Peter Gabriel tests the therapeutic effects of music

Peter Gabriel, along with St. Vincent, Jon Hopkins and Esa-Pekka Salonen worked with a team of neuroscientists to study music’s effects on health.

Ever more studies show that music can trigger our neural systems involving emotions, movements, learning and memory. The Sync project, launched last year by Nokia former President Marko Ahtisaari, has gathered neuroscientists at MIT, researchers at Berklee College of Music and artists including Peter GabrielSt. VincentJon Hopkins and orchestra leader Esa-Pekka Salonen to measure the physiological effects of music on our health.

The choice of the artists wasn’t fortuitous. Ahtisaari decided to involve musicians who use technology in a creative way rather than choosing those who just have outstanding musical qualities. With the artists and his team of scientists, he’s trying to analyse the songs included in music apps such as Pandora and Spotify, comparing them with biometric data from health apps and wearable technology. “Peter, Annie, Jon and Esa-Pekka are all using technology in creative ways to push the boundaries of what music can be”, Ahtisaari explained.

Peter Gabriel
Peter Gabriel has always been keen on music and technology and interested in human rights © Michael N. Todaro/Getty Images

How music can change our physical and mental health

Peter Gabriel, a veteran of art-rock and a human rights activist, said he’s happy that science is contemplating sounds as a therapeutic tool: “Our senses provide us with different ways of inputting and experiencing ideas and emotions and also provide wonderful opportunities to change our physical and mental health. A good collection of music has always been used as a box of mood pills”. Gabriel, who has been taking delight in music and technology for decades, has also collaborated in the Internet Interspecies project of MIT to teach primates how to use the web and videoconferencing.

Innovative experiments by other artists

Annie Clark, whose stage name is St. Vincent, has recently designed a guitar suitable for womenJon Hopkins, a classical pianist and praised electro-music producer, learned a method of self-hypnosis. Finnish Esa-Pekka Salonen, who leads the London Philharmonia Orchestra, has created an iPad app that encourages listeners to appreciate symphonic works.

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