive travel, and last but not least the pressure of competition all take their toll. It all leaves little time for recreational sport, regular meals, or sufficient sleep. But on the other hand, such careers offer immeasurably more job satisfaction and opportunities for self-fulfilment than do other lines of work. The idea that art can function as self-therapy for artists may indeed be a myth, in light of the extraordinary effort and utter exhaustion that underlie all manner of artistic achievements. But this much can indeed be said: when we do something that we love from the bottom of our hearts and with which we can identify 100 %, it always has a positive effect on psychological—and thus overall—health.