Long known to produce remarkable results for humans and other animal species, music therapy appears to have benefits for plant life as well.
Music therapy seems a redundant term and, at the same time, not nearly dignified or poetic enough to refer to its subject with the appropriate deference. For the sake of this look at some specific scientific (and pseudo-scientific) outcomes of its application, however, it is convenient. Much has been studied and written about the possibilities to aid people in all areas of their lives by using music therapy; by the same token, it has long been recognized that animals also benefit from having wisely chosen music played to them. This is not in dispute and — to me at least, having been able to live my life and earn my livelihood by virtue of classical music — not surprising.
Music therapy for everyone, and don’t forget the garden
What is unexpected and perhaps more difficult to envision is the idea that plants also respond to music therapy. Groundbreaking studies, including one of the earliest and most widely known, The Secret Life of Plants, clued us in that there was a great deal more going on in the plant world than many of us had suspected. Numerous experiments have been conducted demonstrating that human conversation in the vicinity of plants would cause accelerated and stronger growth and, taking the idea even further, researchers have examined the notion that music would stimulate plant growth. Dorothy Retallack was among the first to delve into this subject (her findings were published in her book, The Sound of Music and Plants, a hard-to-find rarity these days); because she was a musician and not a scientist, her work was not done following strictly scientific methodology and therefore discounted by some. Her results have been replicated since, though, and therefore cannot be ignored.
Classical music is green
Retallack’s observations that plant life flourished when treated to classical music (although not of a dissonant variety) and withered when subjected to rock music are striking, as is the fact that the plants began growing towards the source of the music they preferred and away from sounds that were perceived as undesirable. I recognize myself, with the difference that I can get closer and also farther as needed! Charmingly, the Philharmonia Orchestra of London decided to bestow some music therapy on a very beautiful and deserving audience; that seems a fitting way to conclude. I was delighted that this Mozart excerpt was not diminished by any misplaced nods to period practices, which makes me think: all the better to grow by, my dear! (Wait for the breathtaking loveliness of the beneficiaries, shown towards the end of the clip.)