Steve barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Tue Nov 9 06:12:04 PST 2004

Earlier studies claimed that those who are jazz fans, live longer and have
more frequent, and more satisfying sex lives. Now comes the claim that jazz
also heals us. Perhaps Music does indeed soothe the savage beast.

Dr. Fred Spencer, do you know about this? :-) VBG

People don't need Zocor or Lipitor, just a weekly infusion of "The Beat".
John Petters, Tom Wiggins and other tub thumpers, you too can make a fortune
as a holistic healer with that New Orleans beat and a little gospel. Will
Medicare cover it? :-) VBG

Our new slogan: "Dixieland, The Magic Elixir, Heals The Faithful." Oh my, I
can see us all becoming a mix of Elmer Gantry and Tom Jones. What fun.
Ladies, write me off line for services and prices. (outcall only)

Steve Barbone

November 9, 2004 - NY TIMES - By COREY KILGANNON

Finding Healing Music in the Heart

Around the South Jamaica housing projects in Queens, young men with pit
bulls guard street corners and rap music blares from car stereos. But one
house, on 110th Avenue, seems to openly defy its gritty surroundings.

Its owner, Milford Graves, has covered it with an ornate mosaic of stones,
reflective metal and hunks of discarded marble, arranged in cheery patterns.
The yard is a lush garden, dense with citrus trees, herbs and exotic plants.

Mr. Graves, 63, a jazz drummer who made his mark in the 1960's with
avant-garde musicians like Albert Ayler, Paul Bley and Sonny Sharrock,
performs only occasionally now. He spends about half his week teaching music
healing and jazz improvisation classes at Bennington College in Vermont,
where he has been a professor for 31 years. He spends much of the rest of
his week in his basement researching the relationship between music and the
human heart.

After descending the psychedelic-painted stairway into his laboratory,
visitors are faced with a collection of drums from around the world,
surrounding a network of computers. Wooden African idols spiked with nails
rub up against medical anatomical models. Amid a vast inventory of herbs,
roots and plant extracts sits an old wooden recliner equipped with four
electronic stethoscopes connected to computers displaying intricate
electrocardiogram readouts.

In 1967, Mr. Graves was honored in a Down Beat magazine critics poll as the
year's bright new talent. He had offers of lucrative gigs from artists like
Miles Davis and the South African singer Miriam Makeba.

But after years of hard living as a jazzman, Mr. Graves began studying
holistic healing, and then teaching it. He became fascinated with the effect
of music on physiological functions.

"People with ailments would attend my performances and tell me they felt
better afterward," he said.

Curious about the heartbeat as a primary source of rhythm, he bought an
electronic stethoscope and began recording his and other musicians'

"I wanted to see what kind of music my heart was making," he said.

In his basement, he converted the heartbeats to a higher register and
dissected them. Behind the basic binary thum-THUMP beat, he heard other
rhythms - more spontaneous and complex patterns in less-regular time
intervals - akin to a drummer using his four limbs independently.

"A lot of it was like free jazz," Mr. Graves said one day last week in his
basement. "There were rhythms I had only heard in Cuban and Nigerian music."
He demonstrated by thumping a steady bum-BUM rhythm on a conga with his
right hand, while delivering with his left a series of unconnected rhythms
on an hourglass-shaped talking drum.

Mr. Graves created computer programs to analyze the heart's rhythms and
pitches, which are caused by muscle and valve movement. The pitches
correspond to actual notes on the Western musical scale. Raised several
octaves, the cardiac sounds became rather melodic.

"When I hooked up to the four chambers of the heart, it sounded like
four-part harmony," Mr. Graves said.

He began composing with the sounds - both by transcribing heartbeat melodies
and by using recorded fragments. He also realized he could help detect heart
problems, maybe even cure them.

"A healthy heart has strong, supple walls, so the sound usually has a nice
flow," he said. "You hear it and say, 'Ah, now that's hip.' But an unhealthy
heart has stiff and brittle muscles. There's less compliance, and sounds can
come out up to three octaves higher than normal.

"You can pinpoint things by the melody. You can hear something and say, 'Ah,
sounds like a problem in the right atrium.' "

In 2000, Mr. Graves received a grant from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial
Foundation, which he said gave him money to buy essential equipment.

Dr. Baruch Krauss, who teaches pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and is
an emergency physician at Boston Children's Hospital, said the medical
establishment has only recently begun to appreciate the rhythmic and tonal
complexities of the heartbeat and speak about it in terms of syncopation and

"This is what a Renaissance man looks like today," said Dr. Krauss, who
studied acupuncture with Mr. Graves and follows his research. "To see this
guy tinkering with stuff in a basement in Queens, you wonder how it could be
legitimate. But Milford is right on the cutting edge of this stuff. He
brings to it what doctors can't, because he approaches it as a musician."

Dr. Ram Jadonath, director of electrophysiology at North Shore University
Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y., said Mr. Graves's theories sounded plausible
but should not replace a standard medical assessment from a doctor.

"The heartbeat is a form of musical rhythm, and if you have a musical ear,
you can hear heart problems a lot easier," he said. "Many heart rhythm
disturbances are stress-related, and you have cells misfiring. It is
possible to redirect or retrain them with musical therapy. They do respond
to suggestion. That's the area where his biofeedback could correct those
type of problems."

Mr. Graves said he brings unusual strengths to his medical work.

"To hear if a melody sounds right or not, you've got to look at it as an
artist, not a doctor," he said. "If you're trying to listen to a musical
sound with no musical ability, you're not feeling it, man."

Mr. Graves claims he can help a flawed heartbeat through biofeedback. He
creates what he calls a "corrected heartbeat" using an algorhythmic formula,
or by old-fashioned composing, and then feeds it back to the patient, whose
heart is then trained to adopt the healthy beat. The patient can listen to a
recording of the corrected heartbeat, or it can be imparted directly through
a speaker that vibrates a needle stuck into acupuncture points.

"If they don't want that," he added, "I can give them a CD."

Last week, Dennis Thomas, 49, visited Mr. Graves in his basement complaining
of severe chest congestion. Mr. Thomas said his doctor had diagnosed
bronchial asthma and given him medication that had not been effective.

Mr. Graves said the problem might be related to Mr. Thomas's heart and
recorded his heartbeat. With the help of a computer program, Mr. Graves
tinkered with the rhythm and amplitude and then attempted to stimulate Mr.
Thomas's heart by playing the "corrected" beat both through a speaker and
through a wire stuck into an acupuncture point in his wrist.

"I gave him a double shot," Mr. Graves explained. After 10 minutes of
treatment, Mr. Thomas's heart rate had risen about 10 beats per minute,
according to a monitor.

Mr. Thomas, a city bus driver from Jamaica who used to study martial arts
with Mr. Graves, said that he felt improvement afterward.

"I started breathing easier and felt more relaxed," he said.

In addition to his medical work, Mr. Graves analyzes the heartbeats of his
music students, hoping to help them play deeper and more personal music. The
idea, he said, is to find their most prevalent rhythms and pitches and
incorporate them into their playing.

The composer and saxophonist John Zorn called Mr. Graves "basically a
20th-century shaman."

"He's taken traditional drum technique so far that there's no further place
to go, so he's going to the source, his heart," Mr. Zorn said.

"This culture is not equipped to appreciate someone like Milford," he said.
"In Korea, he'd be a national treasure. Here, he's just some weird guy who
lives in Queens."

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