"And the slender sound As from a distance beyond distance grew Coming upon me - O never harp nor horn, Nor aught we blow with breath, or touch with hand, Was like that music as it came; and then Stream'd thro' my cell a cold and silver beam, And down the long beam stole the Holy Grail, Rose-red with beatings in it, as if alive, Till all the white walls of my cell were dyed With rosy colours leaping on the wall; And then the music faded, and the Grail Past, and the beam decay'd, and from the walls The rosy quivering died into night." - Tennyson.
"A truth, which through our being then doth melt And purifies from self: it is a tone, The soul and source of music, which makes known Eternal harmony, and sheds a charm, Like to the fabled Cytherea's zone, Binding all things with beauty; - 'twould disarm The spectre Death, had he substantial power to harm."
While I am optimistic in my belief that music and colour will eventually become the greatest agents for the healing of the sick and the sorrowing, yet I in no way underestimate the difficulties to be overcome before such a desired end can be fully realised. There are so many things to be taken into consideration, so much that at first cannot be otherwise than experimental that time must necessarily elapse before any system can be perfected. The music and colour used to heal one man might prove, not only of no benefit to another, but irritating, and, possibly, harmful, in its effects. The question of temperament naturally would play an important part in all healing. What might prove one man's food might prove another man's poison. People are in different stages or degrees of development. Some people have outgrown, and have no longer any use for, the things that other people may still enjoy. In healing then, the needs of the individual would have to be thoroughly studied, and the effects of music and colour upon each patient carefully noted. It is very doubtful whether music and colour could be used, at first, to heal numbers of people at the same time, although later this might be accomplished, providing that the people were largely animated by the same desires and hopes so that there might be that unison necessary to the establishing of a receptive condition of mind.
I have often been impressed when listening to the music of a great church organ with a sense of peace and serenity of mind, and a feeling that the cares and anxieties of life, for the time being, were all removed from me, and really formed no part of my life. And sometimes, looking at the faces of those about me, I have been impressed by the thought that my own condition of mind was being also experienced by many others in the congregation. The musical church service, if of a good or high order, has always given me a greater spiritual uplift than any or all of the other services combined. I believe, however, that the best course to follow to demonstrate the healing value of music and colour, will first of all consist in individual treatment. If such treatment can once demonstrate its full value in a small way, then later it is bound to be taken up in the larger way. I think it most certainly might be made a very decided aid in the large institutions for the sick without going into the matter in a definite, scientific way. In such cases, however, it would be necessary to use good judgment in the selection of the music to be played, music that would exhilarate without exciting, music with brightness and cheerfulness, and music that would quiet and soothe. It would be necessary to avoid music of an exciting nature, or any kind that was morbid or sad.
I believe that one of the greatest mistakes being perpetuated in the hospital life of to-day is the use of white. White may be of the greatest value combined with colour, but when the eye catches nothing but white in every direction, the tendency of white is toward excitement, and not restfulness, because the white wall reflects back at least 70% of light. I know that the underlying thought in the use of white is that of cleanliness, and I am thoroughly convinced that the people who favour its use think that they are doing the wisest and best thing. A habit once established is difficult to get away from, whether it concern the lay mind, the semi-scientific, or the scientific. There is an underlying desire for permanency in everything that man does, and he hates to be pushed out of the beaten track. It would not be such a difficult matter for hospitals and other places where the sick are treated to do a little experimentation in the use of colours. Take two or more wards in a hospital, using white in one, and green or light greys in the others. In connection with the grey, some little colour might be used to brighten it up. If possible, have the same class of patients in all three wards, and then watch and see the different effects produced upon the patients; I am sure that the end of it would show that all white does not make as much for the health of the patients as is usually supposed. The eye needs colour in order to satisfy the mind, and the mind that is filled with monotony caused by its surroundings cannot make as satisfactory progress toward convalescence as the mind attuned, at least in a degree, to its outer environment. Many times have I heard people say that the white glare in the ward had made them almost distracted; for the awful feeling of monotony, day after day, made the hours seem days and the days seem weeks. Such a mental condition cannot conduce to rapid recovery. The white, too, of the ward is usually intensified by the number and size of the windows for the admission of light. If the room were a dark one, then there would be some real justification for the use of white; but surely with the great use of light there should be something other than a white surface to absorb more of the light. Our hospitals and sanitariums have made very decided progress in many ways. Why not make a careful investigation as to the introduction of some colour to satisfy the eye, and discover whether colour may not, even in a small way, prove beneficial in the healing of the sick? I do not underestimate the work of all kinds that has to be done in large hospitals, but sometimes even that which seems to be extra work may help make for an improved mental and physical condition, and instead of adding to, in reality lessen the work. If a state of restlessness in a patient or patients could be replaced by restfulness, it would not only act for the benefit of the patients but for the nurses as well. Supposing, for instance, that curtains or draperies were used during the lightest hours of the day and were removed later, it would take time to do this, but might there not be a compensating gain in other ways? I can well understand that it would not be wise to keep such curtains and draperies up permanently, because of their becoming infected with bacteria. That, I suppose, would be the chief medical objection to their use; but such an objection could be very easily overcome by occasionally subjecting them to heat or some other means that would destroy the bacteria. These are days of innovation and change. Too often the changes are not attended by the hoped-for results; nevertheless, that is no real reason why humanity should not try to overcome bad conditions with good ones, and go on from good to better, until the very best shall be obtained. Harmonious outer environment is certainly necessary for the well-being of those who are strong and whole, how much more necessary is it to those who are weak, to those experiencing pain and sorrow? Notwithstanding all the progress that has been made in the healing of the sick, I believe that not one-half the attention is given that should be given to the production of harmonious environment for the sick and diseased either in public or private institutions, or even in the homes of people. Sometimes a great deal of care is given to the question of temperature and food, without the slightest attention being paid to the things that attract the attention of the eye of the patient. In the healing of the sick it will soon be acknowledged the world over that the mind is the greatest factor, and that, if it can be kept in a state of rest and hopeful expectation, much has been accomplished toward ultimate recovery. I do not wish the reader to assume that in what I have written I wish to be either fault-finding or antagonistic toward those in authority in our institutions of healing; my intention is rather to suggest ways and means that should prove beneficial alike to the patients and those in charge of them.