In the late 1990’s, the psychologist Steven Pinker famously, and controversially described music as ‘auditory cheesecake’. He proposed that “as far as biological cause and effect is concerned, music is useless”.
But more recent research suggests Pinker’s theory was wrong. Rather than being a fluffy evolutionary by-product of language, many experts now believe that music is, in contrast, a critical and core function of the brain.
However you argue the toss, one thing’s for sure. From even before we’re born, music appears to be a deep and universally encoded part of the human experience. Why might this be?
The healing power of music
It’s clear that humans have been musical creatures for a very long time. The earliest known instrument is a flute made of bone, dating back at least 40,000 years.
What we don’t know is why we came to appreciate music in the first place. However, since the dawn of recorded history, ancient cultures such as the Chinese, Greeks, Hindus and Egyptians have all acknowleged music for its many healing properties.
Fast forwarding to the 21st century, the modern embodiment of music therapy doesn’t involved sacred rites, or elaborate rituals, but in many ways echoes the same ancient recognition – that music can help alleviate the symptoms of a staggering range of physiological and psychological disorders, including mood disorders, schizophrenia, dementia and even heart disease.
Genote – science meets health meets music
Launched this week, Genote is an online platform that uses clinically validated music to help alleviate a range of conditions including sleeplessness, anxiety, memory problems, inattentiveness and more.
Co-founded by Dr. Massimillano Frani, a world renowned pianist, composer and pedagogue, Genote is “dedicated to studying, researching and promoting innovative technologies for the application of all rigorous scientific findings in the correlation between music and health.”
Genote consists of a streaming music library which is tailored for adults, children and the elderly. The new online platform is a result of over 20 years research in the field, (you can read a summary of the research findings here )and utilizes a proprietary algorithmic technology named Health Music™.
Health Music™ is a collaborative venture, developed by a team of scientists, musicians, medical practitioners and sound engineers. After working with scientific and medical institutions all over the world, the team has used their research and experience to create a platform to deliver the method in an easy to use, online app.
Always interested to find out about new innovative ways to combat sleep problems, we spoke to Dr Frani about Genote and the healing properties of sleep.
If you’d like to try out Genote for yourself, scroll to the bottom of the article for a free trial offer and promo code.
A conversation with Dr Massimiliamo Frani of Genote Labs
JM (Jeff Mann) : Hi Massimiliamo, thanks for taking the time answer some questions for Sleep Junkies. Can you fill us in on the back story to Genote? What is your background, and what was the motivation and inspiration for using music, in a scientific context, to promote better health? MF (Dr Massimiliamo Frani): First and foremost, I must say that I am quite impressed at the quality of the questions that we are being asked. Thank you for being enthusiastically inquisitive! Regarding my background, rather than referring you to my biographical information (boring), all I can say is that I am a musician – meaning that since age 3, I have studied music and am now a concert artist with published and reviewed commercial classical albums.
I’ve also composed for mixed media (Theater, Opera and Movies), and I’ve taught in academies and universities in Europe, the US and Asia. Our co-founder Edoardo Guerra is a trained psychologist and former member of the National Italian Swim Team.
He’s been integral in all of our clinical studies and applications. He says he’s a clinical psychologist researcher– I think he is a genius.
JM: Briefly can you describe how people can use the platform and the types of health issues that Genote is aimed at dealing with? MF: The Genote Music platform is available online at genotelab.com. We tried our best to package our clinical process into an easy to use web interface for use at home.
We’ve had a broad range of studies for a wide range of applications, but to start our online offering, we really wanted to focus on bringing the technology and power we’re using in NICUs [[neonatal intensive care units] to parents in the home.
By creating an account with our site, you can instantly stream the musical albums that have been clinically tested to help treat sleep issues, anxiety, relaxation, and focus for kids.
We also have music albums that have been tested to prove effective for treating adults and the elderly with similar symptoms. We’ll be expanding in the future as soon as we can and as soon as we can get the cooperation of researchers and doctors to back up new ideas. We don’t believe in just putting music out there without some type of clinical backing.
JM: You’ve conducted extensive research into the effectiveness of music in relieving some of the symptoms you’ve described, can you give us any examples or case studies where Genote has had success?
MF: Our last study on the effectiveness of Genote was done at the Utah School for the Deaf and the Blind in Ogden, Utah. The project was designed to support and enrich the educational experience, improve health outcomes and improve the quality of life of the students both at school and at home.
