From ceremony to therapy: how music could help to heal traumatised troops

Neurologists to look at use of music to aid those suffering from post-conflict trauma.

Music is to be prescribed as therapy for soldiers suffering from the physical or mental effects of war, in a new initiative across the armed forces.

The army's most senior musician, Lieutenant Colonel Bob Meldrum, is taking part in a ground-breaking conference on music and the trauma of war late June 2012 in the City of London. It will look at the potential of music to rehabilitate troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, many suffering post-traumatic stress and physical injuries. Musicians of the Royal Artillery Band and the Band of the Adjutant General's Corps are among other military personnel attending the two-day conference.

Conference director Ian Ritchie said there was a growing realisation within the forces that military musicians can play a therapeutic role – taking music beyond "the parade ground and raising morale, playing for special occasions and generally being ceremonial and upbeat" to become part of the healing process.

Captain Craig Hallatt, the Royal Artillery Band's director of music, told theObserver: "Since the second world war, there has been a realisation that healing can be helped by music, and can even work as therapy for physical injuries. So we're really concentrating on that quite heavily now with Headley Court [the rehabilitation centre for injured service personnel]. They now have their own music room, with pianos, guitars and percussion instruments."

He added: "Going to Afghanistan, and then completing the circle by going down to Headley Court and helping with the casualties from that conflict, makes us musicians feel part of what we need to be doing."

Ritchie said of the programme: "What it represents is a much broader repertoire that covers the introspective and the very extrovert, that covers the raising of morale but also the reflection that comes from other qualities of music."


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