Music Medicine: ‘Sound Feelings’, Bullshit Concepts


When most people hear about the healing powers of music, I’m sure they think of the soft soulful beats of Lionel Richie or Michael Bolton, gently ushering them through a messy break-up – I know I do. But for some, music has healing powers of a more literal, less-early 90s housewife and altogether more bullshit nature. I’m talking, in fact, about Sound Feelings, a Californian company founded by Howard Richman, who proudly proclaim:

“We are music, health and education audio and book publishers. We specialize in music medicinemusic instructionweight loss alternative therapies and film scoring

An eclectic mix there, I’m sure you’ll agree. I’m sure you’ll also allow me to skip over the film scoring and piano lessons, and get right down to the good stuff – taking a look at the alternative therapies on offer, this film-scoring-music-guru will merrily peddle you products for ‘Internal Cleansing‘, weight loss products and books, as well as – amazingly – a weight loss photo. Which is literally just a photoshopped photo of the current-sized-You, adjusted in order to make you look slimmer. And black and white. Apparently, this is a great motivational technique. Yeah.

On top of all that, the good maestro advises on a dangerous-sounding 10-Point Colon Cleanse – because, I don’t know about you, but I always take digestive advice from someone with a B.A. degree in piano performance (from UCLA, no less).Surprisingly, Howard’s not a doctor, or any kind of science-acquainted person. In fact, one of the few things I particularly like about the site is that his bio describes him as being an ‘unlikely “expert” in the field of weight loss.’

You can say that again.

Still, his weight loss ideas are nothing compared to his other field of expertise – music medicine. Music. Medicine. It’s these claims that I particularly took interest in, and I’m quoting the website here:

Music Therapy for Transformation

Sound Feelings music therapy for transformation offers drug-free audio products for specific illnesses and conditions. Our recordings provide a music therapy alternative to traditional expressive arts therapy. Self-help entrainment music resolves stress and blocks which encourages a relaxing recovery. The following medical music titles are piano instrumentals geared for mind/body self-reflection, cellular release and self-improvement. See also: homeopathic music, designer music, therapeutic music, energy medicine.

Yikes.

As you can imagine, I had a lot of questions regarding the information on the site, and the health credentials of a man who describes himself as having use of music to heal. I mean, who wouldn’t have questions about that? Fortunately, I found the following:

    Sound Feelings frequently asked questions (FAQS) about our alternative medicine and music instruction products. Hopefully you will find answers to your questions about our self-help stress management and music training tools

Excellent, an FAQ! And what’s the only question in the FAQ?

    Why is your company spamming me?

    Yikes! Things are not always as they seem. It may appear as if Sound Feelings is spamming you or that we are sending you viruses! But we are not. We have NEVER done anything like that and we are very angry that other people are implicating us and we are very, very sorry for any inconvenience that you may have experienced due to this fiasco.

So it’s a site which offers miraculous, magic music, who’s main and most-asked question is regarding their spamming practices. No, no, that’s entirely normal, that’s how all health advice tends to work…

At this juncture, you’re doubtlessly curious as to how these miracle-melodies sound, right? How about a sample?

  • Feeling stressed? Not a problem! Simply listen to this clip and feel your stress melt away!
  • Feeling fat? Not a problem! Simply listen to this clip and feel that fat melt away!
  • Suffering from AIDS or Cancer? Not a problem! Simply listen to these clips and feel your AIDS and/or Cancer melt away!

Unbelievable. Fortunately, the website does offer instruction on how to best use the tapes to fight cancer:

“The listener should be process-oriented rather than goal-oriented to appreciate this music for cancer”

I guess this makes total sense, after all if you go around being goal-oriented you might expect your cancer to be cured by the music…

For the pedants amongst you, the full list of illnesses and ailments the Music Man Who Comes From Down The Way can cure (What Can He Cu-re?) reads:

    The following information gives you guidelines on creating your own healing music sequence, even if you do not play an instrument! However, for your convenience, you may wish to use music that has already been created for this purpose.

    If so, you may purchase our music for specific illnesses and conditions, including: stress, chronic pain, insomnia, addictions, smoking, cardiovascular illnesses, post-traumatic-stress syndrome, TMJ, panic disorder/anxiety, overweight, anorexia, bulimia, depression, low self-esteem, stress, creative or emotional blocks, anger, fear, sadness, hyperactivity, attention deficit disorder, inner child processing (adults), stress and insomnia for the pregnant woman, anxiety and pain during birth, colic and anxiety in the newborn infant, breastfeeding, emotional armor, conflicts, infertility, cancer, anger, AIDS, infection, fear, lack of self-respect, immune system suppression, scleroderma, dementia anxiety, death and dying, frustration, individual transformational music, self-reflection, heightened awareness, relaxation, and inspiration.

