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Music is the best medicine: Vietnamese artists heal through music

Saturday, March 02, 2019, 18:56 GMT+7
Music is the best medicine: Vietnamese artists heal through music
Patients and medical personnel watch an artist plays piano at the Military Central Hospital in Hanoi. Photo: Supplied

A hospital in Vietnam is turning to music in order to bring a new tune to the lives of its patients.

The 108 Military Central Hospital in Hanoi is amongst the most prestigious medical facilities in Vietnam, with capabilities spanning nearly the entire medical spectrum. 

Though the hospital is open to everybody, its particular speciality lies in treating soldiers and war veterans.

Now, in a bid to enhance the quality of life its patients, the 108 Military Central Hospital has put a piano in its main lobby, attracting the attention of good-willed Hanoi musicians who hope to use their melodies as medicine.

Tune up self with melodies

Hieu, a military veteran from the northern province of Phu Tho, makes regular visits to the 108 Military Central Hospital to treat a chronic illness.

But his most recent ten-day hospital stint was different than usual – he had the lovely melodies from the hospital’s piano to keep him company.

Though the man said that he himself has no musical talent, he admitted that listening to the newly installed piano brought him a joy he didn’t think was possible to achieve in a hospital lobby.

Each day at either 10:30 am or 4:30 pm, as the artists were preparing to perform, Hieu made sure to put in a request for his favorite piece.

“I can stand 45 minutes straight just to listen to this. There are times I forget to eat my meal, but it is worth it,” Hieu shared.

Though there is no substitute for missing one’s family or military unity, Hieu admitted that the sound of piano does wonders to ease his longing.

Hieu’s roommate, Duong Van Loi, feels the same way.

The duo can often be seen standing in a trance as they take in the tunes.

“I’m fully recovered thanks to the music. From morning to afternoon I’m able to listen to patriotic and traditional songs.  It makes me feel so proud,” Loi said.

Despite gloomy vibe often found at hospitals, especially in the main lobby, the sound of the piano seems to cut through even the thickest heavy air.

Patients, regardless of military ranks or injuries, are magnetized by the music.

The source of liveliness

The idea to bring a piano to the hospital first started in August 2018, when music teacher Bui Phuong Van first saw a need to bring music to the patient’s lives.

Though she was often extremely busy with her teaching schedule, Van was convinced that medicine wasn’t enough to heal patients and sought to offer them her own musical talents by performing at the hospital each morning at 10:30 am sharp.

In a controlled setting, indoor piano sessions require absolutely silence to be fully appreciated. Thus, performing amidst a crowded hospital was quite a challenge for Van.

“I perform here out of charity because I want to make a social contribution, so the challenges don’t matter,” Van stated.

“I just yearn for the patients’ welfare and recovery.  I just want to help,” she added.

On days when Van performs in the morning session, undergraduate student Vu Ngoc Linh takes up the post in the afternoon.

For the 20-year-old, this is her grandest “stage” yet, so the initial nervousness wasn’t easy to shake.

Still she’s spent the last three months enduring the performance anxiety.

“There are so many people here, with different musical tastes. I was so afraid my performance wouldn’t please them all,” expressed Linh, honestly.

In the first few sessions, she had to switch place with a fellow musician every 30 minutes just to calm down. Now, the two perform separately with ease. 

Musician Bui Phuong Van at one of her piano sessions at 108 Military Central Hospital. Photo: Duong Lieu / Tuoi Tre
Musician Bui Phuong Van at one of her piano sessions at 108 Military Central Hospital. Photo: Duong Lieu / Tuoi Tre

Potential usage

Few of the hospital’s patients claim to have a decent knowledge of music.

Nevertheless, they continue to flock to the lobby to enjoy the relaxing melodies of the piano sessions.

“What moved me most is their affection. There were times I just couldn’t fight back my streaming tears,” Van admitted.

According to military doctor Pham Nguyen Son, the practice has yielded positive results.

He revealed that each doctor, patient, and hospital visitor seems to support performances.

Son also believes that the performances help distract the patients from their painful medical situations.

The 108 Military Central Hospital now has speakers placed throughout the facilities which play soothing tunes in every room for patients who are unable to make it to the lobby.

“Unlike the cajón or guitar, the piano is much mellower.  It fits perfectly with our atmosphere at the hospital,” Son shared.

The patients say it eases their loneliness and relaxes their tension.

Patients unknowingly burst into laughter every time the piano is played. Photo: Ha Thanh / Tuoi Tre
Patients unknowingly burst into laughter every time the piano is played. Photo: Ha Thanh / Tuoi Tre

Additionally, the soothing effects also seem to rub off on the medical personnel also, who seem to be much less stressed about their daily duties.

“Music not only promotes a civilized atmosphere in the hospital, but also relieves our accumulating stress,” Son stated.

“I hope more medical facilities turn to music in the near future.”

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