• Axl Rosenberg

090803_FOR_musicorpsTNWhile our government has used death metal to torture and interrogate prisoners, classically trained pianist-turned-music therapist Arthur Bloom has discovered that the br00tlest of the br00tal can actually serve another, more positive purpose: helping injured veterans of the war in Iraq recover from serious injuries.

Via Anne Applebaum’s fascinating article on Slate.com:

Bloom’s project isn’t standard music therapy. On the contrary, after working with a few Walter Reed [Army Medical Center] patients, he realized that what a severely injured person needs isn’t just a few guitar lessons or some soothing sounds, but rather what he calls “real” music: serious, one-on-one, customized training, ongoing collaboration, professional mentors who can give their co-musicians a sense of purpose, of moving forward. In pursuit of this idea, he persuaded donors to give him instruments, got Steve Jobs to donate computers, and set up what looks like a small recording studio in one of the residential houses at Walter Reed. Bloom started hanging around the house, ready to teach, practice, or produce original music with the vets—or, if so required, to rewrite a piece of piano music so that a one-armed veteran could play it with his artificial hand.

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, 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, also with 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.

The phrase “the healing power of death metal” apparently comes from one of Bloom’s students. And while there’s no mention of specific bands (or, really, even of death metal specifically), it’s really interesting that fast, technical music can be used as a means of physical (and, apparently, psychological) therapy. So tell that to the next person who gives you shit for loving Cannibal Corpse.

Read the rest of the article here.


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