Excellent. Some deeper digging around the site produced an extended FAQ, with the following

Has the music been tested anywhere?

We have letters from people from all over the world praising the benefits of the tapes for various situations. However, because we have not yet acquired clinical documentation, no cures or claims are implied. Since 1984, we have actually invited over 150 agencies and universities to become involved in testing our music. Unfortunately, funding always seems to be the issue.

In short – no, it’s not been tested.

Even if we were to come up with the huge funding required ourselves, would this self-funded research satisfy the hardened skeptic? Probably not. Our suggestion is to try the music and to take advantage of our 90-day, no-risk guarantee.

No-risk? Take this music CD to cure your AIDS/Cancer, and if it doesn’t work you get your money back?!

Another Frequently Asked Question reads:

Why do certain parts of the music seem irritating to me?

Well, I can answer that one – because it’s dangerous pseudoscientific bullshit. And it doesn’t even sound nice to listen to.

Play

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  1. #1 by Annie on April 22, 2010 - 20:53

    Well, I don’t know, this guy might be onto something. I heard listening to Nick Clegg speak for over a minute will increase your chances of cancer AND aids by 78%, so maybe if we listen to mediocre new-age piano music loudly enough to drown him out…

  2. #2 by Me on December 29, 2011 - 18:26

    Having used Howard Richman’s music for over a year now, I will tell you that his pieces are quite helpful in creating the environment within your mind and body to effectively and proactively address many different issues-emotional and physical. No I’m not getting paid for this and never did I believe or be misguided into thinking that this music would CURE any ailment in and of itself. I don’t believe Mr. Richman ever made that claim either. Perhaps you should experience it firsthand before making uneducated judgments.

  3. #3 by Evan Sachs on March 21, 2012 - 09:17

    Hi Mr. Critic…
    You might be surprised to learn that Howard Richman, former prof at Cal Institute of the Arts does know a thing or two about the higher study of piano. Piano performance at the high level Howard is teaching requires being in peak health and shape….remember …it is a physical endeavor. Reaction times, eye hand coordination, requires our bodies to be free as possible of bodily poisons. Colon cleansing, along with water purified by osmosis, purifies the body. I understand you might feel skeptical, even scared, about something you read here on the website. Consider that these things and items can be found in your local health food store..for that purpose. Personally having done it (colon cleansing) I will tell you that it is rejuvenating after a lifetime of McDonalds, Jack in the Box, and Burger King.
    Why not consider criticizing these purveyors of poison…rather than show with pride…such ignorance?
    Most of us are searching for answers to questions modern traditional medicine doesn’t have. Howard’s programs are powerful, and work.:)

  4. #4 by Not you on July 3, 2013 - 09:53

    –“Reaction times, eye hand coordination, requires our bodies to be free as possible of bodily poisons”– How does that make you a dietitian? There are TONS of occupations that require a similar skillset, or even a better one. Virtually every sport requires more of the same qualities you described. Does that make wrestlers qualified to act as oncologists? Hell no, it makes them athletes.
    –“Personally having done it (colon cleansing) I will tell you that it is rejuvenating after a lifetime of McDonalds, Jack in the Box, and Burger King”– Jesus, just quit the greasy food. I’ll make a wild guess and say that your abstinence from hamburgers is a more likely cause to your new-found well-being than a mediocre piece of music is.
    –“Most of us are searching for answers to questions modern traditional medicine doesn’t have”– Which are how to cure AIDS? Or cancer? Perfectly legit, but why make the massively idiotic conclusion that music could be or yield the answer?
    — “Howard’s programs are powerful, and work.:)”– No, your programs do not work.

  5. #5 by Susanne on May 25, 2019 - 15:06

    Hysterical.

    I’ve been a British resident for quite a while now, but I still visit a German harpists’ forum occasionally. It’s a regular occurence for some bullshit “healing harp” training course to be advertised, and sure enough, every time, a certain number of people get all dewy-eyed and book. Fancying yourself a healer holds a lot of attraction after all.

    Other regular announcements are for concerts of the (rather mediocre, new-agey, “Celtic” kitsch) Russian harpist Eduard Suhari, showbiz name Alizbar, who sidelines as a quack – his “therapy” consists in allowing people to set their backs against his harp while he’s playing. And yes, of course, he doesn’t rule out that your cancer might go away! Which will cost you, of course. Mind you, that will usually be in the shape of “voluntary” donations (same for concert admission) – what a great tax dodge! And maddeningly, people come back and rave about how life-changing it all was. Aargh.

    Shame you guys are so far away from me, I’m in South Wales. Keep up the good work.

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