This Europe: Patients test healing power of bowls

By Elizabeth Nash
Monday 11 November 2002 01:00

A hospital in Seville is pioneering a form of musical therapy that uses bowls made from quartz crystal to lighten patients' pain and lift their spirits.

The therapy offers the soothing monotony of bowls that, when struck, emit deep resonant sounds that hang for a long time in the air. The sound waves match those produced in human bones, blood, skin, hair and nails, says Carmen Asensio, who is organising the unusual concerts. Convinced of the bowls' therapeutic powers, Ms Asensio is a disciple of a Dr Tomattis, a French ear, nose and throat specialist who has won enthusiastic praise from screen stars including Gérard Dépardieu and Richard Gere. "Half an hour a day of harmonious sounds can recharge the cerebral cortex," Ms Asensio claims.

Last week, patients at Seville's Virgin of the Dew Hospital – some in bed, some in wheelchairs – where wheeled to the hospital gym to hear the music from the bowls. One patient, Carmen Beatriz Gutierrez, 20, swathed in bandages and connected to her drip, remembers almost nothing since suffering a motorcycle accident in August. Doctors hoped the stimulation of her cerebral cortex would help to jog her memory. As the last note died away after 40 minutes, Carmen said she "thought the sounds of the bowls had done me good" and confessed to experiencing "an agreeable tickling" in her spine. Ms Asensio claims no miracles for her therapy: "The music won't cure you," she warns her audience. "But it can help you overcome sadness, fear and sometimes pain."

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