Exploring Music's Complexities

A Tribute to Alfred Tomatis and Helen Bonny— Two Great Pioneers of Music Therapy

Tomatis and Bonny

Daniel Kobialka, DMA

Alfred Tomatis

Alfred Tomatis is recognized as one of the greatest pioneers to work to understand how music can help all humans in a positive way. He received his Doctorate in Medicine from the Paris School of Medicine. His alternative medicine theories of hearing are known as the Tomatis Method or Audio-Psycho-Phonology (APP).

There is a story that says Tomatis visited a Benedictine monastery in France in the early 1960’s following the second Vatican Council. One of the decisions the council had made was to eliminate the traditional chanting for a more constructive use of time. Gradually changes took place among the monks. They became more lethargic and less motivated. Sleeping more and eating more was no help. In February of 1952, Tomatis was invited back to evaluate the situation. His Electronic Ear was put into use to improve the men’s hearing, which had weakened since he had seen them last. He also requested that the chanting be brought back into their daily routine. Nine months later the monks had fully returned to their rigorous lifestyle of little sleep, hard work, and vegetarian diets with renewed vigor. The singing of the chant was believed to affect the brain as to bring energy to the body.

He is recognized for describing a phenomenon that has come to be known as the Mozart Effect. Tomatis proposed the ‘Mozart effect through working with learning disable children. Through his work as a French Ear, Nose and Throat specialist he made some discoveries which lead to treatments related to sound-hearing, speech, and learning ability; the Tomatis Method, known as the Auditory Training, Auditory Stimulation or “Listening Therapy”.

Tomatis’s goal was to re-educate the way we listen to improve learning and language abilities, communication, creativity and social behavior. He found that the fetus listens to the mother’s voice, in her womb Tomatis learned through vast experiments, that we tune out what we do not want to hear which lead students to learning difficulties in practical and academic areas. He was among the first to distinguish listening from hearing.

It was Tomatis who described these observations and cited the power of Mozart to help autistic children, people with a wide variety of emotional problems and learning disabilities to heal with Mozart violin concertos and Gregorian chant. He also discovered that sound is a “nutrient” that can stimulate and feed the brain.

Christmas 2001, we lost Alfred Tomatis, but his legacy will forever live on through those Music Therapist and Researchers that walk in his footsteps. He truly was a pioneer.

Helen Bonny

I believe all will agree that Helen Bonny also was a pioneer in the field of music therapy.

As widespread interest in non-ordinary levels of human consciousness grew she, along with other researchers, worked to develop or re-introduce techniques designed to explore deeper levels of experience.

Her life’s work is an example of her strong conviction that human consciousness is like a high-rise building with the ground floor being a normal consciousness. At this level an individual solves problems, experiences feeling and sensing, remembers, and communicates. At other levels this person is able to create, become insightful, and experience dreams, transpersonal and religious experiences.

Helen Bonny took her passion for violin music and counseling to the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center where she worked to develop her own technique to explore the relationships between consciousness and music. The premise that drove her research was the belief that once you entered an altered state of consciousness you were able to listen to music in a way that enabled you to experience a total awareness of your multi- dimensional self.

What has become known as the Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music (BMGIM) is a specialized area of therapy in which clients listen to pre-recorded classical music in a deeply relaxed state and in which visual imagery, changes in mood and physiological effects, that serve to heal the mind, body, and soul. Her powerful selections of music and the guidance of imagery were the result of her ability to intuitively pick music rather than adhering to a dogmatic or scientific approach. She combined relaxation techniques and classical music from Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, Debussy, Vaughan Williams and others. Today, I am proud to state the BMGIM uses some of my music.


http://www.tomatis.com/English/Articles/Biography.html Books by Alfred A. Tomatis

The Conscious Ear: originally published in French as L’Oreille et la Vie), Station

Hill Press. This book is out of print.

Education and Dyslexia: originally published as Education et Dyslexie)

The Ear and Language: (originally published as L’Oreille et le Language), Moulin Publishing

The Ear and the Voice: Roberta Prada and Pierre Sollier have translated this book, which is of particular interest to singers. Bonny, H. L. (1987). “Reflections: Music—the language of immediacy.” The Arts in Psychotherapy 14(3): 255–261.

http://www.BMBMGIMmidatlantic.com/historical.html http://www.musicinhealth.net/about_BMGIM.html



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