Music Therapy and Autism

The Perfect Fifth Interval in Music Therapy with an Autistic Infant (Prince)

Lao Tzu referred to this interval as the sound of Universal Harmony, balancing the forces of Yin & Yang. In India, the fifth is believed to create a sound through which Shiva calls Shakti to the dance of life. Apollo, the Greek Sun God of Music and Healing plucked the perfect fifth on his sacred lyre to call dolphin messengers to Delphi.The Alchemists called the interval crux ansata and considered it to be a transition point where matter crossed over into spirit.

The perfect fifth is the name for a very special interval in music, made up of the first and fifth degree in a musical scale. Some may recognise this as Do and So, when singing Do Re Mi Fa So, or its eastern equivalent Sa and Pa. Singers and mindful musicians might be familiar with how these two notes “feel” when they are come across in scales, melodies, and songs, often serving as points of “rest,” and release from tension and crescendos between the various melodies weaved together by other combinations of notes. It is not overly uncommon for songs to begin, and/or end on one of these two scale degrees. To rattle off a few, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Don’t Worry Be Happy, Amazing Grace, When the Saints go Marching in, You are my Sunshine, and yes, even Happy Birthday to You! Several of the popular 70’s rock riffs, and perhaps the metal music that followed, have their songs held together by chords which depend on this interval. Ever asked yourself how rock and metal guitarists often use just two fretted fingers, to produce such heavy sounds in their riffing? The answer often lies in the chords being built off the first and fifth degrees of the musical scale. The effect of this interval on people is deeply balancing and grounding, often producing a sense of wellness and stability, not just to musical compositions and structures, but within the physical body as well.

In the 1920’s Hans Kayser, a German scientist, used the Lambdoma (Pythagorean Table) to support his theory that fundamentals of musical harmony are essentially the same as the principles of the harmonic structure of matter.He believed that the whole-number ratios of musical harmonics correspond to the underlying relationships in the periodic table of elements, and he observed their applications in chemistry, physics, and astronomy.The Perfect Fifth is part of the Fibonacci series, a mathematical sequence that is part of a broad level of design patterns found in nature, for example, in the human body (extending to the structures of DNA, brain microtubules, and even the pattern of teeth). The pattern also extends to galactic shapes, the shape of hurricane clouds, breeding patterns of rabbits and bees, the structure of certain chemical compounds, and the spacing of leaves in plants. This pattern is also emulated in architecture and is even reflected in stock market patterns.

One of the premises of Sound Healing is that all existence is vibratory in nature, and therefore it is the underlying vibratory field that sustains and imbues everything that exists with structure and form. Healers today use BioSonic tuning forks (BodyTuners ™), which are tuned to a Pythagorean Perfect Fifth ratio, which creates harmony and balance by unifying opposite energies. They balance the autonomic nervous system, that is the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems, thereby restoring equilibrium, neutrality and integrity to the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual bodies. The twelve semitones of an octave are not arbitrary; they are a reflection of our bodies innate harmonic structure.

The video showcases some of my own work, using the perfect fifth interval, with a hanging chime, metallophone, and rhythm bells. The effect this interval seems to have on a one and a half year old autistic child, enables him to sustain attention for an impressive two plus minutes, the entirety of which can be viewed from 01:3203:35 in the video.

Music as a Facilitator of Conversation (Prince) 

Precious moments with my neighbor, Prince, after grounding him in the Perfect Fifth Interval (C-G or Sa-Pa) where I move to using a Frame Drum and a Rain Rattle to converse with him. I am trying to use two distinct timbres, one by playing the rian drum roughly against the frame drum, and the other by scratching the rattle against the skin of the drum to have a conversation with Prince

The rough use, is something to the effect of me saying ‘Hey! Hey! I want to talk to you, please listen!’ while the scratching (very soft and not too audible in the video), is something to the effect of soft approval that I am being listened to. He is getting it!! His brain is beginning to process what the rough timbres might possibly be communicating.

Music as a Facilitator of Increasingly Complex Conversation Styles (Prince)

When I first saw Prince, conversation with him was limited to spit related sounds. The video shows a shift in his conversational style, where after about two months, he is now able to communicate using more melodic singing style sounds.

Music Therapy and Mirroring: Communicating with an Autistic Infant (Prince)

Prince, my first patient whom I am working with from home, giving me a first of the kind opportunity to design the environment for therapy. Prince is on the Autistic Spectrum, which means he does not maintain eyecontact, sounds from the environment, or speech. Mirroring, the process of allowing another to see their behaviour reflected to them by someone whom they are communicating with, makes for some pretty prolonged communicating by Prince with me.