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art and culture seriously benefit your health

This piece of music was generated spontaneously through the interaction of the attendees, in a collective improvisation experience in TEMENOS project. Currently, we are developing these pieces during the severe confinement to which we musicians are subjected, each working from home. We have been able to verify that the paticipation in a meeting of these characteristics has a very high pedagogical value and many of the absolutely essential functions for creating music can be carried out in this way. Afterwards, image and sound were incorporated into improvisation, until the present version was obtained as a derivative work.

We are currently developing this type of pieces through this collaborative network.

In these times of quarantine forced by the coronavirus pandemic, turning to the arts becomes an evidence for many, who seek cultural events online or directly engage in artistic activities to kill boredom, anxiety, or simply to express themselves.

Art, music, painting or dance benefit health: listening to music helps control blood glucose level, making music improves the immune system and stress management, dancing provides benefits for the whole body and mind and painting or sculpture help in depressive states. The World Health Organization says that for the first time it has carried out a large-scale study on the links between art and health and well-being and for the first time calls on Governments and authorities to implement policies that improve collaboration between health sectors The regional office for Europe has analyzed 900 scientific publications from all over the world and the main conclusion is that getting involved in art, be it dancing, singing or going to museums and concerts offers an added dimension to how we can improve our physical and mental health “according to Piroska Östlin, WHO regional director for Europe.” The examples cited in this WHO’s groundbreaking report shows ways the arts can tackle insidious or complex health problems like diabetes, obesity, and poor mental health. They consider health and well-being in a broader social and community context, and offer solutions that common medical practice has so far been unable to effectively address, “explains Dr. Östlin.


The report highlights that the arts can play a crucial role in well-being from birth to death. “Children whose parents read stories before bed have a longer sleep time and better concentration at school.” Also highlighting the benefits of theater in adolescents or the effects of music on mental health and dementia, the WHO also supports recent discoveries about the role of music and creativity as a supplement in severe treatments, which can even enhance The positive effects. The report highlights that some arts interventions not only produce good results, but can also be more cost-effective than the more common biomedical treatments. The report examines the health benefits (through active or passive participation) in five broad categories of arts: performing arts (music, dance, singing, theater, film); visual arts (crafts, design, painting, photography); literature (writing, reading, attending literary festivals); culture (visits to museums, galleries, concerts, theater); and online arts (animations, digital arts, etc.). They are not new discoveries, in fact disciplines such as music therapy are increasingly developed and the use of art to alleviate the harshness of more difficult treatments such as chemotherapy is relatively widespread

report (in English)

report (in French)

First global report of this magnitude

What marks a milestone is that the World Health Organization has focused on the role of art in health and wellness globally and at this scale, with almost a thousand scientific publications, and to call on the authorities to take the inclusion of art in the health system very seriously. The authors of the report conclude that evidence has been found on “a wide variety of approaches and methodologies” on the potential value of the arts in contributing to basic determinants of health; play a critical role in health promotion; help prevent the onset of mental illness and age-related physical decline; support the treatment or management of mental illness, non-communicable diseases and neurological disorders; and assist in the care of acute and end-of-life illnesses. Call upon the countries most lagging behind in the exploration of art as support for health to give impetus to these practices and to all WHO members to consider the development of long-term strategies and policies that enhance the collaboration between art and the health sector that “realize the possibilities offered by the arts to improve health in the world” which would be a “mutual benefit of the arts and the international health and social care “.


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In an (at least apparently) normal setting, such as the one in which we were living a while back, we were already inhabiting a world that seemed to be increasingly disconnected from music and paid more attention to the things that divide us.
Music, on the other hand, is a passion shared by the majority of cultures, with very rare exceptions.
Although the people who play it may enjoy it much more, and this is something that anyone who is lucky enough to have played music for a long period of time knows, it may even have deep effects in our minds and bodies and act as “medicine”, on different health states, for those who are just listening to it. And this is something that we have known for quite some time.


In the pedagogical work -if it can be described as such- that I have been doing for the last thirty years, I have been drawn to two main aspects of the effects that music and culture have on people. Firstly, I experiment with the way in which participating in musical activities through continued active involvement in collective improvisation may influence people’s quality of life and how it may affect their health. Secondly, I have been interested -out of necessity- in the effect that music produces on the altered conscious state of patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, since my father died suffering from that strange illness.
Most of us are involved with music on our daily lives, out of sheer pleasure. But scientists such as Daisy, have shown that listening to music has specific psychological benefits, biological benefits and physiological benefits.


This is something that every person involved in the practice of a musical activity can attest to.


And yet, music is not simply a ‘pill’ that doctors can prescribe, as they do antibiotics, and there isn’t a ‘more effective’ kind of music.


Although we see many general response patterns to music in psychological, neurological, biological and physiological data, we also see individual variation. For instance, research in neuroscience has proved how the meaning of music for the individual and the memories it evokes are vital components in our emotional response.


The practical music therapy that I would use with my late father, consisted in -precisely- providing him an evident situation of comfort by reconnecting him with his emotional memory through listening to those repertoires that I knew he had liked throughout his life. After an initial phase of the illness full of violent episodes produced by the horror that witnessing in first person how his memory was being destroyed, he emotionally recognized music as and antidote for that decay, which put him at ease and provided an inestimable help (both for him and for us) in dealing with the illness


We are currently living highly distressing and challenging times, when people are having to deal with concerns regarding their family, friends, jobs and finance, and a they are being forced to remain in strict confinement in droves. And it seems to be an inevitable situation, since this isolation turns out to be vital to guarantee their health.
This is an unprecedented situation and, as some media have indicated, it is impossible to determine the consequences that the cocktail of confinement and uncertainty may produce on the population at large in the long run. However, it is quite easy to realize that the general trend is to lapse into a mood of depression, of isolation and lack of communication that could precipitate a decay in health in potentially more alarming proportions than that of the actual virus.


Those of us actively involved in music do not have an effective remedy for the infection. But we do have a highly effective weapon against these symptoms. Musicians have the responsibility of helping, as far as possible, to redress the situation.


Symbionts has tried from the onset of the pandemic to reinforce one of its research projects in the realm of music practice that has offered the best results among its participants.Témenos is a project that is carried out in person. And this cyclical attendance is combined with a recording of each session on a web archive that constitutes the auditory memory of each of the collective projects that constitute it.


The people who have participated in this project in its face- to-face version, unambiguously report significant benefits to their quality of life, practically from the very beginning.


Currently, Symbionts has implemented, within its online platform, the Busilis network, the online version ofTémenos. This version has the capacity to provide an active musical experience and to boost artistic development while complying with the need for confinement brought about by the pandemic.


Personally, as head of the project, I feel it is my duty to draw the attention of active musicians to the necessity of safeguarding their emotional health so as to be better prepared to help those people who are in a more critical situation to overcome this situation without further damage to their health condition than the one already caused by this strange agent.


Busilis network complements this space devoted to artistic creation with a discussion forum, where participants exchange opinions about the events that we are living. It is a way of overcoming the isolation, something we all need in these circumstances. In short, it is a space open to communication and creativity in these times when both privileges have been suspended.


Neither of these services involves any cost, or any burden for the participants, and it doesn’t serve any other interests than those of the participants themselves, which is why we encourage you to participate and strengthen the initiative.


Those of you who feel with the energy to do so, will be a great help for all of us.


Thank you for your time.


Pedro López
Symbionts Manager