Pandora + Memorial Sloan Kettering Are Working on Music Therapy for Cancer Patients
Pandora musicologist Nolan Gasser has teamed up with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City to combine the streaming platform’s powerful algorithm with music therapy theories in hopes of finding music that could alleviate the pain and discomfort of those suffering from cancer.
Pandora’s algorithm is based on the intensive research done for its Music Genome Project, which has tasked itself with discovering song characteristics and matching them with listeners’ preferences. Gasser now wants to apply that same work toward helping cancer patients.
Gasser is working with Sloan Kettering’s Integrative Medicine Department to come up with a library of music geared toward easing cancer symptoms ranging from fatigue and pain to anxiety and nausea. Gasser -- who is also a pianist and composer -- has already written “The Wellness Suite,” a piece designed to aid cancer patients. Listen below:
Gasser cited several therapeutic characteristics of “The Wellness Suite”: “The slow, heartbeat-pace tempo, consonant harmony, lyrical and sustained melody, occasional bursts of rhythmic energy, the use of strings, and so forth” (via Venture Beat).
As he continues his work with Sloan Kettering, Gasser hopes to gather music -- both new, original compositions as well as existing songs -- that not only features such healing characteristics, but also fits with individual patients’ tastes.
“So if the patient likes jazz, we might go out and recommend modal pieces by Miles Davis or Charles Mingus that have those qualities,” Gasser explained.
Gasser and Sloan Kettering hope to roll out the tailor-made music therapy and conduct tests to determine whether patients’ health responds to the music selections as opposed to those who aren't subject to the therapies.
“Hopefully the results of our research will show that by integrating musical features with personal taste, we can better move the needle on treating the ailments of cancer treatment,” he said.
While his initial research will focus on easing those symptoms, he hopes to branch out into other aspects of the healing process, too.
“It would be nice to explore grander prospects like increasing general metabolism in the fight against cancer,” Gasser explained. “The prospect that a sustained musical therapy could help in the act of healing or even reduce the spread of cancer is pretty ambitious, but it certainly can’t hurt.”