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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Real life experiment: Music soothes anxiety

An orthopedic surgeon in Britain teamed up with musician Brian Eno to create a "quiet room" at a hospital where Eno's ambient music plays, The Guardian reports. Eno, who experiments with what he calls "functional music" -- or music designed to elicit a particular response -- was delighted.

Surgeon Robin Turner approached Eno after going to see the artist's audiovisual installation 77 Million Paintings at the 2010 Brighton festival. His mother-in-law also went, said Turner, and "she is normally very fidgety, you can't pin her down; the phrase we use is that she goes at a million miles an hour with her hair on fire. She went in and was there for two hours, which is unheard of. It was proof that this has a calming influence on people."

Eno says this is the first time he's been able to practice his belief that music can be made that deliberately affects mood. "I've met many women who have had children listening to one of my records so I knew there was this dimension and here, in the last couple of days I've met patients and staff who have said, 'I really like that room, it makes a big difference."

Turner said they intended to examine any physiological changes to people in the Eno room – pulse, blood pressure, anxiety and so on – and there was anecdotal evidence this week when a cancer patient came out and began telling Eno, not recognising him, how wonderful it was. "He wanted a copy of that room at home," said Turner. "The scientist in me says that's not very scientific but the human in me says that makes it all worthwhile."

In addition to his own albums and ones with David Byrne, Eno offers a series of ambient music, including Ambient Music for Airports. Photo from The Guardian of Eno preparing the Brighton exhibit.