"In forty years of medical practice," wrote Dr. Oliver Sacks near the end of his famous career, "I have found only two types of non-pharmaceutical 'therapy' to be vitally important for patients with chronic neurological diseases: music and gardens."
The comment might not surprise us, coming from such an unorthodox thinker as Sacks. But we might be surprised by the considerable amount of traditional scientific research linking music and mental health.
Sixty years ago, when Sacks was still in medical school, avant-garde jazz bandleader Sun Ra had a very Sacks-like experience when he played for an audience of patients in a mental hospital, and inspired a catatonic woman who hadn't spoken for years to stand up and say 'Do you call that music?'"
The gig, booked by his manager, constituted a fringe experiment in alternative medicine at the time, not a serious subject of study among medical doctors and neuroscientists.
How things have changed in the last half-century.