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Heuristic: A personal history of the use and development of "ultra-slow" music.

By Chuck Wild

Composer Chuck Wild is a longtime advocate of using slow music in healing settings. The Liquid Mind series evolved as a vital part of the composer’s own successful healing from anxiety and panic disorder, brought on by long hours working in network television, as well as the grief of losing dozens of friends to HIV and cancer in a few short years in the 1980s. Wild resolved in 1988 to create his own brand of “zero beat” sedative music, enabling him to relax deeply during that stressful period, and he has been sharing this music with others in need of healing for 17 years.


Background:
At the time of onset of my panic and anxiety symptoms in 1987, I had been working 20 hour days for three months, composing music for the ABC-TV series Max Headroom. The combination of the long hours and resulting sleep deprivation, along with the grief of losing literally dozens of friends and associates to HIV and cancer in a few short years in the late 1980's resulted in a nearly incessant case of panic and anxiety disorder. I often had more than ten panic attacks within one day, and was near exhaustion.

Many of the symptoms of classic panic disorder were present (nervousness, ringing in the ears, muscle tension, rapid pulse, rapid breathing, tingling in the extremities, feelings of losing mental control, exaggerated fear response), and in addition, I felt a heightened sensitivity to sound, light, motion, volume, and any aural activity. My response was to isolate, and I soon became agoraphobic, not leaving my house for nearly 3 weeks.

I was offered medication by my doctor, but after a brief usage (48 hours), decided to pursue nonpharmaceutical options, due to the potential collateral damage from polypharmacy. My search for alternatives led me to meditation and music. I had little luck finding prerecorded extremely slow, deeply relaxing music. I found only a few isolated pieces on some early ambient electronic albums, so a counselor suggested I compose music that would reflect the health and relaxation I wanted to feel.

I designed the Liquid Mind prescriptive sedative music to facilitate my own healing regimen with no reliance on pharmaceuticals. My self-imposed prescription was that the music should be slow in tempo, rich harmonically, more or less continuous, somewhat frequency restricted, atmospheric (did not attract too much attention to itself), and emotionally rich. Of all these elements, the most important was that the compositions be unrushed, at a very slow tempo, without discernible meter, or a meter that reflected only healthy breathing patterns.

Method: How I used the ultra-slow Liquid Mind music:
(1) Setting the tone for the day: I found “structure” in my life to be very conducive to my healing... part of that structure was setting aside the first hour of the day to honor my healing, spending this time in contemplation, meditation, prayer, and exercise. I played an hour-long program of Liquid Mind in the background of this morning activity. The music helped to formalize my healing structure and to maintain a state of relaxation.

(2) Setting the stage for a good night’s sleep: In similar fashion to (1) above, I established a pre-sleep regimen of turning down the lights throughout the house 15 to 30 minutes before bed time, and turning on Liquid Mind, to set the tone for winding down my day. I used positive suggestion and contemplation to “let go” of the activities of the day. Once again, the music served to give aural form to my structure.

(3) Changing the atmosphere in my living and working areas: Especially in the earlier days of frequent anxiety/panic attacks, I played Liquid Mind very quietly in the background 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, throughout my house, continuously during my waking hours, and even at night. It was the soundtrack of my life for a number of months while I worked with mental health counselors to understand and resolve the issues underlying the anxiety.

(4) Crisis Times: During episodes of anxiety and confusion, I learned to use Liquid Mind as a trigger to enable me to sit quietly, and meditate.... to “walk through” the anxiety, while I was working to understand and resolve the underlying causative issues.

(5) Outings: I used the music in headphones with a portable player, especially in outings to public places early on in my healing, when I was fearful of leaving my residence.

Outcome: Using sedative music (rather than medication), in conjunction with psychotherapy and meditation, I felt an increased sense of control, confidence, focus, and mobility, as I gathered the tools for a healthier and saner life. Episodes of anxiety, panic and overwhelm became less and less frequent. A growing sense of independence and working hard at my healing regimen helped to restore my sense of “having a life”, and assisted me in the re-socialization process. Ultra-slow music proved to be a consistent and reliable tool to engender higher quality sleep and a reduction of anxiety and tension symptoms.

Making my own prescriptive sedative music available to others:
After six years of using my own music (1988-1994), and seeing how it had helped me return to a productive life, I started a privately owned record label in 1994 solely for the purpose of distributing ultra-slow music. I managed Chuck Wild Records from 1994 to 2004, recording six albums. In 2004, as my company outgrew my own time availability, I agreed to allow Real Music, a respected independent record label (whose long-time mission has been to spread relaxing and healing music throughout the world) to become the Liquid Mind label, distributor, and licensor.

Unsolicited listener feedback. As far back as 1998, I began to receive unsolicited emails and letters from Liquid Mind listeners. By 2005, there were 566 unrequested reports of how ultra-slow music had affected its users, physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally.

Response to the unsolicited feedback. Not sure what to make of all the reports I was receiving, I contacted the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA), and arranged to present at their 2005 annual conference in Orlando, Florida. While there I met Alicia Clair, Ph.D, an investigator and head of the Music Therapy program at the University of Kansas. Dr. Clair, a past president of the AMTA, highly respected and extensively published music therapy researcher, is also well known as a "practicing scholar". At the conference, she invited me to meet with her early the following year.

Moving from qualitative to quantitative research: I did meet with Dr. Clair, who suggested, due to the confidential nature of the emails, I conduct a qualitative anonymous "content analysis" of the nearly 600 emails, which I performed in July of 2006. After discussing the results with Dr. Clair, she suggested I meet with Barbara Else, MPA, LCAT, MT-BC, Special Projects/Consultant to the American Music Therapy Association, to see how we might move from qualitative analysis to quantitative empirical data to support the findings of the content analysis. Ms. Else is a music therapy researcher, whose emphasis is "evidence-based" practice, i.e., using high quality, well-designed research to assist in selecting appropriate modalities for music therapy practice.

Quantitative bench science research: I now seek to partner with an organization or institution interested in studying the effects of ultra slow music on sleep disturbance and anxiety disorder.

Chuck Wild’s experience as a songwriter, composer, sound designer and synthesist spans three decades, including writing over 125 songs and compositions for dozens of television shows, several films, and many albums for other artists. Liquid Mind VII: Reflection won the Coalition of Visionary Resources Award for Best Meditation/Healing Music album of 2005. A Real Music recording artist, Mr. Wild makes his home in Los Angeles, California.


Note: This article is based on the experience and opinions of the author, and is in no way a substitute for consulting appropriate medical practitioners. © 2007 Chuck Wild, Los Angeles, CA, USA.

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