View Full Version : The healing power of death metal

08-04-09, 01:39 PM
The healing power of death metal

A cool headline for a piece in the WaPo about soldiers at Walter Reed using music as part of the healing process. Seems like a great idea to me.

The result? Well, there are halls of residence at Walter Reed where depressed young men sit in their rooms and stare at the walls. And then there is the music session I watched recently, during which a young soldier with an artificial leg, shrapnel wounds and no prior musical training practiced complex electric guitar riffs to the pace of an electronic drumbeat. A visiting guitarist kept setting that beat faster and faster, forcing the vet to play faster and faster, until all broke out in howls of laughter. Meanwhile, another soldier, who also has an artificial leg, tinkered with his rap lyrics. He hopes to get one of his songs, mixed and recorded at Walter Reed ("it's about being blown up in Iraq"), played on the radio.

It was a cheerful scene, but it was more than that, too. Many of the soldiers at Walter Reed sustained some level of brain damage in the explosions that ripped off their arms or legs. Allen Brown, director of brain research and rehabilitation at the Mayo Clinic -- and a Musicorps adviser -- reckons that because the process of learning to play music requires using so many different parts of the brain, it may literally help the brain recover, to compensate for severe injury. Brown is working with Bloom, he told me, to devise a way to "clinically evaluate this process," not least so that it can be repeated elsewhere. So far more than a dozen veterans have been helped by Musicorps; dozens more want to join. Thousands more could benefit. The word is spreading -- the country singer John Rich visited last week -- but nothing involving professional musicians can run on volunteer energy forever.
The project is extraordinary on its own -- look on the Musicorps Web site (http://musicorps.net) for more details