TREND: WELLNESS MUSIC

WellMusicTech: A new era of personalized music as precision medicine

New technologies and apps are radically reimagining how music can become a deeply personalized precision medicine. A pioneer, geared toward the healthcare space, had been Project Sync, which worked with top neuroscientists and musicians to develop personalized musical therapeutics for everything from pain management (given the deadly opioid crisis) to improving sleep. A spinoff from MIT’s Media Lab, Project Sync performed trials on how things such as tone, beat and rhythm exactly impact the brain and body. Purchased by Bose in 2018, a company then making moves in the acoustic healthcare space, it’s unclear for now what Project Sync’s future is. But it’s also clear that companies will step in and solve personalized musical interventions for traditional healthcare.

Your biological & psychological data generates an adaptive wellness soundscape to improve your wellbeing…all day

“Generative music” is music that largely nixes the composer and “song” from the process, to create compositions that endlessly evolve according to a preprogrammed set of rules—a concept pioneered by John Cage in the ’50s and Brian Eno in the ’60s/70s (whose music calmed David Bowie). It’s taking on new meaning and applications in our digital age.

One of the most fascinating examples of the new “wellness music” is the rising wave of generative music apps and streaming services that create tailor-made, always-adapting soundscapes, using algorithms and your own biofeedback, to improve your wellbeing. Their thesis: You’ve got the healing music in you, and when combined with smart algorithms and AI, these custom sound frequencies can function like an always-there playlist you can turn to if you need to de-stress, focus or sleep.

Berlin-based Endel is the headline-grabbing leader. The app pulls data from your phone (such as weather, time of day and your location) while pulling biometric and psychometric data (from your heart rate to step data, etc.) from your smartwatch to create an endless sonic wellness composition. The Endel algorithm is based on pentatonic scales (to riff off simple sounds), people’s biological clocks and sound masking (to blanket distracting sounds)—and is informed by the psychological theory of “Flow” (that state of optimal “being in the zone”) developed by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (with whom Endel collaborated). So, whether you’re deadlocked in traffic after an awful workday or heading out to run, Endel kicks off an ambient soundscape that just keeps blossoming as your bio and environmental input provides more data, evolving to help enhance your body and mind. It’s an endless wellness tune that’s never the same twice.

Forecasting the Future

  • In the last decade, music has moved from just an art form or “soft” therapy to the medical world agreeing that it has many potential applications for boosting physical and mental health. New studies keep appearing: From those indicating that 30 minutes of music a day can reduce problems for people that have experienced a heart attack to those showing how deep music is baked into our evolutionary roots, proving animals having the cognitive ability to identify rhythmic structures in songs. Funding for high-quality research on how specific sound experiences can impact specific health issues is ahead, as evidenced by the NIH awarding $20 million toward this goal.
  • The future of music is not just evermore streaming solutions but start-ups reimagining music as wellness solutions and in augmented reality, using the power of AI to create sound experiences that are generated by tapping into the listener’s body and brain states.
  • When neuroscientist-designed soundscapes started appearing, critics initially argued that it meant the death of the artist and song. But people will increasingly grasp that it’s not either/or; it’s both: Embrace the artists you love but also experiment with new music experiences that are aimed at boosting health and wellness in more precise ways.
  • In our long, physically distanced future, music experiences look to become more central in wellness (whether new apps or in programming at wellness destinations)—because they can be delivered without any high-touch interaction.

This is an excerpt from the “Wellness Music” trend in the 2020 Global Wellness Trends Report.

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