We equipped teachers and families with the Genote platform, personalized guidelines for a listening schedule, a customized music library (sleep, focus, relax, calm down albums) and a set of surveys. Our data showed a statistically significant effect in helping the students fall asleep, manage their mood, sleep consistently, and increase attentiveness.
Genote has also studied its effects in neonatology, pediatric, geriatric, sport medicine, education and boarding schools, and each time we found results related to its capacity to help recovery, improve sleep quality and grow, especially while we where studying premature babies in an NICU of III level.
Throughout the years, we’ve also collected many single cases, from autism to end of life with incredible results not only from a research point of view but also from the human and aesthetic experience.
We are now collaborating with Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City and Elevations, a boarding school in Syracuse.
JM: As a musician myself, and being a technology lover too, I was fascinated to learn that you’ve identified over 400 different musical characteristics which have an affect on our health. Can you give us an example of how specific aspects of music can directly affect our physical, psychological and cognitive well-being? MF: Since 1991, I directed my interest toward Music Analysis. Think of rhythm, melody, temp as the rDNA of music. Our methodology dissects music into much smaller elements, like codes or sequences in rDNA.
In 2003, I introduced a listening protocol in a therapeutic boarding school, where each element was combined to a specific psychophysiological response. We found that each music element triggered specific responses.
JM: Some might say that music transcends data and quantification – that it affects each one of us in a unique, unexplainable way. How would you counter the argument that music is a very personal experience and that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for using music as a therapeutic solution?
MF: There is no doubt that music is a transcendental phenomena. Yet, the methodical analysis of its structural elements has offered a unique set of consistent responses that we can use to successfully predict human responses to music elements.
Our research in NICUs has defined the concept of individualized care as it applies to music. That is why Genote invests in recording music and creating new repertoire: our primary focus is to offer a personalized experience, while offering tested musical content.
JM: Regarding sleep in particular, we’ve heard about white noise machines and lullaby toys for babies, in what way does Genote differ and improve on these techniques for helping adults and children improve their sleep health? MF: This questions is especially delicate when it comes to children. We don’t believe in a ends justifies the means type of approach to kids’ sleep health. Some of the sleeping aids out there for children may be quick fixes or have secondary effects that are left up to chance.
Take white noise. It has been proven in recent studies that the process of alphabetization is determined in high percentage by the level and quality of verbalization to which an infant is exposed. Other studies show the importance of audio stimulation in the first years of a child’s life for its cognitive and linguistic development and how insufficient stimulations or noise can be harmful for the kids.
White noise, not having structural patterns, induces, by virtue of emulation, to a non-structured verbalization, hence contributing to the creation of a non-conducive environment for linguistic development and depleting the child of necessary cognitive stimulants.
Another example are machines that have no type of guidelines for volume or speaker proximity to a child. Such machines need to consider that to often the volume of the sounds/music are not recommended by the American Pediatric Association and can be damaging to an infant’s health. The result is a trade off: you may get a kids to sleep, but you have to embrace another negative effect in exchange.
Genote is different for a few reasons:
1. Criteria of music selection: Genote has studied in controlled environments what music structures can trigger and improve specific psychophysiological functions. We don’t make music for entertainment.
2. High Sound/music quality: The process that each music album goes through is impressive. From the caliber of musicians, to the recording equipment, the sound engineering to the streaming service everything comes together to create an unadulterated product.
3. Measurable results: We constantly work to make sure what we offer our clients is proven to help them with the issue they’re trying to fix.
JM: I’ve had a listen to some of the music albums on your platform, and the tracks I’ve heard are based in and around Western classical tradition. What are your thoughts and views on the therapeutic value of other musical genres? Do you have any plans to expand the Genote library to include other types of music? MF: Thank you for taking the time to listen! The library we have developed through the years includes composers from the Early Music age to the contemporary era (Modern and Jazz included). New compositions are also being written. As we roll out additional protocols, the repertoire will include music from the Western tradition, the Middle Eastern and the Far East traditions. We’re also recording Folkloristic traditions.
JM: What are your hopes and aspirations for the future of Genote?
MF: For years I’ve heard people saying all sorts of things about music and its powers. Through our research, we have clinically assessed what some of those powers are and how we can measure them.
Ultimately, I have decided to embrace this endeavor, to give people a substantial method (and possibly valid reasoning) to include music into their lives. I’ve known all along that great music could change someone’s condition, now I know it does in all possible ways. My hope is to introduce great music into society’s mainstream.