The hospital of the future

Basic principles and definitions

Basic principles and definitions

When exploring the relationship between music and health, we must begin with a clear definition of what “health” is, how we understand the role of music in this context, and what we mean by the term “well-being”.


In 1948 the World Health Organization gave the following definition: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

We at Cultura en Vena share this holistic concept of health, which includes the psycho-social and every other facet of human life. Until recently, medicine has perhaps been too focused on pharmacology and technology (although these are certainly essential for saving lives) to see all that art and culture have to offer. Balanced healthcare requires resources and effort on both sides of the scale: we need something to offset the system’s shortcomings. Culture is an effective emotional scalpel that completes the physician’s toolkit, and artistic practices in healthcare settings can be an adjuvant to conventional courses of treatment.

When we speak of the effects of music on human health, we are actually talking about the way music directly benefits the central nervous system, as described in numerous scientific works. 22


This is defined as “the professional use of music and its elements as an intervention in medical, educational, and everyday environments with individuals, groups, families, or communities who seek to optimize their quality of life and improve their physical, social, communicative, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual health and wellbeing. Research, practice, education, and clinical training in music therapy are based on professional standards according to cultural, social, and political contexts,” according to the World Federation of Music Therapy (2011) . Music therapy is sometimes confused with music education, which would be the equivalent of mistaking a music therapist for a music teacher. In music therapy, music is a means to a specific, individual, therapeutic end, whereas in music education, music is an end in itself.

Although the MIR Project has many of the same goals as music therapy and also harnesses the benefits of music as a therapeutic tool, the processes and resources are not the same. The MIR project is not music therapy because it does not involve music therapists; it simply aims to prove the therapeutic power of live music performed by professional musicians.

“Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”

World Health Organization, 1948


In music education, teachers attempt to help students develop musical skills. Music education has content that can be compiled in a curriculum and aspires to achieve universal artistic objectives based on the intrinsic beauty of music, the art of musical performance.


This refers to all experimental protocols that use music in various forms to study its therapeutic effects. There are several terms to define the different types of music-based interventions that can be carried out with patients. 23 Some of them are:

Medical music: Music-based interventions carried out by a healthcare professional with a view to promoting health, but often without a clearly defined aim or reciprocal interaction as in music therapy.

Rhythmic auditory stimulation: Music therapy rehabilitation technique to improve motor functions with a natural cadence, such as walking, using rhythmic auditory stimuli to set the pace and synchronise those movements.

Music-based physical therapy (making music): This is a form of physical therapy in which patients try to recover impaired motor functions by performing and playing a musical instrument.

Melodic intonation therapy (MIT) This is a treatment method for patients with non-fluent aphasia in which syllables are assigned to certain intonation patterns; with an initially slow and specific intonation, beginning with two syllables and working up to entire sentence, it aims to recover fluency and overcome language difficulties in patients affected by cortical language disorders (strokes, neurosurgical processes, neurodegenerative disorders with aphasia, etc.).

Music interventions in hospitals: Live musical performances in a hospital setting given by professional musicians.


An MIR (Musician In Residence) is a highly qualified professional musician, perfectly integrated in the staff of a hospital, whose job is to carry out bedside music-based interventions. They give mini concerts for specific patients who meet the criteria set by each hospital ward and whose well-being may be improved by live music. MIRs must possess a specific set of artistic and personal qualities.